The Best Schedule in a September Saturday in Years
This will be a week for college football fanatics to arrange their schedules to be glued to your viewing devices. Forget mowing that lawn; the groceries can be shopped for Friday after work. Tell your spouses that their honey-do list for this Saturday must be postponed, and let them know that the buckaroos at the PiRate Ratings have ordered you to do research this week.
This week’s schedule of games might even be better on the whole than rivalry weeks at the end of the season. Let’s look at some of the great offerings, and by great, we don’t necessarily mean top 10 teams facing off against each other. There are even great games among the bottom 30 teams.
Actually, the festivities commence Thursday night, when Houston visits Cincinnati. This is somewhat of a trap game for the Cougars. It is their first road game, and it comes against a solid but not spectacular conference foe. Cincinnati began the season with a lackluster victory over a cream puff, and then won at Purdue last week. The Bearcats are just talented enough to play their best game of the season and upset Houston. It should be a great game with a good deal of scoring.
On Friday night, in what looks like a possible blowout, Rice hosts Baylor. At one time, when both teams were Southwest Conference members, this was a huge rivalry game, not unlike Texas and Arkansas. Baylor has won the last seven times these teams have faced off, with the last Owl win coming in the old SWC days in 1992. Baylor put up 70 points on Rice last year in Waco, and even thought the Bears are several touchdowns stronger, this game might be interesting for awhile.
Now to Saturday, when the fun continues in bunches.
12 Noon Eastern Time
ABC: Florida State at Louisville
Don’t be surprised if the home team Cardinals pull the upset here. Coach Bobby Petrino has built an offense at UL that could end the season averaging north of 50 points per game. The defense is not Top 5 tough like other teams, but we are not sure that Florida State’s defense is ready to win it a championship either. In a shootout, the better gunman usually wins, and Louisville has the better sharpshooter. This one could be a 45-41 affair, and it is a 50-50 game in our opinion. The PiRate Ratings are 100% in agreement with the winner. See below.
Big Ten Network: Temple at Penn State
Coach James Franklin has felt that seat start to warm up in not so Happy Valley. Losing to rival Pitt is not great, but losing for a second season to Temple could add some gas to that flame under the seat. Temple imploded against Army, and then the Owls could not stop the option. They righted the ship last week, and Penn State better play mistake-free ball and not give TU any gift points.
ACC Network: Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech
Why is this game so important? Both teams need this game to stay in the bowl chase this early in the season. Georgia Tech pulled out a last-second win against Boston College in Dublin, Ireland, in week one. The Yellow Jackets looked much better this past weekend, but they only played FCS Mercer. This week, they face a coach that earned his job by stopping the read option, and Coach Derek Mason of Vanderbilt probably knows how to stop the spread option like his Stanford defenses did against Marcus Mariota’s Oregon offense.
The problem is that Vanderbilt’s offense is as weak as Boston College’s offense, and the Commodores may have trouble reaching 14 points in this game. A 17-14 game would not be a shocker, although we believe that both teams will improve on the attack side after two so-so performances. We believe the game could be won by less than a touchdown, with Tech having a 60% chance and Vanderbilt a 40% chance of winning.
Big Ten Network: Colorado at Michigan
Could it be that Coach Mike MacIntyre has turned the Buffalo program around? After blowing out rival Colorado State at Invesco Field in week one, CU toyed with Idaho State in week two. Sure, these are not quality opponents, but in recent years, CU might have gone 1-1 against these teams.
Playing at the Big House against a tough group of Wolverines is probably too much for the Buffs to take on, but it could be a very interesting game if CU does not turn the ball over.
WatchESPN App: South Florida at Syracuse
This will be an interesting contest with a team in Syracuse that might throw 50-60 passes and run off 100 scrimmage plays in a game before the season ends, and a South Florida team that plays the Stanford-Michigan smashmouth offense. USF might be the one team that can derail Houston if the two meet in the AAC Championship Game, and the Bulls just might be a dark horse contender for the New Year’s 6 Bowl. However, Coach Dino Babers has the ‘Cuse playing well above their level of 2015, and The Orangemen could just as easily end USF’s hopes for playing on January 2.
ABC: Oregon at Nebraska
Call this game a playoff eliminator. The loser can win out and still miss the playoffs, while the winner stays alive with the hope that a 13-0 season will get them to Atlanta or Glendale, AZ. Coach Mike Riley certainly knows Oregon well, having coached at Oregon State so long, but then Mark Helfrich knows a lot about what Riley’s teams do. So, it should come down to which team executes its game plan better. The Huskers can be an extra touchdown better in Lincoln than on a neutral field, and Oregon has not been a giant killer on the road in recent years.
CBS Sports Network: San Diego State at Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois is off to its worst start in years at 0-2, while SDSU is 2-0. Why would we call this a game worth watching? First, NIU’s first two games were road games, and the Huskies have a 31-2 home record in the last six years. They won’t bend or break at Huskie Stadium.
Rocky Long may have the best team he’s ever coached in his career this season. San Diego State has a decent chance of running the table in the regular season for the first time since 1969, when Dennis Shaw ran the Air Coryell offense to perfection. The Aztecs have a couple of roadblock road games with trips to Dekalb this week and then to South Alabama in two weeks. If they can get through these games unscathed, then you can add another prime contender with Houston, South Florida, Boise State, and maybe another MAC team for the NY6 Bowl bid.
CBS: Alabama at Ole Miss
Ole Miss is the one team that doesn’t back down to the Crimson Tide. The Rebels have beaten ‘Bama in back-to-back years. When has a team beaten Alabama three years in a row, when the Tide was not going through a rough patch where they did not stay in the Top 10? It’s never been done when Alabama finished in the Top 10 all three seasons. The closest was the 1967-68-69 seasons when Tennessee beat the Tide, but in 1969, Alabama had declined and would finish 6-5.
Ole Miss blew an excellent opportunity to make this a game between two Top 10 teams, when turnovers cost them a big lead against Florida State. We believe the Rebels can play a mistake-free game this week and still lose by up to three touchdowns. If a
rebuilding reloading Tide team can go into Oxford and win big, we could be looking at another dynasty in Tuscaloosa like the Crimson fans saw in the early 1960’s and most of the 1970’s.
ESPN: Texas A&M at Auburn
This one can be called the hot seat avoidance game. The losing coach is going to begin to be in a bit of trouble. How do we rate Auburn’s close loss to Clemson at Jordan-Hare Stadium, after Troy went to CU and lost by the same amount of points? Auburn handled Arkansas State with ease, but ASU lost at home to Toledo in week one. This becomes a put up or shut up game for War Eagle Nation.
Texas A&M has a quality win over UCLA, plus a no extra knowledge learned win over a very weak Prairie View team. This is the Aggies’ first road game, and it comes in a tough place to win, but they won by a field goal the last time they came here. We expect a hard-fought, close game.
ESPN2: Mississippi State at LSU
The loser will be 0-1 in the SEC and 1-2 overall, and they can look forward to hoping for an Outback Bowl bid at the max. If the winner has maroon jerseys, then there will be less smiles in the LSU coaching office come Sunday Morning. Les Miles is on the hottest of hot seats at the present time, and a home loss to a team that lost to South Alabama might be enough to make his dismissal inevitable.
Then, there is the health of star back Leonard Fournette, who missed the Jacksonville State game Saturday night. Fournette is expected back in practice tomorrow, but he still suffers from the effects of the ankle injury. And, there is the little matter of who will start at quarterback for the Tigers. Former Purdue starter Danny Etling started 6 of 8 for 100 yards after replacing ineffective Brandon Harris in the second quarter. However, he was 0 of 6 in the second half.
ESPN3: Navy at Tulane
How in the world could we select this game as one that could be a must watch affair? Okay, first we did say this was a week for football fanatics, so give us a tad bit of slack here. This actually should be a very interesting and fun game to watch, so consider giving it a few minutes time early in the evening.
Tulane’s first-year coach Willie Fritz came from Georgia Southern. This Green Wave squad was not expected to do much in year one, as Fritz began the process of turning a former Pro-style offense into his unique form of multiple option offense, similar but different from the Navy/Georgia Tech style of spread option or inverted wishbone. In week one, TU went to Wake Forest and held their own in a defensive struggle. The Green Wave almost pulled off the upset, and after Wake knocked off Duke last week, this loss in Winston-Salem looks better than it did on opening night. TU then handled Southern with ease, this time doing it with a breakout true freshman quarterback in Johnathan Brantley, who ran the option like a seasoned veteran.
Besides having two option teams going at each other, this is an American Athletic Conference game and an intra-division one to boot. It should be a fun retro match that resembles the Oklahoma-Texas games of the early 1970s.
NBC: Michigan State at Notre Dame
Neither team has looked as good as expected to this point, although Michigan State has only played one game, and the Spartans have had an extra week to prepare. You know the old adage, that a team improves the most between its first and second game, and having two weeks to improve should make Sparty a live road ‘dog.
If you are around 60 years of age or older, you know how great this rivalry has been. You saw the 1966 game that ended in a 10-10 tie, where both teams finished the season at 9-0-1. Expect the score to pass 20 total points sometime in the second quarter.
Fox Sports: Ohio State at Oklahoma
Now this is how top teams should schedule! If there were automatic NCAA Playoff bids to each of the Power 5 Conference Champions with three at-large bids to be awarded, then you would see more games like this instead of Big U vs. Northwest Southeastern Tech.
An Oklahoma loss means the Sooners can only expect a Sugar Bowl bid if they win the Big 12 Conference. An Ohio State win in Norman could be enough to move the Buckeyes up to Number One in the nation, even if Alabama wins at Ole Miss. Ohio State has started its first two games slowly, and a repeat at Memorial Stadium could be impossible to rally to victory if they get down by double-digits.
The key in this one is how much Oklahoma’s pass defense has improved since week one. If J. T. Barrett can exploit the OU secondary for a deep pass for a touchdown, the Buckeyes’ running game might be able to get untracked and put up 250 yards on the Sooners.
We expect a game with more than 70 points scored, and wouldn’t this be an excellent night for a handful of overtimes?
ABC: USC at Stanford
USC faces two separate extra troubles this week. First, the home Cardinal had an extra week to prepare after besting a decent Kansas State team in week one. Second, Stanford knows what Alabama did to the Trojans on a neutral field. They know that to be given serious credibility, they cannot beat USC by a field goal or touchdown and get it. They have to win this one by double digits to get any respect.
USC is not chopped liver. The Trojans have played in the Rose Bowl in a season in which the national champ embarrassed them. Look back at 1966, when USC lost to Notre Dame 51-0, yet made it to the Rose Bowl.
If truth be told, the Trojans are not 46 points weaker than Alabama. If they played again, they might only lose by 24-28 points. Stanford better be on guard, because the Trojans seek the same respect that Stanford believes they must earn. Expect a good game on the Farm Saturday night.
ESPN: Texas at California
This one is all about the Longhorns venturing out of the Lone Star State. Cal is rebuilding and will be lucky to win five games this year, while Texas is trying to return to greatness. The Longhorns have holes in their defense, and Cal has an offense capable of scoring a lot of points. The key is how well the Texas offense will fare on foreign soil, even against a very porous defense. If you wake up Sunday morning and see that Coach Charlie Strong’s team hung half a hundred on the Bears, then UT could easily be 4-0 when the Red River Shootout takes place in Dallas. A win there, and it would be quite possible to see a path to 12-0 for the ‘Horns.
Here are this week’s PiRate Ratings
|45||North Carolina St.||106.7||104.2||106.0||105.6|
|47||San Diego St.||105.2||101.9||107.6||104.9|
|98||San Jose St.||89.6||90.0||90.1||89.9|
|123||New Mexico St.||74.9||77.8||76.1||76.3|
Ratings By Conference
|American Athletic Conference|
|Atlantic Coast Conference|
|North Carolina St.||106.7||104.2||106.0||105.6|
|Big 12 Conference|
|Big 12 Averages||107.2||108.3||106.5||107.3|
|Big Ten Conference|
|Big Ten Averages||108.1||106.8||107.4||107.4|
|Mountain West Conference|
|San Diego St.||105.2||101.9||107.6||104.9|
|San Jose St.||89.6||90.0||90.1||89.9|
|New Mexico St.||74.9||77.8||76.1||76.3|
|Sun Belt Averages||81.5||85.5||83.2||83.4|
|PiRate Ratings By Conference|
|36||San Diego St.|
|64||North Carolina St.|
|97||San Jose St.|
|113||New Mexico St.|
This Week’s Spreads
|Thursday, September 15|
|Friday, September 16|
|Utah St.||Arkansas St.||7.2||8.4||4.7|
|Saturday, September 17|
|Appalachian St.||Miami (Fla.)||-14.7||-7.3||-11.3|
|Bowling Green||Middle Tennessee||2.3||-1.4||1.6|
|Kansas St.||Florida Atlantic||21.9||22.1||19.6|
|Miami (O)||Western Kentucky||-16.4||-10.4||-16.9|
|Virginia Tech||Boston College||9.7||10.3||10.5|
|Northern Illinois||San Diego St.||-8.2||-3.0||-9.9|
|Kentucky||New Mexico St.||23.5||22.9||20.6|
|South Carolina||East Carolina||8.7||5.4||7.8|
|North Carolina St.||Old Dominion||23.6||17.9||22.5|
|Texas Tech||Louisiana Tech||19.3||14.5||15.9|
|Notre Dame||Michigan St.||7.5||4.2||8.4|
|San Jose St.||Utah||-18.9||-12.4||-16.0|
FBS versus FCS Teams–PiRate Estimated Spread
|FBS vs. FCS||Week 3|
|Clemson||South Carolina St.||47|
|Iowa||North Dakota St.||19|
|Tulsa||N. C. A&T||25|
|Ball St.||Eastern Kentucky||15|
|North Carolina||James Madison||26|
|Colorado St.||Northern Colorado||21|
|Oregon St.||Idaho St.||25|