The Big Ten finally enters league play, a week after its teams are sporting some serious thunder thighs after gorging on MAC snacks or tasty 1-AA treats. The only team not participating in MAC Appreciation Week last week was Illinois, our opponent on Saturday. They had their MAC snack before their bye in Week 4, dining on Northern Illinois in Week 3.
While Big Ten begins conference festivities, the rest of college football takes on a distinctly southern style this week. The Red River Shootout will take place Saturday, as will Florabamageddon in Tuscaloosa. That said, while everyone is supposed to be ensconced in conference play by now (Big East notwithstanding), there is surprisingly little else to watch in the world of college football. Florida-Alabama, Texas-Oklahoma and Stanford-Oregon will hog the spotlight. Regardless, you may get listless and start asking what other games are available for your consideration. So, let’s find out before taking a close-up of The Flying Nun‘s Alejandro Rey. Wait, The Flying Nun with Sally Field? Jesus that’s an old show.
Alright, let’s get to it.
- Texas A&M @ Oklahoma State (ESPN, 7:30pm ET). Your selection for ESPN’s Thursday Night Blue Turf Special: two teams that, at best, aspire to be bronze medalists in the Big 12 South. How depressing must that be if you’re fans of Oklahoma State or Texas A&M? Oklahoma struggled to beat a terrible Cincinnati team (and in every other game, sans Florida State), Texas can’t score, and, sorry, you’re still not getting to Dallas to play in the Big 12 title game. Sacks have been a big problem for the Aggies. They conceded 29 last year (82nd nationally) and have already given up 10 this year (88th nationally, through 3 games). That the Aggies have only played Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana Tech and Florida International makes this statistic even worse. Lowly, cash-starved Florida International, who willingly travels to exotic places to take a beating and an $850,000 payout to remain solvent, was leading A&M 20-6 before a furious 21pt 4th quarter sealed a 27-20 victory. Florida International sacked A&M QB Jerrod Johnson six (!!) times. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, scores points. Lots of them. They hung 65 on Washington State and Tulsa and put 41 on Troy. They needed all 41 to beat Troy in a 41-38 contest. Get the popcorn ready if you enjoy subpar football displayed by two teams who need Thursday night football to escape the looming shadow of the Old Firm of Oklahoma and Texas.
- Brigham Young @ Utah State (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). Friday night’s family home evening in Utah may be a little contentious in homes across the Beehive State. Normally, you would just take Brigham Young and the points in such a contest. However, BYU has looked every bit the team in full rebuilding mode. Even then, it’s not like Utah State has appeared much better. Sure, they played Oklahoma to the wire (only Florida State hasn’t), but have only one victory so far (over 1-AA Idaho State). They’re fresh off a 41-7 pistol-whipping by San Diego State. Somehow, I’m still interested in watching this one, especially if Elder Young is going to ride his bicycle around midfield for the halftime show.
- Ohio State @ Illinois (BTN, 12:00pm ET). I think this will be the last appearance for Ohio State on the Big Ten Network. In the meantime, apologies to those of you who do not get the network and are not perpetually assaulted by RO*TEL advertisements. More on this later.
- Clemson @ Miami (FL) (ESPN2, 12:00pm ET). Fresh off taking Pitt to the seventh floor in Pitt’s rent-a-stadium, Miami travels to Clemson to take on a Tigers team that just lost a heartbreaker against the Tigers… of Auburn. You may remember last year’s matchup (you don’t) between these two teams. Clemson won in dramatic fashion in overtime. They used that victory as a springboard to win the Whatchamacallit division in the ACC before losing to Georgia Tech out of the What’s-its-name? division, played in, umm… whoever would be so stupid as to host that game. Miami has similar intentions as well. Who knows? They could meet Clemson again in the title game. I had to look, and they do indeed play in separate divisions.
- Nerdwestern @ Minnesota (ESPN, 12:00pm ET). Huh. I thought the Big Ten was done with the MAC snacks, and somehow the Nerds are going on the road to get one more MAC snack in. ESPN decided to broadcast it. That was nice of them.
- Navy @ Air Force (Versus, 2:30pm ET). If you have time, like service academy football and can’t get enough of flexbone triple option football, you now have plans.
- Texas v. Oklahoma [in the Cotton Bowl] (ABC, 3:30pm ET). So yeah, this game lost a lot of luster, no? God knows, no matter the result, Oklahoma’s band will play Boola Boola Boomer Sooner at least 200 times. This won’t be the clash that 2008 was, so it’s just not worth it.
- Wisconsin @ Michigan State (ABC, 3:30pm ET). The Big Ten opens league play with a bang. The #11 Wisconsin Badgers travel to East Lansing to take on Sparty. Mark Dantonio will return to the team, coaching out of the booth. I hate to do this to Dantonio and Sparty, but hope for a Wisconsin victory. We don’t play Michigan State this year (or the Nerds). We lose a bit in prestige if we happen to duck two teams this year that turn out to be the conference’s better performers in 2010.
- Tennessee @ LSU (CBS, 3:30pm ET). Like competent offenses? No… no of course not. That’s stupid. You like seeing the 72nd (Tennessee) and 102nd (LSU) ranked offenses square off against each other and that’s why you’re watching this game.
- Michigan @ Indiana (ESPNU, 3:30pm ET). Is this a grudge match for the Hoosiers? Indiana was Michigan’s lone Big Ten victory last year and it wasn’t easy. Michigan’s offense looks to be in better hands with Denard He16man’s untied cleats, but offense wasn’t the problem last year. Defense was, and it still is this year. On the other side of the field, Ben Chappell is averaging almost 300 yards a game passing with 9 touchdowns to 0 INTs (QB rating: 179). Denard Robinson will play for Michigan, but Michigan’s secondary will also play for Michigan. This might make things interesting for a game that I nevertheless expect Michigan to win.
- Virginia Tech @ North Carolina State (ABC, 3:30pm ET). Would you have guessed that North Carolina State would be the last undefeated standing in the ACC? They are, and they’ll put that on the line at home against blitz-heavy, but still ultimately puny Virginia Tech. Might want to pull for an NC State victory if you fear Boise maybe leapfrogging us in the standings.
- Florida @ Alabama (CBS, 8:00pm ET). Most of you know that I live in Tuscaloosa, so, naturally, I’m thrilled about this game. I mean, the fans of both programs are just, well, the best. The tops. Add in Michigan fans to the party and I think you would have my absolute favorite set of human beings on the planet, all in one convenient place! Coincidentally, I’m really thinking hard about picking up some type of berserker powerup for this game. They make those, right? I’m hoping Home Depot has one.
- Boise State @ New Mexico State (ESPN3.com, 8:00pm ET). After a two games against 1-AA Virginia Tech and Oregon State, the Broncos’ schedule consists of East Jesus Tech and West Backwater State until 2011. They travel to West Backwater (New Mexico) State to take on the Aggies. You may remember New Mexico State. They were that cupcake who may hold the dubious honor of being the worst non-conference team to step foot on Ohio Stadium turf. They’re that team that amassed 62 yards of total offense against us last year.
- Stanford @ Oregon (ABC, 8:00pm ET). Oregon can thank its lucky stars for Texas losing in hilarious fashion last week. Now, they get Gameday, and not Dallas. The point-a-minute 4th-ranked Ducks will play host to the #9 Stanford Cardinal, a brute force Big Ten team parading around the pacific time zone. Oregon will look for some measure of revenge. Stanford was their only conference loss last year, absolutely bullying the Oregon defense. Containing Oregon’s offense may be another matter, but I think Harbaugh knows how to put points on the Ducks. A lot of it is just using Oregon’s preferred defensive alignment against itself, exposing the natural bubbles that emerge in the ground game and making Oregon pay in spades on play action. This should be a fun game to watch.
- Washington @ USC (ESPN2, 8:00pm ET). Lightning doesn’t strike twice. Sorry, ESPN. You can put this on primetime, but we know now that Washington sucks wind and USC is ineligible to do anything important.
- Notre Dame @ Boston College (ABC, 8:00pm ET). Yes, Notre Dame is terrible this year. Yes, Boston College just got blanked 19-0 at home by Virginia Tech, to which the transitive property of college football determines that BC would have lost to James Madison by a full three touchdowns. So of course this is a primetime game on ABC. Stop asking questions of the Worldwide Leader; you just don’t appreciate how the Worldwide Leader works.
- Penn State @ Iowa (ESPN, 8:05pm ET). The Big Ten puts its other foot forward, following Wisky-Sparty with Penn State and Iowa. Iowa delivered two soul-crushers to Penn State in 2008 and 2009. In this installment, the Nitts return to Iowa City, where, in 2008, a late Daniel Murray field goal cost Penn State any chance at appearing in the national title game. Unfortunately for both teams, and the Big Ten in general, this matchup lost some national appeal when both Penn State and Iowa laid eggs in their nonconference road tests (Alabama and Arizona in Week 2 and 3 respectively).
Seriously, The Flying Nun? Wow. I’m only 26 and I feel old for even knowing about that show.