It’s Ohio State’s bye week. Thank God. Ohio State football is always a pleasure to watch, but the trajectory of this season has given rise to an unpleasant mood among Buckeye fans where no lead seems safe and no game seems like a sure win. Only so many adjustments and improvements can be made mid-season, but I will take the week off to not have to bemoan Walrusball. Much like last season’s bye week TV Guide featured the Simpsons family gathering around the couch to watch some ball, this week’s TV Guide pays homage to the Bunkers. Boy the way Craig Krenzel played. Games that made the hit parade. The Buckeyes had it made. Those were the days.
So, here’s what will be on while you’re indiscriminately hating everything that’s not you or does not remind you of you.
- Florida International @ ArKansas State (ESPN2, 8:00pm ET). Tuesday night football is back and will be here in the weeks going forward. This Tuesday night was a Sun Belt special. And, by “special”, I mean “featuring the homogenized zone read routine and having as few forward passes beyond the line of scrimmage as possible.” ArKansas State won 34-16. You don’t care. I know.1
- Central Florida @ Alabama-Birmingham (Regional, 8:00pm ET). More formal representations of these university names like Central Florida and Alabama-Birmingham are actually discouraged. ”UCF” and “UAB” are encouraged, because knowing these acronyms actually counts as college credit towards degree programs in General Studies in these institutions of “higher learning”. The quality of this game might actually be worse than the Tuesday Sun Belt game. Central Florida, one of about 20 hopefuls for Big East‘s desperate prayer to retain its long-undeserved BCS spot expansion, brings in a 3-3 record to scenic, majestic, luxurious Legion Field. This includes a win over Boston College, and losses to Brigham Young and the aforementioned Florida International Panthers. UAB, meanwhile, is winless. Unlike its sister “institutions of higher learning” in Tuscaloosa and Auburn, it has done a poor job in free agency. It is basically getting what it’s paying for.
- UCLA @ Arizona (ESPN, 9:00pm ET). Bring out your dead; bring out your dead. Rick Neuheisel’s not dead you say? Well, his coaching career will be shortly, putting him in the same category as Mike Stoops who was axed earlier this season. How desperate is this game for relevance? Well, UCLA might be wearing novelty uniforms for this game. Bowling, anyone?
- West Virginia @ Syracuse (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). The Airraid is the new “it” thing in college football and Dana Holgorsen is the new Urban Meyer/Rich Rodriguez of the day. Five years removed from celebrating the genius of Rodriguez and Meyer and the concepts they introduced into college football, Dana Holgorsen — in all his casino-haunting and Red Bull-drinking divinity — is the new guy we are following to the ends of the earth. Maybe I just hate everything this year, but that should not detract from how useful concepts like the stick-draw play are. It has certainly paid dividends. The #15 Mountaineers average 500 yards of offense a game and have just one loss on the season, against Louisiana State. They were manhandled, but still put up yardage (533 to be precise). 4-2 Syracuse, however, is not nearly as proficient on offense. Though, at #96 nationally in total offense, they are still 12 whole spots better than the Buckeyes’ pea shooter offense. Grumblegrumblegrumblegrumble.
- Rutgers @ Louisville (ESPN2, 8:00pm ET). Two whole Big East games in one night? Wow, I should feel so honored. I know I’ve noted before that Friday night football really needs to be a double header. After the 8pm game concludes, another late night kickoff for a West Coast game needs to follow. It gives us Friday night bar patrons something to watch while we try not to look suspicious by leaning against a wall and watching either Chelsea Handler or the Food Network. Okay, so maybe the bar I frequent in Alabama is peculiar like that. Still, I think ESPN could maximize viewer utility through that option. Worth noting: Charlie Strong just signed a seven year extension at Louisville. He is only 9-10 in the middle of his second year as head coach. Leverage, Louisville. Leverage.
- Oklahoma State @ Missouri (FX, 12:00pm ET). Oklahoma State is enjoying its highest ever BCS rating. After thumping Texas in Austin last week, it is ostensibly signaling to the rest of college football that the winner of Bedlam this year goes to New Orleans to play the winner of Alabama/LSU. Sorry, Boise State, Wisconsin, Stanford. Meanwhile, I’m not sure what exactly Missouri did last week, but I don’t think anyone cares about Missouri. Certainly not the B1G TEN and, likely, not the SEC.
- North Carolina @ Clemson (ESPN, 12:00pm ET). Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good. Clemson knows that. Even in a game where Tajh Boyd threw the stupidest INT (and pick-six) of this season (and likely of the past several seasons), Clemson still outscored Maryland 56-45. I’m watching Clemson closely. As I noted last week, I see a similar (potential) career trajectory between Dabo Swinney and Luke Fickell.
Quietly, I’m beginning to wonder if Luke Fickell is our Dabo Swinney. Swinney, like Fickell, was a young and emotional hire who was promoted to full time head coach after Tommy Bowden’s impromptu exit. We haven’t done the same with Fickell yet, but he looks every bit as overwhelmed as Swinney was for the first few years in charge. Then Swinney axed his offensive coordinator and hired Chad Morris as offensive coordinator. Morris, who I think is on the Airraid tree or otherwise borrows liberally from that offense, has enjoyed immediate success. With Morris as offensive coordinator, the Tigers have the 18th ranked offense in college football and are the #8 team in the country. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah. Long story short: fire Bollman, get a competent offensive coordinator.
- Illinois @ Purdue (ESPN2, 12:00pm ET). This is a division game in the B1G TEN’s stupid divisional alignment. What division that is, though? I honest to God still don’t know off the top of my head. Seriously.
- Jacksonville State @ Kentucky (ESPNU, 12:00pm ET). I know ESPN is the SEC Network and what-not, but would even the staunchest SEC partisan miss this game if it weren’t being shown on one of the Worldwide Leader’s networks?
- Indiana @ Iowa (BTN, 12:00pm ET). In a fairly awful year for the B1G TEN, Indiana is clearly part of the problem and not a team that could benefit from the general sucktitude (sic?) of the conference this year. They may have to wait for the season finale to get a conference win. After this game, the Hoosiers host Nerdwestern and travel to Ohio State (and we should win that game, one would hope). Thereafter, a bye, followed by a trip to Sparty and the game for that bucket thing against the Boilermakers.
- ArKansas @ Ole Miss (“SEC Network”, 12:21pm ET). Two oversigning teams in the SEC West meet. One does it well; another cannot use it to compensate for the fact that he is a moron. Rinse and repeat when Houston Nutt is involved.
- Auburn @ Louisiana State (CBS, 3:30pm ET). I was about to jump all over Louisiana State for getting the softest “teeth” of the conference schedule conceivable. With Gene Chizik announcing that Clint Moseley will start for Auburn, this will be the third straight conference game where Louisiana State plays a team starting its backup quarterback (Florida, Tennessee being the others). But, recent suspensions for Tyrann Mathieu and Spencer Ware give an added degree of difficulty for Les Miles.
- Air Force @ Boise State (Versus, 3:30pm ET). Boise State’s move to the Mountain West Conference makes their strength of schedule nominally better than the Western Athletic Conference. So, kudos there. I’m not sure it’s enough to overcome some other scheduling deficiencies in getting past the BCS hump.
- Nebrasky @ Minnesota (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET). It’s really hard to say that Minnesota is threatening to be the worst B1G TEN team of all time when Nerdwestern was all of Nerdwestern starting with “Gentleman” John Pont in the mid 1970s and ending in the Rose Bowl year of 1995. But, damn it all if Minnesota isn’t trying really hard to earn that distinction.
- Texas A&M @ Iowa State (ABC/ESPN, 3:30pm ET). Texas A&M something something. Iowa State something something. I’m not watching this game and could easily confuse Iowa State for South Dakota State or one of those other Dakota schools in 1-AA. So, yeah. Apologies to Iowa State fans. Does Iowa State have fans?
- Georgia Tech @ Miami (FL) (ESPN, 3:30pm ET). This has been one of the better series in the ACC since Paul Johnson took over in Atlanta in 2008. At least, I think. That might not be saying much. The Jackets had a coming-out party against the Hurricanes in 2008, essentially eliminating the Hurricanes from the ACC title picture in 2008. The Hurricanes had their revenge in 2009 (Georgia Tech’s ACC Championship season that I don’t think they can discuss anymore) and, in 2010, in a battle of back-up quarterbacks. This year’s game pits the Ramblin’ Wreck coming off their first loss (against friggin’ Virginia) against a Miami team that should have just two wins on the season… but have three because of Bauserball. Hmm.
- Maryland @ Florida State (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET). I’m not writing about two ACC games. Screw you.
- Penn Shtate @ Nerdwestern (BTN, 7:00pm ET). I’m not crazy about Penn Shtate’s inter-divisional schedule this year: Nebrasky (protected game), Iowa, and Nerdwestern. The Iowa series has been beautiful of late (in its own weird way), and the series with Nebrasky should be great. Still, it’s losing what were basically yearly games with the two Michigans and I don’t think that’s right. But, such is the B1G TEN’s stupid Leaders/Legends divisions. And I still don’t know who’s in what division.
- Tennessee @ Alabama (ESPN2, 7:15pm ET). Living in Tuscaloosa for six years, I’m convinced this is the better rivalry for Alabama, moreso than the Iron Bowl. There’s real animosity in this rivalry from the Tuscaloosa side of things. They low-down. They dirty. They some snitches.
- USC @ Notre Dame (NBC, 7:30pm ET). The most lopsided series of the 2000s has become a contest now that Pete Carroll is out of the picture. Brian Kelly is not much of an improvement from previous Notre Dame coaches, but USC has since downgraded with Kiffin’s arrival. Kelly capitalized last year for the first Notre Dame victory in the rivalry since 2001. On that note, this is the most overrated “rivalry” in college football, with the Iron Bowl a distant second. This is more an artifact of college football’s ancient regionalism than it is a noteworthy display of inter-university enmity. What’s worse, USC legend and current athletic director Pat Haden actually agrees with me.
- Texas Tech @ Oklahoma (ABC, 8:00pm ET). Texas Tech does not exactly make an impression in Norman. It’s been outscored in its last two trips to Norman by a score of 110-28. This edition of the game could not look much different.
- Wisconsin @ Michigan State (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). This is getting ESPN’s Game Day and will likely be billed as a preview of the inaugural B1G TEN Championship Game Sponsored by RO*TEL. Ohio State fans will be watching with keen interest. The Buckeyes were manhandled by Michigan State’s defense, though the narrative in Columbus privileges just how assy our game plan was for that particular match. I’m sorry, but if you hold the defending B1G TEN champions to 10 damn points (7 of them on a fluke play) at home, you should win. So, Michigan State matching up well with Wisconsin, as they’ve done for the past few years, should bode well for us in Week 9. We hope. Either way, it’s always better to watch Wisconsin play teams with a pulse. Am I supposed to be impressed that two of its four non-conference teams lost to 1-AA squads? And that one of the other four is a 1-AA squad?
- Washington @ Stanford (ABC, 8:00pm ET). I dog on Wisconsin for playing a bunch of cupcakes, but I’m very bullish on Stanford. Even though, this is Stanford’s first game against a ranked opponent. Seriously, they’ve played crap to this point. Stanford’s highest profile victory to this point might actually be Duke. Duke. Other wins include: San Jose State, Arizona, UCLA, Washington State and Colorado. Yuck. But, you can get away with that when you have Stanford’s band.
- Ventura Hiiiiighway… In the suuuuuunshine. Where the days are longer, the nights are stronger than moooooooonshine. Okay, I’ll stop. [↩]