The season is already half over. We’re almost beginning “stretch run” territory for the entirety of the 2012 college football season. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was introducing yet another Welcome Back Kotter TV Guide to toast the new college football season? Well, that was the end of August and this is the middle of October. It’s all league play the rest of the way through, minus those remaining teams like Stanford, Oklahoma, and the various ACC schools that have Notre Dame on the schedule. Of that group, Stanford is next up, playing visitor in South Bend, which will also host ESPN’s College Gameday in addition to hosting the Stanford Cardinal. That will get a mention in what follows. The rest are conference games, which will hopefully begin to clear up what we should expect in the various conference championship games to be played in December.
So, what’s on?
- Western Kentucky @ Troy (ESPNU, 7:30pm ET). College football gods are again good to us this Thursday. The Hilltoppers visit Troy, Alabama for some Sun Belt action around the time of Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network. If you don’t want to watch the Old Man Steelers visit the Tennessee Titans, you can settle in for this. As far as Sun Belt action goes, these two teams are among the best in the league.
- Arizona State @ Colorado (ESPN, 9:00pm ET). Quick: name all the programs that have won a national championship in football (BCS, AP, or Coaches) since 1990. Time. Would you have guessed Colorado was on that list? It’s true. They split one in 1990 with, wait for it… Georgia Tech. Arizona State was on the cusp of one too, ascending to the #1 ranking entering the 1997 Rose Bowl before losing to Ohio State in the final seconds. However, let’s focus on Colorado for the moment. The late 1980s to early 1990s were a halcyon time for the often maligned Buffaloes program, which saw the Buffs win three consecutive conference championships from 1989 to 1991, which was capped with a Heisman winner in 1994. It performed well in the early 2000s with Gary Barnett, but is now in full fossil mode. Colorado is the type of terrible that is on the verge of being permanently, or indefinitely, terrible (see also: Miami, University of). Their facilities are prehistoric, recruitment is at an all-time low, and we’re already seeing it this season. It’s one win this season was a rather improbable one at Pullman against Mike Leach’s Cougars. Other notable outcomes include 42-14 loss at home to UCLA, 69-14 demolition at Fresno State, and a home loss to Sacramento State. Colorado may not compete in this game for long, but, well, it’s stadium is pretty.
- Navy @ Central State Up North (ESPN2, 8:00pm ET). It’s available, but it might not be very good. The Chippewas aren’t the worst team in the MAC, but that designation usually requires a special commitment to being terrible. Still, they’re bad. Further, the Middies are only okay (at best) this season. Navy did take what should be a decisive lead in the Commander in Chief standings, beating Air Force last week in overtime.
- Louisville @ Pittsburgh (ESPNU, 11:00am ET). We’ll see what Rutgers and Cincinnati can do as the season progresses, but West Virginia’s departure to the Big XII means the Big East is thought to be Louisville’s BCS bid to lose. Beliefs that Pitt may have turned it around after slapping Va Tech may have been premature upon its loss last week at Syracuse.
- Kansas State @ Iowa State (FX, 12:00pm ET). The caliber of football in the remnants of the Big XII North is weirdly good this season. Well, we have to bracket Kansas from that conversation, but the Wildcats and Cyclones are performing admirably. K-State is #6 in the country and has that signature win in Norman from a few weeks ago. Iowa State just handled Texas Christian in Fort Worth last week.
- Texas v. Oklahoma [in Dallas, TX] (ABC, 12:00pm ET). Red River Shootou…err, “Rivalry”. It’s probably killing Gameday to not be around for this one. However, OU wet the bed earlier this season at home to the aforementioned Kansas State Wildcats and Texas just got Holgo’d last week in Austin. This could’ve been #5 v. #3, all else equal. Instead, it’s #15 v. #13.
- Iowa @ Michigan State (ESPN, 12:00pm ET). Of course this is a division game in the B1G TEN’s stupid divisional arrangement. It’s also an opportunity for the Spartans to knock off Iowa from atop the Legends (Leaders?) division. If they do, and assuming the Wolverines smack around the Illini later that afternoon, it sets up a first place showdown in division next week between the Spartans and Wolverines, in Ann Arbor.
- Nerdwestern @ Minnesota (ESPN2, 12:00pm ET). If there were any justice in the world of college football, both of these programs would be undefeated entering this game. It should be billed the Legends (Leaders?) Game of the Century after both the Wildcats and Gophers got off to fantastic starts. However, the Wildcats lost last week at Penn State while the Gophers got a good licking from Iowa two weeks ago.
- Wisconsin @ Purdue (BTN, 12:00pm ET). It goes without saying that this decides who represents the Leaders (Legends?) in Indianapolis this December. Ohio State and Penn State, the two best teams in the division, are ineligible for various reasons. What’s left are Indiana and Illinois, who are also ineligible to play in the B1G TEN Championship Game for reasons of being Indiana and Illinois. The winner of this game has to have the division on cruise control. Go ahead and hand out the Leaders (Legends?) Division Champions t-shirts and hats to the winners of this game as they congregate on the field.
- Auburn @ Ole Miss (“SEC Network”, 12:21pm ET). Could it be two straight weeks for Auburn as participating in the CRIPPLE FIGHT!!! of the Week? I think so. Auburn has won one game this season and lost last week’s cripple fight to ArKansas (!!), who beat them 24-7 (!!!) in Auburn (!!!!). Meanwhile, Ole Miss is 3-3 without beating anyone of consequence. It’s best “win” might be having the momentary lead on Alabama two weeks ago, before the Rebels ultimately dropped that game 33-14.
- Alabama @ Missouri (CBS, 3:30pm ET). Remember that star defensive tackle for Missouri who said, “if we execute, no one in this league can touch us. Period.” Well, either Missouri isn’t “executing” or it’s being fondled hardcore by the SEC teams. Missouri is 0-3 in SEC this season and lost last week, at home, to friggin’ Vanderbilt. Next up: the #1 Alabama Rammer Jammers, or whatever they’re called. Here’s some hard-hitting analysis from a Missouri fan about how he expects this game to unfold.
- West Virginia @ Texas Tech (ABC/ESPN, 3:30pm ET). West Virginia must be feeling pretty good about itself after last week’s visit to the State of Texas. It returns to the Longhorn State this week to take on Tommy Tuberville’s Red Raiders. Dana Holgorsen, as you were probably aware, coached in Lubbock, Texas for eight seasons as part of Mike Leach’s staff.
- Stanford @ Notre Dame (NBC, 3:30pm ET). This is getting College Gameday. Is Notre Dame “back”? Maybe. If it’s “not back”, then it surely has one inexplicable loss up its sleeve. It might not be this game. Stanford’s rushing attack is legit and Stepfan Taylor is likely a first team All-Pac 12 performer, but the Irish’ front seven is the strength of the entire team.
- Oregon State @ Brigham Young (ABC/ESPN3, 3:30pm ET). The #10 Beavers are inexplicably undefeated, and, thus, inexplicably ranked top 10 in all of college football. However, it will be indefinitely without its quarterback going forward. His replacement, Cody Vaz, hasn’t played any football since his senior year in 2008.
- Illinois @ That Team Up North (ABC/ESPN, 3:30pm ET). Remember when the Illini were “sleepers” in the B1G TEN Leaders (Legends?) Division, by virtue of its NFL caliber talent? Forget about it. The 2-4 Illini might win, at the most, two more games this season when it hosts Indiana and Minnesota. This is the second leg of a pretty unfair two week road trip, beginning last week at Madison. It still has to travel to Columbus at the beginning of November.
- Florida @ Vanderbilt (ESPNU, 6:00pm ET). For as much as love as the SEC gets for its “toughness”, the conference games it has beyond the “game of the week” are probably even more unwatchable than you garden variety Pac 12 or Big XII game.
- USC @ Washington (FOX, 7:00pm ET). This is USC’s first trip to Seattle since that stunning upset the Huskies pulled on the Trojans in 2009. That game was the week after Ohio State took the Trojans to the wire in Columbus, and lost. We have yet to receive a “Thank you” note from Steve Sarkisian for that, but, yeah, you’re welcome.
- South Carolina @ Louisiana State (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). You’re not watching this game, but this might be the last series between Les Miles and Steve Spurrier. Spurrier is getting up there in years and the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC means only two interdivisional games are now played in the league. These two teams last played in Baton Rouge in 2007, which was made memorable by this fake field goal.
- Ohio State @ Indiana (BTN, 8:00pm ET). This is what you’re watching. More on this later.
- Texas A&M @ Louisiana Tech (ESPNU, 9:00pm ET). You’re not watching this either, though you may have tried to watch this in Week 1. It was postponed for Hurricane Isaac.