Rejoice! We are entering Week 3 of the college football season.
Also, rejoice because the SEC is one week away from kicking off.
And not a moment too soon.
Look, I’ll be real here: You guys know I love college sports like few others. But after writing articles explaining why you should watch every game in Week 1 and virtually every game in Week 2, it’s becoming harder and harder to muster excitement for a slate of college football filled with teams that largely no one has ever heard of and knows nothing about. When the big game on the slate this weekend is Louisville-Miami, and the second biggest game was canceled (Houston-Baylor), well, there just isn’t a lot of meat on the college football bone this Saturday.
Still, while I wouldn’t exactly call the college football slate “appealing” it’s also important to note that we do in fact have college football. That wasn’t promised a week ago, and because of it, let’s never again take it for granted. There is still plenty to watch Saturday, with the SEC coming in next week.
So with one final weekend of no SEC football, why should you be fired up? Here is a reason to watch a bunch of these games.
Tulsa at No. 11 Oklahoma State: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
The reason you should watch this game is because with the Big 12 mostly off this week (except this game), Notre Dame and Clemson playing out of conference cupcakes and no SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 football, this might just be the closest we get to seeing a playoff contender against another half decent team this weekend.
And yes, you read that correctly. For all the talk this off-season about mullets, awkward protests and OAN t-shirts this in Stillwater, what has gotten lost in the shuffle is that the 2020 Cowboys might be, legitimately, Oklahoma State’s best team since they finished No. 3 in the country in 2011. They return their starting quarterback, the leading rusher in college football last year (Chubba Hubbard) and one of college football’s top receivers last year Tylan Wallace. So yeah, the Pokes will have their usual explosive offense and this year, they might have a defense to match it too. Incredibly, all 11 starters are back off last year’s team. All eleven!!
So yeah, watch this game so that if Oklahoma State makes a playoff push you can say “Man, I’ve been on their bandwagon since that game back in September when I watched them because no other games were on TV!”
And if that’s still not enough reason, watch again because Mike Gundy’s mullet is awesome. And it’s going to extra awesome blowing in that late fall, mid-day Oklahoma breeze Saturday.
No. 19 Louisiana at Georgia State: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
You should watch this one because after last week, don’t we all have a little Rajun’ Cajun fever?
(By the way, I can’t lie: After re-reading that last sentence, “Rajun Cajun Fever” doesn’t exactly sound like a good thing. More like something that would’ve killed like 40 percent of the world’s population back in 1845 or something)
Anyway, I digress, because after knocking off Iowa State in Ames last Saturday, Louisiana is officially “America’s team.” Now, with a Top 20 ranking, they return to the field and attempt to improve to 2-0 against Georgia State.
As for Georgia State, well I’m searching long and hard for interesting stuff on them, and the best I could come up with is this: Did you know that both Julia Roberts and Ludacris attended the school? Yes, that’s super random. And yes, I’m giggling just thinking about the two of them hanging out watching this game together. What do you think they would talk about during commercials?
Other than that, I can’t lie: I’ve really got nothing on Georgia State or its football team.
Austin Peay at No. 13 Cincinnati: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Watch this game because, could you ever have imagined a world where we’d be in mid-September and Cincinnati would comfortably be in the Top 15 and no one would even blink an eye?
Now granted, part of it is that no Big Ten or Pac-12 teams are currently in the Top 25. But also because Cincy is… damn good.
Like no, for real.
Never forget that when the Michigan State job opened up back in mid-February (which admittedly feels like 37,000 years ago) it was Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell who was the school’s first choice. And he kind of looked the Spartans program up and down, put a finger to his chin for half a second and said “Nah, I’m good right here.”
Again, because Cincinnati will be really good.
The Bearcats not only return starting quarterback Desmond Ridder off last year’s 11-win team, but also basically bring back an entire defense that ranked in the Top 25 nationally in points allowed.
With the Big Ten kicking off late, and the Pac-12 kicking off late or maybe not at all, could this be the year a “Group of Five” (aka non-Power Five) makes the playoff?
And could Cincinnati be it?
South Florida at No. 7 Notre Dame: Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, USA
Watch this one, because it’s basically the randomest game featuring a legitimately good team that I can ever remember.
First off, of all the opponents that Notre Dame has played through the years, has there ever been one more random than South Florida? South Florida has no historical relevance to Notre Dame like when the Irish play USC, Stanford and Navy. There is no geographical logic behind it like when Notre Dame faces Michigan, Michigan State or Purdue. There are no ACC ties like the rest of Notre Dame’s schedule this year. This just kind of falls into “well, we need a game, hey South Florida, want to come to South Bend and hang for a few hours?”
Then there is the fact that, well, how random is South Florida, just as a football program? Seriously, this is how random their team is: They didn’t even have a football program 25 years ago, then started one and got as high as No. 2 in the polls in 2007 (yes, that really actually happened), have had multiple 10-win seasons, but also fired three coaches in the last decade. That includes Charlie Strong, who landed at South Florida after his disastrous run at Texas, took over a 10-win team (left by Willie Taggart) and eventually ran it into the ground before being fired last year. New head coach Jeff Scott took over in February (which again, feels like a lifetime ago) and this is just his second game in charge of the program.
So yes, this is just about the randomest game, among the two randomest opponents I can think of. And to top it off, this game is being played on the USA Network.
Yes, the USA Network.
Welcome to college football in 2020, people!
No. 14 UCF at Georgia Tech: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Remember when I called Cincinnati “a Group of Five that could make a playoff push?” Well, I also present you the UCF Knights.
Look, I know that it’s easy to make fun of UCF for everything they’ve tried to pull the last couple years and their claims of a “2017 national championship.” It didn’t happen. You know that. I know that. Every Central Florida fan on the planet knows that.
At the same time, the reality is that while no, UCF never did win a national championship, this has become one of the most consistently excellent programs in college football over the last half decade. This also might be their best team yet. The Knights went 10-3 last year, with their three losses coming by a combined seven points. Yes, a total of one touchdown separated them from another undefeated regular season a year ago. They also bring back eight starters off a team which finished No. 2 in scoring in college football in 2019.
Look, are the Knights a legit playoff contender, and team that can hang with Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State? Probably not.
But are they really good? And will they be really fun to watch? You bet they will be.
Citadel at No. 1 Clemson: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, ACC Network
You should watch because Trevor Lawrence only has so many college football games left before he heads to the NFL. And for at least one quarter he’ll be on the field Saturday. And we should never, ever take for granted seeing Lawrence on a college football field.
Otherwise, I don’t have much here.
No. 17 Miami at No. 18 Louisville: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC
Because it’s Saturday night, primetime and the best game on the schedule is… Miami-Louisville?
Alright, so this might not exactly be a game we’ll be telling our grandchildren about 40 years now. But still, this is a good early season test for both.
For Louisville, we kind of know their deal: Run the ball, score a lot of points, blah, blah, blah. That’s exactly what they did last week against Western Kentucky. But will they actually be able to stop anybody on defense when it matters? We should start to get an answer here.
Then on the flip side is Miami. For about 15 years now we’ve heard “The U is back” only for them to absolutely, positively, not be back at all. And that’s in large part because, while they’ve always had plenty of talent on defense and at the skill positions, they just can’t get quarterback right (anyone else remember Jacory Harris? Brad Kaaya? Malik Rosier? Yikes!!!). Well this year they have Houston grad transfer D’Eriq King, who just might finally be the answer at that position. He completed 16 of 24 passes last week including a touchdown through the air, and also rushed for 83 yards and another score. More importantly, he showed the poise that Miami has sorely lacked at the position for years as well.
Then again, Miami was also playing UAB. So like Louisville, they will try to prove their legitimacy this weekend.
Ultimately however, let’s not forget this: While it might not be the marquee Saturday night game we’re used to, it’s football. And we should never, ever take that for granted again.
And if you still can’t get all too excited, just remember: Only seven more days until the SEC kicks off.
And not a moment too soon.