College football started in some form over a month ago with Central Arkansas-Austin Peay, continued with some small school matchups through most of early September and rolled into SEC play two Saturday’s ago.
But now, for the first time, finally, today feels like a real college football Saturday. The SEC gives us a loaded slate that will start with three games at noon and end at Kroger Field around 11 p.m. ET, with premiere matchups, featuring some of the sport’s best rivalries, in the ACC and Big 12 along the way. Not to mention there are four different matchups of Top 25 opponents this weekend.
So as you get set to sit on the couch and gorge on a full Saturday of football what do you need to know? Here is your full, weekend viewing guide.
No. 4 Florida at No. 21 Texas A&M: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
It’s a matchup of two college football powers, two highly-paid third year head coaches and two programs that are seemingly going in different directions.
Or is it? We should get some clarification on that last one this weekend. Just how good is Florida? And was Jimbo Fisher the wrong fit in College Station? Again, we should have a much clearer picture come Saturday around 3:30 p.m. ET.
On the Gators’ sideline, this is the nation’s first big look at Kyle Trask, who is starting to get a little “Joe Burrow in 2019” buzz in Gainesville. Trask has already thrown for 10 touchdowns this season, tied for second most in college football, including six- SIX! – to tight end Kyle Pitts. Both Trask and Pitts are getting early Heisman buzz – but at the same time, what exactly do we know about these Gators? Yes, they’re 2-0 and yes they’ve looked impressive. But all those points came against Ole Miss (who everyone is going to score against) and South Carolina. Not exactly the cream of the crop in the SEC, if you know what I mean.
Then there is Texas A&M, where everyone is ready to throw dirt on Jimbo Fisher’s grave – except, well, is it a bit too soon? Yes, the Aggies looked awful against Alabama last week. But in their defense, everyone looks awful against Bama. And also, how about this: Of Fisher’s 10 losses so far in College Station, a staggering seven of them have come against teams ranked in the Top 4 in the country – the top four!!! Three to Alabama, two to Clemson, one to LSU (last year on Joe Burrow’s senior night) and one to Georgia.
No 3 and No 6 classes say hello. Need some wins vs Top 4 teams but it's been a brutal road. This weekend, A&M will see its EIGHTH such opponent in 29 games under Jimbo. Mullen and UF have faced TWO during same span. https://t.co/Wpk6hfMbQ5
— Billy Liucci (@billyliucci) October 6, 2020
Ultimately that’s not an excuse for Fisher. When you’re paid $75 million guaranteed, at some point you do need to win some big games.
But are they really that bad? Or have they just played insanely tough competition?
If there was ever a week for the Aggies to prove the doubters wrong, this would be in.
No. 22 Texas vs. Oklahoma (Dallas, TX): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
Oklahoma is on its first two game losing streak this century. Texas should be 1-2. There will be no State Fair outside the Cotton Bowl. Heck, things have changed so much we’re not even supposed to call it a “shootout” anymore (sorry, but it will always be the “shootout” to me). Safe to say this isn’t your grandfather’s Red River Shootout.
Regardless this really is a one-of-a-kind matchup that feels just about impossible to prognosticate coming in. On the one hand, Oklahoma is 1-2, which obviously isn’t what is expected from one of the great programs in college football. At the same time, those two losses have come by a combined 10 points, and in one, Oklahoma had a double-digit lead going into the fourth quarter. Are the Sooners that bad, or just struggling to close games right now? Plus, can you really see them losing three games in a row?
Then there is Texas, and man, talk about pressure. This was supposed to be the year in Austin – one where they flipped over the coaching staff, the depth chart was filled with Tom Herman’s recruits and Sam Ehlinger entered as a Heisman candidate. Safe to say it hasn’t worked out that way, at least not yet. The Longhorns lost to TCU last week, and frankly should have lost the week before to Texas Tech.
A win in this rivalry game isn’t going to save either team’s season.
But it isn’t an exaggeration to say that a loss will ruin it for either one.
No. 17 LSU at Missouri: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Alternate
This game was obviously moved to Missouri because of Hurricane Delta bearing down on the Bayou. So to LSU, its fans and everyone in Louisiana, please be safe.
On the field however, it’s an interesting contrast in teams. LSU appeared to be much improved last week in a dominant win over Vanderbilt. But were they really better, or well, was it just Vanderbilt? As for Mizzou they are 0-2, but it’s kind of the opposite. Being 0-2 is never good. But when one of those losses is to Bama and the other, on the road to a suddenly resurgent Tennessee squad, maybe it’s possible they’re not quite as bad as we thought?
South Carolina at Vanderbilt: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Can’t lie, unless your last name is “Muschamp,” you’re a glutton for punishment or you bet on this game (which makes you a glutton for punishment) I just can’t see one reason you’d watch this.
But hey, it’s SEC football, and and after the last six months, we should never take for granted another, single SEC football game.
(Don’t answer that).
No. 19 Virginia Tech at No. 8 North Carolina: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC
Yes, today’s noon slate is absolutely loaded – and admit it, you had no idea that Virginia Tech was ranked in the Top 20 in America, did you? You definitely had no idea that North Carolina was ranked in the Top 10.
Don’t lie to me, people!!!
In all seriousness, while it isn’t necessarily the sexiest Top 25 matchup ever, it does have some intriguing storylines. Virginia Tech is quietly a fascinating story, as a squad who has dealt with a nasty outbreak of Covid-19 (they were missing 20 players last week) yet still has managed to get to 2-0 this season.
North Carolina is its own nice story as a program that is clearly on the uptick under Mack Brown.
At the same time, to quote the movie “Office Space”… “what is it that you do here, exactly,” North Carolina? In other words, as my buddy Nick Coffey pointed out last weekend, what is the Tar Heels’ resume under Mack Brown, other than a close loss to Clemson and a bunch of wins over bad teams?
To be clear, beating Virginia Tech won’t be some monumental, program-changing victory.
But to get hype, at some point you have to beat someone of consequence, right?
No. 14 Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Man, we’re just now hitting the 3:30 window with so much more to go – and how juicy is this Tennessee-Georgia matchup??
With Tennessee, we kind of already know the narrative, but it’s still worth repeating here. They are riding an eight-game win streak, which is the longest among all Power 5 teams. Admittedly, that’s kind of incredible when you think about where Tennessee was last September after losses to Georgia State and BYU. The idea of Tennessee stringing along a two-game win streak (let alone eight) just seemed utterly preposterous. Only 12 months later, here we are – 2020, amiright?!?!
Still, it’s worth mentioning that of those eight wins, the best was probably against Lynn Bowden at Kroger Field last year, in a game that Kentucky probably should’ve won. The rest were against South Carolina (twice), Missouri (twice), Vanderbilt, UAB and Indiana. Not exactly a murder’s row of college football competition.
While that eight-game win streak is nice, it will be a totally different deal going between the hedges this weekend.
UTSA at No. 15 BYU: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Alright, I’m not going to BS: This isn’t exactly the sexiest matchup to be writing about.
But it’s Saturday, it’s 3:30 ET and you need a game to watch on the second screen, right?
Why not make it BYU then, a team that is – put simply – the most underrated squad in college football. Sure, the Cougars haven’t exactly played the stiffest competition, but when you lead the nation in total offense (585 yards per game) and total defense (214 yards allowed) you’ve got to be pretty damn good, right?
The sad thing for BYU is that because their schedule is so bad, even if they go undefeated they probably won’t be able to do enough to make the College Football Playoff.
Which, if anything might be the reason to watch this game: BYU knows its got to win every game and win big to impress voters? Can you say “Beat down” here?
Arkansas at No. 13 Auburn: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
How bout them Hogs?! Arkansas is coming off its first SEC win since 2017 – a time so long ago, Joe Burrow was still at Ohio State, LeBron was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kawhi Leonard was with the Spurs.
So yeah, it’s been a while.
Yet as long as it’s been since Arkansas won a game in the SEC, you’ve got to go all the way back to 2015 since they won two in a row. Why can’t the Hogs do it this weekend?
Look, if you’ve listened or seen anything I’ve written, you know where I stand on Auburn. I don’t think they’re very good and think (as I know most of you do too) they were lucky to get out of that Kentucky game with a victory.
Could the Hogs pull a second straight upset? And could Auburn fall to 1-2 on the season?
It wouldn’t shock me.
No. 7 Miami at No. 1 Clemson: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Call me crazy, but it doesn’t feel like a stretch to call this the biggest ACC game in at least a couple years? I mean when was the last time a game in this conference had this much hype? Probably back when Lamar Jackson and Louisville went to Clemson to play Deshaun Watson, right?
Point being it’s been a while. The question now: Can Miami live up to the hype?
Look, I know everyone loves to shout that “The U is back!” after every win over even a half decent team, but consider me skeptical of them at this point. Miami’s best victory to date is against Louisville, a team which is 1-2 in its own right. Their other victories are against UAB (yawn) and Florida State, which may be the worst Power 5 team in the country besides Kansas.
Understand, it’s one thing to be the second best team in the ACC. And it’s quite another to be competitive with Clemson.
The first part of that above statement may be true. Now it’s time to see about the second.
No. 2 Alabama at Ole Miss: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
This one was also pushed back because of the effects of Hurricane Delta, so we get a late kickoff here. We also get… a Lane Kiffin revenge game!! Let’s go baby!!
That’s right, petty old Lane Kiffin comes into this one with a chance to make his old boss look bad – the same old boss that fired him a week before the national championship game.
In the end, I don’t think this one will be competitive.
But you also know that Kiffin is going to pull out every trick in his bag, and not take his foot off the gas until the final whistle.
Also, completely unrelated to anything: Did you see where Kiffin called Saban “elderly” this week? And Saban responded and broke down laughing?
— Michael Casagrande (@ByCasagrande) October 7, 2020
Good stuff right there.
Mississippi State at Kentucky: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
At this point there is nothing for me to share here that hasn’t already been written. Yes, Mike Leach is coming back to Kroger Field after once serving as the Kentucky offensive coordinator. And yes, this is a game where the Wildcats desperately need a victory.
Considering I already wrote 2,500 words on why Kentucky probably isn’t quite as bad as their record would indicate, I’d just encourage you to read that.
But in a 10-game, all-SEC season, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that this is a “must win” for the Wildcats.
Charlotte at North Texas: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
I’m only adding this game to the slate to say that Charlotte-North Texas serves as the final college football game of the day on Saturday.
For as much we make fun of the Pac-12, admit it, we’d all kill for an Arizona State-Washington game kicking off at 11 p.m. PT to get us through those late night hours on the couch. No matter how bad it is, Pac-12 football can’t come back soon enough.
In the meantime, enjoy the college football today everybody. Should be a hell of a Saturday.