Week 2 Viewing Guide: Ranking the best games to watch by time slot
The toughest part of watching college football on Saturdays is choosing between a handful of good games at one time. Sure, that’s the ultimate #FirstWorldProblem, but it’s true. With streaming services and conference networks, seemingly every matchup is televised these days. And as human beings, we are at an inherent disadvantage with only two eyeballs.
That’s why the SI.com Viewing Guide is trying something different this week: We’re ranking the best games of Saturday’s top three timeslots. We’re a service industry here at SI.com, and hopefully this prevents the nervous use of on-screen guides this weekend. Fear not, college football fans, as we’ve mapped out your entire Saturday in Week 2 right here.
1. Oregon State at Michigan, Noon ET, ABC
The Jim Harbaugh era at Michigan started at a low point last weekend with a 24–17 road loss to Utah. Quarterback Jake Rudock threw three interceptions against the Utes after throwing five all last season while at Iowa. He’ll have to be better against Oregon State, which trounced Weber State 26–7 in its opener. But the biggest story surrounding this matchup is the atmosphere in the Big House for Harbaugh’s first home game as Michigan’s coach. The Wolverines faithful have been waiting for a reason to be excited, and their new coach’s home opener should be electric.
2. Houston at Louisville, Noon ET, ESPN 3
The silver lining of Louisville’s 31–24 loss to Auburn last week at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game was the emergence of Lamar Jackson. The true freshman quarterback helped spark a rally from a 24–0 hole in the second half, rushing for 106 yards and a score. Now Jackson is the Cardinals’ starter as they enter their home opener, and he’ll face a Houston team still breaking in a new head coach (Tom Herman). The Cougars cruised through their opener against Tennessee Tech, 52-24, but a trip to Louisville should be a bigger test for quarterback Greg Ward, Jr. and Herman’s offense.
3. Appalachian State at No. 13 Clemson, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 3
Clemson’s 49–10 rout of Wofford was tempered by a scary injury to receiver Mike Williams, a 1,000-yard pass-catcher in 2014. While making a four-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, Williams broke a bone in his neck and now could miss the entire season. Fortunately for quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Tigers have a deep crop of receivers, including sophomore Artavis Scott. But can Appalachian State, a former FCS powerhouse that joined the FBS in ’14, catch Clemson looking ahead to next week’s meeting with Louisville?
1. No. 10 Georgia at Vanderbilt, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The SEC went 12–1 in its opening week, the best mark of any conference. The lone loss? Vanderbilt, which turned the ball over three times in a 14–12 loss to Western Kentucky. The good news for Vandy fans is the defense showed some improvement with head coach Derek Mason calling the plays. The bad news is the Commodores now must match up with Georgia running back Nick Chubb, who rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries against Louisiana-Monroe last week. We’ll know whether Mason’s defense is legit after this SEC matchup.
2. No. 9 Notre Dame at Virginia, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
The prevailing question after Notre Dame’s 38–3 dismantling of Texas last week was whether the Fighting Irish were actually that good. The Longhorns, who managed just 163 yards of offense, might just be very, very bad. Notre Dame fans will probably need to wait longer for a real answer to that question. Virginia’s own offense couldn’t get off the ground in last week’s 34–16 loss at UCLA. But Malik Zaire and the Irish are on the road, so perhaps the Cavaliers have some tricks up their sleeves.
3. Hawaii at No. 1 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
We know what you’re thinking. Yes, Ohio State likely wins this game by at least four or five touchdowns. But it’s worth tuning into the Big Ten Network just to see Hawaii’s sharp alternate uniforms. Rainbow Warriors, indeed.
1. No. 7 Oregon at No. 5 Michigan State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
This isn’t just the game of the night, it’s the game of the week.The Ducks hung their hat on a 46–27 win over the Spartans in Eugene last season, a victory that bolstered their eventual playoff resume. This time Michigan State quarterback Conner Cook should be a real test for an Oregon defense that gave up 438 yards through the air in a win over Eastern Washington last week. Cook's counterpart, Vernon Adams, will be starting only his second game for the Ducks in a tough road environment.
2. No. 19 Oklahoma at No. 23 Tennessee, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
Bob Stoops dismissed the notion this week that Oklahoma would struggle in a sold-out atmosphere of Neyland Stadium. Then Sooners linebacker Eric Striker told reporters he wouldn’t crown the SEC. “I hope SEC players don’t let it go their heads,” Striker said, according to the Tulsa World. “Because this is how you get beat.” Tennessee, which garnered plenty of hype as an SEC East contender this off-season, will be poised to prove Oklahoma wrong on Saturday. But Baker Mayfield and the Sooners’ new Air Raid attack could give the Volunteers fits.
3. No. 14 LSU at No. 25 Mississippi State, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
LSU faces a unique dilemma entering its SEC opener. The Tigers haven’t played a game yet, as their Week 1 home game with McNeese State was canceled due to rain. They may have to work out some kinks, but last week's cancellation could work out in their favor; Mississippi State hasn’t been able to evaluate Brandon Harris, LSU’s starting quarterback who was erratic as a freshman in 2014. Meanwhile, Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs need to look sharper than they did in a 34–16 win over Southern Miss last Saturday. Neither of these teams was picked high in preseason SEC standings, so this could be a chance for both programs to prove themselves early on.