FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2015, file photo, Oregon running back Royce Freeman runs during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Eastern Washington, Saturday in Eugene, Ore. Freeman ran for a career-high 180 yards and three touchdowns
Ryan Kang, file
September 11, 2015

The big nonconference games will be back on campus during Week 2 of the college football season.

The neutral-site opener has become a fixture in recent years. The good news is the appeal of playing at an NFL stadium encourages teams to take on quality opponents. Alabama has turned it into an annual event. The bad news is college football loses one of things that make it great: those raucous and wild campus venues.

For Week 2, the spotlight shifts back to campus with No. 7 Oregon facing No. 5 Michigan State and No. 19 Oklahoma visiting No. 23 Tennessee on Saturday.

Those big games, plus other things to watch this weekend in college football.


The first must-watch game of the season for the College Football Playoff selection committee will be played in East Lansing, Michigan, when the Ducks come to town.

The committee made clear how much it values big wins against highly ranked teams last year. The Ducks' come-from-behind victory in Eugene against the Spartans helped keep them near the top of the rankings all season. The winner of this game is likely to do the same this season.

It is the first time two top-10 teams will meet in East Lansing since 1966 when No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State played to a 10-10 tie in a meeting that was billed the Game of the Century.


Tennessee seems to be a program on the rise in Year 3 under Butch Jones. Oklahoma is trying to re-establish itself as a national contender after an off year.

In front of more than 102,000 at Neyland Stadium, the largest to ever watch an Oklahoma game, it is a chance for the Volunteers to take the next step in their development by beating a marquee team. The Vols have lost 27 of the last 28 against ranked foes.

Some of the luster might be off Oklahoma, but Bob Stoops' team has a history of doing well on the road against tough foes. The Sooners have won five straight nonconference road games since 2009, including wins against No. 22 Notre Dame in 2013 (35-21) and No. 5 Florida State in 2011 (23-13).


Mike Leach came to Washington State four years ago with much fanfare. The quirky coach has been a major contributor to the spread offense movement that has transformed college football over the last two decades or so. He also had won big at a remote program (Texas Tech) without much history of success. Perfect fit, right?

After losing to FCS Portland State at home last week, Leach is 12-26 with the Cougars.

Washington State plays at Rutgers on Saturday, and another loss would put the Cougars in a huge hole as far as getting to bowl eligibility in the tough Pac-12. It also will increase the unrest among Washington State fans, who are losing patience with Leach but know it would cost the university about $5 million to fire him at the end of the season.


No. 18 Arkansas opened the season with an easy victory against UTEP and coach Bret Bielema seemed to be showing off his senior quarterback who still hasn't won over most fans.

Brandon Allen threw for 308 and averaged 17.1 yards per attempt, with four touchdown passes. It wasn't good enough to win SEC player of the week honors, which Bielema noted and questioned, but it showed off the element of Allen's game that was missing last year - the big play. Allen averaged only 6.7 yards per pass last year.

The Razorbacks are going to be run-first in the big games, but with Toledo coming to Little Rock on Saturday, Bielema could let Allen loose again?

G5 VS. P5

For teams in conferences outside the Power Five, the so-called Group of Five, a victory against a P5 opponent can help make a season.

Here are some games where the have-not has a chance to beat the have.

-Houston at Louisville.

-Minnesota at Colorado State

-Rice at Texas

-UMass at Colorado

-San Diego State at California

-Arizona at Nevada

Note: Memphis is at Kansas, but the upset would be if the Jayhawks of the Big 12 beat the Tigers of the American Athletic Conference.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at

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