Thursday Night Bites: Actual ranked teams!
• Ohio @ Central Michigan, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU: This isn't much of an undercard in advance of two primetime games where three of four teams are ranked. But you'll consume it anyway, because you're as sick for this stuff as I am. The Chippewas have three wins and the Bobcats sit atop the MAC East. On paper, it's not much of a contest.
CMU operates this week without leading receiver Cody Wilson, which might be a tough adjustment for quarterback Ryan Radcliff and the Chips' pass-first offense but for the sterling work last week of freshman Titus Davis. Their overly generous defense will be of greater concern against a Bobcats offense averaging more than 32 points per game. All-name candidate Tyler Tettleton and diminutive back Donte Harden should keep this one well out of reach.
• No. 10 Virginia Tech @ No. 20 Georgia Tech, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN: Who's jacked to see the Coastal Division shake out a little? Whether ACC football is your particular brand of poison or not, the spectacle of a weeknight game between two ranked teams is one to be savored. As an added dramatic bonus, both squads have faced recent hits to their credibility as division powers.
The Hokies ride higher in the rankings than they might deserve, thanks in large part, no doubt, to Being Virginia Tech. Their one loss was a 23-3 kerflop against Clemson, which actually trails them in the Coaches' Poll. They haven't stumbled since, but picked an inopportune time, slowed by injury or not, to turn the ball over twice and let Duke hang 326 yards on a Bud Foster defense. But for four convenient Blue Devil turnovers and three missed field goals, VT's last game before the bye might have turned out quite differently. The other Tech you'll see tonight has seemingly righted the ship by dealing then-No. 6 Clemson its first loss before heading into a bye week of its own. That win stopped a two-game skid of road losses to Virginia and Miami.
Don't know if it's his witness protection name or the fact that he plays on a team ballyhooed for its defense, but junior Hokies running back David Wilson is the No. 3 rusher in the country and hasn't gotten the attention you'd think he deserves for his efforts. The Jackets have been giving against the run, and score frequently themselves, so a good outing from Wilson could help VT keep pace on the scoreboard and control the game's tempo.
Between Tevin Washington, David Sims and Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech's running game has been almost without peer this season, but just for laughs I hope we get to see Washington shake off the interception bug and wing it like he did in those first few memorable games this year. Watching a Paul Johnson team pass the ball that much was like watching a baby unicorn sprout its horn. This may be a futile wish; although the Hokies are just slightly more vulnerable against the pass than the run, we all know Johnson has never laughed in his life.
I'm bound for Atlanta as soon as I hit the save button on this preview, so look for more coverage tonight here and on Twitter, live from Bobby Dodd Stadium. • No. 11 Houston @ Tulane, 8:00 p.m. ET, CBSS: Feels like I'm repeating this kind of trope a lot this season, but as long as it keeps on being true: One of these teams ranks 93rd nationally in scoring offense. The other has Case Keenum. The Cougars are averaging 53 points per game to the Green Wave's 23. Tune into this one on commercial breaks and at halftime just to shake the cobwebs from the ducking and jabbing of the ACC contest, and you'll probably see at least three touchdowns.