The final Saturday before the midpoint of the regular season could have massive College Football Playoff implications, with four games between ranked opponents and several other ranked teams hitting the road.
That includes No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 21 Texas (12 p.m. on ABC), No. 13 Arkansas at No. 17 Ole Miss (12 p.m. on ESPN), No. 2 Georgia at No. 18 Auburn (3:30 p.m. on CBS), No. 4 Penn State at No. 3 Iowa (4 p.m. on FOX), No. 9 Michigan at Nebraska (7:30 p.m. on ABC) and No. 14 Notre Dame at Virginia Tech (ACC Network).
The Sooners’ offense hasn’t lived up to its preseason hype, particularly through the air as quarterback Spencer Rattler has struggled at times with his efficiency. This will be his second time playing in the Red River Showdown, so perhaps he’ll feel more comfortable on Saturday that he has the rest of the year.
The Longhorns, meanwhile, have rebounded from a loss to Arkansas by scoring 160 points in wins over Rice, Texas Tech and TCU. They’ll need another stellar effort from running back Bijan Robinson, who rushed for 216 yards and two touchdowns, in order to pull the upset in their toughest game to date.
After strong starts to the season, the Razorbacks and Rebels received a reality check of sorts last Saturday, with blowout losses to Georgia and Alabama, respectively. The key, of course, is to not let that one loss turn into two straight defeats.
That said, this is a matchup of two teams with very different playing styles. Arkansas relies heavily upon its run game while Ole Miss airs it out behind quarterback Matt Corral. That plays into the Razorbacks’ strength, though, as they allow just 130 passing yards per game.
Speaking of the Bulldogs, they haven’t allowed a point in last two games and have a chance to flex their defensive muscles against another ranked opponent in the Tigers. It’s unclear who will be under center, but does it really matter if it’s J.T. Daniels or Stetson Bennett when the defense has been this dominant?
Auburn, meanwhile, has been sporadic this season but is coming into this game high off its first win at LSU since 1999. The Tigers benefit from playing at home and will need an all-time game from quarterback Bo Nix if they’re going to pull the upset in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, though.
Saturday’s matchups between the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions is the first Big Ten game featuring top-five opponents that didn’t include Ohio State since 1997, and will serve as notice for the Buckeyes as to which team is the biggest threat to their chances of winning a fifth straight conference title.
Penn State has won three straight meetings in Iowa City in dramatic fashion, but this is easily the best team Iowa’s had in that timeframe, particularly on defense, where they’re among the nation’s best at forcing turnovers. Expect another nailbiter.
Following up their first win at Wisconsin in 20 years with a trip to Lincoln, where they haven’t been since a loss in 2012, feels like a trap game for the Wolverines. In fact, despite their 3-3 record, one could argue the Cornhuskers are the best team they’ve played to date – especially at home.
Nebraska is a much different team than it was in its loss to Illinois in the first week of the season, as evidenced losses at undefeated Oklahoma and Michigan State by a combined 10 points. This is a massive opportunity for head coach Scott Frost to get the signature win he so desperately needs.
The Fighting Irish, last but not least, will look to rebound from their first loss and keep their 20-game regular-season winning streak against ACC opponents intact against the Hokies. It won’t be easy, though, as Lane Stadium is one of college football’s most intimidating venues.
That backdrop helped Virginia Tech upset North Carolina in Week 1, as the crowd forced quarterback Sam Howell into uncharacteristic mistakes and the offensive line into several procedural penalties. Can whoever starts for Notre Dame – whether its Jack Coan, Drew Pyne or Tyler Buchner – avoid a similar fate? We’ll see.
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