Finally a CFB Weekend with Some Texture
We are still only a rash of positive COVID-19 tests away from another chaotic, uncertain college football weekend, where who coaches and who plays are sometimes game time decisions.
The calendar says the fourth Saturday in October is nearly upon us. Many teams have played almost half their schedule, but without the context of tailgate parties, sold out stadiums and the atmosphere that is College Football America. It has been a season without flavor.
Part of that was caused by the absence of the Big Ten, which will change this weekend. The Pac-12 will not make its statement for a few more weeks, but then again the Pac-12 has been college football's redheaded step-child for some time.
Not only will we have games this weekend, we will have KEY conference games that will determine the direction of the season for many teams.
Let's look at the menu.
The Big Ten
A couple of games jump out at you.
Nebraska at Ohio State—How good is Ohio State and did the Big Ten send the message by sending the whining-est member of its conference to Columbus for the opening game?
Michigan at Minnesota—Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is in the final year of a contract which has produced success against the rest of the Big Ten for the Wolverines, other than Ohio State and Michigan State, Michigan's biggest rivals.
Losing the opener will not be a good omen for Coach Khaki pants.
Notre Dame at Pitt—Pitt has lost three games in succession and Notre Dame is unbeaten and ranked No. 3 in the country, so what's the big deal you say?
Well, the Irish looked very beatable in a 12-7 non-descript home win over Louisville last week and Pittsburgh lost a pair of games in the final seconds and has not had QB Kenny Pickett the past few weeks.
If Pickett, who is recovering from a high ankle sprain, can play, ND, which is playing its first road game of the season, could have some serious problems.
The Big 12
This is not an Oklahoma-Texas battle. Not this year. Both of those teams have already lost twice this season.
No, the Big 12 shootout is once beaten (non-conference) Iowa State vs. unbeaten Oklahoma State. We still think the best the Big 12 winner can get this year is a Cotton Bowl bid, but no Texas or OU?
Again, somewhat of a surprise because UCF is not part of the mix. It is unbeaten Cincinnati vs. unbeaten SMU in a prime-time Saturday night showdown between defense and offense, with some interesting twists since this is SMU's best start since nearly 40 years ago when it was a national power.
Again, the winner of this conference is looking at a Cotton Bowl or Fiesta Bowl bid as its highest achievement, but it should be a fun show to watch.
What is missing from this picture is any key SEC game. That's fine. The league still has showdown weekend after showdown weekend ahead. It can afford a quiet week after the drama of last week's Alabama-Georgia Show.
This, of course, could change in an instant if there are last minute postponements or players or coaches sidelined, but for now, let's enjoy the PROSPECT of a full-flavor weekend of college football games.