Jake Bridges? Writing a college football article? What?!!
Everyone, relax. I’ve got this. Now, you may think I’m just a fantasy baseball writer. Well, it turns out that I am a multi-faceted, diverse, complicated sports fan who turns his attention to college football every fall…after the fantasy baseball trophies have been distributed of course.
I love college football, its traditions, and staying up late to watch Pac 12 After Dark on Saturday nights. But really…I do try to watch as many intriguing games as I can. Now…IF ONLY there were a nifty little weekend TV guide specifically geared towards college football nerds like me who literally just want to know where to look!
Well…now there is. Brought to you by yours truly. Here’s how this is going to go. Basically, I will guide you through the Thursday and Friday night games first. Those can be fun, sometimes, right? Next, I’ll break the Saturday games into 3 categories: Must Watch, Maybe Watch, and Nerd-Level. That last one is only for the deepest of fans. You get it.
Gentlemen and handful of ladies who read this blog, I present to you the premiere of….
JAKE’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL TV GUIDE: WEEK 8 EDITION
NOTE: ALL TIMES LISTED ARE EST
Any true college football fan truly addicted to the sport knows that the weekend actually begins on Thursday nights. Sometimes, we are gifted with a Power 5 matchup like Clemson vs. Syracuse last week, but most of the time, there’s a Group of 5 shootout worth watching. Or…if we’re really lucky…we get some MACtion! That’s right. Sometimes, the football gods will gift us a MAC game that features like…96 combined points…with like…in the freakin’ snow and fog…and like…zero defense and a bunch of guys from Ohio getting filthy in terrible weather just laying it all on the field. Love it!
This week, we unfortunately get no MACtion worth mentioning. But, let’s see what we do have starting tonight….
Louisiana…Lafayette? (3-3, 2-1 Sun Belt) @ Arkansas State (3-2, 2-0 Sun Belt)-7:30 on ESPNU
Prediction: Arkansas State 24 Louisiana (Lafayette) 14
I wish I had some underlying big reason to call this a sneaky good game to watch. But, I just can’t lie to you. The only people who should be watching this game are alumni, honestly. If you really want a preview of who has a shot at heading to the New Orleans Bowl this December, then tune in to watch Arkansas State! But really…this is just killing time before a much better game at 8 which is…
#25 Memphis (5-1, 2-1 AAC) @ Houston (4-2, 2-1 AAC)-8 pm on ESPN
Prediction: Memphis 48 Houston 38
Now THIS is a great Thursday night matchup. This is not Tom Herman’s Houston Cougars anymore, but Houston hasn’t been awful under Major Applewhite. In fact, they are a field goal away against Texas Tech from being 5-1. The real story here, though, is the Memphis passing attack which is one of the best in the country. They’re scoring 40.3 points per game (12th best in the FBS), and they have posted a nice 490.7 yards per game average with their high-flying attack. Memphis is coming off a huge win against a ranked Navy squad and now must head to Houston on a short week. Houston will definitely have their hands full defensively, and if they can’t stop the passing game, it will be a long night for the Cougars. I smell a high flying track meet in this short week for both teams.
Players to Watch: Memphis QB Riley Ferguson, Memphis RB Darrel Henderson, Memphis WR Anthony Miller
Marshall (5-1, 2-0 CUSA) @ Middle Tennessee State (3-4, 1-2 CUSA)-7 PM on ESPN2
Prediction: MTSU 28 Marshall 21
We were spoiled last week with Syracuse’s upset of Clemson, but we are not as fortunate this Friday. No ranked teams in action, but this Marshall game has my interest slightly piqued. Marshall is in the driver’s seat to win the CUSA East with their only loss being to a good NC State team on the road. Although they won’t be catching the likes of UCF, USF or Navy anytime soon for the NY6 bid, this team could sneak their way into the top 25 before too long. However, crazy things happen in college football on Friday nights. These two are statistically very even offensively, and this is just the kind of game where the underdog can get the upset especially at home. I’ll take the Raiders in this one.
Player to Watch: Marshall WR Tyre Brady
Colorado State (5-2, 3-0 MWC) @ New Mexico (3-3, 1-2 MWC)-10:15 PM on ESPN 2
Prediction: Colorado State 52 New Mexico 14
We got a late one here folks, but this one will be worth staying up for if you like offense. The first half at least. Colorado State features a dynamic passing attack that actually hung 23 on mighty Alabama when no one was looking. Garbage time or not, most teams don’t do that to Alabama. The Rams are averaging 322 passing yards per game and 520 total offensive yards per game as well. They can move the ball, and I expect them to have no trouble with an inferior New Mexico squad who hasn’t been very good at all this year. Colorado State has some big tests coming up with Mountain West divisional foes Wyoming and Boise State in the next few weeks, so it’s important for them to rack up the easy Ws. I expect CSU to take their foot off the gas in the second half.
Players to Watch: CSU QB Nick Stevens, CSU WR Michael Gallup (leading WR in the FBS)
So here we go. The big day. Gameday will be live from Happy Valley in Pennsylvania. Let’s get started with the must watch games.
#20 Central Florida (5-0, 3-0 AAC) @ Navy (5-1, 3-1 AAC)-3:30 PM on CBS Sports Network
Prediction: UCF 45 Navy 41
This is quietly one of the best games of the weekend. It’s definitely my pick for the Group of 5 game of the week, and with a boring SEC game in the same time slot, I highly recommend flipping over to this one instead. We have huge ramifications in the American Athletic Conference race, and the winner immediately becomes South Florida’s biggest challenger to a New Years 6 bowl bid. UCF has had absolutely no trouble moving the ball this year thanks to dynamic QB McKenzie Milton, and they are averaging 50.6 points per game under 2nd year head coach Scott Frost. Side note…did you guys see Scott Frost running the option for the scout team this week?! HE’S STILL GOT IT HUSKER NATION!!!
Anyways…seems like that’s working out just fine in Orlando. The Knights are averaging 547 yards per game, 321 yards passing/game, and 225 yards rushing/game. There’s little the Knights haven’t been able to do on that side of the ball all season. Navy’s defense will most definitely have their hands full.
And speaking of handfuls, how about slowing down the Navy rushing attack? The triple option has given teams fits once again this year, and Navy averages an astounding 397 rushing yards/game. They run the ball better than anyone in the FBS, and so this game will become a battle of who can be stopped offensively first. I expect lots of scoring and an electric atmosphere in Annapolis this Saturday. Don’t miss this one!
Players to Watch: UCF QB McKenzie Miller, Navy RB Zach Abey
#19 Michigan (5-1, 2-1 B10) @ #2 Penn State (6-0, 3-0 B10)-7:30 PM on ABC
Prediction: Penn State 17 Michigan 7
And speaking of electric atmospheres, how lit is this crowd going to be at Beaver Stadium? College Gameday will be there, and the Nittany Lion faithful will be “whiting out” the stadium. It’s going to get very, very loud. After the chaos of last week, Penn State finds itself right behind Bama in the polls and rightly so. They have one of the best 1-2 punches in the nation with Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley, and the talented but young Michigan defense will be forced to play their best game to slow down the offensive attack. Michigan is coming off two very hard fought games, and I worry about their stamina coming into one of the biggest games of the year. They are very young, and I feel that is starting to show. Penn State has already shown us last year was no fluke, and with everything to play for combined with a raw Michigan squad, I expect Penn State to win an extremely physical game an expose the Michigan defense.
Players to Watch: PSU QB Trace McSorley, PSU RB Saquon Barkley
#11 USC (6-1, 4-1 PAC 12) @ #13 Notre Dame (5-1)-7:30 PM on NBC
Prediction: Notre Dame 28 USC 17
The Fighting Irish are literally a field goal against Georgia away from being in the top 4 right now, and for once in my life, I feel the Irish are a little underrated. They dominated a good Michigan State team a few weeks ago and gave Georgia all they wanted at the beginning of the season. They feature an elite rushing attack with Josh Adams (776 yards, 5 TDs), and QB Brandon Wimbush has the Irish clicking on all cylinders. They’re averaging 40 points a game so far in 2017, and yet…no one is talking about the Irish as a playoff contender. Yet.
On the USC side of things, no one has been more maddeningly frustrating to watch this year than QB Sam Darnold. When he’s on, he looks like the sure-fire #1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft. When he’s off, he’s REALLY off. Just look at the 9 interceptions he’s thrown on the year. Sure, he’s cleaned it up the last few weeks, but this is a stout Notre Dame defense. If Notre Dame can force him into trouble, they know he makes bad decisions and they can take advantage of that. Shut down Darnaold’s favorite target WR Deontay Burnett (49 rec, 626 yards, 6 TDs), and you are well on your way to victory. I think the Irish will do just that and come away with the W in South Bend.
Players to Watch: USC QB Sam Darnold, USC WR Deontay Burnett, Notre Dame RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush
#10 Oklahoma State (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) @ Texas (3-3, 2-1 Big 12)-Noon on ABC
Prediction: Oklahoma State 55 Texas 35
This game narrowly misses the cut for must-watch. Sure, it doesn’t feature two Top 25 teams, but look at the Longhorns’ losses this year. Only 1 was by more than a single score, and that was the opener against Maryland. A lot has changed for Tom Herman’s squad since then as they nearly knocked off both USC and Oklahoma the last few weeks. No rest for the wicked, though, as the Longhorns must come off the Red River Rivalry and face the ‘Pokes a week later.
The Cowboys feature one of the most potent offenses in the country behind QB Mason Rudolph (2368 pass yds, 19 TD, 4 INT) and superstar WR James Washington (34 rec, 882 yards, 6 TD), and the Texas D knows they’ll have their hands full. This is the best offense they may face all year. The Cowboys average 610 yards/game so far with 411 yards/game coming through the air. The real question is whether or not the Texas offense will be able to keep pace in this shootout. I’d like Texas to compete more if they weren’t coming off the Oklahoma game.
Players to Watch: OSU QB Mason Rudolph, OSU WR James Washington
Louisville (4-3, 1-3 ACC) @ Florida State (2-3, 2-2 ACC)-Noon on ESPN
Prediction: Louisville 28 FSU 24
What looked like a possible top 10 matchup before the season has turned in to an almost after thought this week after disaster starts to their respective seasons. I had a tough time not listing this game in the next category, but any time you have Lamar Jackson on the field, it’s hard to recommend not watching. Louisville straight up embarrassed the ‘Noles in this one last season by hanging 60+ points on them, so that could make for an intriguing storyline/source of motivation for FSU. We knew the wheels could possibly come off for FSU as soon as Francois went down against Alabama, but no one expected this. That being said, their defense has performed quite well and is a big reason they didn’t lose to Wake Forest. I still expect Jackson to be too much for the Noles for the second year in a row. He’s the best dual threat QB in the country, maybe the best player in the country, and I’ll take the Cardinals in this one on the road.
Players to Watch: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
Tennessee (3-3, 0-3 SEC) @ #1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0)-3:30 PM on CBS
Prediction: Alabama 49 Tennessee 3
You know why people watched gladiators in the olden days? Because there was a possibility that the guy was gonna get his limbs torn to bits. He could possibly defeat whatever creature came out to the arena, and that would be cool, but really, people watched because…how often do you get to see a freaking lion tear apart a human? There wasn’t much else to do in the old days, but also there’s a curiosity factor to the whole thing. This metaphor is pretty bad, but that’s why people are going to watch this game. Alabama is the lion, and Tennessee is a small, untalented, skinny gladiator in his first fight. It’s gonna be like that. People will watch because we wanna see limbs and carnage. This one is going to get ugly very quick.
Players to Watch: Bama QB Jalen Hurts, Bama RB Damien Harris, the entire Bama D
Syracuse (4-3, 2-1 ACC) @ #8 Miami (5-0, 3-0 ACC)-3:30 PM on ESPN
Prediction: Miami 31 Syracuse 21
As soon as the Bama game gets out of hand with 10 minutes to go in the 1st quarter, why not flip over to this one? Mark Richt has the ‘Canes believing it’s time to party like it’s 1999, but Syracuse is coming off a huge upset of Clemson. It’s not a fluke, either. Syracuse could very easily have beaten LSU in Death Valley a few weeks ago, and Dino Babers has the Orange looking better than they have in decades. This has the potential to be a sneaky good game at the Hard Rock, and Miami is firmly on upset alert. Keep in mind that Miami is coming off back-to-back tough, physical wins over FSU and Georgia Tech, and so Syracuse has a chance to catch them a little banged up. Richt had a knack for blowing games like this at Georgia, so let’s see if history repeats itself. These two are surprisingly close statistically, and I call this one as being one of the best of the weekend.
Players to Watch: Syracuse QB Eric Dungey, Syracuse WR Steve Ishmael
Only for the most true of college football fans.
Maryland (3-3, 1-2 B10) @ #5 Wisconsin (6-0, 3-0 B10)-Noon on FOX
Prediction: Wisconsin 34 Maryland 7
If nothing else, this one will be worth checking in on to see the undefeated Badgers in action. Can they keep the good times rolling? They’ve quietly put together a perfect record halfway through the year, and the path is clear for the Badgers in the Big 10 West. Seriously. Look at the schedule. It’s the opposite of rough. This week, they face a Maryland team who has been ravaged by injuries at the QB position who now must face one of the more stout defenses in the country. I don’t expect the Badgers to struggle running the ball behind Jonathan Taylor (127 car, 986 yards, 10 TD), and Wisconsin’s excellent annual running game should blow past the Terps this week.
Players to Watch: Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor
Boston College (3-4, 1-3 ACC) @ Virginia (5-1, 2-0 ACC)-12:30 PM on ACC Network
Prediction: Virginia 31 BC 14
If the Cavaliers win this one, they should most definitely be in the top 25. It’s not that I think Boston College deserves respect. It’s that Bronco Mendenhall has the Wahoos right behind the Hurricanes in the ACC Coastal. And no one is talking about them. Granted, they haven’t played the ‘Canes yet, but that could turn into a big one real fast. Virginia has won 4 games in a row, and they are flying under the radar in the wide open ACC. I like the Cavs to keep the good times rolling here. I prefer the Texas-OK State game in this time slot, but be ready to check in over here on commercial breaks.
Wyoming (4-2, 2-0 MWC) @ Boise State (4-2, 2-0 MWC)-10:15 PM on ESPN 2
Prediction: Boise State 24 Wyoming 14
There isn’t a great Pac 12 after dark game (sorry WSU-Colorado), so this will have to do. It’s a late night kickoff, but you would be remiss if you did not watch potential NFL draft pick Josh Allen at least once this year. This game is as good as any in the late slot as these two battle for position behind Colorado State in the Mountain West Mountain division. I expect a pretty exciting game here as these Mountain West games are the best kept secret in college football.
Other games to watch….
Iowa State (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) @ Texas Tech (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) (Noon-FS1): Can the Cyclones keep the momentum going after their big win against Oklahoma? Texas Tech was ranked a week ago, and now needs to get back on track with a conference win.
Arizona State (3-3, 2-1 Pac 12) @ Utah (4-2, 1-2 Pac 12) (3:30-FS1): More people would be talking about this one if Utah had upset USC last weekend. ASU is coming off their biggest win of the year last week as they knocked off Washington.
#9 Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) @ Kansas State (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) (4-FOX): Bill Snyder always has his team playing well in big games. Trap game for Oklahoma as they survived against Texas last weekend. This game always ends up being closer than expected.
So that should keep you busy this weekend. Saturdays in the fall are the best days. If you liked this content, give me a follow on Twitter @jakebridges03!