You excited yet? Three weeks into the season, and now Alabama football can truly get underway. It’s not hyperbole to say that the Tide’s season will be decided by October 10th. ‘Bama’s fortunes will be determined in this crucial three-game stretch over the next four weeks — No. 11 Florida on the road, the dangerous No. 18 Ole Miss Rebels at home, and then a roadie to the Hate Barn vs. No. 7 Texas A&M.
And it all starts today, 2:30 in the Swamp on CBS (Alabama -14 1⁄2 ). Here’s today’s viewing guide and this morning’s Open Thread. Want some last minute action the games today? We’ve got you covered with our picks at Giving Away Money, and then we can hit you up even more picks at (Almost) Giving Away Money.
This figures to be an interesting week of viewing. There aren’t many must-watch games, but there are tons and tons of “this could be a really good game”-games. Let’s dig in. NB: All times below are God’s Right and Proper Central Zone. Suck it, East Coast.
No. 1 Alabama -14 1⁄2 at No. 11 Florida (2:30 CBS) — This is the biggest game of the SEC regular season...until Alabama travels to Texas A&M in three weeks for yet another Game of the Century of the Week. I have a feeling that despite the hype, Alabama is going to blow the doors off this one-dimensional Florida team. Check out our landing page for previews of the game, practice reports, Florida’s offensive scheme, and what the Gators will look like on the other side of the ball.
Coastal Carolina (-14) at Buffalo (11:00 ESPN2) — Is this the biggest game in Buffalo football history? It could be. These two teams figure to vie for their conference titles. Both have great offenses and even better defenses; and it should be an absolute showstopper. Grayson McCall vs. Kyle Vantrease is the best quarterback matchup of the year so far, and one that few have heard of. In fact, it could be the best one you see all season. No, that’s not a misprint.
No. 22 (LOL) Auburn at No. 10 Penn State (-6) 6:30 ABC — There are lots of reasons to watch this one. It’s Bryan Harsin’s introduction to the weekly grind of big boy football, for a start. His one foray into real opponents didn’t work out so well — his team was flat, error-prone, and got their ass handed to them by a pedestrian Oklahoma State team. One of the knocks on him by disgruntled Broncos fans was coming up short in big games. And when you’re making Mike Gundy look prepared? Woof.
After having had the 127th easiest schedule to-date, and with Bo Pix still being Bo Pix, how will the ‘Barn respond to the fastest team they’ve seen since last Thanksgiving? The largest on-campus stadium in the country — and one of its loudest? Will the USC rumors distract the Nittany Lions from their focus? Can James Franklin’s team line up and beat a team with as much speed as the Nitty Kitties have — one of the few squads they face with such wheels? If it’s close, can JFF actually manage a clock? And most importantly, which one of these teams is actually for real?
We’ll know by about 10:00 p.m. tonight.
No. 19 Arizona State (-3.5) at No. 23 BYU (ESPN 9:15) — It’s rare the Maulin’ Mormons are an underdog in their own house. They were last week, then lined up and bullied then-No. 24 Utah. Their opponent this week is another ranked P12 team with a great defense. But the Sun Devils can actually throw the ball, and they don’t play like possums in road games. Year Three of Herm Edwards seems to have the Sun Devils finally putting it all together. Sure, he probably cheated his ass off to get there, but that’s what separates a P12 contender from being someone like Washington State. Like the ‘Barn-PSU, we’ll find out which one of these physical, power-running behemoths is actually for real. I suspect they both may be — with ASU being just a tad better, but that’s no guarantee of who’s going to win this one. Late game, national broadcast. What else are you going to do?
Tulane (+14) at No. 17 Ole Miss (ESPN2 7:00) — Two of the country’s more explosive offenses with two of its more suspect defenses. Yes, yes. I know. Ole Miss has looked better this year on that side of the ball. But how good was Luhvl, really? The Green Wave are super dangerous, dropping a 40-35 decision in Norman just two weeks ago. Can they spring the upset? Probably not. But this one has the potential to go off the rails. Like the guys at Nevada, Coastal, and Buffalo, the Green Wave are keyed by an outstanding QB you’ve probably not seen play: Michael Pratt. He can be trouble.
Be Ready to Reach for the Remote
CMU (+21) at LSU (6:30 SECN) — The data suggest this game will be a lot closer than this point spread. And given how bad LSU’s defense is, unless they can get pressure on an explosive Chippewas offense, it will be. How will Tha’ Tigahs respond to their distractions and their first real game since getting whacked by UCLA to open the season? LSU starts SEC play next week at Mississippi State; could they overlook a veteran team led by Jim McElwain? Ed O has lost this kind of game before. And Troy still has the fond memories of it. LSU should be able to out-talent CMU, especially along the defensive line. Should is the operative word though, and nothing is mysterious anymore about Death Valley.
Utah State (+7 1⁄2 ) at Air Force (6:30 FSN) — Blake Anderson has immediately turned around Utah State, and has them playing well on offense and particularly on defense. The Aggies were left with a raft of talent by Matt Wells that Gary Andersen tried valiantly to squander. But a new coach with an uptempo pass-first scheme was just the fix for what ailed the folks in Logan. Was Air Force as good as they looked last week in dismantling Navy? Or are the Midshipmen as bad as they looked? This could be the first real test for the Falcons: it’s their first game against a D1 team at home in 2021. It’s also a crucial early game in a MWC that seems to have rebounded after being down last season. Good stuff here.
Purdue (+6 1/2) at No. 12 Notre Dame (1:30 NBC) — Hard to believe these two are undefeated, isn’t it? The Cardiac Catholics in particular are living dangerously. They damn near lost last week to a very good Toledo team, and almost gacked away a win on Labor Day to an awful FSU team. So, no one really believes ND is 12th in the country, do they? I believe that about like I believe Jeff Brohm can actually win a meaningful road game at Purdue. Still, when you pair two suspect defenses, with two spotty running games, and two good passing offenses, in an intra-state rivalry, you just may wind up with something exciting after all. Be ready to reach for that remote.
Arkansas State (+16 1/2) at Washington (3:15 P12N): The best offense in the country resides in Jonesboro, Arkansas courtesy of Butch Jones. This team is playing up to their potential for the first time in about three years. The Huskies decidedly are not. Defensive lapses are costly; their inability to reach the endzone is even worse. This team has been shut down by Michigan and FCS Montana. They’ll get some points on a bad ASU defense, but if it becomes a road race, is there enough gas in the U-Dub tank to keep pace? (LOL. Who has the PAC 12 Network? Illegal stream, here I come...allegedly)
Fresno State (+10.5) at No. 13 UCLA (9:45 P12N): The Bulldogs join Arkansas State, Utah State et al. as one of those traditionally good midmajors that has finally turned it back around. They almost beat the Ducks in Autzen, and their passing game is among the nation’s most explosive — while UCLA’s secondary plays bend-don’t-break. The Bruins love to run — but FSU’s DL is fairly salty and did what OSU could not: limit the Oregon ground game. If you want an upset special, this very well could be it. How good is UCLA, really? A Top 15 team should be able to focus and dispatch a pesky visitor. And this particular version of Fresno State is especially feisty.
USC (-8) at Washington State (2:30 Fox): Almost a decade of erratic, lifeless, gutless, spineless, dickless play by the cotton-candy soft Trojans finally got Clay Helton fired. So, Flight Aware Szn came early this year, and rumors are rampant as to who will next face the stupid expectations in LA. The Men of Troy are about as talented as they come; will an interim staff get the squad to rally around and focus? Bad loss to Stanford aside, the Trojans could still win the P12 and perhaps get in the playoff discussion. They’ll need to get by this ghastly Wazzu team that can’t seem to do much well or right. And WSU’s issues honestly reside on the roster by way of Starkville — Mike Leach recruited terribly, built his successful teams with JuCos, and won games with ephemera. When the talent disappeared, so did he. But still, the Cougs have this longstanding history of being annoying opponents for USC, and have even knocked off the Trojans a fair bit. USC can lose this game. Hell, Clay Helton probably would.
Mississippi State (+3 1⁄2 ) at Memphis (3:00 ESPN2) — The undefeated Bulldogs are underdogs for a reason; scores aside, it’s not a good offense at all. It’s perhaps the worst Leach running game I’ve ever seen (47.5 YPG). Nor do the Bulldogs even really try to run. MSU has been living a charmed life with two opponents gifting CLANGA a bunch of short fields and 5 TOs. The secret is that the passing game isn’t particularly dangerous either. Memphis is also 2-0, but the Tigers are deficient for another reason, and as we’ve come to expect it’s their defense. The offense has been lights out, per usual in the Bluff City. But UM’s defense is going to make a lot of games razor-thin...even against bad teams like Mississippi State. One team can’t score; the other can’t stop anyone from scoring. Something has to give today. As potentially stupid as Tulane-Ole Miss could get, this one could devolve into Four Alarm, Klaxon-Ringing nuttiness.
Curiosities: Games Maybe Worth Checking In On
Michigan State +7 1⁄2 at No. 24 Miami (11:00 ABC): Sparty has looked good; Miami has not. Does MSU carry over their hot play to South Beach? Does Manny Diaz implode, and screw ‘Bama’s SOS?
No. 8 Cincinnati (-3 1/2) at Indiana (11:00 ESPN): If the Bearcats want to be taken seriously, picking up a road win over a quality Big 10 team is a must. Will USC/Fickell distract Cincy, or is UC finally ready for primetime?
Nevada (-2) at Kansas State (1:00 ESPN+): Can you believe both of these teams are undefeated and have quality wins? Me either. Nevada’s Carson Strong is the best QB you’ve never seen play.
Tulsa (+24) at No. 9 Ohio State (2:30 Fox): Tulsa’s nasty defense can cause some serious issues if the Bucks aren’t focused. Does a sloppy OSU team let Oregon beat them two weeks in a row? Can the Buckeyes get their own defense sorted out this week — even against a bad Golden Hurricane offense?
No. 14 Iowa State (-32 1/2) at UNLV (9:30 CBSSN) —
Props to the UNLV administration for getting a Power 5 team to come to Sin City for a game. But they probably should have started with someone a bit more realistic — Vanderbilt, Kansas, Washington State maybe? Nope. Instead, they inked a deal to host a Top 15 team that was considered a dark horse for the playoffs.
Iowa State was long a doormat in the Big 8. But when the conference moved to become the B12, and the Cyclones hired Dan McCarney, the program turned around dramatically. Games were won, upsets were sprung, respectability was had, money and recruits and even better coaches came along, and now ISU is the respectable program we see today.
UNLV has had no such luck in their half-century history. And, their one bright period in the 80s was marred by predictable cheating, NCAA violations, and then four straight decades of Kansas-like futility. Their one conference title? Yeah. Voided by the NCAA. Just three times in their history has UNLV finished with a + point differential per contest — and one of those was voided. And it’s not like the Rebels have been competitive either. Their average margin of loss over forty years is 18.86 points per game.
The Rebels have had four winning seasons in four decades, and just two in the last 25 years (since they joined the MWC). They’ve been to one bowl game in the last 20 years, and lost...badly. UNLV has had 18 seasons since 1974 where they won 3 games or fewer — and 12 of these were 2-win seasons or fewer. UNLV’s all-time record is 165-330-3, and their best season ever (1984 11-2 led by Randal Cunningham), was vacated by the NCAA.
Even the legendary John Robinson could only eke out a single winning season from UNLV.
This may be about as lopsided a game as we see all season, and that is wholly on the Rebels suckitude:
ISU gives up 177 YPG...UNLV surrenders nearly 500.
UNLV gains 3 yards per play — only EMU and UConn are worse
UNLV averages fewer than 100 yards per game passing and completes 37% of their attempts
UNLV averages 2.75 yards per rush...and has scored just one sad rushing touchdown.
UNLV has gained 11 first downs…all year.
UNLV has 8 TFL...all year.
UNLV converts on 3rd down just 31% of the time...while surrendering 57% on 3rd down.
UNLV has let D1 opponents convert 5 of their 6 red zone attempts into touchdowns. And then gave up a FG. They’ve never had a stop.
UNLV has had two plays go 20+ yards. Neither were against a D1 program.
Meanwhile, UNLV has allowed freaking 37 explosive plays...in two games.
And on, and on, and on.
It is so beautiful in its awfulness that I am half-tempted to watch a bit of it. In a week where we get Stanford-Vanderbilt, South Carolina-Georgia, and New Mexico-Texas A&M, for a D1 game to be this impressively shitty is honestly a thing to behold.
This is our unwatchable filth of the week, and perhaps of the season.
And God save Matt Campell’s soul if the Cyclones look terrible in it.
What SEC team is most likely to be upset this week?
This poll is closed
LSU (Central Michigan)
Ole Miss (Tulane)