Bye Week for Most, But Not for Ducks or Sparty

The 2015 season gave us a thrilling Week 1, with several high-profile matchups, quarterback intrigue, an answered prayer and of course, a Kansas Jayhawk performing a sex act, as performed by Kansas State’s marching band.

You just can’t make this stuff up, and you’ll never find it in the NFL, either.

Will Week 2 provide just as many memorable moments? Well, that’s why we need to guide you in the right direction. Here’s the full list of this weekend’s national TV games (when and where and on what network), but let’s get right to the games most worth watching:

Game of the Week

Oregon at Michigan State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Last year, when these teams met in Eugene, it was a tense affair until Oregon pulled away in the fourth quarter for a deceiving 46-27 victory. But this time, Heisman winner Marcus Mariota will no longer be piloting the Ducks’ high-octane offense. Instead, it’ll be Eastern Washington grad transfer Vernon Adams, who is banged up and will be playing in front of the largest crowd in his collegiate career at Spartan Stadium.

So what’s at stake? A lot and not much, actually. While this is the season’s first matchup between two Top 10 teams (and the first such matchup in East Lansing since the 1966 “Game of the Century” against Notre Dame), in the playoff era, conference championships trump everything. The loser of this game might slip a bit in the rankings, but as long as it goes on to win the Big Ten or Pac-12 title, it probably won’t matter.

By the way, this is the main event of the war between the states of Oregon and Michigan. Earlier in the day, Oregon State visits Michigan at the Big House (noon ET, ABC) in Jim Harbaugh’s home debut.

Other games the committee will be watching

Georgia at Vanderbilt, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Notre Dame at Virginia, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Oklahoma at Tennessee, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN

LSU at Mississippi State, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

Boise State at BYU, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2

The playoff selection committee will have less to keep track of this week but all the key games come on the some day, as opposed to the season-opening week, when meaningful games were stretched out over five days. Also, conference play begins in the SEC, including a game between two teams – LSU and Mississippi State – that were ranked in the top 10 during parts of last season.

A pair of independents are also very much on the committee’s radar after last week’s performances. There’s plenty of talk of Notre Dame being a national title contender coming off a dominating performance against Texas (see below) and a road game at Virginia will offer some comparison with fellow playoff aspirant UCLA, which comfortably handled the Cavaliers at home with freshman QB Josh Rosen making a smashing debut.

The other independent, BYU, while thrilled from a last-second Hail Mary victory at Nebraska, must now navigate the rest of the season without starting QB Taysom Hill, who’s out with a Lisfranc fracture. Freshman QB (but 22 years old) Tanner Mangum will have to get up to speed right quick against Boise State, which is coming off two straight victories over Pac-12 teams.

Also keep an eye on …

Rice at Texas, 8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network

It’s an understatement to say that Longhorns fans are already running out of patience in just Year 2 of the Charlie Strong era. Texas was abysmal in its season opener at Notre Dame, being outgained 521-163 in a 38-3 dismantling that was not really that close. The Longhorns have now been outscored 117-20 in their last three games, dating back to last season.

While the Irish are a national title contender, a loss at home to Rice would be devastating for Texas. Under ninth-year coach David Bailiff, the Owls are no pushovers of yesteryear, as they won the Conference USA title in 2013 and finished 8-5 with a Hawaii Bowl win over Fresno State last year. Rice opened the season with a 56-16 rout of FCS team Wagner, amassing 543 yards on offense with 401 on the ground.

Despicable Meet

Lamar at Baylor, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net

This week’s mismatch that draws our special ire features serial offender Baylor, which is also squarely on the committee’s radar for its (weak) scheduling practice.

In the Art Briles era, Baylor has made a practice of scheduling nothing but FCS teams or the dregs of non-Power 5 opponents for its nonconference slate. The Bears’ patsies of recent years have included Northwestern State, Wofford, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin (all FCS teams), and Buffalo (three times in the last five years). The last time Baylor played a nonconference game of any consequence was 2011, when TCU was still in the Mountain West Conference.

Lamar is being offered up as this year’s sacrificial lamb, but the competition isn’t going to get any better in the coming years for Baylor, with Northwestern State (again), Abilene Christian, Liberty and Incarnate Word scheduled to show up in Waco from 2016 to 2020. The only Power 5 team the Bears will face out of conference between now and 2023 is Duke, with a home-and-home scheduled for 2017 and 2018.

Last week’s Despicable Meet: California 73, Grambling State 14.


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