My 11-year-old daughter’s favorite TV show is “Cupcake Wars.” So naturally my little baking savant was thrilled when I told her I’ll be watching that this weekend.
Except that my version of the Cupcake Wars won’t be on the Food Network. They’ll be carried live on ESPN, FS1, BTN and SEC Network instead.
A week after being treated to one of the best opening weekends in college football history, we’re back into the doldrums of early September schedule. But this particular weekend coming up really takes the cake (pun-intended) in terms of just how distasteful it is.
Of the 25 teams currently ranked in the AP poll, 23 will be playing this weekend (Stanford and Michigan State are idle), but check this out:
- None of them will be facing each other
- Only one is playing on the road (Louisville in a conference game at Syracuse)
- 22 of the 23 ranked teams are favored by double digits
- TCU is in the most competitive game, favored by only 7.5 over Arkansas
- Six are facing FCS teams while only five are playing Power 5 opponents
Thankfully, this appears to be an anomaly as several high-profile matchups will dot the schedule the following weekend. But in the meantime, this is the best of the slim pickin’s for Saturday:
Game of the Week
BYU at Utah (-4), 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX
The “Holy War” will be contested for a second time in a span of just nine months, as these two bitter rivals also faced each other in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl, which Utah won 35-28 after nearly blowing a 35-0 lead.
The Utes have won the last five meetings (though the series was on hiatus during the regular season in 2014 and ’15) and the Cougars have not won in Salt Lake City since 2006, when both teams were still members of the Mountain West Conference. This game is now of heightened interest especially for BYU in its Big 12 expansion bid. It looks to go 2-0 against the Pac-12 this season after beating Arizona in Glendale in the opener.
Also keep an eye on
Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee (-11.5), at Bristol, Tenn., 8 p.m. ET, ABC
A crowd of 150,000 is expected to pack into Bristol Motor Speedway for an unusual game played at a NASCAR racing venue. It should be a lock to break the current college football attendance record set in 2013 when 115,109 witnessed Michigan beat Notre Dame at the Big House.
But beyond the hoopla is a Volunteers team reeling from an OT victory over Appalachian State last week when they barely survived at home, thanks to late-game blunders by their supposedly overmatched Sun Belt opponent. Tennessee dropped from the top 10 to No. 17 in this week’s AP poll and will need to rebound against a rebuilding Hokies team under first-year coach Justin Fuente.
Washington State at Boise State (-10.5), 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Just like a year ago, Mike Leach’s Cougars opened the season with a loss to an FCS team. But instead of going into the tank, Washington State rebounded in 2015 with a 9-4 season, nearly beating Stanford for the Pac-12 North title and went on to defeat Miami in the Sun Bowl. Wazzu is looking for more of the same in 2016 after losing last week to Eastern Washington.
Boise State is also coming off a 9-4 season, but it was a disappointing one after opening 2015 with wins over Power 5 opponents Washington and Virginia. The Broncos will be severely tested by the aerial assault of Wazzu QB Luke Falk in the first of their back-to-back Pac-12 showdowns (Oregon State on Sept. 24).
Player to watch
Penn State at Pitt (-5.5), noon ET, ESPN
A year ago in the season opener against Youngstown State, Pitt running back James Conner was sidelined by a knee injury. Little did he know at the time that’d be the least of his problems as he was later diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a blood cancer.
Conner won that battle and triumphantly returned to the field in last week’s 28-7 win over Villanova, running for 53 yards and scoring a touchdown. But this week he’ll be leading his Panthers in a national-TV matchup against their historic rival Penn State at Heinz Field in a series that had been on hiatus since 2000.