We now rejoin programming already in progress.
A week after college football seemingly took a break – saved only by the fantastically absurd finish in the Central Michigan-Oklahoma State game – the 2016 season is back on schedule. Conference games are on the slate for three Power 5 leagues and several heavyweights are taking on foes of their own size.
There are four matchups featuring ranked teams (in the AP poll), all with playoff implications. Three ranked teams do face FCS opponents, but one of them – Big Ten title contender Iowa – should tread very carefully. The Hawkeyes host North Dakota State, the five-time defending FCS champion who has beaten an FBS opponent in each of the last five years (an FCS record).
So this isn’t the weekend to get all that yard work done. Instead, get ready for a good workout – for your remote control:
Game of the Week
Ohio State (-1.5) at Oklahoma, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX
These two college football blue bloods don’t face each other much, but when they do, it’s worth your rapt attention. The first time the Sooners took on the Buckeyes it came down to a 41-yard field goal by Uwe von Schamann, who brashly led the Ohio State crowd on a “block that kick” chant before drilling it for a 29-28 OU victory in Columbus in 1977.
An OU loss to Houston in the season opener might have taken a little shine off this blockbuster, but make no mistake, plenty is still at stake in this game. The Big 12’s playoff hopes may well be riding on a Sooners victory whereas Ohio State has little margin for error either, with Michigan and Michigan State still looming in its own division in the difficult Big Ten East.
Also keep an eye on
Florida State (-2) at Louisville, noon ET, ABC
This game might’ve been overlooked before the season began, when Clemson and Florida State were considered the class of the ACC. But no more, not after Louisville QB Lamar Jackson’s virtuoso performances in the season’s first two games. Against Syracuse last week, Jackson put up video-game like numbers, passing for 411 yards while rushing for 199.
But Florida State has found a quarterback of its own in true freshman Deondre Francois, who led the Seminoles to a pair of impressive victories, including a come-from-behind win in the season opener against Ole Miss in Orlando.
Alabama (-11) at Ole Miss, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Speaking of Ole Miss, it’s the only team to have beaten Alabama in each of the last two seasons. Could the Rebels do it for three in a row? Sure, why not?
While the defending national champions cemented their hold on the No. 1 ranking after the season-opening pasting of USC, many questions remain with regard to their offense, so much so that Nick Saban chewed out offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin near the end of last week’s game against Western Kentucky.
Though Ole Miss isn’t quite the same team as it was last season, which featured three first-round picks in the 2016 NFL Draft, it has veteran Chad Kelly back at quarterback. Kelly shredded the Alabama defense with 341 passing yards in last year’s 43-37 thriller therefore the question is whether the Tide’s sputtering offense can keep up.
Player to watch
Texas (-8) at California, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Cal quarterback Davis Webb spent his last three seasons playing for Texas Tech, but he never got to face Texas. In his freshman season, he sat behind Baker Mayfield (now with Oklahoma). As a sophomore, he was injured and watched Vincent Testaverde Jr. (now with Miami, his namesake father’s alma mater) took over. Last year he was benched in favor of Pat Mahomes II.
Through two games this season, Webb is second in the nation with 963 passing yards, behind only Mahomes’ 1,023. As a graduate transfer and able to play immediately, Webb chose Cal over Colorado and so far has found Sonny Dykes’ Bear Raid offense to be a perfect fit. Last week Webb threw 72 times for 522 yards in a 45-40 loss at San Diego State. The Longhorns defense will be in for a long day, maybe even more so than it did against Jared Goff last year when the top pick of the NFL Draft led Cal to a 45-44 win in Austin.