[caption id="attachment_311115" align="aligncenter" width="1600"] Vasha Hunt | USATSI
It may have taken until Halloween weekend, but thankfully, it's finally
starting to feel like college football season again.
That's right, after the ACC, Big 12 and SEC started things off back in September, the Big Ten officially joined the party last weekend, and despite a few hiccups (mainly in Madison, Wisconsin) it appears as though they're here to stay. The Mountain West also gave us late night football for the first time all year last weekend, with the Pac-12 finally entering the picture next Saturday.
Yup, it took a little longer than usual. But we've officially hit the "I can't click the remote control fast enough to follow all the games I want to watch" part of the season. And boy oh boy, it wasn't a moment too soon.
So with another loaded weekend of college football set to kick off, what should you watch (outside of Kentucky-Georgia, of course)?
Here is your Week 9 viewing guide.
Minnesota at Maryland: Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
With the NBA and MLB officially done and no college hoops for another few weeks it'll be a quiet Friday night. So what better way to pass the time than flip to that great, historic Big Ten rivalry that has defined this league for generations. I'm talking Minnesota-Maryland of course, people!
That's right - crab cakes and football, that's what Maryland does! Well, except at their flagship university, where the Terrapins lost 43-3 to Northwestern (NORTHWESTERN!!) last week, getting blown out by one of 2-3 worst teams on the schedule. Thankfully, at least they don't have Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State left to play.
Oh wait, they do? Well never mind then.
As for Minnesota, PJ Fleck is trying to row that boat out of the loss column after an embarrassing opening night performance against Michigan. My hunch is they don't have much of a problem here.
No. 5 Georgia at Kentucky: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
So we all know what's at stake at Kroger Field Saturday, so there's no reason to dig too deep into this one. But man, Kentucky needs some kind of positive momentum heading into the bye week, especially with Florida and Alabama still left on the schedule.
Just about the only silver lining is that the Wildcats did catch Georgia at the perfect time. Off a big game at Alabama, and with the cocktail party against Florida next week, is there at least a chance that the Dawgs come out a little flat?
It seems likely, and we'll see if the Wildcats' defense can keep them in the game against Georgia.
Michigan State at No. 13 Michigan: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
You know 2020 is a weird year when Michigan is coming off an impressive opening weekend game in which the biggest headline was... Jim Harbaugh not wearing khakis? What a time to be alive! Who ever thought we'd see the day.
Only here we are, and now we'll see if the Wolverines can beat down their lowly intra-state rival, who is coming off a loss to... Rutgers last weekend.
Remember when Vince Marrow was considering leaving Kentucky to join Mel Tucker's staff at Michigan State? Maybe it was more than money that kept the Big Dog in Lexington.
Memphis at No. 7 Cincinnati: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
I'm not saying this should be your first, or even second screen viewing experience, but Memphis-Cincinnati should pique your interest at least for one reason: With a very clear top three in the sport (Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State in some order), and the Big Ten and Pac-12 likely struggling to complete full seasons, it feels like this might finally be the year a non-Power 5 team gets serious consideration for the College Football Playoff.
So why not the Bearcats? They're 4-0 and coming off a dominant win at a ranked, undefeated, SMU squad last week.
At the very least, this game should provide plenty of fireworks - Memphis has the worst ranked defense in all of college football, trailing even yes, Ole Miss.
No. 17 Indiana at Rutgers: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FS1
I'm just going to say what we're all thinking: Is Indiana officially a football school? Feels like it might be, following that wild, crazy win over Penn State. Speaking of wild and crazy, how about Rutgers not being a total embarrassment, and stunning Michigan State last Saturday?
And since I really just wanted to use this game to take a poke at Indiana, let me add two, random things about this one before we move on.
One, Indiana probably gave us the best postgame locker room celebration video in all of college football last week. Not gonna lie, it got a little dusty in the old Torres compound when you hear the guys say "We love you, coach!"
Two, want the randomest fact ever? Too bad I'm going to give it to you anyway.
Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral is a Nebraska transfer - where he was also a walk-on, on the basketball team. Which in and of itself isn't very interesting.
Instead, here it is: Because Vedral walked on at Nebraska, he was part of the final Big Ten basketball game last year before the season was shut down, as well as one of the first football games, last Saturday when the season re-started. And he did it at two different schools.
I mean come on, that's kind of crazy, isn't it?
LSU at Auburn: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., CBS
Who knew when Kentucky was screwed out of a touchdown to end the first half in Week 1 against Auburn, it would begin college football's quirkiest trend.
That trend: Auburn absolutely getting bailed out by SEC referees. It happened against Kentucky. It happened against Arkansas, giving the Tigers a win that should've been a loss And it was the same last week against Ole Miss. Just as easily as Auburn is 3-2, they could be 1-4 or even 0-5.
So with the Tigers coming into this game as a slight home underdog, against a suddenly resurgent LSU, what should we expect?
I have no freakin' idea.
But if history is any indication the stripes on the refs shirts will be a big role than the stripes on either of the Tigers' uniforms.
(And yes, I know neither uniform has stripes. But work with me here, people! It was a good analogy!)
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Speaking of the Auburn-Ole Miss fiasco of last week, I present you this game: The Rebels return to the field against Vanderbilt.
I'll admit, this doesn't strike me one we'll be talking about 30 years from now (or even 30 minutes after it goes final), but it does present a fascinating storyline: The best time to watch Lane Kiffin is when he is facing a team he knows he can run the score up against. And the second best time to watch him is when he's pissed off.
Well both of those factors are in play this weekend, after the SEC fined him $25,000 for complaining about the refs last week.
My hunch - Kiffin takes it out his frustration Vandy.
And that it gets really, really ugly.
Texas at No. 6 Oklahoma State, Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, FOX
So entering this one, not only is Texas definitively not
back, they're going backwards in their pursuit of being back.
Probably not, but just know that not only does this team stink on the field, but the one ray of hope the fan-base had clung to, went up in smoke on Wednesday night, when the No. 1 high school prospect in the class of 2022 - quarterback Quinn Ewers - decommitted from the Longhorns. Literally, that was the only good news Texas fans had to cling on to. Now they've got nothing.
Oh, well I wouldn't say nothing. Instead they have a matchup with the best team in the Big 12 on Saturday.
Speaking of which, go ahead and raise your hand if you had any idea Oklahoma State was ranked No. 6 in the country.
This is the second week of a four game gauntlet for Oklahoma State that will determine whether they're truly a College Football Playoff contender or not. After this one, the Pokes have games at Kansas State and at Oklahoma.
Mississippi State at No. 2 Alabama: Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Quick question: Is it just me, or does it feel like that Mississippi State upset over LSU happened like 11 years ago? Since that game the Bulldogs are 0-4, have scored one offensive touchdown in their last two games, and players are jumping ship from Starkville like its the Titanic. Just in the last few weeks, star running back Kylin Hill has opted out, two quarterbacks have transferred and three more players entered the portal just yesterday.
That makes seven total players to announce they'd transfer since last week
. SEVEN. IN ONE WEEK!!! Not ideal, nor is it ideal to go Alabama in the middle of that mass exodus.
The only silver lining? With Alabama entering a bye next week, maybe they take it easy and get their back-ups plenty of reps here.
Arkansas at No. 8 Texas A&M: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Fun fact, No. 1: This game is normally played at Jerry World, but because of Covid-19 it has shifted to College Station. It is the first time these two teams have played in College Station since Johnny Manziel's Heisman year.
I know that has nothing to do with anything, but it gives me the chance to drop some Johnny Football highlights into this article. And regardless of what he's done since college, man was Manziel a fun college player to watch.
Fun Fact No. 2: For as bad as Arkansas has been, this has been a pretty contentious rivalry through the years. Of the last six times these teams have met, five games have been decided by a touchdown or less and three went to overtime.
Well if Arkansas could keep things close when they were bad, imagine what they can do now that they're half decent?
And since I don't have anything else to add, let's get some more Johnny Football highlights.
Missouri at No. 10 Florida: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Alternate Network
This game should answer the question that has plagued historians for at least one full week: Is Eli Drinkwitz actually a half-decent coach? I'm not gonna lie: I had zero expectations of Drinkwitz coming into the season. I'd also add that he has a shockingly punchable face (sorry Mizzou fans, it's true). But at 2-2 they seem like they're actually not a terrible football team.
And beyond that, it seems like the Tigers are catching Florida at the best possible time - coming off a two-week, Covid induced shutdown of the program.
To quote "Dumb & Dumber" - so you're saying there's a chance... for Missouri to pull off the upset in the Swamp?
It might be small, but I think the answer is yes.
No. 3 Ohio State at No. 18 Penn State: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
It's the game of the day and really needs no explanation: Ohio State is the best team in the Big Ten. And even after a loss to Indiana last week, Penn State will serve as its toughest road test of the season.
Is there a scenario where the Nittany Lions pull the upset?
Well, I honestly don't see it.
So let's at least enjoy Justin Fields, who only has 8-9 college football games left tops, before he comes to an NFL stadium near you.
Expect the Buckeyes to roll.
Western Kentucky at No. 11 BYU: Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's 11 ET, and if things are going to inevitably get weird, why not get weird with one of the most fun teams in college football to watch?
Those are of course the BYU Cougars - who are putting up a cool 45 points a game, almost 550 yards of total offense per contest and have scored at least 40 points in five of their six games.
I'll leave the hard-hitting analysis of BYU's o-line versus Western's d-line to someone else.
But if we're going to get late night football, it should at least be of the weird, high-scoring variety. Right?
Nevada at UNLV: Saturday: 10:30 p.m. ET, FS1
This game will forever be the answer to a trivia question no one will ever ask: What is the first event at the Raiders' new Las Vegas Stadium to hold fans? Well, with the Raiders electing to not have any fans this season (as to not upset season-ticket holders who might not get access to games they want) the answer to that question is, and always will be, Nevada at UNLV on Halloween night 2020.
Store that one in the back of your brain for a game of "Trivial Pursuit" sometime in 2027.
Otherwise, that's all I've really got.
Enjoy your college football Saturday, everyone.