The past two weeks of college football packed a very minimal punch. Now that the World Series is over and the month of November is upon us, one should expect a college football season to offer better Saturdays.
Does this Saturday live up to that expectation? Yes… especially if you’re willing to stay up late at night before America “falls back” and turns its clocks back one hour (except in part of Indiana and in all of Arizona).
As always, concluding remarks follow the watchability rankings for each window.
NOON EASTERN TIME WINDOW: FEATURED ATTRACTIONS
1) Duke at Pittsburgh, ESPNU/WatchESPN — If Duke can get past its toughest remaining road game, the Blue Devils will become the clear favorite in the ACC Coastal. If they lose, welcome back to chaos in the division. This is, verily, the most significant early kick on the board, at least in terms of a divisional race.
2) Air Force at Army, 11:40 a.m. Eastern, CBS — It’s worth noting that CBS has not just a doubleheader (which happens a few times each season for Black Rock) this weekend; CBS is busting out a tripleheader thanks to this early kickoff in West Point. With a lot of “blah” Big Ten games in the noon window, why not turn your attention to the service academies? Air Force won the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy in 2010 and 2011. Navy took it back in 2012 and 2013. If Air Force wins this game against Army, it reclaims the CIC Trophy.
3) North Carolina at Miami, 12:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN3/GamePlan — With Miami thrashing Virginia Tech last week and UNC beating Virginia on the road in week nine, this tilt suddenly means a lot more than many figured it would.
4) Big Ten Game Of Choice:
Northwestern at Iowa, Big Ten Network
Wisconsin at Rutgers, ESPN/WatchESPN
Maryland at Penn State, ESPN2/WatchESPN
You wouldn’t want to drop everything to watch these games, but they all contain measures of intrigue. You might rate Northwestern-Iowa a slight notch ahead of the others, and you might put Maryland-Penn State a fraction behind the others, but those are microscopic distinctions. The best approach: Use your remote a lot.
5) Oklahoma at Iowa State, Fox Sports 1 — The Sooners shouldn’t be tested by Iowa State, but ISU has been known to be a pest at times in its home stadium. Fox Sports 1, no longer enmeshed in conflicts with FOX’s World Series programming, is laying out a quadrupleheader on Saturday.
3:30 EASTERN TIME WINDOW: FEATURED ATTRACTIONS
1) TCU at West Virginia, ABC/ESPN2/WatchESPN — The Horned Frogs and Mountaineers, two Big East refugees whose Big 12 abilities were questioned over the past few seasons, now meet for a chance to remain in the Big 12 race. This is really the only game in the 3:30 window with considerable national significance for both teams. The next game on this list is significant for only one team:
2) Florida vs. Georgia (In Jacksonville), CBS — This game lacks a measure of attractiveness as a viewing option because Florida is so bad, but the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville — one of a few precious neutral-site rivalries still alive in college football — never fails to create a rich, compelling visual buffet for the viewer. Georgia is still in the national title race, too. You might also get a measure of “Will Muschamp Trainwreck” comedy goodness in this contest. Yet, this is the second-best viewing option at 3:30 only because there’s not much else.
3) Virginia at Georgia Tech, ESPNU/WatchESPN — This really is the third-best viewing option at 3:30. Thin, thin, thin.
4) USC at Washington State, 4:30 Eastern, Pac-12 Network — This is viewing option number four. You will want to stick with TCU-West Virginia, barring a blowout.
5) Kentucky at Missouri, 4 Eastern, SEC Network — This will probably be an ugly game to watch, but there is a curosity factor attached. (USC-Wazzu should be more entertaining, hence its higher ranking.)
NIGHT WINDOW (7 p.m. Eastern): FEATURED ATTRACTIONS
1) Auburn at Ole Miss, 7:05 Eastern, ESPN/WatchESPN — This is the most significant national game on the board in week ten. Both teams are saddled with one loss, so a second setback means almost-certain elimination from the national title race. Not much else needs to be said.
2) Stanford at Oregon, 7:40 Eastern, FOX — This has been the Pac-12’s defining clash since 2010, when Pete Carroll left USC and the Trojans were unfairly savaged by the NCAA (relative to what other programs did and were/n’t subsequently penalized for doing). Oregon should crush Stanford, but a lot of people felt that two years ago in Autzen Stadium. Stanford’s defense is Marcus Mariota’s kryptonite. If Mariota stumbles, his Heisman Trophy candidacy will take a massive hit, opening the door for Jameis Winston to make some Archie Griffin-style history (yes, even with his off-field reputation).
3) Notre Dame vs. Navy (In Landover, Md.), 8:10 Eastern, CBS — Notre Dame is still in the playoff mix. Navy would love to salvage a disappointing season by pulling off a big upset. This could be interesting for two and a half quarters. A plot twist could make it compelling for the duration.
4) Arkansas at Mississippi State, 7:15 Eastern, ESPN2/WatchESPN — This doesn’t feel like a close game, but then again, who expected last Saturday night’s Ohio State-Penn State game to be close?
5) Oklahoma State at Kansas State, 8:10 Eastern, ABC — Will the ABC Saturday night game produce an unexpectedly close contest for the second straight week (the third straight week for those who thought Florida State would drill Notre Dame)?
LATE NIGHT DRIVE-THRU WINDOW (10:30 p.m. Eastern Or Later)
1) Arizona at UCLA, ESPN/WatchESPN — The Wildcats and Bruins both inhabit that in-between place of being in contention for a division title while being doubted by plenty of college football skeptics. Both teams face a lot of tough tests over the next six weeks, so a win here is essentially a must. It should be compelling theater.
2) Utah at Arizona State, 11 p.m. Eastern, Fox Sports 1 — Utah prepares for a murderous month of November. The bad news: The Utes play ASU, then Oregon, Stanford and Arizona. The good news: If they can win all those games, they’ll be in the College Football Playoff discussion. Arizona State would probably rate as the odds-on favorite in the Pac-12 South after surviving the Washington Huskies and 55-mile-per-hour winds on the road in Seattle late last Saturday.
* Remember to set your clocks back an hour this weekend. The fact that America will “fall back” is precisely why the networks have scheduled six games starting at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time or later. With the clock change overnight, the networks are hoping you’ll treat these games as 9:30 p.m. kickoffs instead. Your move, viewers.
* Tennessee-South Carolina, Texas-Texas Tech, and Florida-Georgia are three examples of games that looked a lot better before the start of this season, but have lost plenty of stature.
* Here are the games that didn’t figure to be worth caring about when the season began, but have turned into quality viewing options:
1) TCU-West Virginia, mentioned above in the 3:30 window
2) Utah-Arizona State, mentioned above in the late night drive-thru window
* Best game window: the night window, with Auburn-Ole Miss and Stanford-Oregon.