Is Notre Dame for real? Is Kansas State for real? Heck, is Rutgers for real?
We’re going to go a long way toward deciding contenders versus pretenders this weekend in college football.
The sorting process began last weekend. Notre Dame made a statement with its win over Michigan State. USC whimpered with a loss to Stanford. Alabama? Well, nothing else really needs to be said.
Last weekend started with a surprise and ended with a surprise (depending on who you asked).
Or, actually, if you stayed up late enough, it ended with one of the strangest endings to a college football game in years.
So, let’s look back to last week’s important lessons and look ahead to which teams will separate themselves from the pack this weekend.
And learn a lesson from the Utah student section: The third time is always the charm when it comes to storming the field.
Suit-able for Review: Five games worth remembering
5. Pitt’s win over Virginia Tech
Talk about coming out of nowhere. The Panthers, which have looked abysmal in the season’s early going, decided to show up and play football (and defense) on Saturday afternoon, getting the day off to a stunning start. But, as Hokies fans will sadly attest, this loss really follows a trend in recent years of at least one early season inexplicable performance. Last year, it was a near-miss against East Carolina. Two years ago, it was a shocking loss against James Madison. And wide receiver Marcus Davis fully admitted later this week that Virginia Tech “took (Pitt) lightly.” The loss not only knocked Virginia Tech out of the Top 25, it leaves the Hokies no margin of error for the rest of the season if they want to get to a major bowl.
4. Alabama’s win over Arkansas
This one’s memorable for two reasons. How good is Alabama? How bad is Arkansas, especially without Tyler Wilson? At the beginning of the year, this game was highly anticipated. By the time the game rolled around, it was over before the end of the first half. Alabama looks every part the national contender that it is, rolling on all levels. Arkansas, meanwhile, looks like a disheveled program. (See: Video at right.) And that’s not a good thing with a match-up against an undefeated Rutgers team this weekend. A Rutgers win over Arkansas? At the beginning of the year, that would have been blasphemy. Now, it seems very likely.
3. Florida’s win over Tennessee
Apparently, the Gators just have a flair for the dramatic. Or Will Muschamp is a master at halftime adjustments. Either way, Florida has ridden the arm and leadership of Jeff Driskel to a 3-0 start. Tyler Bray, meanwhile, showed moments of brilliance but balanced those out with some really bad decisions, much to the chagrin of Vols fans, who had to have been ecstatic at halftime after a dominating first half by their beloved home team.
2. Notre Dame’s win over Michigan State
OK, so apparently the Irish are for real this year. At least they certainly looked that way Saturday night in East Lansing. The story had already been written. Michigan State, which had been stunned last season by an 0-2 Notre Dame team, would ride the emotion and get its revenge at home on national television … over a team that earlier in the week spurned the Big Ten for a spot (sort of) in the ACC. Except no one told that plot line to Notre Dame. And, quite simply, what more can you say about Monti Te’o? After the unbelievably tragic week that he had, to come out and play as well as he did … well, that’s what college football is all about. Someone needs to put him on a Heisman ballot.
1. Stanford’s win over USC
Apparently Stanford doesn’t need (Andrew) Luck after all. It doesn’t need it. (Or him.) It simply has USC’s number. For the fourth-straight year, the Cardinal knocked off USC. It was simply a great college football game, coming down to the final moments, just like it did last season. But this time, the win shook up the national title picture as well as the Heisman race. With a sub-par performance by Matt Barkley in the loss, the stiff-arm trophy is now very much up for grabs.
Suit-able for Preview: Ten games worth watching
(All times Eastern)
Baylor at Louisiana-Monroe, 8 p.m. Friday, ESPN: The boys from UL-Monroe almost did it again last week, taking Auburn to overtime before finally succumbing to defeat. After two huge road games against SEC foes, the Warhawks now host a Baylor team that is relatively untested with wins over SMU and Sam Houston St. And Baylor plays West Virginia the following weekend. Classic trap game? Perhaps.
Oregon State at UCLA, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC/ESPN2: Time to start sorting out the contenders and the pretenders in the Pac-12, starting with the Beavers and the Bruins in an early 11:30 a.m. local time kickoff. It’s just the second game of the season for Oregon State.
Temple at Penn State, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC/ESPN2: Penn State picked up a much-needed win last weekend, but is this the year that Temple finally beats the Nittany Lions on their home field? The Owls certainly have a legitimate shot at doing that this year.
Missouri at South Carolina, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS: The SEC certainly did the newcomers from Missouri no favors, with its first two SEC games being against Georgia and now South Carolina.
Cal at USC, 6 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Network: Which team gets the rebound it needs? USC was knocked off by Stanford … but Cal nearly pulled a shocker of its own, going toe-to-toe with Ohio State.
Rutgers at Arkansas, 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU: Is Rutgers for real? We’ll know a lot more after this game. To say Arkansas has struggled in the past two weeks might be the understatement of the young season thus far. With coach John L. Smith firmly in the hot seat, this is almost a must-win for the Razorbacks.
Michigan at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC: After its dominating performance last weekend, Notre Dame looks to follow it up with another win over another team from the state of Michigan. Having the home crowd in a night game at South Bend will be a huge advantage for the Irish, although the Michigan fans are having their bit of fun as well leading up to the game. Last year, this game gave us a 35-31 thriller, which Michigan won. After its opening weekend thumping by Alabama, the Wolverines survived a scare from Air Force and dominated UMass. Which Michigan team will show up Saturday night?
Kansas State at Oklahoma, 7:50 p.m. Saturday, FOX: It’s a battle for Big 12 supremacy, and quite possibly a Heisman candidacy for either Collin Klein or Landry Jones. After a Cinderella run last season, the Wildcats find themselves firmly in the race for the Big 12 title – a position that Oklahoma is more than familiar with. This game was highly anticipated last season and ended in a dominating performance by the Sooners in a 58-17 win. Revenge will be on the minds of the KState faithful. And it’s guaranteed to be a thriller, with Gus Johnson on the call.
Clemson at Florida State, 8 p.m. Saturday, ABC: It’s a matchup between Top 10 teams and will likely decide the Atlantic division champion. In September. Yes, this game is that big of a deal. And it’s the first true test for either team this season.
Arizona at Oregon, 10:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN: Very quietly, Rich Rodriguez has his Arizona team ranked in the Top 25. But do the Wildcats belong there? We’ll find out on Saturday night in Eugene against the always-entertaining Oregon offense. It could be an interesting coaching battle too. Which coach – Chip Kelly or RichRod – will outsmart himself first?