If one took a cursory glance at the college football schedule before the start of the season, one couldn’t help but notice that the Oct. 8 slate appeared quite enticing. It still is, but some of the games we had circled fall short of making our list of recommended viewing options.
That annual showdown in Dallas, which a writer from this publication who shall remain nameless pegged as the possible game of the year, might still indeed be exciting and fun but is now largely irrelevant in the big championship picture. Likewise, the highly anticipated Alabama-Texas A&M showdown fueled by the coaches exchanging verbal barbs in the offseason has lost some luster as the Aggies limp into Tuscaloosa with two losses and an underperforming offense.
As always, this is not to say that these contests and others won’t have the capacity to surprise and entertain, so keep that remote handy. But we think these six matchups have better potential as you plan your Saturday.
No. 18 TCU at No. 17 Kansas
Saturday, FS1, noon ET
Follow every game: Live NCAA College Football Scores
Why watch: Just like we all predicted, there is a battle of ranked teams in the Big 12 on the Week 6 schedule. Oh sure, we thought it might be ‘Red River,’ but here we are. The undefeated Jayhawks, 5-0 for the first time since 2009, host the red-hot Horned Frogs who are riding high themselves after blowing out Oklahoma. The game will feature two of the league’s most dynamic QBs. TCU’s Max Duggan put on a show against Oklahoma last week, while KU’s Jalon Daniels is averaging 262.4 yards of total offense himself. Both signal callers also have superb backfield support in the persons of Horned Frogs RB Kendre Miller and Jayhawk’ RB Devin Neal.
Why it could disappoint: The Jayhawks enjoyed a bit of good fortune last week to escape Iowa State with a three-point win. Their luck could run out as they encounter a TCU squad that has committed just one turnover all season and has an explosive offense.
No. 11 Utah at No. 19 UCLA
Saturday, Fox, 3:30 p.m. ET
Why watch: The Bruins’ first four wins didn’t earn them much attention from poll voters, but they looked the part of a Top 25 squad last Friday toppling previously unbeaten Washington. They now host the defending Pac-12 champion Utes, who have been just as impressive since dropping their opener at Florida. While UCLA’s big night on offense with veteran QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson at the controls and RB Zach Charbonnet chewing up yards wasn’t a huge surprise, the defensive effort led by LB Laiatu Latu against Washington was eye-opening. That side of the ball faces another major test against Utah QB Cameron Rising and RB Tavion Thomas. The Bruins must also beware of TE Dalton Kincaid, an excellent red-zone weapon for the Utes with five TD grabs.
Why it could disappoint: It’s the Utah defense, backed by DBs Cole Bishop and R.J. Hubert, that will test the Bruins’ mettle. Utah doesn’t allow much through the air. If the Bruins can match the Utes’ toughness in the trenches, it could be a low-scoring affair.
No. 8 Tennessee at LSU
Saturday, ESPN, noon ET
Why watch: The Volunteers got a week off to enjoy their long-awaited return to the top 10. They put their lofty ranking on the line in Baton Rouge, where the Tigers return home riding a four-game winning streak. Tennessee’s winning formula this year isn’t hard to decode, with QB Hendon Hooker directing a high-octane aerial attack that could regain the services of WR Cedric Tillman following an ankle procedure. They’ll be facing a stingy LSU secondary backed by Jay Ward, whose scoop-and-score touchdown sparked last week’s rally at Auburn. Just how the Tigers are getting it done is something of a mystery, though QB Jayden Daniels does take good care of the ball, and he might be able to find his passing touch against the leaky Tennessee defense.
Why it could disappoint: It probably won’t, as LSU has already been in a couple of down-to-the-wire contests this season. But it’s fair to wonder if the Tigers have the fire power to mount a rally should Tennessee grab a multi-score lead.
No. 25 Arkansas at No. 23 Mississippi State
Saturday, SEC, noon ET
Why watch: The Razorbacks held on to a spot in the Top 25 by a thread after Alabama handed them their second consecutive loss. Life in the SEC West is unforgiving, of course, as they face yet another ranked squad. The Bulldogs want to avoid a second conference setback themselves but are coming off an impressive takedown of Texas A&M. Mississippi State QB Will Rogers has kept the offense humming, and he figures to have another big day against the Hogs’ secondary that has struggled to contain SEC-caliber receivers. Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson – assuming he’s available – and RB Raheim Sanders will do their best to control the clock, but they’re likely to see a lot of Bulldogs LB Jett Johnson, who winds up around the ball often.
Why it could disappoint: IF Jefferson can’t go, the Razorbacks will likely have to go with Cade Fortin, who took over late in the Alabama loss and completed just 4-of-10 passes for 35 yards. Playing in Starkville amid the cowbells is difficult enough, and the challenge would be that much greater for Arkansas with a backup QB thrust into action.
Florida State at No. 14 North Carolina State
Saturday, ACC, 8 p.m. ET
Why watch: These two ACC Atlantic hopefuls coming off crippling losses within the division now meet in what amounts to an eliminator as they try to stay in the hunt. N.C. State QB Devin Leary had a frustrating second half at Clemson. He and top WR Thayer Thomas might find the FSU secondary slightly more forgiving, but more ground support will be needed. Seminoles QB Jordan Travis hit a few big plays in the loss to Wake Forest, but RB Traeshaun Ward was largely held in check. The defense was hurt by allowing 10 of 18 third-down conversation and all three fourth-down attempts by the Demon Deacons.
Why it could disappoint: It shouldn’t with both teams in must-win mode, but desperation could also lead to critical mistakes.
No. 16 Brigham Young vs. Notre Dame (Las Vegas)
Saturday, NBC, 7:30 p.m. ET
Why watch: The Cougars still have an outside shot at a major bowl invitation in their last season without league affiliation. They square off in the desert with fellow independent Notre Dame, which hoping to improve its own postseason prospects after digging an 0-2 hole. The Fighting Irish found some success on offense in their last outing two weeks ago at North Carolina, though that might simply have been taking advantage of the Tar Heels’ porous pass defense. QB Drew Pyne and TE Michael Mayer will have a harder time with LB Max Tooley and the Cougars’ back seven. BYU QB Jaren Hall has 12 scoring throws with just one pick this season, but he could get heat from the Notre Dame front that is averaging over three sacks a game.
Why it could disappoint: It might just be that the Irish don’t have all the pieces in place just yet. If the team that dropped its first two contests and nearly squandered the win against California shows up, it could be a long night.