I’d like to start with an apology, I had laptop issues and this is the closest to kickoff of the week that I’ve started the HTF with the notable exceptions of Tuesday night #MACtion in November. So we’ll be using tempo more this week, or at least I’ll try to.
GameDay is in Athens for Notre Dame-Georgia, because it’s technically a top-10 matchup.
Thursday Night, And Hear Me Out Here, Football Shift
After two weeks off, college football finally returns to Thursday night with Houston at Tulane. Dana Holgorsen’s first year at the helm of Houston is off to a rocky start, with the Cougars sitting at 1-2 with their lone win coming against Prairie View A&M. Tulane on the other hand, has beaten up on FIU and Missouri State and kept Auburn to a respectable 24-6 final. This will be a meeting of a good offense (Houston) and a good defense (Tulane), but more importantly it will probably dictate the course of both team’s seasons.
Who Wants To Win The PAC-12 South? Shift
Predictably, USC struggled with their true freshman backup quarterback making his first road start, who threw three picks in what otherwise would have been a Trojan victory over BYU. Kedon Slovis will have to improve quickly, because Friday night Utah comes into the Colosseum to play in what might be the PAC-12 South Championship.
ELSEWHERE: Air Force walks into the Boise woodchipper, and FIU makes the trip to Rust Town.
PODKATT: You could also stay up late and watch the Aussie Rules Football Preliminary Finals between Collingwood and the GWS Giants at 1:30am Friday Night, Live on FS2
Outside of the LSU Bachelorette Weekend game, the BIG NOON SATURDAY features Wisconsin hosting Michigan. After countless screams into the void from the royal we, the national narrative around college football seems to be figuring out that Shea Patterson...isn’t that good. Gosh, I hope you were sitting down for that. However, one thing you may not realize is how sneaky good Wisconsin is: 10th in defensive SP+ but more surprisingly 16th in offensive SP+, good for 7th overall. The numbers say Badgers by 9, and if I was a betting man I’d be all over that one.
Two years ago, Cal and Ole Miss met and played to a 27-16 Cal win. If they had met a year earlier, that game would have b-a-n-a-n-a-s. But Justin Wilcox came in and aggressively pivoted to video defense, and Ole Miss...had Matt Luke as head coach. Fast forward to today and Cal is still rockfight Cal and not the Laser Tag Bears I came to know and love while Ole Miss is feeling the effects of the NCAA’s sanctions. I’ve been wrong before but I like Cal to win a boring battle of attrition.
Two weeks ago, there would have been absolutely no real reason to watch Tennessee-Florida unless you wanted to see Jeremy Pruitt fired on the field after the handshake. Now that Felipe Franks is out...there still isn’t much reason because Kyle Trask looked the part on the road against Kentucky. Or at least, looked good enough to beat the likes of Kentucky and Tennessee.
But still, you never know...
ALSO: Michigan State-Northwestern.
Blitz The House Shift
Holy crap y’all. This shift. Having multiple screens for football is a luxury, but not this time. This shift requires all hands on deck. This is the biggest 2:30 shift in recent memory. Let’s just blow through the five biggest games I have selected right quick, because we have a lot to plow through here:
- Auburn at Texas A&M: This one is pretty obvious for the jockeying for position in the wild SEC West, you know the drill. Throw two crazy fanbases together and just add football, yadada.
- SMU-TCU: Okay so we know TCU is good, not great, but SMU has made some serious improvements and Sonny Dykes appears to be up to his old antics. The numbers say TCU by two touchdowns, but I have a gut feeling about this one.
- Washington-BYU: I wasn’t high on Washington to start with, but I wasn’t expecting that Cal game. The Huskies are probably out of the playoff race, but one more loss will definitely do it. I had this game circled preseason as an obvious trap, and that hasn’t changed at all.
- App State-North Carolina: Anytime a G5 team is favored on the road against a P5 team, it’s appointment viewing so long as that P5 team isn’t Kansas or Rutgers. The fact that it’s my beautiful, drunk children from Grandfather Mountain? IN.
- UC-Davis-North Dakota State: Yes, you read that right. UC-Davis at North Dakota State. You know what’s up with NDSU, but the reason for picking this game is UCD. While the Bison are the #1 team in FCS, the Aggies are #4 and in their only loss of the year against Cal, they held it to 27-13. There is more to college football outside of the FBS top six, and this is probably the biggest game of the weekend across every level.
Now, that’s just the stuff you should mainline. Here some other worthwhile choosings from this slot: Temple-Buffalo and a pair of SEC conference games with South Carolina-Missouri and Kentucky at Mississippi State.
Also, big shout out to Southern-Florida A&M. This is probably THE biggest non-conference rivalry among HBCUs, but it has been off and on recently, only meeting seven times this millennium. This game will be the first since 2012.
Orange Crush Shift
Oklahoma State-Texas is too close to call according to SP+, with the Longhorns clinging to a .4 projected margin advantage. Call it home field advantage. While we KNOW what Texas is about, outside of their week one win over Oregon State I just don’t think we have enough information about the Pokes to refute this. Definitely a “wait and see” game and probably the best one of the shift.
While the 2:30 shift is slammed, the evening is surprisingly light. I’m not really in the business of pretending that Notre Dame has anything for Georgia, but I’m not saying discard the game entirely like whatever C-USA team Alabama plays this week. Oregon-Stanford will probably be much of the same, with the Ducks constantly nursing a 10-point lead but unable to push the game to blowout or landslide status.
If you really want to get into the muck of it, Nebraska-Illinois can go one of two ways: either it’s another step in the right direction for Scott Frost’s Huskers or it is a giant leap forward for Lovie Smith’s Illini. Don’t laugh, they’ve quietly been improving and getting the ship pointed in the right direction. They just lost to Eastern Michigan 34-31, but that came off an ill-timed bad bust in coverage and field goal. As it stands, Nebraska is only favored by seven, meaning there is plenty of swing room here.
Just don’t write it off, that’s all I’m saying.
Uh, as far as the rest of the shift goes, uh...just put on the SLU game against Lamar. Or go to it. You won’t miss much, unless the Braves are in a position to win the NL East.
The Forbidden Network Shift
Unless you have unlocked the full potential of your brain and have solved the riddle to the PAC-12 Network, you probably can’t watch the best P5 game of the shift, Colorado at Arizona State.
But the best game of the shift is a meeting between #MuhAggies and San Diego State. Utah State lost a heartbreaker at Wake Forest week one, but bounced back by ripping Stony Brook to shreds (surely a cheap pop for LSU fans). With Chuckie Keeton reborn Jordan Love at the helm, The Good Aggies are 28th in offensive SP+ and will face off against the 6th ranked defense. But the swing is that SDSU’s offense is miserable and the USU defense is just...okay. Advantage Aggies LET’S RIDE.
Another Mountain West team is in action late with Colorado State playing host to Toledo. Both teams are the comparable in offense (Colorado State 44th, Toledo 49th) but the Rockets have a bit of a better defense (103rd). In fact, the Rams have the fourth-worst defense in FBS (127)
UCLA is capital T Trash and Wazzu shouldn’t struggle much with them.
Our friends on the islands celebrate their homecoming by playing Central Arkansas. The game probably won’t be close, so just let the soothing voice of Robert Kekaula carry you into the night.
Hawai’i, why not? indeed.