College Football: Gut Check Time Comes Early 

By Ron Johnson

For those who say that it is too early to talk rivalry week, they clearly did not pay attention to the upcoming weekend of college football. With programs in new places, new faces in new places and the shockers that came from last weekend, this is the perfect opportunity to discuss some old rivalries getting renewed, new rivalries coming down the stretch and some old-fashioned statement games as well.

College Football Matchups

Nebraska vs. 22 Colorado

The Buffaloes are coming off a shocker of their own as they went into TCU and showed them that they are no longer going to be pushovers. After winning Coach Prime’s debut, the Buffs now prepare for their home debut against a familiar Big XII foe…who just so happens to no longer play in the Big XII.

You have to feel bad for Nebraska, though. These guys lost last week to Minnesota in the worst way possible and have not been very relevant since the Osborne Era of Lincoln. Matt Rhule had his guys ready, but they did not look ready in that game. Now they travel to Boulder where the crowd will be as high as the elevation. That means that Nebraska should expect a packed house as much as a loud one. Will Colorado write another chapter in The Gospel of Prime? Or can the Huskers follow The ‘Rhule’ of Matt and right the ship?

10 Notre Dame vs. NC State

The Irish are on a mission this season. This is a program looking to show they are more than just a punching bag come CFP time. After two dominating performances, they now find themselves getting things going in the right direction. Sam Hartman has been a certified gunslinger as he has stepped up to lead the Irish. But now they get an actual test.

The Wolfpack got did their best when it came time to lay the groundwork for the season…literally. The team has relied on its ground game to get it done on offense, while their defense kept their opponent in check on the scoreboard at least. In this precursor for both teams, will Hartman still have Irish eyes smiling in the end? Or will NC State show Notre Dame why they should never turn their back on the Wolfpack?

Iowa vs. Iowa State (Hawkeye Bowl) 

college football

In September of last year, these two clashed in a defensive showcase with the Cyclones winning 10-7. While this game may or may not do much for their chances at the CFP, it is still important. While the ground game has been absent for both programs, their quarterbacks have done enough to get the wins. Now both teams are slated to do battle this weekend, and all of the state is here for it. Cade McNamara vs. Rocco Becht should make for good television for The Hawkeye State, but which of them will take the crown in the annual Hawkeye Bowl?

23 Texas A&M vs. Miami

In this battle, it is the high-powered offense of the Aggies facing the stingy defense of the Hurricanes. A&M wants to send a message to the SEC’s newest members (Texas and Oklahoma) that they are not going to step in this conference and run it like they did in the Big XII. Miami is out to show that they are not just a hit it and quit it kind of program after so many years of dominance that turned into years of disappointment.

This will come down to A&M’s potent offense vs. a Miami defense that does not play well with others in the sense that they refuse to allow teams to reach the endzone (hence the 38-3 drubbing of Miami of Ohio). This should be medium scoring game, and I’d say expect both the Aggies’ offense and Canes’ defense to be tested throughout.

 Stanford vs. 6 USC

In a tradition that is as long as time, two teams formally of the Pac-12 will renew a rivalry of their own this weekend as the Cardinal look to slow down the red-hot offense of the Trojans. Caleb Williams will look to continue his quest for the Heisman when he locks up with a team that allows almost 400 yards/game through the air.

And it will be necessary for Williams to have a flawless game due to the Cardinal defense having a bend-not-break defense on the ground (defense averages -5 yards/game on the ground). While the Trojans have been putting up points at will (avg. 62 over their last three), they will have to stave off any assault from the Cardinal if they are looking to go 3-0 this weekend.

11 Texas vs. 3 Alabama

In September of last year, Alabama survived their trip to Austin with 20-19 victory. This year, the Longhorns are looking for payback and hope they can get it in Tuscaloosa. While the Tide are staying focused on the SEC Championship and a potential rematch with Georgia, they are also looking to welcome Texas to the SEC in epic fashion. Both teams showed promise in opening weekend (TX 37-10 v. Rice, Ala 56-7 vs. Mid Tennessee State), but now the real work begins. 

Texas is joining Oklahoma in the SEC very soon, and what better way for them to show they are ready than by beating one of the most dominant programs in recent memory. There are those who are wondering if Nick Saban is still as intimidating as advertised, and the fact that the Tide have not been able to shake off the fleas left by the Bulldogs has people skeptical about this matchup.

If Texas wants to show that they are for real, a win over Saban’s Tide will do just that. If Alabama wants to show that they still got it, a dominating win over Texas should at least put some minds at ease.

But the reality is this: This is quietly becoming a rivalry worth watching over and over just because of the fanbases if anything.

Other Games of Note:

12 Utah vs. Baylor: Will the Utes making it 2-0, and will Baylor be able to bounce back after the North Texas debacle?

Charleston Southern vs. 25 Clemson: How can the Tigers recover after getting wrecked by Duke last week? Is this another trap game for Clemson?

UNLV vs. 2 Michigan: Harbaugh’s second game on suspension brings the Rebels of Vegas to the Big House. How ironic is that???

20 Ole Miss vs. 24 Tulane: When is the last time BOTH of these teams faced each other and were ranked???

Appalachian State vs. 17 North Carolina: App State has played spoiler before (remember, Michigan), but will they play it again when they face the Tar Heels FOOTBALL team?

SMU vs. 18 Oklahoma: The Mustangs are looking for a power five conference to join. A win against a Sooners team looking more smug than usual could do just that for them. How for real are these Sooners, though???

Lafayette vs. 21 Duke: Still not talking about the basketball team. Blue Devils out to prove that last week’s win vs. Clemson was not a fluke at all.

13 Oregon vs. Texas Tech: The Ducks are out to create their own Flying V. Can the Red Raiders get over the nightmares of getting upset by a lackluster Wyoming team?

19 Wisconsin vs. Washington State: The Badgers aim to put pressure on the powerhouses of the Big 10, while the Cougars are playing for Mike Leach this season. Maybe giving the Pac-12 the finger was a good idea for these guys.

Oklahoma State vs. Arizona State: Both teams won last week in impressive fashion. But which of these teams will start the year 2-0?

Southern Miss vs. 4 Florida State: At least there are still a couple of Florida teams that are not in a rebuilding phase of their program. The Noles dominated LSU last week and are 31-point favorites in this game.

UC Davis vs. 16 Oregon State: The Beavers made their old conference finish undefeated last week. And there’s a kid on defense for Oregon State that personally has my attention. If Law & Order is not your forte (they know what I’m talking about), maybe college football will provide a welcoming distraction. 

Youngstown State vs. 5 Ohio State: The Buckeyes did not look as impressive as expected last week against Indiana. This now brings the questions and concerns about Ryan Day’s squad possibly getting back to the Big 10 Championship and the College Football Playoff.

Ohio vs. Florida Atlantic: The Bobcats won last year’s clash by a field goal. But this version of the Owls is enjoying that Tom Herman style of play. With Casey Thompson playing with that XFL-mentality (taking advantage of his second chance), I expect the Owls to show Ohio the real version of FAU.

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