College Football Games Of The Week
NEW YORK– By Robert Cowper
Each week we’ll take a look at the best upcoming matchups in college football. I’ll try to focus on games that are easy to find on the dial, and not all on at the same time; my hope is that you can use this as a reference to plan your college football Saturday. Keep in mind, there may be better games (i.e. more NFL talent on the field), but these are the games that you should tune into.
UCF at #14 Ohio State, Saturday 12pm, ESPN2
UCF is making the big jump to the Big East next year from C-USA and should consider themselves lucky that they have big games against OSU and Missouri to serve as measuring sticks going into next season. UCF senior RB Latavius Murray is likely out with an injury, but underclassmen Cedric Thompson and Storm Johnson will take over (combined for three TDs last week vs. Akron).
New Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer is still trying to break in the raw QB Braxton Miller. Throughout his short career, Miller has shown flashes of brilliance (368 total yards, three total TDs last week against Miami Ohio) but also poor decision making. RB Carlos Hyde is a bruiser (only 10 pounds lighter than LeGarrette Blount) and easily wears defenses down. I could see this game going either way, a close run-heavy battle that ends 14-13 or if Miller is spectacular the Bucks could blow them out 42-7. Either way, it should be fun to watch, at least for three quarters. Ohio State 14, UCF 13.
#24 Florida at Texas A&M, 3:30pm, ESPN
This will be the SEC debut for A&M and an early test for a Florida team looking to make it back to national prominence. Florida, at the moment, has a killer schedule in October and November with four games against Top 10 teams. Away challenges at Texas A&M and Tennessee will hopefully get the Gators ready for their grueling SEC schedule; their contest against Bowling Green was closer than it should have been (winning 17-14 at end of 3rd quarter, 27-14 final). The Aggies’ first game was postponed due to Hurricane Isaac last week, so they may get off to a slow start. I’m expecting a late-game shootout. Florida 41, Texas A&M 35
Iowa State at Iowa, 3:30pm Big Ten Network
The battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy led to a crazy 44-41 overtime affair last season which Iowa State won. Much like my pick last week for the Kentucky vs Louisville game, my desire to watch this game mostly lies within the personal rivalries and storylines from within Iowa. When two state schools from non-power states (Texas, Florida, California) face off, you often get high school teammates and friends playing on opposite sides of the field. It may not be the best game on paper, but it will be competitive and enjoyable. Iowa State 31, Iowa 24
#7 Georgia at Missouri, 7:45pm ESPN2
If the Bulldogs hope to get back to a BCS bowl, this must be the year. Junior QB Aaron Murray is a third-year starter who is comfortable with starting WR’s Tavarres King and Michael Bennett (combined for 11 receptions, 187 yards, two TDs in week one). The Georgia schedule is soft (by SEC standards), as they skip both LSU and Alabama in the cross-division matchups.
Intraconference games like this one (early in the season, on the road) and against Kentucky (also on the road) are must-win games for Georgia. The running back corps is young (two freshmen, Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley got the majority of carries in week one) so they will have to rely on Murray to be consistent from week to week in order to avoid the BCS-ending losses like they have had previously under coach Mark Richt (2010 versus Tennessee and Colorado and in 2009 versus Kentucky). Missiouri, also new to the SEC, is led by dual-threat QB James Franklin. Last year, Franklin threw for 2,865 yards and 21 TDs and rushed for 981 yards and 15 TDs. The Tigers will live and die by Franklin all season long. Ultimately, this matchup comes down junior quarterback versus junior quarterback. Murray has more experience and, in my opinion, a better supporting cast. Georgia 20, Missouri 11
Illinois at Arizona State, 10:30pm ESPN
If you’re like me and are a college football junkie, there is nothing better than a solid BCS-conference showdown in the 10:30pm timeslot (to be honest, #18 Oklahoma State versus Arizona is the better watch, but most won’t get it on TV). Before you rearrange your Saturday evening, check the injury report. If Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase (pronounced sheel-house) isn’t playing after an ankle injury suffered against Western Michigan, look elsewhere for your late night fix. If Scheelhaase is playing, take a look. He’s one of my favorite QBs to watch in the Big 10. At times, he plays like a linebacker and gets involved in the rushing game (624 yards, six TDs in 2011; 868 yards, five TDs in 2010). He often plays hurt, so I’d bet he is in the lineup on Saturday.
Arizona State isn’t lucky enough to have such a warrior taking snaps, but sophomore Taylor Kelly could develop. He started his career as the starter with 290 total yards and a passing TD against Northern Arizona. You would expect more against such a weak opponent, but junior RB Marion Grice led the way with 107 yards and three TDs in the 63-6 rout. This game’s a toss-up; I’ll be rooting for Illinois, so let’s go with them. Illinois 34, Arizona State 31.