Reporting Matt Ryan
The first month of the college football season is in the books after an exciting conclusion to September. Last Saturday featured four matchups between ranked teams and two of those matchups involved teams from the Southeastern Conference. Georgia beat LSU in a 44-41 shootout in Athens and Alabama looked more like a twice-defending national champion with a 25-0 shutout against Ole Miss. While the Saturdays of September were highlighted by marquee SEC matchups, the most anticipated showdowns this weekend will take place in other parts of the country.
10. Iowa at Michigan State (12pm, ESPN2): The Spartans have an extra week to recover from their 17-13 loss to Notre Dame. They will host an Iowa squad in their conference opener, coming off a 23-7 win over previously unbeaten Minnesota.
9. West Virginia at #17 Baylor (8pm, Fox Sports 1): Its been a season of highs and lows already for the Mountaineers. West Virginia lost their Big 12 opener to Oklahoma and was shutout by Maryland 37-0 a few weeks later. They responded to that crushing defeat, by beating eleventh ranked Oklahoma State 30-21 last weekend. Next up is matchup with the nation’s highest scoring team. Baylor is averaging just under 70 points per game.
8. Georgia Tech at #14 Miami (3:30pm, ESPNU): The Hurricanes are off to their first 4-0 start since 2004 (their inaugural ACC season) and will open conference play hosting Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are coming of a 17-10 loss to Virginia Tech, a defensive slugfest in which both teams were limited to less than 300 yards of total offense. Paul Johnson’s squad will need to be more productive on the offensive of the ball to keep up the pace with Miami.
7. #6 Georgia at Tennessee (3:30pm, CBS): Things should be easier now for the Bulldogs after facing three top ten opponents in the first month of the season. Georgia survived their gauntlet start with a 3-1 mark and will travel to Rocky Top for a matchup against the Volunteers. Although Tennessee barely got by South Alabama a week ago, a road matchup in the SEC after such a tough stretch on the schedule, could be a tougher matchup for the Bulldogs than most expect. This is the same Georgia team that was tied 21-21 with North Texas in the middle of the third quarter, after back-to-back games against Clemson and South Carolina.
6. Arkansas at #18 Florida (7pm, ESPN2): A slow start against Texas A&M and fourth quarter collapse against Rutgers has derailed what had been a great start to the Bret Bielema era in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks wont be challenging for an SEC crown this year, but their up-tempo offense makes them a sneaky team that could pull off an upset or two along the away. That could happen against a Gators team that is in the bottom half of scoring in the country.
5. #22 Arizona State vs. Notre Dame at AT&T Stadium (7:30pm, NBC): The Sun Devils are coming off a dominant 62-41 win over USC that pushed them back in to the rankings and ended the Lane Kiffin era in Los Angeles. A victory in Jerry World against the Golden Domers could further boost their national profile and that of the Pac-12. Notre Dame isn’t squeaking out the close wins like they were a year ago. Losing their third game this season on the first weekend of October, would put an end to any hope of playing in a BCS bowl in January.
4. #24 Ole Miss at Auburn (7pm, ESPNU): These teams are coming off road losses heading in to their primetime SEC West matchup. Ole Miss was limited to 205 yards in their 25-0 loss against Alabama and Auburn was beaten by LSU 35-21 two weeks ago. A win in The Plains for the Rebels would keep them alive in the SEC West race, while another conference loss for the Tigers could mean another long year with Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama yet to come.
3. #25 Maryland at #8 Florida State (12pm, ESPN): The big play ability of the Terrapin’s defense has gotten them off to a 4-0 start in their final ACC season. Maryland leads the nation with 17 sacks and are tied for eighth with 8 interceptions. That could mean trouble for the Seminoles who had a closer call than expected against Boston College. The Golden Eagles got off to a 17-3 lead in the second quarter and trailed by only four points early in the third quarter. If the Terrapins front seven can get pressure on Florida State’s freshman quarterback on Jameis Winston, a Saturday afternoon shocker is not out of the question.
2. #4 Ohio State at #16 Northwestern (8pm, ABC): Expectations are high for Northwestern this season and the hype would be justified with a Saturday night upset over the team with the nation’s longest winning streak. The two-quarterback system of Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter has gotten the Wildcats off to a perfect start in 2013. This Chicago showdown will be the toughest hurdle for the Buckeyes this season, until their regular season finale against Michigan. Braxton Miller threw for 198 yards and four touchdown passes in the Buckeyes Big Ten opener against Wisconsin.
1. #15 Washington at #5 Stanford (10:30pm, ESPN): Washington is the biggest surprise in the rankings on the first weekend of October and have finally become a Pac-12 contender in Steve Sarkisian’s fifth year in Seattle. The Huskies had one of the tougher schedules in the first month of the season with wins over Boise State, Illinois, and Arizona. They pulled off the upset at home last year against the Cardinal, limiting them to only 235 offensive yards and forcing two turnovers. Another strong defensive effort will be needed in order for the Huskies to beat Stanford for a second straight year. Washington will be the toughest test for the Cardinal so far this season, who are coming off back-to-back conference wins over Arizona State and Washington State.