After eight straight weeks of games, Ohio State is finally on a bye! It's kind of cruel, given that the Buckeyes look to be hitting their stride after an uneven beginning to the season. But, we all need a break from time to time, and luckily for us, there's still a whole slate of college football to watch this weekend!
With that in mind, here are five things to watch for on your Ohio State-less Saturday:
What if I told you the SEC East isn't very good?
The East only has non-conference losses to Western Kentucky and Oklahoma, but its teams have also played just about nobody -- they are 1-1 against power conference opponents -- and had close calls against Eastern Kentucky, UConn, East Carolina, Bowling Green and Middle Tennessee. Florida is the only team in the East that's ranked in the AP poll, and Georgia is the only other one receiving votes.
Florida strolls into their matchup with Georgia at 6-1, with their lone loss at LSU two weeks ago. While this game is already big enough, Saturday's winner while most assuredly win the East.
The Gators come in much more balanced then previous years, and have an offense capable of putting up points. They aren't high octane by any measure, but have scored when needed, taken care of the ball, and given their defense excellent field position to work with.
On the flipside, Georgia probably wants to get out of October. The Dawgs fell twice, losing to Alabama and Tennessee, while also losing star running back Nick Chubb for the year. Luckily the Dawgs have quality depth at running back, so look for sophomore Sony Michel to receive ample carries as Georgia picks and chooses when to test one of the nation's best secondaries.
Though the winner is firmly in the catbird seat in the division, the Gators have much more to lose. Despite last weeks setback, a win for Florida would leave them with only Vanderbilt and South Carolina left on their conference slate, and a legit shot at going to Atlanta win only one loss.
We've already seen a multitude of coaching changes this season, and could be in line for a few more after this week. At the very least, it would be beneficial for a certain Pac-12 coach to earn a win Saturday.
At Cal, Sonny Dykes has done an admirable job in trying to restore a program that was faltering in Jeff Tedford's last few seasons, but at some point Dykes needs a signature win.
The Golden Bears have a star quarterback in Jared Goff, and their most complete team in his two and a half year tenure in Berkeley. USC comes to town, and despite a 4-3 record, are still an extremely talented team, as witnessed in their blowout of Utah last week. Given that Cal already has five wins, a loss won't be the end for Dykes, but a win over SC could solidify his status and give the Bears a program defining moment.
Ohio State's bye week not only gives you an opportunity to have a stress-free Saturday, but a chance to size up the competition.
I'm not a good enough writer to sell you on taking your free time to watch Illinois' and Penn State's titanic clash, but if anything, it's worth it to scout the Illini defense.
The Illini are much like the Buckeyes, in that they are willing to give up the occasional (really) big play, choosing instead to smother opponents and limit efficiency. This is despite not having the greatest pass rush, despite a good defensive line.
They rarely get pushed off the ball, and infiltrate opposing backfields almost as much as any other elite defensive line in the country. These are two of the biggest weaknesses for the Ohio State offensive line, so pay close attention to how they attack Penn State's running game.
In the other matchup of future Ohio State opponents, Michigan heads to Minneapolis for an emotionally charged game with Minnesota. Jerry Kill's unfortunate resigning leaves the Gophers under the control of Tracy Claeys, a longtime Kill assistant, and an uncertain future for the program.
On paper, Minnesota doesn't stand much of a chance offensively. The Gophers haven't run the ball successfully this season, and lack the personnel to generate explosive plays. That won't cut it against what could be the best defense in the country, and one that doesn't show a significant weakness against the pass or run. The Gophers aren't the only team with something the prove, however.
If you remember, the last time we saw Michigan, THEY COULDN'T GET A PUNT OFF, AND FUMBLED THE GAME AWAY TO THEIR IN STATE RIVAL. Just in case you forgot.
It's hard to imagine how Minnesota wins this game, what with an angry Michigan coming off a bye, but given the emotion that's sure to come from the Gopher players and their fans at home, it could get interesting.
This week doesn't have a ton of sizzle. The best games of the season are still to come, and the next few weeks are absolutely loaded. But it is college football, and every time it seems like a week may be drab, the wildest things usually happen. So, here are two games to look out for:
By some measures, Clemson is the best team in the country through eight weeks. If you peruse through their profile, you can see why. An efficient offense has combined with an attacking defense, and the Tigers have more or less dominated their first eight opponents. They'll get an interesting test from an NC State team we don't know much about.
The Wolfpack have lost twice this season, dropping games to Louisville (OK) and Virginia Tech (not good), while beating Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion, South Alabama, and Wake Forest. Regardless of what you think of "Clemson: National title contender," The Tigers are much better than any of those teams.
The Wolfpack are at their best offensively running the ball, generating a high dosage of explosive plays, something that has been somewhat of a Clemson weakness on defense. To pull an upset here, they'll need to continue that trend, while keeping quarterback Jacoby Brissett upright -- which they have not done very well.
Again, it's tough to see Clemson dropping this game, especially given that they've reached a balance few others in the country have. Weirder things have happened in Raleigh, though:
Oklahoma State-Texas Tech
Speaking of weird things, Oklahoma State is 7-0 and ranked 12th in the country. Huh? The Cowboys' have an interesting resume of their own, and have completely flipped the script on their bad luck from last season.
Meanwhile, Texas Tech comes in putting points up at will, while having one of the worst defenses in the country. The Red Raiders played TCU tough at home earlier in the season, and should at least be able to score the requisite points to make this one interesting. They also catch Oklahoma State in a bit of a look ahead spot, as the Cowboys face TCU next weekend at home.
Working the night shift
Don't have any Halloween party plans? Good, because the two most high profile games of Saturday happen at night! Notre Dame and Temple square off in Philadelphia, while Stanford and Washington State duke it out in Pullman. While the two cities couldn't be more different, each games comes with similarities.
Both Temple and Washington State find themselves as home underdogs against two very strong opponents. Each also do one thing incredibly well. The Owl's have used a stifling defense to grind opponents running games to a halt, forcing passes early and often.
Meanwhile, the Cougars are more than content to throw the ball short, moving up the field without the threat of a lot of big plays. In a twist, they've also run the ball decently this season! Despite those strengths, each team has a tough task at hand.
Notre Dame and Stanford both enter Saturday with only one loss. Despite a rash of injuries, The Fighting Irish bring one of the better offenses in the country to Philly, led by a dominating rushing attack. Notre Dame has the talent advantage in this one (obviously) but the matchup between their running game versus Temple's rush defense will be one of the best of the season. Notre Dame can throw, but if you like a throwback type of game, with great line play, this one is for you.
For Stanford, Saturday comes with the chance of essentially winning the Pac-12 North. The Cardinal are a game ahead of the Cougars at the moment, and a win would not only give them a two game lead, but the tiebreaker as well. Since losing to Northwestern in week one, Stanford has looked like a legitimate national contender, winning their last six games by double digits. With their game against a suddenly relevant Washington State, the Cardinal have another great opportunity to step forward in the national spotlight.