If there ever was a week for Ohio State to not play, this is a great week for the Buckeyes to put their feet up and relax. After rolling through the first six games on their schedule, Ohio State now has a week off before they close out October with a home game against Iowa ahead of traveling to State College to take on Penn State.
Recently a number of teams in the top 10 have been pushed to the limits against lesser opponents or even lost outright. On Saturday we saw Alabama survive an upset attempt by Texas A&M. A week ago, Georgia was on the ropes against Missouri. Even Michigan looked less than impressive in their last game, heading to halftime tied at 10 with Indiana before slowly pulling away from the Hoosiers.
While the field for the College Football Playoff won’t be announced for almost two months, the playoff picture is going to start coming into focus a little more after this Saturday. There are six games on the schedule this week between ranked teams, including the tilt between Penn State and Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Today’s question: With Ohio State off this week, which game are you most looking forward to watch?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 6 Tennessee
It feels like it has been forever since the Third Saturday in October has been relevant. Alabama has won 15 straight meetings against Tennessee, with only two of those games being decided by less than 10 points. Not only have the Crimson Tide been ranked heading into each of the last 14 games against the Volunteers, Alabama hasn’t entered any of those games ranked lower than eight in the country. By comparison, this will only be the third time during that span that Tennessee has been ranked at all.
Alabama is coming off a close win in Tuscaloosa over Texas A&M. Had Bryce Young played for the Crimson Tide on Saturday night, Alabama wouldn’t have had so much trouble earning the win over the Aggies. Quarterback Jalen Milroe might go on to have a fine career after Young heads to the NFL, but it’s obvious he isn’t close to Young’s level right now. Milroe was 12-of-19 passing for 111 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday while adding 83 yards on the ground on 17 carries.
On the other side, Hendon Hooker is making a case to be included as a Heisman Trophy finalist in December. If Hooker is able to lead Tennessee past Alabama on Saturday, the Virginia Tech transfer quarterback can start picking out what suit he is going to be wearing in New York City. Hooker has 13 total touchdowns this year, leading the Volunteers to wins on the road over Pitt and LSU.
If Tennessee is able to win on Saturday, it will turn the Volunteers’ meeting with Georgia next month into a colossal clash, as it will likely decide the SEC East. After so many years of the rivalry being lopsided, it will be great to see some juice restored into the Third Saturday in October.
Meredith’s answer: No. 5 Michigan vs. No. 10 Penn State
I have to agree with Brett’s take on Alabama vs. Tennessee. It feels like for the first time in a while (and despite Tennessee’s annual assertions on the point), the Vols are actually good this year. It also feels like Alabama, especially without Bryce Young, is poised for a loss. Regardless, I have to imagine that Tennessee backers will be at an all-time high Saturday.
My pick for this week is a little closer to home and features what appear to be the two best remaining regular-season opponents for the Buckeyes. Ohio State is scheduled to take on Penn State in a probable night game just before Halloween and, as we know, Michigan to conclude the regular season.
At this point, it’s hard to know where these two teams stand. Michigan destroyed its non-conference opponents, but the Wolverines have looked markedly less dominant than they’ve been in Big Ten play. Wins over Maryland and Indiana were much closer than the final scores might indicate, but Harbaugh’s squad remains in the top five (though Michigan fell one spot in the latest AP Poll).
Penn State, meanwhile, has looked really good all season—that is, until they managed just a 10-point victory over a really bad Northwestern team. After opening the season with a hard-fought win over Purdue and a decisive victory over Auburn, the Nittany Lions rose into the top 10 of the AP Poll.
Michigan is favored by seven for the noon kick in Ann Arbor. It feels reasonable and also like the odds would be flipped if the game were at night and in Happy Valley.
I’m excited for this game because we will finally learn something about how the top of the Big Ten East stacks up this year, and also get more information on which future Ohio State opponent we should be more worried about.