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Ohio State’s off this week, so here’s three games to fill your football Saturday

Not all football games are equal

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 01 Big Ten Championship Game - Northwestern v Ohio State Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Jami Jurich Jami Jurich puts her Ohio State journalism degree to good use, working as professional copywriter by day, SB Nation contributor by night.

Buckeye fans and C.J. Stroud’s arm get a break this week, but that doesn’t mean we should turn off the tv and, I don’t know, go outside or something. There’s still football to be watched and some of it has some pretty big implications for OSU.

Without OSU ever playing a single snap of football, the top spot in the NCAA is feasibly within reach. It’s so close I can taste it, actually. And across the NCAA, there are great matchups and games that will impact the Buckeyes indirectly. Because I am a kind and courteous person, I’ve put together this handy schedule for my fellow OSU fans who don’t want to leave their couches this Saturday but need a reason to invest in other teams’ games.

No. 10 Penn State at No. 5 Michigan | 12:00 noon ET/9:00 AM PST

We’re kicking things off with a Big Ten showdown between No. 5 Michigan and No. 10 Penn State. This game probably has the most immediate impact on the Buckeyes, as it will directly impact conference standings. There are three unbeaten teams in the Big Ten right now – only two will remain after this game.

Penn State is coming off their own bye week, so expect them to be well-rested. Couple that with their much-improved offense (whose consistent ground game makes them a Red Zone threat) and the fact that their defense has allowed just 10.8 points per game since their season opener at Purdue, and these Nittany Lions have a real shot.

But playing at the Big House is no joke, and this Michigan team is playing the second-most consistent football of anyone in the NCAA right now (the Buckeyes being the first, personal bias withstanding). This will be Michigan’s first real test this season, but I expect their rushing offense to run circles around Penn State, and ultimately, I don’t think the Nittany Lions’ offense is really any match for TTUN’s defense.

Still, it will be great for Buckeye fans to get a glimpse of just how much of a threat these teams pose before we face Penn State ourselves in two weeks. The hope is that holes will be exposed, allowing the Buckeyes to further exploit them down the road. And if you’re worried about cheering for one of these two teams, not to worry – you can always hope the stadium spontaneously combusts!

No. 1 Alabama at No. 6 Tennessee | 3:30 PM ET/12:30 PM PST

For the first time in more than a decade, No. 6 Tennessee has a legitimate shot at beating No. 1 Alabama. Knoxville is going to be absolutely insane, and this is THE game to watch if you want to see some good football. This Tennessee team is hungry, their fans deserve a W, and Nick Saban needs to be taken down a peg.

Plus, while this Bama team is 6-0 this season, they haven’t been without their close calls. In fact, both Texas AND Texas A&M (fueled by Nick Saban’s feud with A&M coach Jimbo Fisher) gave the Crimson Tide a good scare. And now, they have to face a worthy opponent on the road.

Now, I’m not just recommending that we watch SEC teams without some sort of selfish motive. A Vols win positions OSU to move into the No. 1 slot where we belong. It also swings some momentum in Tennessee’s favor, and while they still have a lot of football to play, including Georgia on the road, I’m pulling for them because it would be nice to see some fresh blood in the playoffs. Nick Saban’s face annoys me, and I want to see less of it. Plus Smokey is a good doggo, and he deserves a little win, as a treat.

No. 7 USC at No. 20 Utah | 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PST

We’re closing out the night with USC at Utah, which is a good opportunity to keep our eye on the Trojans, who will soon be our Big Ten opponents. Both teams look pretty good this season, but Utah is coming off a heartbreaking loss at UCLA last week. Now they get to return to their home turf for their chance at redemption.

USC, for its part, is having its best season in years. Remember when they were an annual powerhouse? And then they just kind of disappeared off the face of the earth for a while? They’re not likely to let this moment of glory fizzle out without a fight.

The Trojans have already faced some challenges this season, but they’ve managed to claw their way to a 6-0 start. This game gives them the chance to prove whether they’re the real deal or if this season is just a glitch in the Matrix. Regardless, I’m pulling for USC. It’s better for the Big Ten overall if the Trojans and UCLA can keep growing their programs ahead of their 2024 jump to our conference, and the best way to do that is to keep winning games.