National Pregame: Notre Dame-Georgia highlights a great weekend
What a college football weekend. Three top-25 matchups. Six other top-25 teams on the road, most of them in dicey situations. A couple of mid-major powers with tough games that could derail their major bowl hopes.
This is what college football ought to look like every week. Enjoy.
Here are the top 10 non-Big 12 games, followed by my upset special and a coach on the hot seat:
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1. Notre Dame at Georgia, 7 p.m. Saturday, CBS: The Fighting Irish’s first trip between the Hedges. Don’t feel left out. Notre Dame. Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Ohio State. None has ever played in Athens, and Alabama’s only been there four times since 1990.
2. Michigan at Wisconsin, 11 a.m. Saturday, Fox: Huge Big Ten showdown. The season started with people wondering if the Badgers were for real. Now it’s the Wolverines we don’t know about.
3. Auburn at Texas A&M, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS: If the Tigers win this game, move them to the head of the class. Not the SEC class. The national class.
4. Utah at Southern Cal, 8 p.m. Friday, Fox Sports1: Winner could have the inside track on the Pac-12 South Division. But a USC loss would increase the pressure on coach Clay Helton.
5. Air Force at Boise State, 8 p.m. Friday, ESPN2: The winner will become the favorite in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division and a prime contender for a Cotton Bowl berth.
6. California at Ole Miss, 11 a.m. Saturday, ESPNU: If the unbeaten Golden Bears win in an SEC stadium, it’s time to get serious about their potential for the 2019 season.
7. Central Florida at Pittsburgh, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2: UCF could be Orange Bowl-bound. Its remaining road games are Pitt, Cincinnati, Temple, Tulsa and Tulane. Pitt appears to be the second-toughest on that list.
8. Colorado at Arizona State, 9 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Network: The Buffaloes ended Nebraska’s rampant optimism. Could they do the same to Arizona State’s?
9. Tennessee at Florida, 11 a.m. Saturday, ESPN2: The Gators have been just getting by. Let the Volunteers sneak up on them, and Tennessee’s spirits are renewed.
10. Oregon at Stanford, 6 p.m. Saturday, ESPN: The loser will be hard-pressed to make the Pac-12 championship game.
UPSET SPECIAL: Colorado over Arizona State
Herm Edwards’ hiring 21 months ago was met with much derision, but give the Arizona State coach credit. He surprisingly got the Sun Devils to a bowl game and a winning record last season, and ASU is 3-0, ranked 24th and has a win at Michigan State to its credit.
Arizona State is winning with defense. The Sun Devils dispatched Kent State 30-7, then struggled to a 19-7 victory over Sacramento State, a Division I-AA team. A 10-7 victory at East Lansing was awesome, but just as sloggish as it sounds.
Meanwhile, Colorado is scoring. The Buffs beat Colorado State 52-31 and Nebraska 34-31 in overtime, before losing to Air Force 30-23 in overtime.
These days, defense is a blessing. But offense is a necessity. Arizona State is a 7-1/2 point favorite, but let’s go with Colorado in the upset.
COACH ON THE HOT SEAT: South Carolina’s Will Muschamp
South Carolina rode high with Steve Spurrier – three straight 11-2 seasons, 2011-13, the best three years in Gamecock history. But the recruiting fell off, and Spurrier retired at mid-season 2015.
Will Muschamp took over a depleted roster and has tried to build back South Carolina, with some success. The Gamecocks went 9-4 in 2017, and Muschamp’s overall record is 23-19, including 12-13 in the SEC.
But the Gamecocks lost to North Carolina to open the season and were routed by Alabama last Saturday. Now South Carolina plays at Missouri, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier.
Road games at Georgia and Texas A&M. Home games against Florida, Appalachian State and Clemson. A winning season seems unlikely. A victory at Missouri would relieve the pressure and give the Gamecocks hope for a decent season.