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Well you play the games and you sometimes get an unexpected surprise. If you haven’t heard, late last night the Cougars of Washington State pulled off the upset and knocked off USC 30-27. Goes to show anyone is vulnerable on any given Saturday, except Alabama. Lots of games to get to but I’m doubling up on my picks for best games to give you some options and in part because the UF and FSU are only the best games because we have a rooting interest not because Vandy or Wake pose the greatest of opponents.

TOP 8 GAMES TO WATCH
Noon
Northwestern at (10) Wisconsin – ABC (DTV-9) (SPEC-1090) – A classic Big Ten match-up that could result in an upset. Wisconsin has the perceived edge but Northwestern has a tendency to rise up as a road underdog. I’m picking Wisconsin in a close win as they jump around in the Fifth Quarter in Madison.

Vanderbilt at (21) Florida – ESPN (DTV-206) (SPEC-1127) – Speaking of jumping around, Florida fans have had plenty to jump around about in recent weeks. Two dramatic wins in back-to-back games. Now they take on the mighty Commodores of Vanderbilt who just a week ago were talking trash about taking down Alabama. And how did that work out for them? Not well. Gator juice is flowing freely in Gainesville for now and their next real challenge will be LSU at home next weekend. Gators by enough to allow fans to leave by mid-fourth quarter and cruise to their 26th victory versus Vandy in 27 games.

3:30 PM
(7) Georgia at Tennessee – CBS (DTV-6) (SPEC-1060) – Butch Jones has won two in a row but they have looked abysmal and I still don’t think they have fully recovered from their gut wrenching loss to Florida. Meanwhile, Georgia has found their QB in true freshman Jake Fromm. Bulldogs will be playing on the road and hear plenty of Rocky Top but they’ll sneak out with a win and snap the streak (and Tennessee fans just cheered loudly for me not picking them).

Florida State at Wake Forest – ABC (DTV-9) (SPEC-1090) – Speaking of playing abysmal and true freshman QBs, I still have plenty of hope for my beloved NOLES although some of you are not wondering if I’m partaking in any illegal substances. The answer is no even though FSU has not started 0-2 since 1989. But back then, when I was young junior, we drove over to Jacksonville where I got my first whiff of the paper mill and we stayed a fraternity brother’s house only to get humiliated by an unranked Southern Miss team in the Gator Bowl led by a then mostly unknown QB named Brett Favre. We then came home and I watched from the stands as we lost to upstart orange and white #10 ranked Clemson Tiger team (and this was before we were in the ACC). Season done right? Turns out that with no pressure and reduced expectations, those Noles and really Coach Bobby Bowden in one of his finest coaching seasons went on to win 10 in a row and finish in the top 5 in the country including wins over 5 ranked teams such as Auburn, Nebraska and Miami. In fact, the week after going 0-2 they had no time to sulk and they had to play #21 LSU. On the road at Death Valley. At night. Sure goners right? Nope not that year and if it wasn’t over then, then it ain’t over now. Because when the going gets tough . . . the tough get going!!! Who’s with me Nole fans? Not discounting Wake but ball bounces funny sometimes and I think we get the lucky bounces today and then try for redemption against Miami next week as we try for 8 in a row in that rivalry. But hey that’s next week. And sure, we only have 2 touchdowns so far this season which about as bad as the Gators offense but we’ll come around. Predicting the Noles by a lot more than 2 touchdowns or at least Noles by a two point conversion. In overtime.

7:00 PM
Memphis at UCF – ESPN2 (DTV-209) (SPEC-1128) – Best game of the third set of games is an American Conference Game? You betcha it is. And if you’re in town maybe you ought to go see this one in person and fill up Rusty Tin Bucket Stadium before it collapses. Have heard several announcers in the past 12 months comment on how loud the fan base can get there and I think tonight it will be rocking as Memphis comes to town after having knocked off UCLA earlier this year. And if you say hey Woody, my magnet season schedule on the fridge says Maine, you’re right as this is a make-up game from the storm. So, with that said, get your tailgate on and head on out to the game where the Knights are red hot and after decisively beating Maryland on the road I don’t see any AAC team other than South Florida slowing them down the rest of the year, except for maybe Memphis. Scott Frost has them believing in themselves and he’s sold me as well. Knights in close one worth watching from the stands or on your tube (that means TV for those too young to understand that TVs once came in the non-LED or plasma variety and had large tubes that burned out and you’d slap on the side to make them work).

8:00 PM
(2) Clemson at (12) Virginia Tech – ABC (DTV-9) (SPEC-1090) – Tigers vs. Hokies oh, my. Virginia Tech is a very dangerous team and continues to gain confidence with Justin Fuentes as their coach. This could be a preview of the ACC Championship but I’m still backing Miami to finally represent the Coastal division in the ACC. As for Clemson they are the real deal, I keep saying this but I truly believe this team is better than last year’s and they are feeling it too. As is their fan base. This game is in Blacksburg in Lane Stadium with Sandman blaring when the Hokies come on the field and it will be loud. It will be crazy for the Tigers but if they withstand the early pressure, Clemson will be in a position to pull away with their superior talent. Still the best game on the docket today and well worth your viewing value.

10:30 PM
Colorado at UCLA – ESPN2 (DTV-209) (SPEC-1128) – In the late match-ups there are two choices much like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates you just don’t know who you are going to get in this game. Will you get the gritty UCLA team that came back to beat Texas A&M or the one that has lost two straight. Will you get the tough Colorado from last year that made it to the PAC 12 championship or the one that had 6 turnovers in the rain last Saturday losing to Washington at home 37-10? Still, I think defense wins championships and games and there is certainly no D in UCLA. Colorado does enough to avoid the mistakes from last week and wins on the road in a half empty Rose Bowl.

NIU at (19) San Diego State – CBS Sports Network (DTV-221) (SPEC-1137) – And what’s this? A non-conference game for two non-Power 5 teams as a potential Top * game of the day? Absolutely and this has a couple of dragon slayers worth watching giving it almost a mid-season bowl feel given the quality of the teams. MAC representative Northern Illinois is looking to follow-up the momentum of their win over Nebraska in Lincoln. Meanwhile all that Mountain West contender San Diego State has done this year is beat both Arizona State and Stanford to give them the best conference record in the PAC 12. I like Northern Illinois but not today, not today. Aztecs by about 6 in a thrilling back and forth game.

AND NOW THE REST OF THE STORY . . .
And now for the rest of the games most of which you can skip unless you have a fighting allegiance in any of them.

Noon
Maryland at Minnesota – FOX Sports 1 (DTV-219) (SPEC-1153) – Turtles versus Gophers in the Big Ten. I like me some more of that Rowing the Boat fella in Mee-no-soda. Gophers by a TD.

Houston at Temple – ESPNU (DTV-208) (SPEC-1131) – Cougars versus Owls in the AAC (and for the novice college football fans this is never to be confused with the ACC). Houston is not what it was in recent years but neither is Temple. Too much Ed Oliver on defense for Houston. Cougars win on the road.

North Carolina at Georgia Tech – ESPN2 (DTV-209) (SPEC-1128) – Tar Heels versus Yellow Jackets in the ACC. Never been stung by a bee enough to give me an allergic reaction but if UNC can’t play defense against most teams this year, I definitely see them struggling to stop Tech’s option offense attack. Buzz Buzz over sticky substance by a 10 (or more).

(18) USF at East Carolina – CBS Sports Network (DTV-221) (SPEC-1137) – Bulls versus Pirates in AAC. South Florida’s Quinton Flowers is a special kid. Won’t play in the NFL so you better hurry and watch him before he graduates but he is worth watching. Meanwhile, East Carolina is a program in disarray. Bulls by 28 plus.

Rice at Pittsburgh – New England Sports Network (DTV-628) (SPEC-834) – More Owls versus Panthers. Oh Rice. How lucky you are to be playing a rebuilding Pitt squad. And by lucky, I mean lucky the game will be close but still no cigar for one of the smallest institutions in college football Division 1. Pitt by about 4.

New Mexico State at Arkansas – SEC Network (DTV-611) (SPEC-1150) – Aggies at Razorbacks. Don’t fall asleep on New Mexico State which may pull off this upset. Arkansas’ only win was over A&M. Florida A&M. Picking Arkansas here but wouldn’t be surprised with a New Mexico State win. Either way, Bielema’s days in Arkansas are numbered.

12:20 PM
Syracuse at NC State – WRBW (DTV-65) (SPEC-1065) – Orange versus Wolfpack in the ACC. As Hanz or Franz used to say, Hear me know and believe me later, NC State is for real. And not just because they beat us up but because their front 7 is a really good defense. I don’t think they beat Clemson but they will manhandle Syracuse. And seriously, isn’t it time for Syracuse to rebrand itself? I mean who is ever going to be intimidated by a team whose mascot is a big fruit with arms and feet? Would the Bama Bananas scare anyone? Nah. How about those Georgia Peaches? Nope. I say the campaign to change their name starts right here, right now. Submit your best nickname for Syracuse. I’m going with the Honey Badgers because those things are ferocious.

3:30 PM
Indiana at (4) Penn State – Big Ten Network (DTV-610) (SPEC-1138) – Hoosiers versus Nittany Lions in the Big Ten. Speaking of non-existent mascots a Hoosier is the name of someone from the state of Indiana, like Floridians or Texans. Not very intimidating in football especially because they are so nice in the Midwest. Now if it were the Syracuse New Yorkers that would be different. Penn State in a much easier game than last week.

Navy at Tulsa – ESPNU (DTV-208) (SPEC-1131) – Midshipmen versus Golden Hurricanes in the AAC. This really would be a Midshipman’s nightmare. To be out at sea in the middle of a golden hurricane. But why the Golden Hurricanes you ask? Because Golden Tornadoes was already chosen. True story or al least according to the ever knowing Wikipedia. So they went with hurricanes instead of tornadoes. And why Golden? Because back in the 1920’s when they came up with this nickname marketing wasn’t the same as today and their uniforms were gold and black. Very inspiring. Navy withstands the rough seas and overcomes on the road.

Ohio at UMass – New England Sports Network (DTV-628) (SPEC-834) – Bobcats versus Minutemen. As in how long I would watch this game if I were not getting paid to watch it and I have no allegiances to either team. A minute. Ohio is a very good team and UMass is not. Ohio by a lot.

Baylor at Kansas State – ESPN2 (DTV-209) (SPEC-1128) – Bears versus Wildcats in the Big 12. Before Baylor rose to prominence under Art Briles, they were historically a very bad football team. At 0-4 they will surely log their first losing season this year since 2009 and it may not be short lived as the recruiting is very slim at Baylor these days. K-State by a lot today.

UTEP at Army – CBS Sports Network (DTV-221) (SPEC-1137) – Miners versus Black Knights. It was 66-14 Army last year on the road. It won’t be that bad but it won’t be good for UTEP. Army wins big.

4:00 PM
Iowa at Michigan State – FOX (DTV-35) (SPEC-1035) – Hawkeyes versus Spartans in the Big Ten. Tough match-up here as Iowa lost a close one last week. Spartans I think can play better and I was disappointed in last week’s loss to the Irish. I know the smart pick is Iowa but I’m still a believer in Sparty especially at home.

Arizona State at Stanford – Pac-12 Network (DTV N/A) (SPEC-822) – Sun Devils versus Cardinal or the Tree but not the Redmen. All David Shaw (Stanford’s coach) does is win 10 plus games per year even when you think they are due for a bad season. Since 2011, Stanford has won 10 or more each year except 1. And while I think they win today the rest of the schedule does not look so favorable with remaining games against both Washington franchises, Oregon and Notre Dame. Much like FSU, they have a long way to go but they’ll get the win over an Arizona State squad which is not very good.

Eastern Michigan at Kentucky – SEC Network (DTV-611) (SPEC-1150) – Eagles versus Wildcats. No easier way to recover from your 31st straight loss to a team than to play a non-conference opponent. What a tough loss for Kentucky fans. I can’t think of too many things that have lasted 31 years other than corporations and oak trees. Kentucky wins this one in an SEC game not worth watching although it will be close late in the game as Eastern Michigan is tough out. Still Kentucky fans have had a good week as they’ve watched the Louisville basketball program get embarrassed.

UConn at SMU – ESPN News (DTV-207) (SPEC-1129) – Huskies at Mustangs in the AAC. Chad Morris, former Clemson offensive coordinator will be the new coach at Arkansas by season’s end. SMU is starting to put it together and it’s only a matter of time before someone comes calling from a Power 5 Conference and offers Chad a better job. Heck if Florida would have lost their last two games he might have been a good candidate for the Gator job but McShark has locked it down for sure.

5:00 PM
Miami (Ohio) at (22) Notre Dame – NBC Sports Network (DTV-220) (SPEC-1152) – Redhawks versus Irish. Notre Dame won a good game last week and is positioned now to win the next two before their schedule gets significantly more difficult for Brian Kelly. Irish by a 20 or more.

6:00 PM
(24) Mississippi State at (13) Auburn – ESPN (DTV-206) (SPEC-1127) – Bulldogs versus Tigers in the SEC. This is good game worth watching. Finally. Mississippi State is not as good as the game they played against LSU but also not as bad as last week’s loss to Georgia. Auburn is solid but these SEC conference games are typically very close. War Eagle in a late comeback to beat the Bulldogs.

7:00 PM
Troy at (25) LSU – ESPNU (DTV-208) (SPEC-1131) – Trojans versus Tigers. Troy could win this. No don’t laugh. I’m taking the Tigers but LSU better play like they did before the Mississippi State game not like they’ve played since. If not Coach O could be hitting the unemployment lines.

Air Force at New Mexico – CBS Sports Network (DTV-221) (SPEC-1137) – Falcons versus Lobos in the Mountain West Conference. Air Force’s two losses have been to Michigan and San Diego State in close battles. But the Lobos have won two straight in this series and 3 of the last 4. I like Air Force but I’m taking New Mexico to win this today at home.

7:30 PM
South Carolina at Texas A&M – SEC Network (DTV-611) (SPEC-1150) – Gamecocks versus Aggies. A lot of dark red on the field with these two teams but this game is just not inspiring me. Gamecocks I think will figure out a way to win on the road putting even more pressure on Kevin Summerlin.

(11) Ohio State at Rutgers – Big Ten Network (DTV-610) (SPEC-1138) – Buckeyes versus Scarlet Knights. I guess Rutgers wears those scarlet letters as a symbol of shame for how bad their football team is. I’d say a number of non Power 5 teams are way more competitive than Rutgers. OSU by a lot.

8:00 PM
(15) Oklahoma State at Texas Tech – FOX (DTV-35) (SPEC-1035) – Cowboys versus Red Raiders. Oklahoma State crumbled last week against TCU but the Horned Frogs have a decent defense. Texas Tech does not. Mason Rudolph will be back to posting big numbers as Cowboys rebound from last week.

(6) Washington at Oregon State – Pac-12 Network (DTV N/A) (SPEC-822) – Huskies versus Beavers. Oregon State is pitiful. That’s all you need to know. Skip this one even if you get it on Spectrum.

9:00 PM
Ole Miss at (1) Alabama – ESPN (DTV-206) (SPEC-1127) – Rebels versus Crimson Tide. This should be a fun game to watch if Alabama weren’t so darned good. Ole Miss has been the thorn in their side in recent years and if last week’s game was any indication, when Alabama is focused on an opponent, look out. Bama by a lot but not by 54 this week.

10:30 PM
California at Oregon – FOX Sports 1 (DTV-219) (SPEC-1153) – Bears versus Ducks. In nature this might be no contest but on football gridiron the Duck has a chance. Now if Oregon plays like sitting ducks like they did last week at Arizona State they could be in trouble but that was a road game and Cal despite what I’ve liked this year in prior wins over UNC and Ole Miss won’t win this game. But hey what do I know, I’ve flubbed on them twice already.

San Jose State at UNLV – ESPNU (DTV-208) (SPEC-1131) – Spartans versus Running Rebels. If you’re watching this game then (a) there must be serious weather delay with all the other late games and (b) you must be quite the insomniac because this game is a sleeper. I-4 versus 1-2 and does it really matter who has the better quality win? No but I’ll take UNLV.

If you’ve read this far you are a trooper and deserve a prize. But this is a free listing so your prize is knowledge of today’s match-ups. Now go get your breakfast croissan’wich and get ready for some football!

Eric Mader