#17 Illinois at Nebraska
I picture a shirtless Illini HC Bret Bielema having someone drive him around in a golf cart with a half-empty cooler putting a golf ball during practice in the cold, crisp Champaign morning. And he’ll have his team in top form for a rager come kickoff. And I love Illinois being ranked. Their fans are the type that are there for a good time, not a long time. And yes Nebraska is down but the team isn’t out just yet. And not all the fans are out either. I mean look at the post above: the poster thinks Nebraska will have a double-digit lead in the 3rd quarter. That’s something to feel good about, Huskers fans.
#9 Oklahoma State at #22 Kansas State
I love this matchup. It’s not the sexiest game on the card for the uninitiated but if you like the game then this is one to watch. Fresh off making Texas look bad, Oklahoma State looks to keep building its postseason resume and a road win over a ranked conference foe definitely won’t hurt when those first round cuts hit. But this one is massively important for Mike Gundy’s Cowboys as it’s currently their last game against a ranked team. Kansas State has a history of being a tough out. Even Ron Prince could pull off an upset. This year’s team is solid and sporty and it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Not a team to take lightly.
#20 Cincinnati at UCF
I talked about this game in the MBG Picks article this week, but I don’t know what to expect. In car terms, I’d say Cincinnati is a big SUV: tough, dependable, and why exactly is there cinnamon in it? Also, Bearcats HC Luke Fickell looks like a state trooper who disapprovingly grades driving tests. Meanwhile, UCF is one of those foreign economy cars that’s been all tricked out (is that still relevant?) but the driver insists on driving a manual but has trouble with the clutch and grinds the gears even though he’s been driving for a while. The Golden Knights are hard to figure but they lost last week and those will usually get some extra attention from everyone in practice.
#2 Ohio State at #13 Penn State
This is a good matchup of traditional powers that are both highly ranked but honestly the only person who truly stands to gain anything from winning this game is James Franklin’s agent. Penn State’s coming off probably its best win of the season over Minnesota but the fans booed QB Sean Clifford and the fanbase doesn’t seem bothered by Franklin looking around anymore because he typically lays eggs in big games like this one. So if Ohio State wins, the Buckeye faithful will have to hear about how it’s typical Penn State and that they still haven’t played anybody. If Penn State wins the fans will be happy, they’re starving for a win like this, but if one of Franklin’s biggest wins still doesn’t get them in the playoff then there will still be unrest. Rest assured though, regardless of what happens Saturday, Franklin’s name will be tied to an opening. Coaching carousels don’t stop until everyone’s ready to get off too. He has that fanbase hostage and they’re stuck feeling lukewarm about it. Call it State College Syndrome and add it to the DSM-IV for all my psychiatry stans.
#15 Ole Miss at Texas A&M
This is a big game for Jimbo Fisher. I don’t think it matters to the fans as much at it would’ve if the team was anywhere close to meeting preseason expectations. I know it matters to a vast majority of players. A few players being stupid isn’t indicative of anything other than those players screwed up in the moment. It doesn’t make them bad people either. But Jimbo needs a win to stem the tide that’s rising against him and a home win over a ranked opponent would seriously help and be a life raft if something else bad happens. And given all of this, I totally think Lane Kiffin gets goofy with it.