This is the week that you absolutely cannot forget about college football on Thursday night.
Yeah, your kid has soccer practice, and sure, you promised you would only watch on the weekends, but this Thursday night is different. It’s worth making whatever arrangements, or empty promises, necessary to tune in.
It’s No. 2 Florida State trying to stay undefeated against one of the best defenses in college football and it might be the last time that the Seminoles are severely tested in the regular season.
On Saturday, things kick off 30 minutes early with Army-Air Force and roll on from there. The best time slot is the mid-afternoon and early evening, serving up everything from Florida-Georgia and TCU-West Virginia to both Mississippi teams trying to survive another week in the SEC West.
Don’t forget to tune in late on Saturday night, when four of the five ranked Pac-12 teams—all from the South division—square off against one another to stay alive in the race for a league title and perhaps a place in the first-ever College Football Playoff.
Starting this week, we’ll switch from using the AP rankings to the new College Football Playoff rankings, released Tuesday, Oct. 28.
Thursday, Oct. 30
7:30PM ET, ESPN: No. 2 FLORIDA STATE (7-0) at No. 25 LOUISVILLE (6-2): The first-ever ACC meeting between the two, the Seminoles and Cardinals last played in 2002, a game Louisville won 26-20 breaking Florida State’s 10-0 stranglehold on the all-time series. This game is a story of the Cardinals’ No. 4-ranked scoring defense trying to shut down Florida State’s No. 19-ranked scoring offense. Remember that the Seminoles attack has been one-dimensional, ranking No. 14 in passing yards vs. No. 104 in rushing. Keep an eye on Louisville sophomore safety Gerod Holliman (#8), who with eight interceptions is tied for the most in the FBS.
Friday, Oct. 31
8:00PM ET, ESPN2: CINCINNATI (4-3) at TULANE (2-5): Cincinnati is 1-6 vs. Tulane in New Orleans, the only win coming in 1976. This is the first-ever American Athletic meeting, but the two shared C-USA membership from 1996-2004, during which the Green Wave held a 6-1 advantage. The compelling matchup in this one is Cincinnati’s No. 12-ranked passing offense taking on Tulane’s No. 30-ranked pass defense. Potential game changers are Bearcat quarterback Gunner Kiel (No. 15 in the FBS in yards per game), who is expected to play despite a rib injury and Green Wave safety Sam Scofield (#35), who leads the team in tackles and has two picks this season.
8:00PM ET, ESPNU: TULSA (1-6) at MEMPHIS (4-3): The other American Athletic battle on Friday night, these two have met 24 times previously, Memphis leads the all-time series 14-10 but has dropped the four straight. Tulsa beat Tulane 38-31 in its season opener, but since then has lost six straight. Memphis has the No. 16-ranked scoring defense in college football, giving up 19.3 points per game. This sets up for a battle with Tulsa’s No. 27-ranked passing attack, featuring sophomore wide receiver Keevan Lucas (#2), who is No. 7 in the FBS in yards per game with 116. On the flip side, look for Memphis’ No. 30 ranked scoring offense to prey on Tulsa’s No. 122-ranked scoring defense.
Saturday, Nov. 1
11:30AM EST, CBS: AIR FORCE (5-2) at ARMY (2-5): This is one of the three games that decide the Commander-in-Chief Trophy. Since Air Force knocked off Navy 30-21 in Week 6, a win over Army would capture the Falcons’ first trophy since 2011. If Army could beat Air Force and then win the finale vs. Navy (something it hasn’t done since 2001), it would capture the prize for the first time since 1996. This game will come down to which defense can shut down which team’s option attack. Air Force ranks No. 12 in rushing yards, while Army comes in at No. 5. On the flip side, the Falcons own the No. 48-ranked rushing defense, while the Black Knights rank No. 80.
12:00PM ET, FOX SPORTS 1: No. 18 OKLAHOMA (5-2) at IOWA STATE (2-5): Iowa State hasn’t knocked off Oklahoma since 1990 and hasn’t dropped the Sooners in Ames since 1960. The Cyclones rank No. 109 in scoring defense, making them ripe for the picking for the Sooners’ No. 17-ranked scoring offense. The only way Iowa State has a chance is if they can expose Oklahoma’s No. 105-ranked pass defense. The Cyclones are averaging 247 passing yards per game this year, but hung up 345-plus on its last two opponents, Texas and Toledo. The last time Iowa State beat a ranked team was Oct. 6, 2012, when they upset No. 15 TCU 37-23 in Ft Worth. The last time they beat a ranked team in Ames was on Nov. 18, 2011, when they shocked No. 2 Oklahoma State 37-31 in double overtime.
12:00PM ET, ESPNU: No. 24 DUKE (6-1) at PITT (4-4): Duke is 6-1 overall and 2-1 in ACC play, putting it in first place in the ACC Coastal. Pitt, on the other hand, has dropped four its last five, including last weekend’s six-fumble debacle vs. Georgia Tech. Though the Blue Devils’ are ranked No. 5 in scoring defense, they are No. 101 vs. the run, setting up an intriguing matchup with Pitt’s No. 20-ranked ground attack, anchored by James Conner (#24) who is No. 9 in the nation in yards per game. The two met last season for the first time since 1976, a game Pitt won 58-55 in Durham. The Blue Devils haven’t traveled to Pittsburgh since 1975 and haven’t won there since 1966.
3:30PM ET, CBS: FLORIDA (3-3) vs. No. 11 GEORGIA (6-1) (at EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.): The nineteenth-consecutive year Florida and Georgia have met in Jacksonville, the Gators have dropped three straight but by an average of only five points. Tune in to see Florida’s No. 22-ranked rushing defense try and contain the Bulldogs’ rushing attack, ranked No. 15 in the nation despite the loss of Todd Gurley (who the NCAA ruled Wednesday must sit out two more games). This is a battle of two solid defenses, only Georgia has a much more viable offense and is less prone to mistakes, ranked No. 1 in the FBS in turnover margin. Keep in mind that the only team the Bulldogs have beaten this season that is still ranked is Clemson, now No. 22. Florida, on the other hand, got walloped by No. 3 Alabama, but took No. 16 LSU to the wire in Week 7, losing in a tight 30-27 decision. Though it doesn’t look like it on paper, anything could happen in this rivalry game.
3:30PM ET, ABC/ESPN 2: No. 7 TCU (6-1) at No. 20 WEST VIRGINIA (6-2): These two have only met three times previously and twice as Big 12 members, games the two split 1-1. This ought to be the most entertaining game in Week 10, tune in to see which pass defense can manage to survive against which top-10 passing attack. West Virginia ranks No. 9 in passing yards vs. TCU’s No. 6 rank. On the flip side, the Mountaineers rank No. 54 vs. the pass while the Horned Frogs rank No. 73. What may decide this one is an imbalance in turnover margin: TCU is ranked No. 2 vs. West Virginia’s No. 122 rank. The last two games between these two were decided by a total of four points.
3:30PM ET, ABC/ESPN 2: PURDUE (3-5) at No. 15 NEBRASKA (7-1): Only the third-ever meeting, Nebraska won the most recent game 44-7 last year, while Purdue won the first contest 28-0 all the way back in 1958. Tune in to see Nebraska’s super-stud running back Ameer Abdullah (#8) run rough shot over the Boilermakers’ No. 81-ranked rush defense, the same unit that gave up 294 ground yards to Michigan State in Week 7 and 285 more to Minnesota in Week 8. Abdullah has rushed for over 200 yards four times this year and leads the nation in total rushing yards with 1,249. Wisconsin’ Melvin Gordon is being touted as the top running back in Heisman race, making the Cornhuskers’ clash with Purdue a golden opportunity for Abdullah to prove he’s the best rusher in college football.
3:30PM ET, ESPNU: VIRGINIA (4-4) at GEORGIA TECH (6-2): The reason to flip over to ESPN U for this battle between two unranked ACC Coastal members is Virginia’s No. 9-ranked rushing defense, a unit that has held four of its eight opponents to under 100-yards rushing this season. The Cavaliers’ D will be severely tested vs. a Georgia Tech option attack that ranks No. 4 in rushing yards, posting 300-plus rushing yards vs. five of its eight foes in 2014. Check out Virginia defensive end Eli Harold (#7), who is No. 12 in the FBS in sacks with seven and No. 7 in tackles for a loss with 12. Virginia is 1-4 vs. Georgia Tech since 2009, the only win coming via a 24-21 upset of the No. 12 Yellow Jackets in 2011. The Cavaliers haven’t won in Atlanta since 2008.
3:30PM ET, BIG TEN NETWORK: INDIANA (3-4) at MICHIGAN (3-5): Though you’ll need a Big Ten Network feed to see this one, it’s one of the best strength vs. strength matchups of Week 10. Plus, you’ll get a chance to see Indiana try and snap its 18-game losing streak vs. Michigan—the Hoosiers last won in 1987 and haven’t been victorious in Ann Arbor since 1967. What’s worth watching here is running back Tevin Coleman (#6) (No. 1 in the FBS in yards per game with 170) vs. the Wolverines’ No. 16-ranked rushing defense, the shining statistical star in what’s otherwise an underwhelming resume. Michigan head coach Brady Hoke desperately needs this win to stay afloat another week. Keep in mind that both these squads have been like George Michael’s hit song Careless Whisper: Indiana ranks No. 97 in turnover margin while Michigan ranks No. 127.
7:00PM ET, ESPN: No. 3 AUBURN (6-1) at No. 4 OLE MISS (7-1): These two have never met as Top Ten teams and last clashed as ranked foes in 1972, when No. 17 Auburn edged No. 18 Ole Miss 19-13 in Jackson, Miss. After losing a heartbreaker to LSU last weekend, the Rebels will either be deflated or play angry, either way it will be fascinating to see Auburn’s No. 10-ranked rushing attack square off with Ole Miss’ No. 23-ranked rushing D, part of a unit that ranks No. 1 in the nation in scoring. On the other side of the ball, what will quarterback Bo Wallace do against the Tigers’ No. 76-ranked pass defense, the only blaring weakness in Auburn’s statistical resume? This is a must win for both teams, necessary to move on to the SEC title game and the College Football Playoff. The home team has only lost once in the series since 2008, in 2010 when unranked Ole Miss fell 51-30 to No. 3 Auburn in Oxford.
7:15PM ET, ESPN2: ARKANSAS (4-4) at No. 1 MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-0): The Razorbacks have dropped two straight to Mississippi State, but haven’t lost three in a row to the Bulldogs since the first three games of the series in 1916, 1939 and 1992. Though this game looks less compelling than Ole Miss-Auburn, it will be interesting to see how Mississippi State’s No. 23-ranked rushing D (tied with Ole Miss, giving up 113 yards per game) looks against the Razorback’s No. 16-ranked rushing attack. On the flip side, it’s the Bulldogs No. 13-ranked rushing O vs. Arkansas’ No. 38-ranked rushing D. Bottom line is, these teams have similar DNA, only one has been able to finish off opponents while the other, not so much. Arkansas is 0-10 in its last 10 games vs. ranked teams, last beating No. 10 South Carolina 44-28 on Nov. 5, 2011.
7:30PM ET, FOX: STANFORD (5-3) at No. 5 OREGON (7-1): This is the first Stanford-Oregon game where both teams weren’t ranked since 2009, when the unranked Cardinal upset the No. 7 Ducks 51-42 in Eugene. Don’t let the rankings fool you: This will be a battle, featuring Stanford’s No. 2-ranked scoring defense vs. Oregon’s No. 5-ranked scoring offense. This is the best defense the Ducks have faced, or will face, this season. Stanford has won the last two games, but only by a total of nine points. If this one is tight, look for things to get dicey as both teams have struggled on field goal attempts: Oregon’s Matt Wogan (who missed last week’s game vs. Cal) is 4-of-6 for 66.7% (No. 80 in the FBS) and Stanford’s Jordan Williamson is 8-of-14 for 57.1% (No. 100).
8:00PM ET, CBS: No. 10 NOTRE DAME (6-1) at NAVY (4-4) (at FedEx Field, Landover Maryland): Notre Dame’s only game in 2014 vs. a fellow independent, the Irish won 43-straight over Navy from 1964 to 2006, but have dropped three of the last seven. The Midshipmen last won in 2010—Brian Kelly’s first season in South Bend—but since then have lost three straight by an average of 29 points. Notre Dame’s No. 12-ranked rushing defense should match up well with Navy’s option attack, ranked No. 2 in the FBS in rushing yards. And Irish quarterback Everett Golson should look even more like a realistic-Heisman option against Navy’s No. 75-ranked passing D. What’s interesting about this game is that Notre Dame hasn’t faced a team ranked better than No. 40 (Rice) in rushing offense this season. Last season, the Irish coughed up 331 ground yards to the Midshipmen—the most of 2013—in a narrow 38-34 win. Notre Dame and Navy have played each other every year since the series kicked off in 1927, the Irish lead 74-12-1.
8:00PM ET, ABC: OKLAHOMA STATE (5-3) at No. 9 KANSAS STATE (6-1): Kansas State is 1-4 vs. Oklahoma State since 2007, but has won seven out of the last eight games played in Manhattan. On paper, K-State ought to have no problem with the young Cowboys, especially vs. their No. 112-ranked pass offense. If Oklahoma State has a chance against the Wildcats, it will be through the air. On average, K-State’s D has given up 230 passing yards per game but allowed a season-high 335 in its narrow, 31-30 win over No. 11 Oklahoma. The guys that could make the difference for Oklahoma State are its young quarterback Daxx Garman, who has thrown two picks in each of the last two games (both losses) and sophomore defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah (#38) who has eight sacks (No. 5 in the FBS) and 12.5 tackles for a loss (No. 6) this season.
8:00PM ET, ABC: ILLINOIS (4-4) at No. 16 OHIO STATE (6-1): The Illini are 1-9 vs. Ohio State since 2002, last winning in 2007 in Columbus. Ohio State ought to pound Illinois, taking advantage of its No. 106-ranked scoring defense and shutting down its No. 77-ranked scoring offense. The only way Illini will have a chance is if they can force turnovers vs. a Buckeye squad that ranks No. 24 in turnover margin. Illinois has won three games vs. FBS opponents this season, also the only three games it has finished at even or better in turnover margin. In last week’s 28-24 upset win over Minnesota, it went plus-two in turnovers. Keep an eye on Illini linebacker Mason Monheim (#43), who leads his team in tackles (72) and forced fumbles (two), ironically he hails from Orville, Ohio, 100 miles northeast of Columbus. Illinois hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since edging No. 22 Arizona State on Sept. 17, 2011 and hasn’t won over a ranked Big Ten team since hitting the road Nov. 10, 2007 and upsetting—guess who—No. 1 Ohio State 28-21.
10:30PM ET, ESPN: No. 12 ARIZONA (6-1) at No. 22 UCLA (6-2): The last time the Wildcats visited UCLA was in 2012, losing 66-10, the worst beat down in the 36-game history of the series. The Bruins have captured the last two, but before that dropped five straight to Arizona. This is a battle between two of the worst passing defenses in college football: Arizona ranks No. 123 vs. the pass and UCLA is No. 104. Expect lots of yards on both sides, especially for the Wildcats, led by freshman quarterback sensation Anu Solomon, No. 5 in the nation in yards per game with 347. Despite all the talk of passing, the key to a Bruins’ win may lay with its No. 70-ranked rush defense. Why? The only team to beat Arizona this season—USC—is also the only team to hold the Wildcats to under 100-yards rushing. Look out for UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks (#6), with 94 tackles he’s the No. 7 tackler in the FBS.
11:00PM ET, FOX SPORTS 1: No. 17 UTAH (6-1) at No. 14 ARIZONA STATE (6-1): Utah has never beaten Arizona State in Pac-12 play and has dropped 10 straight to the Sun Devils. The Utes’ last win came in 1976, when they rolled into Tempe and edged Arizona State 31-28. If Utah is to live another day in its quest to shock the world and make the Pac-12 title game, it must find a way to shore up its No. 101-ranked pass defense in preparation for facing the Sun Devils’ No. 18-ranked pass offense. On the other side of the ball, the Utes have been winning games on the ground, averaging 200 rushing yards per game. Arizona State ranks No. 87 in rushing D, allowing an average of 180 yards per game. Check out Utah senior defensive end Nate Orchard (#8), who has racked up 11 sacks (No. 2 in the FBS) and 13.5 tackles (No. 4) for a loss this season.