For this early in the season, the Top 25 is surprisingly loaded with competitive matchups this weekend; from the sneaky potential trap (Toledo +4 against Missouri) to the storied rivalry (Michigan at Notre Dame, which comes to an end for the foreseeable future tomorrow night) to a couple of the titanic clashes that we’ll get to in a minute.
Taking a look around the Big 12, there’s not a lot of potential for an underdog to pull a fast one in week 2, unless you’re one of the few and the proud that believes Iowa State will come out against No. 20 Kansas State and play like literally the opposite team they were a week ago. I’m not one of those people, and I don’t know many who are. But for what it’s worth, give me Iowa State to cover the +14, we’ll say 31-23.
That being said, the Big 12 Upset Watch is temporarily suspended again this week. And maybe a better way to put it is that Texas-BYU is both the best game happening in the Big 12 tomorrow and it fosters potential for an upset special (the Cougars are actually favored by a point in Austin, for what it’s worth).
But enough talking about it. Let’s have a look at that one and the rest of the games on the docket for our first college football Saturday of September.
Big 12 Game of the Week
Texas vs. BYU | Saturday, 6:30 p.m. | FS1
I wasn’t kidding before – Texas is a home dog to an unranked non-conference foe this week. By now, you’ve surely heard about how the Longhorns and Cyclones together could field a fairly impressive offensive line with the players each program has collectively dismissed or lost this week. So, the door is wide open for BYU’s perennially staunch defense to wreak havoc in the backfield.
But, Tyrone Swoopes (not David Ash) will be under center for Texas tomorrow, and he’s as much of a dual threat as his BYU counterpart Taysom Hill, who torched UConn (yeah, I know) for 405 all-purpose yards last week. What Charlie Strong proved in his time at Louisville, however, is that his defenses can tame running quarterbacks like Hill – to the tune of 209 total rushing yards over the last three seasons. Total.
And at the end of the day, when have the Horns not had to deal with an ailing David Ash from time to time? I think they make the necessary adjustments on both sides of the ball and take care of business at home.
Texas: 28 | BYU: 23
A Good One
Vanderbilt vs. (15) Mississippi | Saturday, 3:30 p.m. | ESPN
There’s really no good reason anyone outside of Nashville should believe Vanderbilt stands a chance in this game. Coming off a 30-point home shellacking against Temple in which his team committed seven turnovers and used three quarterbacks, new head coach Derek Mason has his hands completely full.
I think this ends up closer than expected, though. In a scenario similar to what Iowa State faces this weekend, a long-time rival visits as the home team tries to exorcise some massive demons from the week prior. Ole Miss should win – as just about every usable statistic in this matchup would indicate – but if the Commodores can play 60 minutes of angry football and force Bo Wallace to make some of the mistakes he made against Boise State (like four interceptions), things could get interesting.
Mississippi: 30 | Vanderbilt: 21
A Better One
(13) Stanford vs. (14) USC | Saturday, 2:30 p.m. | ABC
Something will have to give in Palo Alto tomorrow afternoon. Cody Kessler is coming off a 394-yard, four touchdown gem against Fresno State but will line up against a Stanford D that shut the door on UC-Davis’ offense last week to the tune of 115 total yards and zero points. Granted, USC is probably a more accurate litmus test, but this is still a Cardinal defense under David Shaw that has held the Trojans to 17 points per game over the last two seasons.
This looks to be the lone hurdle in an otherwise breezy home slate for Stanford this season. Kessler and the USC offense should continue to impress here but not quite enough.
Stanford: 31 | USC: 23
The Best One
(3) Oregon vs. (7) Michigan State | Saturday, 5:30 p.m. | FOX
It’s not like Michigan State wouldn’t have 10+ weeks to make up ground in the College Football Playoff hunt should they lose in Eugene tomorrow night. There’s just not a lot else that would stand in their way beyond home tilts with Nebraska and Ohio State. This is a matchup of two extremely efficient passing offenses led by Connor Cook and Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota, and it should be an absolute delight to watch. Oregon -12.5 is absurd to me, and Mark Dantonio’s teams habitually cover as road dogs. Ducks in a close one, with a rematch hopefully waiting for us again in January.
Oregon: 28 | Michigan State: 24
An Upset Special
Illinois vs. Western Kentucky | Saturday, 11:00 a.m. | BTN
Fact 1: No college football team on planet earth gained more yards from scrimmage last week than Western Kentucky (702 and 59 points vs. Bowling Green). Fact 2: The Illini trailed late in last week’s game against Youngstown State in Champaign (God bless ‘em, they ended up winning with three fourth quarter touchdown passes).
I don’t know how Illinois -6 hasn’t been taken off the board and burned. At the very least, you’re watching this to see if the Hilltoppers can go for 703. I think RB Leon Allen shreds the Illini defense and they win regardless.
Western Kentucky: 27 | Illinois: 24