Things to Watch: Unexpected matchups and rivalries
Showdowns between surprising teams in the Pac-12 and Big Ten highlight Week 6 of the college football season.
There’s also a rivalry game in the ACC, another in the SEC and a big mismatch in the Big 12.
It should be an action-packed weekend, so here’s a few things to watch:
The only games pairing Top 25 teams this week features teams that weren’t projected to be this good, much less facing each other in pivotal games.
In the Pac-12, No. 5 Utah will host No. 23 California in what could end up being the game that decides the North Division. Not too many people could have seen that one coming.
The Utes (4-0) drew a bit of attention by beating Michigan in Jim Harbaugh’s debut as coach, but a lopsided victory over Oregon in Eugene two weeks ago burst them onto the national scene. Utah moved up to No. 5 for the third time as a program and the earliest it has in a season. The Utes also received seven first-place votes in this week’s poll and have now become a trendy pick to reach the College Football Playoff.
California (5-0) has quickly turned things around under coach Sonny Dykes, in position to match their win total of the past two seasons combined if they can beat Utah. Bears quarterback Jared Goff has put himself at the top of this year’s quarterback crop with a strong start.
The Big Ten marquee game features No. 13 Northwestern against Harbaugh’s No. 18 Wolverines. Michigan was picked to finish fourth in the East in the preseason poll and Northwestern fifth in the West, so this is another few-saw-this-coming game.
The Wildcats (5-0) have a stingy defense that’s allowed a nation-low 7.0 points per game after pitching consecutive shutouts. Michigan (4-1) has been pretty good on that side of the ball, too, holding opponents scoreless in 14 of the past 15 quarters and is second nationally in total defense, allowing 184 yards per game.
We’re going out on a limb and saying there probably won’t be a lot of scoring in the Big House.
SEMINOLES AND HURRICANES
Florida State has controlled its in-state rivalry over Miami with five straight wins, longest in the series since the Seminoles won seven straight from 1963-72.
The 60th version of the rivalry has big stakes on both sides.
The Seminoles have had their struggles offensively this season, yet are 4-0 and up to No. 12 in The AP Top 25. Hurricanes fans have become restless with coach Al Golden, who is 16-18 after October begins.
A win for the Seminoles keeps their undefeated season rolling. A Hurricanes win would go a long way toward squelching the criticism.
As rivalries go, the one between Georgia and Tennessee couldn’t be any more even: 21-21-2.
One catch, though. The Bulldogs have won five straight in the series.
No. 19 Georgia (4-1, 2-1 SEC) will be looking to bounce back when these teams meet Saturday in Knoxville after losing to No. 8 Alabama last week.
The Volunteers (2-3, 0-2) are just looking for a way to finish off games. Ranked No. 25 to start the season, Tennessee has lost three of four games after leading by 13 points or more.
A rundown of the odds for this weekend’s game shows No. 3 Baylor has one of the biggest spreads as 44 1/2-point favorites over Kansas.
We’re not going to question the oddsmakers because they clearly know what they’re doing, but it’s going to take a lot for the Jayhawks to keep it that close.
The Bears (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) lead the nation in total offense and scoring. The Jayhawks (0-4, 0-1) have yet to play a close game, losing by at least 27 points every time, and are 121st in total defense.
Baylor could actually be up by more than 44 points by halftime in this one.