By: Ben Burke
The fourth week of the college football season is about to get underway, and there have already been large jumps and falls in the rankings. While these jumps and falls have had an effect on the postseason picture, it has also rewritten the storylines for some regular season matchups – for better or worse. With that in mind, here are some regular season matchups that look a lot different now than they did in the beginning of the year. Now I’m not saying the storylines won’t change again before the two teams actually meet, but that’s the beauty of college football, it’s ever-changing.
Oklahoma vs. Texas (Cotton Bowl), Oct. 8
The Red River Rivalry is always unpredictable, but few had the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners as underdogs in a matchup against a Texas team that began the season outside of the top 35 in the rankings.
After two flat performances against ranked opponents (a 33-23 loss against then-No. 15 Houston and a 45-24 loss against then-No. 3 Ohio State), the Sooners are now clinging onto top 25 status at No. 25. Meanwhile, Texas got a huge overtime win over then-No. 10 Notre Dame week one to climb up into the top 25. A loss to Cal last week hurt the Longhorns, but they are still sitting four spots ahead of Oklahoma in the rankings. Suddenly, this matchup looks a lot closer, and the momentum heading into it may be in Texas’s favor.
Houston vs. Louisville, Nov. 17
Speaking of Houston, the Cougars checked in at No. 15 in the preseason poll coming off a huge two-touchdown win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl last year. Checking in four spots below them were the Louisville Cardinals. This matchup looked to be an interesting battle between two ranked, yet non-traditional powerhouse teams, but not much more than that.
After both teams got out to as good of starts as they could have, this matchup could now potentially have a lot more on the line. Houston has used the Oklahoma win to jump to No. 6 in the country. Meanwhile, Louisville absolutely dominated then-No. 2 Florida State 63-20 to climb to No. 3 in the rankings. The Cardinals have another challenge in their way when they travel to No. 5 Clemson Oct. 1, but if both teams can make it to their matchup unscathed, it would have serious college football playoff implications. Both teams are looking for their first college football playoff appearance, and Houston is looking to be the first non-power-five-conference school to make the final four.
Miami vs. Florida State, Oct. 8
The only other real road test for the then-No. 4 Florida State Seminoles besides the Louisville game was going to be when they headed to Miami to take on the Hurricanes. Miami began the season just outside of the top 25. This game was not going to be an easy win by any stretch for the Noles, but they almost certainly would’ve been road favorites.
Florida State got off to a good start with a win over then-No. 11 Ole Miss, but then Louisville happened, dropping the Seminoles to No. 13. Meanwhile, Miami has kept on keeping on en route to a 3-0 record, most notably blowing out an Appalachian State team that nearly knocked off then-No. 9 Tennessee. The Canes are now No. 15 in the country, and could possibly be favorites at home when they meet up with Florida State.
Arkansas vs. Ole Miss, Oct. 15
Coming off a 10-3 season, Ole Miss began the season as the third SEC West School in the rankings, at No. 11. Arkansas was the fourth-highest ranked SEC East School; however, they started the season outside of the top 30. Just like with the Florida State/Miami game, it would’ve been a good road test for the Rebels, but they would have much tougher tests before they could even think about the Razorbacks….
Well, those tests did not go well for the Rebels. After losing to Florida State, Ole Miss lost to No. 1 Alabama 48-43 at home, dropping the Rebels to No. 23 in the country. Considering Ole Mess hosts No. 12 Georgia this weekend, the Rebels might not be in the top 25 by the time these two teams meet. Arkansas, on the other hand, got its season off to a great start. The Razorbacks used an overtime upset over then-No. 15 TCU to start 3-0 and climb to No. 17 in the polls. Arkansas hosts No. 10 Texas A&M and Alabama before taking on Ole Miss, but if they can survive those two games, they should be heavy favorites at home against the Rebels.
Iowa vs. Wisconsin, Oct. 22
Iowa, coming of its first-ever Big Ten Championship Game appearance, checked in at No. 17 in the preseason poll. The Hawkeyes’ matchup with Wisconsin, who started the season just outside the top 30, might’ve been the matchup of the two best teams in the Big Ten West.
You didn’t think I was going to write about teams’ seasons changing and not talk about the North Dakota State game, did you? Iowa fell out of the rankings from No. 12 after the loss to the FCS juggernaut. Meanwhile, Wisconsin kicked the season off with an impressive win over then-No. 5 LSU, and is now sitting at No. 11 in the nation. This matchup could still mean a lot in determining a Big Ten West Division Champion but, especially with schools like Nebraska climbing up the rankings, the division picture looks a little murkier now than it did at the beginning of the year.
(Featured Image: Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office, Flickr)