Last week was very telling for the college football world. No. 4 Ohio State cemented their spot as a top team with a 27-26 comeback win at No. 9 Penn State. No. 8 Notre Dame dominated No. 7 Stanford in South Bend, with Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book throwing for four touchdowns. This week provides more tests for top teams, including Notre Dame’s third ranked matchup of the season.
No. 19 Texas vs No. 7 Oklahoma. 11:00 CT in Dallas, TX.
The Sooners have controlled the Red River Rivalry lately, winning three out of the past four matchups against the Longhorns. With Oklahoma strivng for another Big 12 Championship and CFP berth, Texas hopes to play the spoiler amid its attempted turnaround.
- Why Texas needs a win:
Maybe the subheadline needs to be titled “Why Tom Herman needs to win.” Expectations were high for the young head coach when he was hired by Texas in 2017 after two highly successful seasons at Houston. Last year was a disappointment, barely becoming bowl eligible at 6-6 and falling to rivals TCU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
The 2018 campaign started with a stunning upset at the hands of Maryland- the second straight season Texas fell to the Terrapins. Boosters at UT started to grumble and wondered how good of a coach Herman really is. He quickly answered those questions with impressive wins against USC and TCU. The major test, though, comes on Saturday against the Longhorns’ primary rival. Since the start of the century, Oklahoma has commanded the series, going 12-6. As Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh can tell you, what matters in college football is beating your rivals. If Herman can inspire his team to a victory against the Sooners, the boosters -and rest of the country- who doubt him will be silenced.
- Why Oklahoma needs a win:
The Sooners haven’t missed a beat after Heisman winning quarterback Baker Mayfield departed for the NFL. Kyler Murray looks Baker Mayfield-esque, tallying 21 total touchdowns in just five games as the starter for Oklahoma. Murray and head coach Lincoln Riley have the offense clicking once again- the Sooners are ranked seventh in total offense.
The issue? Oklahoma’s defense. Thus far, the Sooners have been able to easily outscore their opponent (with the exception of a 28-21 win Army Sep. 22). However, there is a question mark for what will happen when Oklahoma faces an elite team on both sides of the ball. A matchup with No. 9 West Virginia looms at the end of the season, and the Sooners need to fine tune their defense in order to stop quarterback Will Grier and the powerful Mountaineer passing attack. That starts this weekend with a win over rival Texas.
No. 5 LSU @ No. 22 Florida. 2:30 CT in Gainesville, FL.
This classic cross-division rivalry has yielded some of the top teams of the past 24 years. Since 1994, the winner of the game has been ranked in the top ten, and five of those teams were the number one team in the country. In recent years, the rivalry hasn’t quite lived up to the hype as both teams have struggled. However, this season, LSU comes into the Swamp as the No. 5 team in the country. Excitement is high for both programs.
Why LSU needs to win.
The Tigers have arguably the most impressive resume in college football through five games. In the opener, they dominated No. 8 Miami 33-17 Sep. 3, not allowing a touchdown until the fourth quarter. They supplemented this performance with a come from behind 22-21 win at No. 7 Auburn Sep. 15. The defense has looked strong, senior running back Nick Brossette has been a pleasant surprise and most importantly, the Tigers have found their quarterback in graduate transfer Joe Burrow. Burrow hasn’t wowed anybody, he’s only thrown for 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. However, he takes care of the ball, something that will be crucial if the Tigers hope to come out of Gainesville with a win.
Why Florida needs a win:
Much like LSU, the Gators have the perennial problem of boasting a great defense with little offense to compliment it. The main issue has been at the quarterback position. The top tier talent that Florida brings in hasn’t panned out and many of the quarterbacks – including West Virginia’s star Will Grier- have transferred off of the team. Gator fans are hoping that trend changes this year. Sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks has been impressive thus far, throwing for 961 yards and 14 touchdowns. After an early season loss to Kentucky, Florida has turned things around. Following a win against Colorado State Sep. 22, the Gators took down two straight SEC opponents on the road. In their game last Saturday at No. 23 Mississippi State, Florida held a potent Bulldogs offense to just 202 total yards. The Gators are going to need that type of defensive performance – and a little help from Franks and the offense – if they hope to pull off the upset this weekend.
No. 6 Notre Dame @ No. 24 Virginia Tech. 7:00 CT in Blacksburg, VA.
Notre Dame has been one of the most impressive teams in the country through five weeks of the season. Virginia Tech has looked impressive as well – with the exception of a massive letdown against 1-4 Old Dominion. The Hokies are hoping to channel the spirit of “Enter Sandman” and turn their season around with an upset on Saturday.
Why Notre Dame needs a win:
It seems like I’m previewing a Notre Dame game every week. The Irish are red-hot, coming off a 38-17 win against No. 7 Stanford. This was just another boost to their strong resume – they took down No. 14 Michigan to kick off the season. However, both of those big wins came at home. Now, the Irish have to leave the comfort of South Bend and face the hostile crowd in Blacksburg. Junior quarterback Ian Book, who took over for the Irish in week four, has looked incredible. In just two starts, he has accounted for 693 total yards and nine touchdowns. The Irish defense has been just as strong. It’s holding opposing teams to just 19 points per game and have already forced nine turnovers. If the Irish are able to get past the Hokies on Saturday, they will be in prime position to secure a College Football Playoff spot. Notre Dame does not play a currently-ranked team for the remainder of the season.
Why Virginia Tech needs a win:
It was a normal September day when No. 13 Virginia Tech walked into Foreman Field in Norfolk, Virginia to take on 0-3 Old Dominion on Sep. 22. By the end of the night, the Monarchs had captured their first win of the season and Hokie fans – along with the rest of the country – were stunned. Virginia Tech’s 49-35 loss to ODU was one of the biggest upsets of the past decade and left the Hokies in disarray. They pushed through the adversity and defeated No. 22 Duke on the road, 31-14. This weekend provides a chance for the Hokies to truly turn their season around. A playoff berth is very unlikely with a loss that bad, but Virginia Tech still has a good shot at an ACC Coastal division title and possibly a New Year’s Six bowl. The fans in Blacksburg will be loud and rowdy for the game, we will see if the Hokies can pull off the upset.