Ugh, bye weeks. All the college football you love without the emotional investment that shreds your nerves leading up to a 4:00 kickoff.
Depending on how your team is faring this season, bye weeks can be a good thing or a bad thing. Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with the bye week. They’re necessary for resting players who put their body through the grinder for our entertainment but rob me of the adrenaline-inducing fear that is watching South Carolina football.
Some may not enjoy the fear like I do, but however you take your Gamecock football it is not available to you this week. If South Carolina football is the only thing you take off the college football buffet, then this is a great weekend to clean out your gutters or finally crack open that Rosetta Stone box that’s been gathering dust on your shelf the past six months.
If you’re a conessiuer of college football like myself, then you can spin this bye week into something positive. There are over 100 other teams in college football waiting for you to feast your eyes on their game. Some of those teams are good, but some those teams aren’t worth your time to gaze upon -- so how are you to know know what to select off this week’s buffet?
Allow me to be your guide as you sift though this Gamecockless (and Clemsonless) week of college football. Let’s begin:
No. 25 Memphis (5-1) at Houston (4-2) - 8:00 PM ET, ESPN
Thursday has two games on deck, but this one is a true banger. Memphis and Houston are both top-50 teams from the AAC who are good enough to meet up with an SEC or ACC team in a bowl and win by a significant margin.
Memphis’ offense is wildly entertaining and scores a lot of points. Led by QB Riley Ferguson and WR Anthony Miller, they’ll face off against a top-35 defense in Houston anchored by extraterrestrial DT Ed Oliver. When those two units face off, it’ll be some of the best football you watch all weekend.
Colorado State (5-2) at New Mexico (3-3) - 10:15 PM ET, ESPN2
Halfway through the season, Colorado State looks like the favorite to win the Mountain West conference and could very well finish the regular season with ten wins. The Rams offense has taken on the persona of their head coach Mike Bobo (formally the longtime OC of Georgia) and have performed at a top-20 level.
Bowl-caliber New Mexico runs a triple option offense (think Georgia Tech) from the gun and have the potential to make things weird against a better CSU squad. Late at night on the west coast this has the potential to be a very fun game.
No. 10 Oklahoma State (5-1) at Texas (3-3) - 12:00 ET, ABC
Oklahoma State may be ranked No. 10, but they’ve played like a top-five team this season. Outside their rival Oklahoma, the Pokes have the best offense in the county led by QB and South Carolina native Mason Rudolph alongside all-world WR James Washington.
On the other side is a Texas team who’ve enjoyed living dangerously this season. Five of their six games have been decided by ten points or less and have proven to be competitive with top-ten teams. If QB Sam Ehlinger continues to make strides, Texas’ offense could improve enough to make this interesting.
Iowa State (4-2) at Texas Tech (4-2) - 12:00 ET, FS1
In head coach Matt Campbell’s second season, Iowa State looks like they’re headed to a bowl for the first time since 2012. The Cyclones are well balanced on both sides of the ball and feature some exciting players like MLB Joel Lanning (who plays some quarterback as well) and WR Allen Lazard.
It should be noted with how improved the Big 12 is, this game could be pivotal towards both of these team’s postseason hopes. TTU’s offense is back to looking like it’s old, crazy-explosive self paired with a defense that actually does a decent job of preventing big plays. Big 12 shootout at high noon? Count me in.
Indiana (3-3) at No. 18 Michigan State (5-1) - 3:30 ET, ABC
If defense is your thing, then ABC is where you want to be at 3:30 PM following the Texas-Okie State game. This is a pair of top-25 defenses facing off with Michigan State’s performing at a top-ten level through six games. QB Brian Lewerke has given Sparty’s offense an edge that’s propelled them to a top-25 ranking.
Indiana can throw the ball too, whether Richard Lagow or Peyton Ramsey is playing QB but MSU safety Khari Willis will present a challenge to that passing game. The Hoosiers defense can get you behind the chains in a hurry, forcing you into long passing situations where LB Tegray Scales will pass rush his way right into your nightmares.
No. 20 UCF (5-0) at Navy (5-1) - 3:30 ET, CBSSN
Two years ago Central Florida was winless and arguably the worst team in all of the FBS. Now, they’re a top ten team and are on pace to finish the regular season undefeated. QB McKenzie Milton has quietly been one of the best in the country at was he does guiding the Knight offense to a No. 4 overall ranking.
But if there’s one team left on their schedule who can match them on offense, it’s Navy. The Midshipmen have paired the seventh-most efficient rushing attack with the most explosive passing offense in the country — keeping them afloat in spite of an atrocious defense. If you like shootouts, tune in here for sure.
No. 19 Michigan at No. 2 Penn State - 7:30 ET, ABC
Penn State running back Saquan Barkley facing off against Michigan’s No. 2 ranked defense is reason enough to watch this game, but throw in QB Trace McSorley’s tendency for hitting big plays and you’ve got a major challenge for the Wolverines in Happy Valley.
The big question here is if Michigan can find a fix for their offensive woes. Neither Wilton Speight nor John O’Korn have given Michigan any consistency at QB, leaving RB’s Ty Isaac and Karan Higdon to try and pave yards on their own in a bogged down unit.
No. 11 Southern Cal at No. 13 Notre Dame - 7:30 ET, NBC
Notre Dame has quietly been very good this season, with their only loss coming to Georgia by a 20-19 score. The Irish boast the No. 1 rushing offense, No. 15 rushing defense and No. 6 passing defense in the country — bolstered by stars like RB Josh Adams, LB Nyles Morgan and CB Shaun Crawford.
QB Sam Darnold’s perpetuance for turnovers has overshadowed Southern Cal’s fine season. RB Ronald Jones, ILB Cameron Smith and DE Christian Rector have helped bolster the Trojans as a legit top-20 team, but it will always come down to whether or not Darnold can keep his mitts on the ball.
Other games to keep an eye on
Lousiville (4-3) at Florida State (2-3) - 12:00 ET, ESPN
Even with both of these teams reeling, there’s no doubt there’s plenty of talent to go around in this ACC match up of former top-25 teams.
Syracuse (4-3) at No. 8 Miami (5-0) - 3:30 ET, ESPN
Miami has lived dangerously over the last two games and will host a team that is fresh off upsetting Clemson.
No. 9 Oklahoma (5-1) at Kansas State (3-3) - 4:00 ET, FOX
Oklahoma brings the best offense in the country to Manhattan, where Kansas State is not stranger to upsetting big teams.
Kentucky (5-1) at Mississippi State (4-2) - 4:00 ET, SECN
Kentucky’s performance does not match their record, but perhaps the Bulldogs can be the team to knock the Wildcats off their high horse.
Wake Forest (4-2) at Georgia Tech (3-2) - 7:30 ET, ESPNU
A pair of top-30 teams will face off in Atlanta, pitting Wake Forest’s top-30 rushing defense against Tech’s infamous rushing attack.
Arizona (4-2) at California (4-3) - 8:00 ET, FS1
Watch this game for one reason: Arizona QB Khalil Tate. He’s currently averaging 17.1 yards a carry on 38 rushes and has been on a tear the past two games.