Top 5 College Football Matchups to Watch this Weekend



Minnesota players celebrate with the Paul Bunyan Axe trophy after beating Wisconsin 37-15 in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis) Photo via WikiMedia Commons

By Justin Prather, Sports Writer


College football is about to get real. This weekend, the Big Ten joins the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 as Power Five in play. Closer to home, the Mountain West begins to play this weekend as well, giving Utah fans a quick fix before the Pac-12’s opener on Nov. 7. To get hyped, here are five games football addicts should watch this weekend.


5. No. 9 Cincinnati Bearcats at No. 16 SMU Mustangs, 7 p.m. on ESPN 2

Wait… who? That’s a fair question, but it’s time to get educated about the American Athletic Conference. For starters, BYU has played two of their five games this season against AAC opponents, Navy and Houston. BYU fans should count themselves lucky they won’t have to face Cincinnati or SMU, as both are rolling this season.

The Bearcats will show up in Dallas undefeated to play the undefeated Mustangs. Cincy has had an extra week to rest after their game with Tulsa was postponed. SMU is coming off a 37-34 overtime win against Tulane. In that matchup, Mustang QB Shane Buechele went 23-for-37 and 384 yards, racking up 100 plus yards each for his top three receiving targets. In the third quarter, WR Rashee Rice pulled down a dime of a ball from fellow WR Tyler Page on a double-reverse pass for 55 yards that left the Tulane defense dazed and confused. Cincy and SMU both play schoolyard smash-mouth football that Power Five schools rarely risk playing. This is a game worth watching.


4. No. 17 Iowa State Cyclones at No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowboys, 1:30 p.m. Fox

This game has season-long implications. Both teams are making the case for their Big 12 supremacy in 2020, with Texas and Oklahoma performing poorly so far this season. This matchup, along with both teams’ respective showdowns with Kansas State in November, will most likely decide the conference champion.

After a tough opening loss to the University of Louisiana, Iowa State QB Brock Purdy turned his offense around, posting an average of 256 yards, no interceptions and a 77.6 quarterback rating in his following three wins. Purdy’s backfield partner RB Breece Hall is averaging 132 rushing yards per game and 5.9 yards per carry. The Cowboys are favored to win at home, but it’s going to be a close one in Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday. At the very least fans should tune in for an update on Mike Gundy’s mullet.


3. No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions at Indiana Hoosiers, 1:30 p.m. FS1

Big Ten football is back, which means good old-fashioned midwestern gridiron showdowns. Penn State had an incredible 11-2 season in 2019, capping it off with a 53-39 Cotton Bowl win over Memphis. In this week’s opener, returning junior QB Sean Clifford will be tested on how well he’s adapted to new Offensive Coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca’s scheme. Ciarrocca comes to Penn State after leading Minnesota’s offense to a 11-2 season last year. The Lions have a lot going for them, but should not relax on the road in Indiana. Last year the Hoosiers had their first winning season since 2007 and return a decent amount of their 2019 talent. It’s a classic Big Ten football game that promises exciting moments, one of which could be a glimpse of former Ute QB Jack Tuttle who is the solid No. 2 for Indiana this season.


2. No. 18 Michigan Wolverines at No. 21 Minnesota Golden Gophers, 5:30 p.m. ABC

Speaking of the Big Ten, the Minnesota Golden Gophers — best mascot in college football hands down — will host Coach Jim Harbaugh and his Michigan Wolverines in their opener. Michigan is favored to win, but they are facing a different Minnesota team than in their last matchup in 2017. As mentioned above, Minnesota went 11-2 last season with a postseason win over Auburn. This season QB Tanner Morgan, RB Mohamed Ibrahim and WR Rashod Bateman return to have another go. Harbaugh is going to have his hands full of Golden Gophers come Saturday.


1. Utah State Aggies at Boise State Broncos 5 p.m. FS1

I have profound love in my heart for both of these Mountain West squads. They both have to fight season after season for relevancy in the FBS much like Utah had to before leaving the MW for the Pac-12. In 2019, Boise State averaged 35 points per game in the regular season and going 12-2. They lost to BYU 28-25 after a harrowing fourth-quarter comeback attempt. In the Las Vegas Bowl, the Washington Huskies sent the Broncos back to Boise with a lopsided 38-7 loss.

USU didn’t fare as well in 2019 under the leadership of QB Jordan Love in his last season, going 7-6. So why should we be excited for the Aggies in 2020? When Utah State takes the field on Saturday, they will be led by former Ute backup QB Jason Shelley who entered the transfer portal after the Alamo Bowl loss to Texas. Joining him in the backfield is fellow former Ute, Devonta’e Henry-Cole who initially committed to BYU as a grad transfer before heading north. With two weeks left until Utah football, fans should tune in for this Mountain West opener. It’s Peanut Butter Shelley Time in Cache Valley.


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