It’s time again to help you plan your Saturday college football viewing. To reiterate, we try to choose the best games based on the importance of matchups, potential entertainment value and potential for surprises. We make these selections as neutral observers, so of course if you are interested in a particular team your priorities will be different.
With all this, we present this promising handful of games of week 6 for your approval. The list includes a second top-five performance of the season, three other clashes of ranked opponents and a team hunt in prime time. No, not Texas A&M against Alabama – Even if one of our so-called experts saw it as a candidate for game of the year.
Ahem – but we digress.
No. 4 Penn State No. 3 in Iowa
4 p.m. ET, Fox
Why watch: This is the obvious headliner, although it may be repeated in a later Big Ten championship game. It appears that the Nittany Lions have a more treacherous way to get there via the East Division, but while the West may seem more manageable to the Hawkeyes even with a defeat here, they are eager to test the theory. Won’t happen. The Hawkeyes’ simple formula of forcing takeaways and driving the ball worked to near perfection in their most recent outing in Maryland. Seasoned Nittany Lions QB Sean Clifford may be less inclined to give the ball away, so Iowa will need to mount more sustained drives to put points on the board. QB Spencer Petras can be wrong sometimes, but he knows how to get RB Tyler Goodson into space. Penn State LBs Brandon Smith and Alice Brooks will lead the effort to limit such space. Nittany Lions’ WR Jahan Dotson could be a difference maker. The defensive backs of CB Riley Moss and his fellow Hawkeyes are well aware of their breakaway potential, but they will find it difficult to hold them for the full 60 minutes.
Why it can disappoint: It is highly likely that the game will soon become a punting competition. The Nittany Lions are dropping just 12 points in a game, while the Hawkeye are even more stingy at 11.6. This should also mean that it will be close to perfect, but high intensity with some fireworks may not be your cup of tea. Should a team be able to create a multi-score lead, a comeback can prove difficult.
No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 23 Texas in Dallas
Afternoon ET, ABC
Why watch: Not that this annual rivalry game requires extra spice, but it is always better when both the teams involved have an even number before their name. The Sooners put on a stellar run at Red River Week, though it wasn’t always easy, while the Longhorns bounced back from their earlier setback against Arkansas with a three-game winning streak that brought them back into the top 25. QB Spencer Rattler had Oklahoma. Last week’s win at Kansas State expects a fan-like offense, though he still wants to get the home run ball to WR Marvin Mims. The Longhorns’ attack has also found new life since Casey Thompson took over as QB, but the Texas key should be RB Bijn Robinson. He averages 6.21 yards per run, but an improvement in Sooner’s ground defense featuring LB Brian Asamoah is allowing only 2.73 per run.
Why it can disappoint: This happens rarely, but it is possible that soon an initial charge and coast house will be put together. The Longhorns’ pass rush is producing just two sacks a game. It won’t cut it against Rattler, who knows how to get the ball out quickly.
No. 16 Arkansas at No. 17 Mississippi
Afternoon ET, ESPN
Why watch: One might call this SEC West competition the Bounce-Back Bowl, as both teams are expected to return to the victory column after what was described as a reality check against the league’s powers. The Razorbacks were overwhelmed from start to finish in Georgia last week, while the Rebels did a little better against the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa a few hours later. Ole Miss QB Matt Coral will likely take some deep shots in an attempt to restore his confidence and keep the front seven of the Sonic Razorbacks at bay. Arkansas will be looking to rev up their power running game behind RB Trelan Smith to give QB KJ Jefferson room to operate.
Why it can disappoint: It’s unlikely, but one or both teams could fall flat after last week’s sub-par performance. One can imagine scenarios in which either team quickly advances and returns home. The Rebels would theoretically be better equipped to make a comeback with their quick-strike ability, but Razorbacks have the ability to set the pace of the game in the trenches.
No. 13 Notre Dame at Virginia Tech
7:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
Why watch: The Fighting Irish have little time to mourn their first loss of the campaign. They hit the road where, for the third time in as many weeks, they face a rival resting from an open date. The Hokies started the season with a home upset of then-North Carolina and would love to take another top-25 win to be back in the polls. Notre Dame freshman QB Drew Paine led a second-half rally that fell short against Cincinnati. Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly could still stay with opening-day starter Jack Coen if he is fully recovered, although Kelly is not making that decision public. Whoever takes the bulk of the snap will need much better protection; Hokies’ de Amare Barno and LB Dax Hollifield are sure to be in attack mode from the start. The tech offense hasn’t been super-skilled either, but QB Braxton Burmeister can be slippery. However, he must know about the whereabouts of Notre Dame s Kyle Hamilton.
Why it can disappoint: Last season was certainly an odd one for everyone, but Virginia Tech hasn’t done well after open dates in recent years. The home crowd can be neutralized if the Hokeys exit the gate at a slower pace and Notre Dame can take advantage.
No. 2 Georgia No. 19 Auburn. Feather
3:30 PM ET, CBS
Why watch: The Tigers came back home after beating LSU in Baton Rouge, a feat they’ve achieved since 1999. His reward lies with an even more historical rival to this date, and the Bulldogs are not interested in Auburn’s happy return. As mentioned earlier, the Georgia defense, which has conceded just 23 points throughout the season and is coming from back-to-back shutouts, is playing at the championship level. Tigers QB Bo Knicks displayed his improvisational talent while leading last week’s rally against the Bayou Bengals. He is unlikely to have that much freedom to do things this time; Georgia has 10 players who have recorded at least one sack, led by LB Adam Anderson’s four. LB Jacobi McClain and the Auburn defense were solid against LSU, and they would have to get even better to keep the Bulldogs’ RB Zamir White under control.
Why it can disappoint: Strange things can always happen in a rivalry game, but Auburn, quite simply, can’t hold back. It doesn’t matter whether JT Daniels or Stetson Bennett has been in the QB for Georgia, which has been dominated by the defence. If any of the Bulldog passers-by get hot, the route may be on.
Follow college reporter Eddie Timmans on Twitter @aditimanas