|Auburn Tigers||Kentucky Wildcats||Commonwealth Stadium (UK)||7:00||ESPN||-2|
|Stanford Cardinal||UCLA Bruins||Stanford Stadium||10:30||ESPN||-6.5|
Unlike most Thursday nights during the season, there are two interesting P5 options this week. At 7:00, a team just one game back of the division lead takes on one of the SEC doormats. Unlike most seasons, it's Kentucky filling the role of potential division winner and Auburn bringing up the rear. Both teams are coming off bye weeks, and they both struggled in their last game before the bye. For Auburn, this game could mean the difference between bowl eligibility and an early end to the season. The Tigers sit at 3-2, but have upcoming games against Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss. The drive for six hinges on this game, a trip to Arkansas, and a home date with Idaho. For the Cats and Mark Stoops, their hope is that a win over Auburn and some favorable results by the rest of the East could put UK at the top of the East after this weekend. Thursday's main event has some serious implications for Irish fans. Stanford is currently the highest ranked team left on the Irish schedule. Should the Irish run the table and enter the Stanford game with just one loss, they will presumably need to make a statement to the playoff committee. A statement win needs a worthy opponent, however, and a Stanford team ranked in the top-10 would provide such a test. As such, Irish fans probably need to bite the bullet, and root for David Shaw to grind out wins for the foreseeable future. That starts with UCLA this week. Don't worry about staying up too late, I'm sure your boss won't mind the drop in productivity.
|Cincinnati Bearcats||BYU Cougars||LaVell Edwards Stadium (BYU)||8:00||ESPN||-7|
|Boise State Broncos||Utah State Aggies||Romney Stadium (USU)||9:00||CBSSN||-9.5|
|Houston Cougars||Tulane Green Wave||Yulman Stadium (TU)||9:00||ESPNU||-17|
This week's Friday night slate features some of the top G5 teams in the country. First, the AAC's Cincinnati faces BYU in Provo. While both teams have had to use their backup QBs extensively this season, Bearcats starter and former Irish transfer Gunner Kiel was just cleared to start Friday's game. Cincinnati's offense has racked up passing yards and points at an impressive rate this season, so expect this game to feature offense galore. One loss Boise State faces a decent Utah State team on the road at 8:00. Both the Broncos and Aggies are undefeated in MWC play, although Boise has a more impressive resume thus far. Boise probably needs to win out to make a New Year's Six bowl, and the Aggies should provide a decent test. Lastly, undefeated Houston travels to New Orleans to face Tulane. This game shouldn't be close, but Tom Herman's offense has been a joy to watch this season, and the Cougars sit in pole position to claim the G5 New Year's Six spot through half the season.
|Iowa Hawkeyes||Northwestern Wildcats||Ryan Field (NU)||Noon||ESPN2/ABC||-3|
|Florida State Seminoles||Louisville Cardinals||Doak-Campbell Stadium (FSU)||Noon||ESPN||-7|
|Ole Miss Rebels||Memphis Tigers||Liberty Bowl (Memphis)||Noon||ESPN2/ABC||-10.5|
|Baylor Bears||West Virginia Mountaineers||McClane Stadium (Baylor)||Noon||FOX||-21|
The time to warn your children about undefeated Iowa is now! Running back Jordan Canzeri has been fantastic for the Hawkeyes, and is coming off a 40+ carry 250+ yard game against Illinois. Northwestern was just shut out by Michigan, and will need this one to stay close in the Big Ten West race. Also at noon, Florida State faces a struggling Louisville team at home. The Noles were somewhat fortunate to escape against Miami last week, and will probably ride Dalvin Cook once again to get them past the Cards. Irish transfer Everett Golson has avoided the turnover bug (while being asked to do relatively little in the Noles offense) thus far at FSU, but last seasons struggles didn't start until after the halfway point in the season. Memphis faces Ole Miss in one of the most interesting games of the weekend. Memphis sits at 5-0, and hosts the Rebs at the Liberty Bowl. Justin Fuente's name was brought up in connection with a few of the newly vacant jobs earlier this week, and a win over Ole Miss could put him in line for a nice promotion once the coaching carousel swings into motion come December. Rounding out the early slate, Baylor faces just their second real test of the season at home against West Virginia. The 'Eers are coming off a tough OT loss against Oklahoma State while Baylor has yet to play a truly competitive game all season. Baylor is rightfully the favorite, but their defense has looked less than impressive this season. Dana Holgorson's offense can give any defense fits, and that could make this one much closer than people expect.
|Alabama Crimson Tide||Texas A&M Aggies||Kyle Field (A&M)||3:30||CBS||-4|
|Michigan Wolverines||Michigan State Spartans||Michigan Stadium (UM)||3:30||ESPN||-8.5|
While there are a few other games during the mid-afternoon window, these two are the obvious choices for (not so) neutral viewers. In College Station, the Aggies host Alabama for the first time since Johnny Manziel's final season in maroon and white. That game featured over 1100 total yards and over 90 points, and this one could reach similar highs. With the Tide's early loss, they'll probably have to win out in order to challenge for a playoff spot, and a win over currently undefeated A&M would start their climb back up the polls. At the Big House, the battle for the Paul Bunyan trophy features two tough defenses and less than agreeable coaches. Jim Harbaugh has Michigan on the fringe of the top 10 while Sparty is undefeated and in the top five of the major polls. Mark D'antonio's defense has shown some cracks after the departure of defenseive coordinator Pat Narduzzi to Pitt and some significant injuries, but Michigan's offense has looked somewhat limited behind Jake Ruddock. If the Wolverines manage to knock off State, expect the Michigan hype train to reach untold highs leading up to a potential matchup with Ohio State at the end of the season.
|Notre Dame Fighting Irish||Southern Cal Trojans||Notre Dame Stadium||7:30||NBC||-6.5|
|LSU Tigers||Florida Gators||Tiger Stadium||7:00||ESPN||-9.5|
|Ohio State Buckeyes||Penn State Nittany Lions||Ohio Stadium||8:00||ABC||-17|
|Utah Utes||Arizona State Sun Devils||Rice-Eccles Stadium (Utah)||10:00||ESPN||-6.5|
Thankfully, there aren't too many other night games that could pull your attention away from the Irish matchup against Southern Cal. First, two SEC undefeateds face off in Death Valley. The Gators lost QB Will Grier to a PED suspension on Monday, but the Gator success this season was built on their defense and ground game. His absence may not have as big an effect as one might expect since Treon Harris was moderately successful as a starter last season. For LSU, the Leonard Fournette Heisman campaign continues to roll, and a big performance in a rivalry game would increase his already large lead in the race for the top individual award in the land. In the Big Ten, Ohio State hosts Penn State in the ABC game of the week. The Buckeyes will be wearing some interesting uniforms, but more troubling is their recent struggles against somewhat mediocre competition. The Buckeyes pass rush featuring Joey Bosa should feast on PSU's thin offensive line, but unless Cardale Jones shows real improvement at QB, expect calls for Urban to make a change to JT Barrett to get louder and louder.
To close out the night, Utah faces Arizona State at home. Utah is shooting up the polls each week, and is picking up more and more first places. They'll try to keep their undefeated season going against a Jeckyll and Hyde Sun Devils squad. ASU was blown out three weeks ago at home against Southern Cal, but followed that up with a win on the road over UCLA. Depending on which Arizona State shows up, we could be in for a treat to end the college football week.