It is the beginning of October which means that conference games are ramping up in college football. Other than a few cases, the non conference cream puff part of the season is over. It will even be good to see some of the lower tier teams involved in conference play like Kansas vs. Iowa State or East Carolina vs. SMU. There are a few intriguing matchups in the first month of the season but most of the time the games are glorified scrimmages for the sake of getting a power conference team bowl eligible and a lower division 1 team a pay check.
There have been a few big conference games in the SEC and Big 12 at this point but now the games really get meaningful. It may not look like it now but games like Minnesota vs. Northwestern and Iowa vs. Wisconsin could be important in determining a winner in the Big Ten West division. The ACC Coastal division doesn’t have a ranked team at this time and games like Pittsburgh vs. Virginia Tech and North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech could help separate the higher and lower tier teams in that division. A game in the Big 12 that has two undefeated teams but won’t get much attention nationally is Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State. These are not the Big name schools in the Big 12 like TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma but you never know how the season is going to play out and they may be a factor later in the season. There should be some high scoring games on Saturday based on the Vegas odds with seven of them (mostly in the Big 12 and Pac 12) having an over/under higher than 70 points.
Obviously most of the country will not be watching these games and will be most interested in the Alabama vs. Georgia and Notre Dame vs. Clemson games. These are the two games with the most at stake this week at this point of the season. These two games are big for different reasons.
Georgia is a team that has always had the talent to compete with the best schools in the SEC. They have been a regular fixture in the preseason top ten rankings. Despite that, they have not won an SEC championship since 2005. The closest they came recently was in the 2012 SEC championship game when they lost 32-28 to Alabama. The Bulldogs were driving down the field to take the lead and were on the Alabama 8 yard line with 9 seconds left and no timeouts. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray threw it short of the end zone with the game on the line to receiver Chris Conley, where he was tackled. Since the Bulldogs had no timeouts, time expired and Alabama won the SEC championship and went on to win the national championship that season. That play sums up the difference between the Alabama and Georgia programs. Georgia mostly outplayed Alabama in that game but Alabama doesn’t make many mental mistakes in big games and Georgia often does. The game on Saturday won’t be as meaningful as the one in 2012 but it could be a preview of the 2015 SEC championship. This game is important for both schools because Georgia needs a win over a team like Alabama just to prove they can do it and Alabama has already lost a game and needs to win in order to stay in the SEC West college playoff race.
Clemson will have had 16 days off between the Louisville game and the game against Notre Dame. The Tigers narrowly escaped with a 20-17 victory against an 0-3 Louisville team at the time and their reputation took a hit. The national opinion of the ACC in general has been subpar because their top two teams in the last few years, Florida State and Clemson struggled on the road against lesser competition in week 3 and this season’s favorite Georgia Tech has two losses. Notre Dame has overcome season ending injuries to several key players, including their starting quarterback and running back but have won every game despite that. The Irish seem like they have a lot of depth and haven’t been affected by the injury bug so far this season. Many of the experts in the media expected the injuries to be the downfall of Notre Dame’s season before their game against Georgia Tech. However, they were able to win that game and the Irish are ranked sixth in the country. The national media is back on the bandwagon. This game may mean a lot to both teams but it means more to Clemson and the ACC. Clemson will be playing the sixth ranked team in the country at home in a primetime nationally televised game and the game will be highlighted on College Gameday. The Tigers need to win this game to not only show the country that they should be included in the college playoff mix but also give the ACC some credibility with one of their teams beating a highly ranked school like Notre Dame. Since the ACC doesn’t have respect nationally, Clemson’s conference schedule will be perceived as weak so a good non conference win would help their case if they were to go undefeated.
There are some other good games to watch this weekend like West Virginia vs. Oklahoma and Texas Tech vs. Baylor. The Mississippi State vs. Texas A&M and Ole Miss vs. Florida games will also be interesting but most of the country will be watching the games in northern Georgia and the South Carolina upstate.