Lamest time window: None. There are good games at every spot on the schedule. And the way things are going with coronavirus cases, enjoy every game you can, just in case ...
Noon: Can No. 9 Indiana hang with No. 3 Ohio State? If not, flip to an excellent Sun Belt showdown between Appalachian State and No. 15 Coastal Carolina.
3:30: No. 7 Cincinnati will try to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive with a trip to UCF.
7:30: Bedlam between No. 14 Oklahoma State and No. 18 Oklahoma.
10:30: No. 20 USC will try to extend its early string of ridiculously good luck against Utah.
Eye on the NFL draft
Florida State’s struggles have made it easy to overlook the fine season from defensive back Asante Samuel (three interceptions, six pass breakups). Playing No. 4 Clemson gives him a bigger spotlight this week. How often will the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, challenge Samuel? And how will Samuel perform against a superstar? NFL teams will be watching.
More UF fireworks
The No. 6 Gators enter Vanderbilt having scored at least 35 points in eight consecutive games. That’s tied with stretches during the 1996 and 2008 national title seasons for the longest streak in program history. Expect another big output against Vanderbilt. The Commodores have given up at least that many points in four of their last five games to put Derek Mason on the hot seat.
Bearcats at the Bounce House
Although it’s not a ranked game, No. 7 Cincinnati at UCF might be the most intriguing contest because of the contrasting styles. The Knights, as usual, have one of the nation’s top offenses: They lead the country with 619 yards per game and 68 plays of 20-plus yards. The Bearcats’ defense, however, is elite. Cincinnati ranks fourth in yards per play allowed (4.25) and third in scoring (12.4 points per game allowed). A strong showing will be further proof that Cincinnati is a serious playoff contender.
‘Cats keeping it close
No. 19 Northwestern is 4-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1996 thanks to three consecutive victories by one score. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Since Pat Fitzgerald took over in 2006, the Wildcats have won 48 one-possession games (tied with Navy for most in the country). Their defense might be good enough to keep it tight against No. 10 Wisconsin.
Local of the week
Nevada offensive lineman Jermaine Ledbetter (Boca Ciega High)
SEC postponements mean CBS’ coveted 3:30 TV window goes to Nevada-San Diego State. It’s nice exposure for both Mountain West teams and their players, including Ledbetter, a captain and starting left guard for the 4-0 Wolf Pack and their top-15 offense.
Whether Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy can improve to 3-13 against rival Oklahoma hinges on one matchup: whether a top-10 Cowboys passing defense (169 yards allowed per game) can contain Spencer Rattler and Oklahoma’s top-10 passing offense (350 yards per game). If Gundy’s team can slow down the Sooners, the Cowboys are good enough offensively to win. But don’t expect Oklahoma State to have enough firepower if Bedlam turns into a shootout.
South Carolina firing former UF coach Will Muschamp on Sunday was the first big domino to fall in what could be an odd hiring season, because of the economic struggles brought on by the pandemic. Here are some names to watch this week and beyond:
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: Harbaugh’s contract expires after next season, and his Wolverines’ ugly 1-3 start makes it look as if the khaki one won’t be in Ann Arbor much longer. Especially if he loses to Greg Schiano and Rutgers this weekend.
Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech: After starting with back-to-back top-25 seasons, his Hokies have tumbled. They’ve been unlucky during a 4-4 start, but some of that falls on his coaching. Pitt is beatable this weekend before hosting mighty Clemson.
Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers have been this season’s darling, leading into this huge Sun Belt game against Appalachian State. Will Chadwell be able to turn this year’s success into a Power Five job (like South Carolina)?
Matt Campbell, Iowa State: The No. 17 Cyclones are off to their first 5-1 conference start ever heading into this game against Kansas State. Campbell’s name came up in the FSU coaching search, but he opted to stay. Is there a job —college or pro — that would entice him to leave this cycle?
Hugh Freeze, Liberty: The former Ole Miss coach isn’t beloved in the coaching community, but his No. 21 Flames are 8-0 and have already beaten two ACC teams before facing another this weekend (North Carolina State). He seems destined for another Power Five job, whether it’s this cycle or next.
QB change at UGA?
Georgia is out of the playoff picture because of its subpar quarterbacking. That might change this week. There are rumblings — including a report from al.com — that five-star USC transfer JT Daniels has progressed enough with his knee injury and everything else to start for the No. 13 Bulldogs against Mississippi State. If that happens, we’ll see whether he can resuscitate Georgia’s offense.
By the numbers
26-6 — The record for Dan Mullen, Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer through 32 games at UF
1,034 —Rushing yards by Iowa State’s Breece Hall, the only player to break the 1,000-yard mark so far
7.89 — Yards per rush by Florida International’s D’vonte Price, who’s on track to set a school record
67-28 —Oregon’s record since Chip Kelly left after the 2012 season
8-18 — Kelly’s record as a college coach since leaving the No. 11 Ducks, which will host Kelly’s Bruins
17 — Consecutive times Ohio State has beaten ranked Big Ten teams, leading into a top-10 showdown with Indiana. That’s the longest streak in the AP poll’s history