The number of games featuring ranked teams taking on each other increased this week to two — No. 6 Louisiana State at No. 9 Texas and No. 1 Clemson at home against No. 12 Texas A&M. The folks in Texas wish it were the Longhorns playing the Aggies, two archrivals from way back, but those days are gone.
Let’s keep a watch over teams from the SEC. The conference which boasts to be the nation’s best from top to bottom managed just a 7-4 record against non-league opponents last week, including Tennessee going down as a 26-point home favorite to Georgia State. Last season, the SEC went 50-6 in regular-season, non-conference games with a .833 winning percentage, its best ever.
No. 6 Louisiana State at No. 9 Texas, 7:30 p.m., 6ABC
After losing the 2009 national championship game, the Longhorns went eight consecutive years without a 10-win season and finished below .500 four times before going 10-4 last season with a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. They want to keep that momentum going on their home field.
Texas junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who fired four TD passes last week against Louisiana Tech, set a Big 12 record last season by throwing 308 passes without an interception.
Not to be outdone, the Tigers’ quarterback is senior Joe Burrow, who was recruited by Texas head coach Tom Herman to Ohio State when Herman was offensive coordinator there, then transferred to LSU. Against Georgia Southern last week, Burrow threw for more touchdowns (five) than incompletions (four).
The LSU defense, which held Georgia Southern to 98 total yards last week, will be a factor. Defensive backs Grant Delpit and Kristian Fulton are projected first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. And the Texas running game has only one healthy scholarship running back in Keaontay Ingram. His backups are a converted quarterback and a converted linebacker.
No. 12 Texas A&M at No. 1 Clemson, 3:30 p.m., 6ABC
The Tigers needed an interception on an Aggies’ two-point conversion attempt with 46 seconds to play and a recovered onside kick last year for a 28-26 win, their narrowest margin of victory in a 15-0 season.
That game marked the Tigers’ last one before freshman Trevor Lawrence became the starting quarterback. Lawrence, who started the 2019 season as the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, didn’t have to do too much in last week’s 52-14 pounding of Georgia Tech, but his two interceptions in 23 attempts did raise an eyebrow or two.
Aggies junior quarterback Kellen Mond threw for a career-high 430 yards and three touchdowns against Clemson a year ago, and finished the season with 3,107 yards and 24 scores. He tossed three more passes for TDs in an easy win last week over Texas State, and Jashaun Corbin rushed for 103 yards.
No. 25 Nebraska at Colorado, 3:30 p.m., Fox29
These two teams made up one of the more competitive rivalries in the old Big Eight and the Big 12 until 2010 before going their separate ways with conference realignment — the Cornhuskers to the Big Ten and the Buffs to the Pac-12.
Last year’s rivalry renewal in Lincoln left the Huskers with a sour taste, having blown a second-half lead while losing quarterback Adrian Martinez to a knee injury that some people alleged was the result of a questionable defensive play.
The Cornhuskers didn’t impress on offense last week against South Alabama, but got two defensive touchdowns and a punt return score in a 35-21 win. The Buffs defeated in-state rival Colorado State, 52-31 with good balance — rushing for 243 yards and passing for 232.
No. 23 Stanford at Southern California, 10:30 p.m., ESPN
This early Pac-12 showdown has become a battle of backup quarterbacks. The Cardinal’s K.J. Costello is out after getting hit in the head last week against Northwestern, and junior Davis Mills is in. The Trojans’ J.T. Daniels suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his right knee against Fresno State and will be replaced by freshman Kedon Slovis.
Army at No. 7 Michigan, noon, Fox29
The last time the Black Knights visited a top-10 opponent, they extended Oklahoma into overtime last year before losing. Their triple option attack is so unique that Wolverines defensive coordinator Don Brown devoted some periods of spring practice to prepare for it. Meanwhile, the “new” Michigan offense didn’t show much last week and quarterback Shea Patterson lost a fumble.
No. 21 Syracuse at Maryland, noon, ESPN
After winning at Liberty, the Orange hit the road again and must take care of business with a home game next week against top-ranked Clemson. The Terrapins rolled up 79 points on Howard last week and appeared to upgrade the quarterback position with Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson. Still, this is a much stiffer test.
— Cincinnati presents an interesting challenge for No. 5 Ohio State. Bearcats coach Luke Fickell played for the Buckeyes and used to be their defensive coordinator. Certainly he has looked over the defensive scheme designed to stop quarterback Justin Fields, who accounted for five touchdowns — four passing — in his Ohio State debut. Cincinnati is looking for its first win over the Buckeyes in 122 (yes, 122!) years.
— UCLA fans are still looking for that magic that head coach Chip Kelly supposedly possesses dating back to his Oregon days. After a 3-9 record in Kelly’s first season, the Bruins lost 24-14 in their opener against Cincinnati. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had four turnovers. The Aztecs are 0-21-1 against the Bruins, but have four wins against Pac-12 schools since 2016.
— How about Rutgers? McLane Carter, a graduate transfer from Texas Tech, led a 48-21 win over Massachusetts, throwing for 340 yards. He’s the Scarlet Knights’ first 300-yard passer in Chris Ash’s four seasons as head coach. While going 1-11 in 2018, Rutgers averaged 13.5 points and 132 passing yards per game. Maybe the Scarlet Knights will get back to reality at No. 20 Iowa, but they can dream, can’t they?