By Alan Brads
I hate Halloween. I’m not afraid to say it. I despise dressing up, and I’m allergic to nine out of every 10 candies, so why shouldn’t I hate it?
But like it or not, Halloween is upon us, and with it, we all get a chance to face our fears. Kids fear zombies and skeletons, and I, a proud member of Generation Z, fear strangers knocking on my door.
But what does the college football world fear?
Well, Clemson fears the SEC, a conference many speculate the TIgers will join, but now they cannot even handle the inferior ACC.
The SEC, in turn, fears the 12-team playoff, where they will lose a bit of the iron grip they held on the postseason.
Fans fear their star defender getting tagged with the dreaded targeting foul.
Michigan State fears Michigan, and rightfully so. 49-0 is spooky indeed.
Caleb Williams fears the Chicago Bears, where quarterback careers go to die.
And Iowa, we can only surmise, fears scoring touchdowns.
But you have nothing to fear. Maybe with all the college football content swirling on the internet you feel lost in a cornmaze of information. I am here to set the record straight and guide you to the end. Settle in with some hot apple cider and let’s get rolling with three stories and three games to watch this Saturday.
#3- Grounded Air Force wins seven straight, ranked 19th
There’s something ironic about Air Force running a triple option offense that almost never goes to the air. They have thrown 33 passes all year, compared to 405 rushes. You would expect Army to have a good ground attack, but Air Force’s rushing attack has overpowered the Mountain West, which led the Falcons to the top AP ranking of any Group of Five team. Their defense outshined their effective but mind-numbing offense, allowing just 94 points all season. I gain a little comfort in knowing our Air Force provides good defense. With Colorado stumbling, the Falcons can solidify themselves as the best team in the state with a win over Colorado State on Saturday.
#2- Penn State falls short … again
Death, taxes and Penn State winning silver. With Michigan’s (potentially fraudulent) revival, it’s more like bronze, but either way they always medal in the Big Ten, but never win gold. 2023 marks year 10 of James Franklin playing second fiddle to Ohio State and Michigan. Every time they supposedly put together a stacked roster the results do not change. A division with two powerhouses poses difficulties, no doubt, but a single conference title game appearance in a decade can only be called a failure at Penn State. They are not out of the running yet, but nothing I saw on Saturday makes me think the Nittany Lions have a chance to beat the Wolverines. Something would have to go majorly wrong in Ann Arbor. I can’t imagine what might flip a program upside down that quickly. Oh wait …
#1- Another scandal up north
I hesitate to even write about Michigan’s sign-stealing scandal. The story of Connor Stalions scouting future opponents to steal signs continues to develop quickly, and every new detail seems more condemning than the last. Experience in journalism tells me the second I publish, the next breakthrough will completely alter the whole story. Between a win at Penn State, continued mediocrity in the Big Ten West, and Michigan’s headlines, Ohio State has to feel pretty good about their standing in the conference. The investigation is far from over, but as it stands it looks grim for the Wolverines. Punishment from the Big Ten and NCAA no longer appears to be an “if” but a “what,” “who” and “when.” Can Jim Harbaugh’s career at Michigan survive? Will they vacate wins? Will they face a postseason ban? If so, when? This year? Next year? The NCAA’s only consistency is inconsistency, so who knows.
Like every week in October, this weekend’s set of games does not disappoint. Maybe skip the corn maze and fall festival this weekend and opt for the late-night haunted house. The early slates are packed with some A-tier action this week, good enough that not even Florida-Georgia at 3:30 could crack the top three.
#3- #6 Oklahoma @ Kansas – 12:00 on FOX
Everything about this game sets off alarm bells and flashing red lights in my head. The upset alert is so real I can taste it. The Sooners scraped by UCF last week on a failed two-point conversion. The luck might run out this week. Oklahoma won the last 19 matchups with the Jayhawks, but just two years ago they trailed going into the fourth quarter in Lawrence. Kansas opened their gates to the public for free at halftime, as only a spotty audience bought tickets expecting a blowout. Expectations are much higher this year, we can expect the crowd to be bigger, the spread to be smaller, and the Jayhawk quarterback to be better. Smells like an upset.
#2- #20 Duke @ #18 Louisville – 3:30 on ESPN
Well the ACC sorted itself out … until North Carolina lost. Now it is a disaster again. Florida State all but punched their ticket to the ACC championship game. Whoever wins Saturday in Louisville lays their claim as favorites to nab the second spot. Louisville is quite the enigma. Their silent 5-0 start earned no national attention. They knocked off Notre Dame, finally turning heads toward them just in time for their three-score loss to 2-4 Pitt. I think they’re frauds who caught Notre Dame at the right time, but here is their chance to make a fool of me. Duke fell last week to Florida State’s 21-point fourth quarter rally, but with Riley Leonard a week healthier, and the season more or less on the line, the Blue Devils won’t go down without a fight.
#1- #8 Oregon @ #13 Utah – 3:30 on FOX
There is a very real chance a Pac-12 game makes my top-three list every week from now until the end of the season. It is just joyous football. I need you to put your tin foil hat on and follow along with my conspiracy theory about why this particular Pac-12 showdown is so significant. Caleb Williams is already the first pick of the 2024 NFL draft, done deal. With USC suffering their second loss, he has nothing to gain by playing, and everything to lose. In the next couple weeks, I expect him to go out with a mystery injury that will sideline him for the remainder of the year. I hope I’m wrong, I hate the idea of NCAA players treating college football like an NFL development league, but it would not surprise me. If I’m right, this game stands as the biggest hurdle between Oregon and a game-of-the-year rematch with Washington in the Pac-12 championship game.
Alan Brads is a senior journalism student and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys playing the drums, speaking Spanish and watching Buckeye football like his life depends on it.