Cowboys-Horned Frogs one of many big conference battles; Bruins' Rosen hopes to bounce back vs. Stanford

Cowboys-Horned Frogs one of many big conference battles; Bruins' Rosen hopes to bounce back vs. Stanford

September 19, 2017 3:07 AM
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Conference games should start dominating this countdown of college football’s top games going forward now that we’re getting into the bulk of the season.

The theme this week appears to be heavyweights battling promising teams punching upward as they try to put together the beginning of a special season.

Penn State at Iowa

After impressively dismissing Wyoming and surviving at Iowa State, the Hawkeyes went through the motions against North Texas last week, but should be up for this game to take their shot against the Nittany Lions. Penn State won 41-14 last season but will be making their first trip to Iowa City under James Franklin. Trace McSorley threw four touchdowns, one of which Saquon Barkley took 85 yards to make up for only getting 10 carries against overwhelmed Georgia State.

These are the type of games that can elevate Penn State’s prolific duo in the Heisman race and opens their most challenging six-week stretch of the season. Kirk Ferentz’s team was embarrassed in falling behind 35-0 and the defense surrendered 500 yards, so there will be a revenge factor in play that should have Iowa far more prepared to play this one. It beat Michigan and Nebraska after the rout suffered at the hands of Penn State last October and opened the season by holding serve against NFL prospect Josh Allen, so the defense should be up for this challenge and would have to be the driving force in any upset.

TCU at Oklahoma St.

Mason Rudolph threw for nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns as the Cowboys crushed Pitt, so he’s got everyone’s attention thanks to those eye-popping numbers. There’s no question that the Bedlam game at home against the Sooners will be one of college football’s blockbuster clashes, but this Big 12 opener is large in its own right. TCU has destroyed Arkansas and SMU in consecutive weeks, getting four touchdown passes from Kenny Hill against the Mustangs and making big plays downfield.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see this end up being a shootout, which would be progress since the Horned Frogs managed just 3 points in last year’s loss to Oklahoma State, which has won four of five since TCU entered the conference.

Miss State at Georgia

Nick Fitzgerald did his latest Tim Tebow impression in helping pull off a resounding 37-7 win over LSU, so this battle of Bulldogs should definitely have your attention. After surviving Notre Dame in South Bend, Georgia coasted against FBS-member Samford to improve to 3-0 for a second straight year. This is the point where things fell apart for Kirby Smart lasat season, as his team fell at Ole Miss in dropping four of five in maddening fashion.

These teams haven’t played since 2011, and Dan Mullen is 1-1 against the Dawgs in his tenure in Starkville. With road games at Georgia and Auburn next week, Mississippi State can continue to open some eyes if they pick up where they left off in dominating the Tigers in one of Saturday’s most impressive performances.

Alabama at Vandy

The Crimson Tide gave up 391 yards as Colorado State actually held the ball longer in a 41-23 win that became the second straight no-cover for the nation’s top-ranked team. There won’t be any talk of complacency since this is Bama’s SEC opener and will be contested against an unbeaten Commodores squad that comes off an impressive non-conference win over Kansas State.

The Vandy defense has surrendered just 13 points in its three wins to help the school to its first 3-0 start since 2011, back when Franklin was helping turn the program around. He never beat Alabama - no one at Vandy has since 1984 - but the ‘Dores were 3-0 that season and coming off a win over K-State. The Tide hasn’t lost in Nashville since ‘69 and Nick Saban earned his first SEC win at Alabama there, so it would be a wild to see this talented a team suffer an upset there.

UCLA at Stanford

Both teams come off upset losses to “Group of 5” schools, so there’s a lot on the line in this matchup since the loser’s season could quickly nosedive if this one gets away. The Cardinal haven’t lost three straight games under David Shaw and have also won their home opener under his watch in each of his six seasons. He’s owned Jim Mora, Jr., beating the Bruins six times, including twice in 2012 as the schools faced off for the conference title.

UCLA has only covered in one of those losses, but couldn’t get stops in a disappointing loss at Memphis that derailed an undefeated season. It didn’t help that Josh Rosen threw a costly interception late, but he’s leading the country with 13 touchdown passes.

Wash. at Colorado

This is a rematch of last year’s Pac-12 Championship game, which the Huskies won easily 41-10. After struggling in the first quarter and trailing Rutgers 7-3 in its season opener, U-Dub has outscored its opposition 138-30. The Buffs should be their toughest test, especially since Mike MacIntyre has a nine-game winning streak going in-state. Washington has dominated in covering each of the last four meetings, winning by a combined margin of 176-43. This should be the toughest matchup for Chris Petersen’s Huskies until they host UCLA on Oct. 28.

Others: USC at California, Notre Dame at Michigan State, Florida State at NC State, Texas Tech at Houston, Arkansas at Texas A&M UCF at Maryland, Oregon at Arizona State, Michigan at Purdue, San Diego State at Air Force, Duke at North Carolina.