There are three games which are especially important on a national level this weekend, and a few other games that will deservedly gain national notice because they are fierce rivalries that will create an intense and emotional gameday experience that will attract fans and television viewers. Let’s look at the featured games of the week for this coming Saturday and examine some college football picks.
Oregon Ducks at Ohio State Buckeyes
Odds: Ohio State -14.5
The Oregon Ducks do not yet know if star defensive player Kayvon Thibodeaux, a projected top-five NFL draft pick next year, will be able to play in this game. His recovery from an ankle injury suffered Saturday against Fresno State has not proceeded nearly as smoothly as team doctors and medical staff would have hoped.
Oregon had wanted to pronounce Thibodeaux cleared and ready to play on Wednesday, but it could not do so. Coach Mario Cristobal reiterated that Thibodeaux was “day to day,” a sign that his recovery remains achingly slow, and not on the timetable Oregon would have preferred. If Thibodeaux either can’t play or won’t be effective (if he is allowed to play at all), that’s a huge problem for an Oregon team that did not play well on offense in Week 1 against Fresno State.
Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown does not show an ability to make big downfield throws. He is limited in what he can do with the Oregon offense. The offensive line and rushing game are solid, but not imposing.
Oregon needs a quality passing game to create balance and unpredictability within its offense, and the Ducks currently lack that ingredient. If they can’t scare Ohio State’s defense, the Ducks would need a very strong defensive performance to have a real chance at scoring the road upset here. Thibodeaux being out of the game or very limited would be a massive blow to UO’s chances.
Ohio State had what was a generally encouraging season opener against Minnesota. Playing a conference game on the road and at night was a tough environment for freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud, who struggled in the first half with his accuracy. In the second half, however, coach Ryan Day made great halftime adjustments and helped Stroud to relax at quarterback.
The big plays began to flow, and when the night was over, Stroud had 294 passing yards with four touchdowns. If the version of Stroud which played in the first half shows up against Oregon, Ohio State is in trouble. If the second-half version of Stroud shows up, Ohio State is likely to blow the lid off this game and deliver a blowout victory. Thibodeaux’s injury status is the thing to monitor heading into kickoff on Saturday at noon in Columbus.
Texas Longhorns at Arkansas Razorbacks
Odds: Texas -7
The Arkansas Razorbacks trailed Rice 17-7 midway through thie game. The fact that they roared back to win 38-17 might convince some people that they are in a good place entering the Texas game, but that seems like a reach. Texas dominated Louisiana-Lafayette from start to finish in a 38-18 win. Texas seems to be much improved on its offensive and defensive lines, a great sign heading into the rest of the season. New coach Steve Sarkisian has gotten off to a solid start. If Texas wins this road night game decisively, it might be time to revise predictions about how mediocre the Longhorns would be this year in the Big 12 Conference, before their impending move to the SEC.
Washington Huskies at Michigan Wolverines
Odds: Michigan -7
This game is not occurring under an expected set of circumstances. Everything we thought we knew about this game was turned on its head when Washington inexplicably lost at home to Montana, 13-7, in its season opener. The Huskies threw three interceptions, could not dominate Montana’s defensive front with a veteran offensive line, and did not score a single point after getting a touchdown on their first drive of the game. Washington didn’t cross the Montana 25-yard line after its first touchdown drive in the opening minutes.
It was a complete shutdown by the Washington offense, and so a game that figured to have major national significance is now a matter of survival for Washington. The Huskies were so bad on offense against Montana that it’s virtually impossible for them to play any worse in any remaining game this season. Therefore, they are likely to be better against Michigan… but being slightly better than the Montana game would still rate as a horrible offensive performance. The Huskies simply lost all benefit of the doubt with their Montana disaster. They have to prove they can play at a much, much higher level against Michigan.
Iowa Hawkeyes at Iowa State Cyclones
Odds: Iowa State -4.5
The Iowa Hawkeyes have won five straight games against the Iowa State Cyclones. Those who betonline know that the Hawkeyes have dominated the series. Most of the games have been close, but Iowa regularly finds a way to win this game. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell has not yet beaten Iowa. This is his big chance. Keep in mind that the two teams did not play last year because of the pandemic. The mental dynamics of this game might have been interrupted by the lack of a meeting in 2020. It’s really hard to say how all these background circumstances will shape this year’s new matchup. Iowa, though, has to feel supremely confident about its ability to win.
Utah Utes at BYU Cougars
Odds: Utah -7
The Utes have won the last nine meetings in the rivalry referred to as the Holy War. BYU’s last win in the series came in 2009. The teams did not play in 2014 or last year. BYU is without Zach Wilson, and the Cougars’ offense definitely looked well below par last weekend in a narrow and uncomfortable win over a not-very-good Arizona team. This is definitely Utah’s game to lose, but BYU’s defense is strong and could make this game tricky for Utah.
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Colorado Buffaloes (in Denver)
NCAA Odds: Texas A&M -17
The Texas A&M offense was sluggish in Week 1. It will need to be a lot better in Week 2 versus a Colorado defense that played well in Week 1 versus Northern Colorado. Of course, Northern Colorado is nowhere close to Texas A&M. This game feels like a contest that will be close in the first half, and then A&M pulls away late. Halftime adjustments could loom large in this game.