It is really hard to believe that it is week ten already! What a crazy season it has been so far!
The uncertainty of which teams will do well early in the year, which led to a lot of “Games to watch” being unexpectedly lopsided…is replaced by a smaller group of compelling games, as the divisional races all hit the homestretch.
Here are the games to watch this weekend:
1. Georgia Southern at #20 Appalachian State (Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPNU)
A Thursday special, for it is “Deeper Than Hate” week and a bitter rivalry game between two solid teams. See my article on the “Five Rivalry Games to Watch ” for more general information.
Appalachian State has reached new heights both for themselves and for the Sun Belt in October. With their first ranked win, the Mountaineers are firmly in the running for the G5 NY6 spot.
Standing in their way, both for that and within the Sun Belt, is their biggest rival on a short week.
The good news for GaSo is they are the last team to defeat Appalachian State. The good news for the Mountaineers is they have won the last five meetings in Boone.
2. Arkansas State at Louisiana-Monroe (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU)
Lost in the talk of Appalachian State, unless within Sun Belt circles, is the three-horse race for the West Division. This game is picked because more is at stake for both teams.
For the Warhawks, they come into it with an extra week of preparation after a blowout loss to App State. A win here keeps them in the running, and steps closer to setting the stage for a huge showdown against Louisiana at the end of the season. A loss, and they lose control of their destiny, making the rest of the season a win-out situation.
For the Red Wolves, despite losing their starting quarterback and all the trials they have encountered this season, they still have a shot at making it to the championship game. However, this is a must-win, as they have already lost to Louisiana and would have very little hope left with no tiebreaker advantages if they lose in Monroe.
3. Florida Atlantic at Western Kentucky (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN+)
On one side is a team that went from barely beating Ball State to a pretty dominant start in conference play. On the other side is a team that started with a loss to an FCS school at home, only to now be within range of bowling.
The two things they have in common: They both have a conference loss to Marshall, and they both have a chance to be knocked out of contention with a loss here.
The Hilltoppers are fresh off that loss, so they will likely have a bigger chip on their shoulder. But the Owls steamrolled Old Dominion last week, and have the momentum to maintain a winning streak. This is the game to watch in C-USA this weekend!
4. #15 SMU at #24 Memphis (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC)
Yes, you read that right. A ranked AAC West showdown, at the Liberty Bowl, is on primetime television! At the time of writing (Monday afternoon), it is also the likely place of College GameDay as well, for the first time ever!!!
Not only are the G5 NY6 implications incredible in this game, which could explain the exposure, but this could change the course of the AAC West for the season.
SMU comes into this needing to prove they are the real deal, as two of their last three wins have been nail biters against lesser conference teams.
They have their best start in 40+ years, but this is their toughest test yet. The fighting Shane Buecheles cannot afford a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit in Memphis.
The Tigers, on the other hand, did prove that the bitter loss to Temple was a fluke by demolishing Tulane at home last week to get back into the rankings and the conversation in the AAC.
They also already have the tiebreaker over Navy, so another big home win in primetime would put Memphis in the driver’s seat for the AAC Championship spot.
5. #21 Boise State at San Jose State (Saturday, 10:30, CBSSN)
I know what you may be thinking. Why is a game where the Broncos are favored by 16 and the Spartans are out of MWC contention included in this list.
I’ll give a couple of reasons:
Boise State was also greatly favored over BYU, and the loss of Hank and not being at home proved to be too much.
San Jose State may have already lost to San Diego State and Nevada to practically eliminate them from championship conversation, but they lost those games by a combined 13 points and are fresh off a decisive victory over Army on the road.
Boise State, while still in the driver’s seat in the strong MWC Mountain Division, is low on the crowded list of competitors for the NY6 spot. A win here could right the ship, a loss could lead to pandemonium in the division and elimination from NY6.
Was the bye week enough for the Broncos, or will the Spartans play spoiler?
Honorable Mention: Fresno State at Hawai’i (Saturday, 11:59 p.m., Stadium’s Facebook page)
While the Mountain Division has three teams one game back of Boise State, the West really only has two competitors left for San Diego State, and you are looking at them during an SDSU bye week.
Fresno State was the favorite to repeat the division yet again, but got off to a clumsy and disheartening start. They are looking up of late, dominating UNLV at home and now fresh off a much-needed bye, but they likely have to win out to have a shot.
With games against Utah State and San Diego State on the horizon, they can take second place with a win in Hawai’i.
Meanwhile, the Rainbow Warriors have the opposite issue. They started off strong with big wins and only a loss to a ranked Washington team. But since their bye they have been hot and cold, two blistering wins over Nevada and New Mexico sandwiching two lopsided losses to Boise State and Air Force.
Fans likely hope that having four of their last five games at home, including this one, facilitates a strong end to the season. But much like for Fresno, another loss here removes Hawai’i from championship game conversation.
This is a must-win game, and it is #MWCAFTERDARK. What’s not to love?
Northern Illinois at Central Michigan (Saturday, Noon, CBSSN)
All of the divisional leaders in the MAC are off this weekend, and probably the only two teams doing close to what was expected of them faceoff here.
The Huskies, with a first-year head coach, have been better than their record shows, as before their drubbing of Akron they had four consecutive games be within a touchdown, going 1-3 in those. Not many expected a repeat championship, but there is much to be hopeful for in DeKalb.
When CMU lost in Kalamazoo, I wrote them off, as I (and many) were expecting the Broncos to run away with the West. Instead, the Chippewas head here with a three-game winning streak and the two Michigan teams are tied for second behind Ball State instead. The added bonus of the fresh bye week could be the difference-maker for CMU in Mt. Pleasant.