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Mike Lopresti | | October 6, 2022

11 can't-miss Week 6 college football games that have familiar faces in surprising places

College football rankings: Alabama returns to No. 1 in latest AP poll

The new photos from another college football planet are just in from NASA’s Webb telescope, and they’re stunning. In that alien Big 12, Texas is playing Oklahoma with neither team ranked, while ESPN's College GameDay is in Lawrence to chronicle the mighty Kansas Jayhawks’ showdown with TCU, who just mashed the Okies by more than four touchdowns.

In another astonishing image from space, Texas A&M — who the astronomical tables say was supposed to be a top-10 threat all set to further annoy Nick Saban this week — is instead limping along down in the also-received-votes section, just below Coastal Carolina and Tulane.

Wait a second. That’s not a different galaxy, all that’s here on Earth. Which is why this week’s Moments of Truth list includes some rather odd items.

Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama

This was to be the coaching AEW moment of the season, with Jimbo Fisher and Saban — partners in summer quote combat — finally back on the same field again. Come Saturday, it will be 364 days since the Aggies ambushed the Tide in College Station, the first time Saban had ever lost to a former assistant at Alabama. Then came the offseason war of words, and a deliciously heated rivalry seemed at hand that would make Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler proud. Everyone had October 8 underlined in Tuscaloosa. But the season began and Texas A&M lost to Appalachian State and Mississippi State, and the offense slid to 108th in the nation in its ability to score points and now much of the attention has been on the unease about the state of the Aggies’ program and Fisher’s long and gilded contract. Also, on if Alabama will have its Heisman quarterback Saturday, with Bryce Young nursing a shoulder injury.

Still, the past tension between the coaches and the Tide’s deep desire for revenge will be hard to miss Saturday night. During his time at Alabama, Saban is 19-2 in games against teams that beat him the previous meeting. He’s also 95-5 at home since 2008. None of that looks good for Texas A&M, but the Aggies have beaten two then-ranked opponents in Arkansas and Miami. And there would be no faster way for Fisher to change the narrative about his program — and ruin Nick Saban’s month — than pull off a shocker. In outer space parlance, that’s asking for the moon.

UNDEFEATED: Tracking every undefeated FBS team

Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas

They don’t make Red River Showdowns the way they used to. For one, both teams have one cleat out the Big 12 door to the SEC. For another, Saturday is the first time this century the Longhorns and Sooners meet with neither team ranked, and only the 13th occasion since the AP poll was born in 1936. Good news for Texas, though. The Longhorns went 10-1-1 in the other 12.

Not that it still can’t be entertaining. It certainly was last year, when Oklahoma gave Texas a 38-20 head start at halftime, then stormed back to win 55-48. The Longhorns are not far away from a great early record, having lost by a combined four points to Alabama and Texas Tech. But what about the Oklahoma defense that in the past two weeks coughed up 41 points at home to Kansas State and 55 at TCU? Both teams are on defense a lot, since Texas is 123rd in the nation in time of possession, and Oklahoma is 126th. And there is quarterback uncertainty surrounding both sides. Rankings or not, this will accomplish what rivalries do: The loser will feel lousy.

No. 17 TCU at No. 19 Kansas

Nothing says a high-stakes Big 12 moment like the team picked to finish seventh in the league visiting the team picked to finish last. Kansas has never hosted College GameDay before. Not for football, anyway. But this season long ago veered off the normal road for the 5-0 Jayhawks. Saturday will be the first October game between unbeatens in their stadium since 1960.

Kansas’ magic spell might be in peril with what the Horned Frogs can do on offense. They’re tied for second in the nation in scoring at 48.5 points a game and come off a fireworks show against Oklahoma when they had four touchdowns of 62 yards or longer. Max Duggan leads the nation in pass efficiency with his 74.5 completion percentage and 11 touchdowns to go with no interceptions. Then again, Kansas’ Jalon Daniels is seventh in efficiency and also tops the Jayhawks in rushing.

But here is the surest sign of a renaissance at Kansas: The fans suddenly have to be worried sick about losing their coach. Lance Leipold has worked wonders, but he has strong past ties to Wisconsin, and the Badgers suddenly have a vacancy and... well, you know what often happens next.

GAMEDAY:  Locations, all-time appearances, most times hosting and more for College GameDay

No. 11 Utah at No. 18 UCLA

The Utes will find out much about their season the next two weeks with the southern California portion of their schedule, visiting UCLA in the Rose Bowl, then going home to play Southern California. Get through that with two wins and the Pac-12 title will start to look very large on their radar screen.

The Bruins should know all about Utah. They’ve lost to the Utes five meetings in a row, mostly by committing 15 turnovers in those games while forcing only four. A win would give 5-0 UCLA its best start in 17 years. Since Utah and UCLA are 1-2 in the Pac-12 in total defense, it probably won’t be a track meet.

🗓SCHEDULE: Click or tap here for game times, TV channels and scores from every game

No. 8 Tennessee at No. 25 LSU

The Volunteers haven’t been ranked this highly in 16 years, but now comes the hard part. This trip to foreboding Death Valley begins a five-week trial by heavy fire that also includes Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia. LSU is hardly a simple appetizer for the main course. Tennessee hasn’t beaten the Tigers in 17 years, losing five in a row.

Can the Vols’ rollicking offense keep them intact through such tall trees? Tennessee leads the nation in total offense and has scored on all 22 trips into the red one, 19 of them with touchdowns. Quarterback Hendon Hooker has a mind-boggling 44-2 touchdown-interception ratio since he became a starter has not been picked off in his past 212 attempts. But then poise comes with age. At 24 years, eight months and 25 days this Saturday, he’s the oldest starting quarterback in Tennessee history.

Brian Kelly’s first coaching lap at LSU is going quite nicely as the Tigers followed the 24-23 opener loss with four wins by a combined score of 155-50. They might be a blocked PAT away from being 5-0. They have owned the second half, outscoring Mississippi State 24-3 after halftime. The defense has not allowed a point in 14 consecutive second-half possessions. Like Hooker, quarterback Jayden Daniels has not yet been intercepted, meaning the two quarterbacks in this game have thrown a combined 244 passes this season without a blemish. In other words, Tennessee won’t be looking ahead to Alabama the following week.

No. 3 Ohio State at Michigan State

Yes, the Spartans have lost three in a row and vanished from sight in the polls. Yes, Ohio State has scored 45, 77, 52 and 49 points its past four games. Yes, the Buckeyes have beaten Michigan State six times in a row by an average margin of 38-9. Yes, Ohio State leads the nation in scoring offense while the Spartans are 88th, and 11th in total defense while Michigan State is tied for 100th. So why might this not be your garden variety rout for the Buckeyes, and actually test them a tad?

Two reasons. Ohio State opened with five home games. It is the second week of October and the Buckeyes are finally breaking out the white uniforms, and sometimes unforeseen things happen on the road for the first time. Also, the Spartans have this curious habit of being a real pain. They have upset a top-five Ohio State team five times.

But yes, they’ll need more than history Saturday in East Lansing.

🏟: Great, odd and downright screwball moments in 100 years of Ohio Stadium history

No. 16 BYU vs. Notre Dame in Las Vegas

With no conference title to play for this season — that’ll soon change as they head for the Big 12 — the Cougars have to stay involved by picking off big names if they want a plush bowl. They haven’t beaten the Irish since 2004. It’s a chance to for Jaren Hall to further show his quarterback wares — he’s topped 250 yards in passing nine consecutive games and is 7-2 against Power Five teams — and for BYU to remain its solid self in the bright lights of Las Vegas and the Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium.

The Cougars have only one turnover in five games. Notre Dame would like to get above .500 and grab its biggest win to date. Beat a few ranked teams and maybe people will stop reminding the Irish about Marshall. Here’s another sign of Notre Dame’s eternal marketing appeal: This will be the 26th current or former NFL stadium to host an Irish game.

Auburn at No. 2 Georgia

Auburn finally plays its first road game against a Georgia team likely motivated after being passed by Alabama in the polls following a close call with Missouri and some ragged moments against Kent State. The Bulldogs will want to restore natural order to their season. Plus, the Tigers have to get over blowing a 17-0 lead to LSU. None of that bodes well for Auburn or its head coach Bryan Harsin, who is prominent on the FBS endangered coaches list. There have already been five firings this season.

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Virginia schools named after someone from a long time ago

James Madison got 39 votes in this week’s AP poll, more than hallowed names such as Florida, Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma, Miami, Auburn and Texas A&M. If the Dukes keep rolling — starting with a trip to Arkansas State this weekend — they could dent the top 25 for the first time in history. Defense is their calling card. They lead the nation allowing only 217.5 total yards and 46.2 rushing yards, and they have gone 53 consecutive games without the opponent finishing above 50 percent in third down conversions.

William & Mary, No. 17 in the FCS coaches poll, has some heavy lifting for homecoming with No. 6 Delaware. The Tribe’s 4-1 record includes a 3-0 start on the road for the first time in 36 years. This starts a brutal stretch run with four of their last six games against ranked opponents.

William & Mary has hopes in the NFL, too. One Tribe alum has already been a Super Bowl champion coach; Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin. Buffalo’s Sean McDermott might get there soon. Another renowned alum is Thomas Jefferson, but he didn’t coach football.

Randolph-Macon, named after a couple of Virginia and North Carolina statesmen, is 4-0 and has climbed to No. 16 in the coaches’ Division III poll. They Yellow Jackets have scored at least 41 points in every game this year and are thrashing their opponents by an average score of 46-13. They’ll try to keep things rolling at Averett Saturday.

They’ve been playing football at Randolph-Macon since 1881 and pulled off one of the sport’s great strings-pulling feats in 1910. The team was to play for a championship 20 miles away in Richmond, but the faculty didn’t want students missing time for some foolish notion such as a football game and decreed that nobody other than the players could attend. Any offender would be expelled. The team appealed the matter to a higher authority — William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States. Taft gave his support and the faculty bent to White House pressure and changed its mind. No such issue this weekend at Averett.

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