Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:02 AM

College Essentials - Week 6

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Be sure to set your alarm clocks for Saturday morning because the top college football matchup on tap this week kicks off bright and early. Since the resurgent Longhorns come into their annual rivalry game with Oklahoma streaking and the rest of the card is light on a true blockbuster, all eyes should be on the Red River Showdown. Even if they’re bleary from partying at the center bar too late on Friday, make sure you’re tuned in to the action in Dallas. Here are Saturday’s top contests.

Oklahoma vs. Texas, 12 p.m. ET, ABC: Tom Herman has won four consecutive games with the Longhorns for the first time – he didn’t win more than two straight last season – and can match Texas’ longest run since Mack Brown’s final year at the helm back in ’13 if he can pull off an upset here. Defense has keyed the success, surrendering just over 16 points per game during the win streak after looking terrible in a 34-29 setback against Maryland to open the season. Although USC and TCU have been victims, both have had issues with consistency due to youth, so this will be a far tougher test considering the Sooners are averaging a touchdown roughly every nine plays they run.

Oklahoma is averaging 48.6 points and scored nine touchdowns in 14 drives against Baylor, racking up school records in passing yards per completion (25.17), attempt (18.78) and single-game team passer rating (317.77). OU has only played one above-average defense thus far this season (Iowa State), so this will be a challenge for Kyler Murray as he looks to quarterback Oklahoma to its fourth win in five games in this series.

Notre Dame at Virginia Tech, 8 p.m. ET, NBC: Although their puzzling loss to Old Dominion puts a slight damper on this one, the fact Virginia Tech rallied behind its backup to defeat Duke last week has me encouraged that this could be a fun contest. They’re unveiling a statue of the legendary Frank Beamer in Blacksburg this weekend, so the atmosphere at Lane Stadium is going to be electric. With apologies to Wake Forest, this will be the first true road test for the Irish, who have played all their games in South Bend except for their lopsided win in Winston-Salem two weeks ago. That doubled as sophomore QB Ian Book’s first start, a move that has made Brian Kelly look awfully smart since the offense has looked much sharper with the better passer in there ahead of junior Brandon Wimbush.

It will be interesting to see how quick Kelly’s hook is for Book should he struggle and a more experienced hand is needed. The Hokies won the only meeting between these schools two seasons ago at Notre Dame and will need junior Kansas transfer Ryan Willis to pick up where he left off last week in Durham to have a shot at an upset here. Although he’s not the runner Josh Jackson is, Willis showed off a strong accurate arm. Another reason to potentially believe in Virginia Tech is that Bud Foster will have his defense ready to play after being embarrassed at ODU.

LSU at Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2: The Gators responded to its first loss to Kentucky in over three decades by posting road wins at Tennessee and Mississippi State. They’re ready to love Dan Mullen in Gainesville, so pulling off a victory over unbeaten LSU at the Swamp would be a great way to open a month that features games against top East contenders Georgia and Missouri.

LSU gained some confidence with its offensive group putting on a show at home against Ole Miss, getting a tremendous game out of QB Joe Burrow that was very necessary given the four-game stretch that begins with this match up against Florida. The Tigers return to Baton Rouge for home dates with Georgia and Mississippi State before a bye week allows them to prepare for a showdown at Alabama. Points should be hard to come by here.

Auburn at Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC: The other huge SEC clash will be played under the lights in Starkville, where the Bulldogs will hope to bounce back from managing just six points against the Gators in one of the most disappointing results in school history considering how badly the locals wanted to ruin former coach Dan Mullen’s return. Mississippi State has now scored just 13 combined points in losses to Kentucky and the Gators, so new head coach Joe Moorhead’s seat is already warm considering that’s supposed to be his specialty.

Facing Auburn doesn’t offer much of a reprieve considering the unit has been the driving force behind the Tigers’ success all season, ranking eighth in the country against the run and tied for third with Kentucky in points per drive (1.0), which ranks only behind Alabama and North Texas. Auburn comes off a win in which it held Arkansas to just 290 yards of offense and 3-for-17 on third-down conversions, among the finest outings the team has produced under standout defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.

Utah at Stanford, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Cardinal will look to bounce back from a disappointing 38-17 loss at Notre Dame by taking in the comforts of the Farm and reminding players that the Pac-12 title remains within reach since they’ve already defeated Oregon and USC. A visit to Washington will open November and dictate plenty, but it’s worth watching to see how Stanford responds here. David Shaw’s team may have to pick themselves up off the mat without standout RB Bryce Love.

Once the Heisman preseason favorite, Love is dealing with ankle issues that crept up after he found the end zone early in South Bend, so the offense could have to prove it can move the football without the increased attention he receives. Utah came up just short at Washington State last Saturday despite giving up no rushing yards to the pass-happy Cougs in Pullman and is always formidable under Kyle Whittingam, especially since they can run the ball right back at Stanford. Love won't be 100 percent if he does play and may get a night off to make sure the ankle issue doesn't linger, so it isn't shocking to see the number dip.

Florida State at Miami (FL), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC: Redshirt freshman N'Kosi Perry will play in his first one of these, having wrestled the starting spot away from senior Malik Rosier. He's proven to have an accruate arm so far and has invigorated a listless offense as a result of those sharp throws. The 'Noles have struggled against the pass all season but won't have to deal with Ahmmon Richards, who is still out with a bone bruise and may pursue a redshirt. Jeff Thomas has stepped up in his place and makes for a capable deep threat. Running the ball well will be the key to covering this spread since FSU has been stout against the ground game but will face a formidable combination in DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer.

This will be Deondre Francois' second one of these games, having led FSU to 20-19 win in South Florida in 2016 that you may remember since a blocked extra point made the difference. Francois had his best half of the season at Louisville in leading a comeback win, hooking up with Noonie Murray on a big play to pull out a road win. The Noles haven't lost on the road at Miami since 2004, a streak the Canes are eager to snap as a substantial favorite.

San Diego State at Boise State, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU: The Aztecs survived an awful call and OT against Eastern Michigan, but now must prove resilient as they take the field without top RB Juwan Washington for the first time. The seventh-most prolific rusher in the country in yards per game is out over a month due to a broken collarbone, so of course San Diego State’s first test without him would be on the road against unsympathetic Broncos squad. The Broncos won in San Diego as an underdog last season and held future first-round pick Rashaad Penny to just 53 yards, a season-low, which doesn’t bode well for Chase Jasmin to look forward to a very productive debut as a starter in his first game filling in for Washington. Consider that SDSU head coach Rocky Long held Washington out of practices in training camp because he didn’t want to risk him getting injured and you should be able to appreciate that there aren’t many around the program optimistic that his production can be replaced. Jasmin will just have to do his best, and there isn’t much proven depth behind him.

Boise is playing just its second game on its smurf turf this season, having destroyed UConn 62-7 in the home opener. Brett Rypien has won 13 of 14 at Albertsons Stadium after losing the final two games he started as a true freshman. Boise is 59-5 SU over the last decade-plus and will look to keep from being one-dimensional against an Aztecs defense that ranks second in the nation against the run. Stud end Jabril Frazier (head), DT David Moa (calf) and CB Tyler Horton (leg) are all expected to be in the lineup for this key Mountain West clash.

Indiana at Ohio State, 4 p.m. ET, FOX: The Hoosiers will be looking to snap a 23-game losing streak at the hands of the Buckeyes, who will be guarding against a letdown following last week's riveting comeback win at Penn State. An IU squad that comes in winners of four of five may not have receivers Luke Timian and Whop Philyor available.

Ohio State is 43-3 in Columbus under Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes will have RB Mike Weber in the mix despite a foot injury and will have Dre'Mont JOnes, Damon Arnette and Marcus Cooper in the mix to help fill in for absent safety Isaiah Pryor, who is out for the first half due to a targeting call against the Nittany Lions.

Others to watch: Kentucky at Texas A&M, Arizona State at Colorado, Boston College at N.C. State, Iowa State at Oklahoma State, Clemson at Wake Forest, Nebraska at Wisconsin, Vanderbilt at Georgia, Washington at UCLA, Missouri at South Carolina, Northwestern at Michigan State, Maryland at Michigan, Fresno State at Nevada, Cal at Arizona, Navy at Air Force, Iowa at Minnesota, Syracuse at Pitt, Alabama at Arkansas.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]

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