Saturday Night’s EssentialsHere’s a look at what must be considered before wagering on Saturday's slate in select FBS vs. FBS matchups:
Primetime MatchupsOregon (-10.5/58) at Stanford, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: After getting crushed by UCF thousands of miles from home, the Cardinal will attempt to recover on the Farm as they attempt to avoid what would be the first three-game losing streak of the David Shaw era and first at the school since Jim Harbaugh closed out a 5-7 run in 2008 by getting blown out by Cal. QB K.J. Costello returned last week but will need to get back in sync and probably isn’t 100 percent. The Cardinal defense has been carved up by the passing game, which bodes well for Oregon’s Justin Herbert to put together a big game after carving up Nevada and Montana following an uneven start against Auburn. He’s thrown for 11 touchdowns and hasn’t been intercepted yet. He’s looking to avoid going 0-3 against Stanford in his career and will need to hold up well against the most pressure he’s seen in weeks while improving on a shaky history playing on the road. The Ducks melted in an eventual 38-31 OT loss at home last season and have injury concerns with center Jake Hanson likely out and the offensive line struggling. The Cardinal also have issues due to injuries and youth up front, which means this could be a sloppy, penalty-filled game.
Oklahoma State at Texas (-7/73), 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC: The Cowboys have averaged 49.3 points despite their third starting QB in as many years and are 3-0 again, but they’ve dropped Game 4 each of the last two seasons in the Big 12 opener. This isn’t a Groundhog Day scenario since OSU was a heavy favorite at home against TCU and Texas Tech in those losses and is a road ‘dog here, but it is similar in that Mike Gundy’s latest team has dominated overmatched foes and is about to face a serious test. Redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders remains ahead of Hawai’I transfer Dru Brown on the depth chart despite his inconsistency and will have to grow up in a hurry to pull off an upset in Austin. The Cowboys have two of the nation’s most dynamic weapons in Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace, so the Longhorns will get tested if Sanders rises to the occasion. Texas has a few injury concerns with safety DeMarvion Overshown and DB BJ Foster ruled out, so depth issues in the back continue. Top WR Collin Johnson will be a game-time call with a hamstring issue.
Nebraska (-10.5/57.5) at Illinois, 8 p.m. ET, BTN: The ‘Huskers have yet to win outside of Memorial Stadium since Scott Frost took the helm, having squandered a 17-0 halftime edge in Boulder earlier this month in an eventual 34-31 OT loss. Lovie Smith has his deepest team at Illinois since taking over but failed to get to 3-0 after a 34-31 loss to Eastern Michigan last week. The Illini hasn’t won their Big Ten opener since beating Nebraska at home in 2015 and are confident that history can repeat since Michigan transfer Brandon Peters has been so effective. It’s likely that Illinois will have to score to take down Nebraska since it enters this game banged up on defense. The Illini is averaging 34.7 points per game, two points fewer than the ‘Huskers.
Notre Dame at Georgia (-12/55), 8 p.m. ET, CBS: The Fighting Irish will either emerge as a national title contender with a monumental upset in Athens or play their big games against USC and Michigan with decisively less fanfare down the road. Kirby Smart has presented it as an opportunity for the Dawgs to flex muscle and show out at home to be forever remembered for waxing Notre Dame on its one trip to little old Georgia. For the Irish, as the spread indicates, this is one swing as a double-digit underdog to hope you can catch UGA on a rough night. They’ll get TE Cole Kmet back after breaking his collarbone last month, so Ian Book will have three of his top targets from a year ago in place with WRs Chase Claypool and Chris Finke getting comfortable. After a 30-3 loss to Clemson in their most recent meeting with a big boy, the Irish have a lot to prove. Georgia looks every bit the heavyweight it was projected to be and should have WRs Demetris Roberson and Tyler Simmons available after missing last weekend’s win at Arkansas State. QB Jake Fromm has been close to perfect and helped freshman Dominick Blaylock have a coming-out party last week.
Late-night SnacksColorado at Arizona State (-7.5/48.5), 10 p.m. ET, Pac-12: The Buffs stumbled against Air Force at home in OT last week and now look to get back on track in Tempe, where the Herm Edwards is looking for a spark from a rejuvenated fan base that needs to provide a boost considering Washington Stats, USC, Oregon and rival Arizona all come through Sun Devil Stadium in 2019. After rallying past Michigan State in East Lansing, ASU will count on its defense to try and contain the spectacular Laviska Shenault. Arizona State needs true freshman QB Jayden Daniels to continue maturing but will have to be wary of traps Colorado head coach Mel Tucker is sure to set. The Buffs hope that facing a more conventional offense after consecutive games against Nebraska and Air Force can help it settle in on the road.
Utah State (-4/53) at San Diego State, 10:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN: Jordan Love threw for 416 yards as an upset bid against Wake Forest fell just short in Utah State’s season opener in Winston-Salem, doomed in part due to three interceptions that ultimately cost his team. The Aztecs and Aggies were picked to finish second in their respective Mountain West divisions behind Fresno and Boise, so this is an important opener for both. San Diego State shut down UCLA in a mild upset but struggled offensively against FCS squad Weber State and lightweight New Mexico State. SDSU has yet to allow a point in the second and fourth quarters of their wins. Gary Andersen called the Aztecs maybe the best defense in the country. Utah State has lost the teams’ two meetings as conference foes by a combined margin of 88-27 and have dropped 10 straight in the series dating back 50 years.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA
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