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Ohio State rises to No. 3 in the latest Amway Coaches Poll
USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg breaks down the latest Amway Coaches Poll.
Halloween week usually provides some treats for college football fans. The lineup this year isn’t bad, but the bigger games appear to be still to come.
Having said that, of course, there is always the possibility of this wild and wacky sport delivering a few tricks.
Here are the five games with the most potential impact on the playoff hunt.
No. 3 Ohio State at No. 17 Penn State
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
The lone clash of ranked teams on this week’s slate isn’t the top-10 showdown most anticipated, but it remains a key contest in the Big Ten East. The Nittany Lions are already in a hole after last week’s stunning setback at Indiana. That is of little import to the Buckeyes, whose bigger goals are well in reach.
Ohio State QB Justin Fields didn’t disappoint in his 2020 debut against Nebraska, throwing just one incompletion while accounting for three touchdowns. Penn State DE Shaka Toney will try to get him out of rhythm, but the PSU defense must also keep RBs Master Teague III and Trey Sermon in check. Nittany Lions QB Sean Clifford was quite productive by land and air, but he and his teammates made just enough mistakes to allow the Hoosiers to stick around to make the overtime upset possible. He’ll need TE Pat Freiermuth to help occupy Pete Werner and the rest of Ohio State’s active LB corps.
Boston College at No. 1 Clemson
Saturday, noon ET, ABC
As dominant as the Tigers have been in the ACC of late, they seem to have at least one game in each season in which they struggle to put away an overmatched opponent. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Clemson might have gotten that game out of its system last week against Syracuse. But if the Tigers are peeking ahead to next week’s showdown with Notre Dame, BC could be troublesome.
Clemson got a major shock two days before the game with the announcement QB Trevor Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19. That makes true freshman D.J. Uiagalelei the starter. He can rely on talented RB Travis Etienne to carry some of the load. BC QB Phil Jurkovec has 12 TD passes himself this season, but with only sporadic ground support he needs time to operate. DE Myles Murphy and the active Tigers’ front won’t allow him much.
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Texas at No. 6 Oklahoma State
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, Fox
The Cowboys passed a major test by staving off Iowa State to keep their record unblemished. They don’t get much of a break against the Longhorns, who can still be formidable despite having a couple of losses.
Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders had a solid return from an ankle injury, running for a score in addition to a TD throw. The Texas defense he’ll be facing, featuring LBs Joseph Ossai and Juwan Mitchell, has taken its lumps but is coming off its best performance of the Big 12 campaign, keeping Baylor in neutral for three quarters while building a comfortable lead. Longhorns QB Sam Ehlinger had a solid outing himself, but he could still use more ground support. LB Malcolm Rodriguez will lead the Cowboys’ efforts to see that he doesn’t get it.
Arkansas at No. 8 Texas A&M
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC
Arkansas might just be the toughest remaining opponent on the Aggies’ schedule, and Alabama’s as well for that matter. That sentence would have seemed nonsensical at this time last year, but the Razorbacks have been the SEC’s most surprising team. A&M, which has a huge win against Florida in the bank and might still harbor playoff hopes, must be ready.
Both teams should be rested after scheduled bye weeks. Arkansas was last seen using its vastly improved defense, anchored by LB Grant Morgan, to shut down the same Ole Miss team that put up 48 points against the aforementioned Crimson Tide. Aggies QB Kellen Mond has been making better use of his weapons of late, and he’ll need to be efficient again. QB Feleipe Franks has increased the competency of the Razorbacks’ offense as well, though he can still be prone to the kinds of mistakes that plagued him at times when he was at Florida. Aggies DE DeMarvin Leal will look to force a few more miscues from him.
Memphis at No. 7 Cincinnati
Saturday, noon ET, ESPN
Last season, it was Memphis that won the American Athletic Conference title and played in a major bowl. The Bearcats are hoping to be that team this year. With a few breaks, that might also mean a playoff spot. But Cincinnati must avoid thinking too far ahead. The Tigers, after all, still have designs on another AAC crown with just one league loss to date.
It might be time to recognize Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder as a true star in the league after his 91-yard run helped put away previously unbeaten SMU. He makes good use of RB Gerrid Doaks, which could help neutralize DE O’Bryan Goodson, the Tigers’ best playmaker in opposing backfields. Memphis QB Brady White is a more prolific passer who can easily keep pace if a track meet develops. His primary weapons are WR Calvin Austin and TE Sean Dykes, who will keep LB Jarell White and the Bearcats’ back seven busy.