Around the Nation
1. Not sure the conferences planned it this way, but the B1G-ACC Challenge appears to have spilled over from the court to the gridiron going off this weekend’s slate, and, frankly, the matchups are pretty damn good. Iowa hosts Pittsburgh Saturday night and Purdue entertains Virginia Tech late Saturday afternoon on B1G turf, but the feature games, really, truly, get going at lunchtime when Illinois visits North Carolina at noon and No. 23 Northwestern takes the field at Duke a half hour later. The homestanding Tobacco Road neighbors, basketball royalty in the ACC, represent the first real tests for both Land of Lincoln schools this fall. Should the Illini, which outscored (much) lesser competition 96-3 in two wins to start the season, prevail they may not join Northwestern in the rankings (that is, if it wins anyway), but they may have a new “official” head coach with Bill Cubit having the “interim” tagged removed. The former OC has pumped life into a team that could have deflated before the season’s first snap when Tim Beckman was let go a week before the opener. A win in Chapel Hill pretty much would cement Cubit as the right man to remain in the job for the long haul.
2. If ticket prices are any indication, expect Saturday night’s matchup between foundering Big Ten programs Rutgers and Penn State to be every bit as entertaining as No. 14 Georgia Tech at No. 8 Notre Dame, with new QB DeShone Kizer under a massive microscope. Both games are going for $86 a pop on StubHub. You have to wonder if that’s merely price-gouging in Happy Valley (oh, the humanity) … almost as much as you have to wonder how the former is being played in prime time and the latter is not.
3. Then again, something actually might be brewing with that “trend” in tonight’s ACC tilt in Chestnut Hill, Mass. You can check out unranked Boston College hosting No. 9 Florida State for $95, and you just might see the season’s biggest upset to date (sorry, Arkansas) unfold right before your eyes. Keep in mind, the Eagles played top-ranked FSU to a standstill last November in Tallahassee, losing just 20-17. Under Steve Addazio, they have become one of the most physical teams in the nation.
4. The feeling here is that Brigham Young’s late-game heroics of Weeks 1 and 2 will be a no-show this time around as the 19th-ranked Cougars visit No. 10 UCLA. Keep it quiet for now, but Jim Mora might have himself a playoff-bound group of Bruins this season, led by freshman QB Josh Rosen. For those who truly enjoy college football, take advantage of the 10:30 p.m. EST start and check out the proceedings on Fox Sports1.
5. Fourth-ranked Michigan State recorded the most recognized signature victory of the season thus far, topping then-No. 7 Oregon last week. Playing Air Force and its unconventional offensive attack really could have been a problem had a game been scheduled between the Spartans and Falcons in Colorado Springs, say, on Saturday night. But it’ll be played in Lansing at noon Saturday. Crises averted. Probably.