Week 4 marks the conference play grey area where your team’s shift from playing patsy non-conference opponents to Fellow Big School State becomes a little bit more apparent. Of course, this week could bring a bye or that vaguely conference-y match-up (think Cincinnati, BYU, Houston), but chances are the league slate begins in earnest. Which means East Carolina-esque f*ck ups are no longer permitted here.
Here are five of the best games to watch this weekend before it’s almost all conference play next week.
Virginia vs. No. 21 BYU, ESPN: 3:30 p.m.
Color me surprised that Virginia’s 2-1 with a win over a good Louisville squad and a near-win over an underperforming UCLA team. In an entirely believable alternative reality, the Cavaliers could be 3-0 and–dare I say it–ranked, with all the momentum within the putrid ACC Coastal. BYU’s no pushover, though: people think the Cougars, lead by a potent run game and defense, have the best shot outside the Power Five to go undefeated. This match-up, if this season’s short history permits extrapolation, will allow Virginia to continue to play the role of college football buzzkill, impeding or even straight-up stopping what’s considered the better team. A win for either team here looks good on a postseason resume.
Florida vs. No. 3 Alabama, CBS: 3:30 p.m.
About five or six years ago, this would’ve been the regular season’s marquee match-up. Florida under Urban Meyer was the sport’s paragon, Alabama’s early Nick Saban years the emerging dynasty. That script flipped once Meyer’s head imploded and Saban took the 2009 SEC Championship in a curb-stomping. In the two games since then (the last coming in 2011), Florida’s lost to the Crimson Tide by an average of 26.5 points. Ouch. Although Florida looks improved and ‘Bama looks slightly flawed, there’s the chance this game mirrors that exact pro-Alabama scoring differential. But in the case that it doesn’t–and especially in the case that the Gators come out the victors–consider it another swing in this recent rivalry’s balance of power.
No. 4 Oklahoma vs. West Virginia, FOX: 7:30 p.m.
West Virginia resembled something akin to a coal mine fire last year. This season, they’ve looked the opposite, nearly turning the upset against Alabama and looking dominant against Towson and Maryland for about five quarters. Oklahoma’s highly ranked but not necessarily tested: the talented Tennessee team they played last week is about a season away from formidable. Their Big 12 opening opponent will prove the better test to their top-5 spot. They’ll have to cover West Virginia’s high-flying (and Big 12 archetypical) offense, shutting down quarterback Clint Trickett and receivers Kevin White and Mario Alford. The Sooners’ No. 8-ranked points-against standing might be in jeopardy here, but their offense seems ready for a shoot-out.
No. 22 Clemson vs. No. 1 Florida State, ABC: 8:00 p.m.
Since Jameis Winston’s an idiot, he’ll be sitting the first half of this game (UPDATE: He’s been suspended for the entire game). Clemson might as well get as many points as they can before he returns. Disregarding their blowout win against South Carolina State, the Tigers looked absolutely pedestrian against their other opponent to date, Georgia, letting Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley gash them for 293 all-purpose yards. And their defense was supposed to carry them this season. True, it was Clemson’s first game, but what’s to prevent an explosive FSU offense (that’s almost exactly the same as it was in the Seminoles’ 51-14 win last season) from crapping all over the Tigers, too? Also, the game’s in Tallahassee. Have fun, Tigers fans.
Miami vs. No. 24 Nebraska, ESPN2: 8:00 p.m.
This is the other game available to watch at 8 p.m., and it’s only recommended for fans of slumping 1980s powerhouses, Floridians who aren’t Seminoles fans and Nebraskans.