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Week 3 Game Magnitudes

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Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham (Emily Enfinger/eenfinger@oanow.com)

A weekly look at the relative impact of games on team's seasons. It weighs the expected closeness of the game with the expected overall season win totals for the teams involved.

FRIDAY

7:00 - Georgia State at Memphis, ESPN/Watch ESPN - 1.79

Memphis is coming off a frustrating loss in a game they mostly dominated, so an already unlikely win for Georgia State seems that much more unlikely. There's not a lot of intrigue to this game.

SATURDAY

12:00 - Georgia Southern at Clemson, ESPNU - 0.34
12:00 - Middle Tennessee at Georgia, ESPNNEWS - 0.98
12:00 - Oklahoma at Iowa State, ABC - 3.61
12:00 - Kent State at Penn State, FS1 - 0.13
12:00 - Miami at Toledo, ESPN 2 - 4.43
12:00 - Rhode Island at Connecticut, ESPN3 - 0.52
12:00 - Hawaii at Army, CBS Sports - 3.29
12:00 - Troy at Nebraska, Big Ten Network - 4.14
12:00 - FSU at Syracuse, ESPN - 3.20
12:00 - Rutgers at Kansas - 3.31
12:00 - Ball State at Indiana, Big Ten Network - 1.76
12:00 - Temple at Maryland, Big Ten Network - 4.58
12:00 - Murray State at Kentucky, SEC Network - 0.06
12:00 - UTEP at Tennessee, SEC Network - 0.75

National contenders Clemson, Georgia, and Penn State all play in near-certain wins. Non-contenders Connecticut, Kentucky, and Tennessee do as well. You have some games important to the teams playing simply because wins may be hard to come by, games that include the in-state non-rivalry in Indiana and the pillowfight in Kansas. Oklahoma's road trip has some intrigue simply because we've seen national title hopes unexpectedly die before on road trips to Ames, but the Sooners should handle their business. Hawaii is unexpectedly 3-0 and turning into one of the mid-major stories of the year, so it'll be interesting to see how they handle one of the longest possible road trips in college football against an atypical offense. My Game Magnitude Metric does factor in past results as far as expected wins for the season, but those results aren't yet factored into the single game win probabilities going forward. This makes me distrust the Temple/Maryland Game Magnitude; both teams have bucked expectations a bit so far, and they're headed in opposite directions. Syracuse plays an enjoyable brand of football, and FSU nearly lost a week ago to a similarly spread-minded team, so that one holds some intrigue, although I don't see a particularly high ceiling for either team this year.

That leaves us with the two game choices to kick off your Saturday. Troy at Nebraska features an upper-tier G5 team trying to prevent a new prodigal son head coach from getting his first victory. That's your backup game, because you should start your Saturday by watching the Miami Hurricanes take a road trip to Toledo. My apologies to Savannah State, but this will be Miami's first opportunity to really put that ugly week 1 loss to LSU behind them. This could be one of the biggest games to take place at the Glass Bowl. The last ranked team to come to Toledo was Missouri in 2014, and Toledo is probably better equipped today for an upset than it was then. Bill's S&P+ favors the Rockets here, and it'd be a big moment for that program if they pull off the win.

12:30 - Georgia Tech at Pitt, ACC Network - 4.21

I could see either team winning, which means this could be important for bowl eligibility, and there's even an outside chance this could matter to the ACC Coastal race, because that division is often so weird. I'd stick with Miami/Toledo here, but I might keep this one in mind as an alternate if either of the 12:00 picks becomes uninteresting.

1:00 - Tulane at UAB - 4.60

This strikes me as a must-win game for Tulane's bowl eligibility. How much that matters is certainly debatable, but this game should matter to the Green Wave.

2:00 - UC Davis at Stanford, Pac 12 Network - 0.16

Nothing notable to see here, as Stanford gets a low-risk tune-up game.

2:30 - Vanderbilt at Notre Dame, NBC - 1.24

In preseason, I would have imagined this would be a blowout, and Game Magnitude reflects that. However, Vandy has outscored its G5 opponents 76-17 so far, and Notre Dame outscored its G5 opponent (Ball State) 24-16. We really don't have a large enough sample yet to know if the real Notre Dame is last week's iteration or the version that beat Michigan 24-17. We also don't really know what Michigan or Ball State is, either. But suffice to say, this matchup is more intriguing today than it seemed it would be a month ago.

3:30 - BYU at Wisconsin, ABC - 1.67
3:30 - LSU at Auburn, CBS - 4.42
3:30 - Boise State at Oklahoma State, ESPN - 7.05
3:30 - SMU at Michigan, Big Ten Network - 1.32
3:30 - South Florida vs. Illinois (Soldier Field), Big Ten Network - 4.01
3:30 - Duke at Baylor, FS1 - 6.61
3:30 - Lehigh at Navy, CBS Sports - 0.32
3:30 - Central Michigan at Northern Illinois, ESPN+ - 1.86
3:30 - Miami OH at Minnesota, Big Ten Network - 4.54

Navy, NIU, Michigan, and Wisconsin should all be in for relatively easy victories. Minnesota's seems less certain to me, but it should still be a somewhat unimportant Gopher victory. South Florida heads to Soldier Field, which is neat for them, but Illinois should be less of a threat to the Bulls than Georgia Tech was a week ago. You may have noticed the Duke/Baylor metric, as this was expected to be a coin-flip game in the preseason. After their solid win over Northwestern, I'm a bit more confident in the Blue Devils now, so while I do think this game is important to two teams that could very well be fighting for bowl eligibility deep into November, I'm bypassing it for other games.

I think Game Magnitude is underselling Auburn/LSU a bit simply because preseason projections weren't expecting LSU to have found a QB. The Bayou Bengals, with their dominance of Miami, re-inserted themselves into the SEC West discussion, and this suddenly seems like a pivotal game. LSU was the only SEC team to beat Auburn in the regular season last year, and the cumulative score over the last two seasons is 41-40. You'll get to see two great defenses and boatloads of NFL talent going in a close game that matters. It would take an awfully fun game for me to ignore this for some stretch of time.

Luckily, that's what Boise State's trip to Oklahoma State should be. Boise has outscored opponents 118-27 so far. Oklahoma State has outscored opponents 113-30. The Broncos' dismantling of Troy set off alarms in my head a couple of weeks ago. There's a chance that game was mere evidence that Troy was bound to disappoint us this year, but the more likely culprit was that the blue turf Death Star was once again fully operational. It's been a while since we've seen a fully realized Boise, and it's easy to forget how terrifying that can be. I'm not declaring Boise back, but the evidence so far is strong, and if that's the case, we're in for a wonderful shootout in Stillwater. While LSU/Auburn is more likely to impact the national title race at year's end, the game on ESPN has huge non-conference implications for two fringe playoff contenders, and more importantly, it should be a hell of a lot of fun.

4:00 - UTSA at Kansas State - 2.32
4:00 - Wofford at Wyoming - 0.74
4:00 - Eastern Kentucky at Bowling Green, ESPN3 - 0.36
4:00 - Colorado State at Florida, SEC Network - 2.01
4:00 - North Texas at Arkansas, SEC Network - 3.51

Wyoming and Bowling Green play FCS squads, so there's nothing interesting there. I don't anticipate Kansas State having a lot of trouble with UTSA, either. Colorado State has been a pretty volatile team so far - I don't think anyone would have predicted a 1-2 start with the win coming against Arkansas. Now they take on another SEC team in a head coach's year 1, one that has already disappointed fans this September. I think the Gators take care of business, but both these teams have been relatively unpredictable so far. I do think the North Texas/Arkansas game has some sneaky good appeal, but it's not really all that important. Arkansas probably isn't going to do big things this year, and while a UNT win would be major for the program, it's not one they really need.

4:15 - Houston at Texas Tech, FOX - 5.60

A potential shootout on FOX has a lot of watchability. If either 3:30 game disappoints early, give this one a chance. Houston is 2-0 and should be favored in nearly every game going forward. They don't have a great OOC schedule, so how they look against Tech this weekend has a chance to matter in December.

4:30 - Ohio at Virginia, ESPN 2 - 5.88

I could see this being a pretty close game, closer than S&P+'s projected 44-25, and if so, it could be a key game for Virginia's bowl hopes.

5:00 - San Jose State at Oregon, Pac 12 Network - 0.31
5:00 - New Hampshire at Colorado, Pac 12 Network - 0.88

Colorado is more likely to lose to the FCS opponent than Oregon is against a Mountain West team, which means neither of these games is particularly compelling.

6:00 - Idaho State at California, Pac 12 Network - 0.19
6:00 - Bethune-Cookman at Florida Atlantic - 0.09
6:00 - Eastern Michigan at Buffalo, ESPN+ - 6.05

Cal and FAU are in tune-ups, so the only watchable game here is some sneaky good MACtion. Both teams are a somewhat surprising 2-0; Buffalo's surprise win came against Temple, while Eastern Michigan's was against Purdue. Both teams have modest conference aspirations as well, which makes this toss-up quite important for both teams.

7:00 - Alabama at Ole Miss, ESPN - 3.98
7:00 - Texas State at South Alabama, ESPN+ - 2.95
7:00 - Delaware State at Western Michigan, ESPN+ - 0.06
7:00 - Arkansas State at Tulsa, CBS Sports - 4.04
7:00 - Alabama A&M at Cincinnati, ESPN3 - 0.07
7:00 - Oregon State at Nevada, ESPN U - 3.36

I don't think any of the 7:00 games are must-watch caliber, so as the 3:30 games finish up, I'd probably navigate over to the end of the UH/TTU, Ohio/Virginia, or EMU/Buffalo games. Alabama/Ole Miss has some mild intrigue, because it is Bama and Ole Miss, after staring at a 42-41 3rd quarter lead against Southern Illinois, did wind up with 77 points. Alabama should win easily, but there are athletes at Ole Miss, so it's at least worth monitoring. Arkansas State/Tulsa has the potential to be fun, and Oregon State/Nevada should be close as well.

7:30 - Louisiana at Mississippi State, ESPN 2 - 0.38
7:30 - Northern Iowa at Iowa, Big Ten Network - 0.63
7:30 - Western Kentucky at Louisville, ACC Network - 2.05
7:30 - Missouri at Purdue, Big Ten Network - 4.91
7:30 - UL-Monroe at Texas A&M, SEC Network - 1.26
7:30 - Massachusetts at Florida International - 4.45
7:30 - Akron at Northwestern, Big Ten Network - 1.12

At 7:30, the goal is to just find some way to kill 30 minutes. There are years where WKU/Louisville would be really exciting, but 2018 doesn't appear to be one of those years. UMass' cumulative score this season is 97-104, but the closest game has been a 34-13 loss to Georgia Southern. This weekend's game against FIU should be closer than that. After Purdue's loss to Eastern Michigan, excitement over the Boilermakers has been somewhat quelled, so I'm expecting a Mizzou victory, but you'd get to watch a future NFL quarterback in Drew Lock.

8:00 - Ohio State vs. TCU (AT&T Stadium), ABC - 4.01
8:00 - USC at Texas, FOX - 6.66

8:00 - New Mexico at New Mexico State - 3.87
8:00 - Eastern Washington at Washington State, Pac 12 Network - 0.43

At 8, it's time to watch football in the Lone Star State. The Buckeyes and Horned Frogs in JerryWorld isn't the most nationally important game of the day (that'd be the Auburn game, I think), but this is the only game of Urban Meyer's suspension that seems even remotely loseable for the Buckeyes. It's in TCU's backyard, but I still like Ohio State here. That offense has hummed through two games, and it'll be fun to see them get tested even a little bit. USC and Texas may mean less to the 2018 national picture, but it probably means a little more for both teams. It's pleasant to watch USC/Texas again, even if they're not really national powers at the moment. Also, it projects to be pretty close. It should be a fun game for two teams desperate to revitalize their national brand, and as one of the least certain results on either team's schedule, it could greatly impact the trajectories of their seasons. It's as big a game can be without having any sort of impact on the playoffs.

PS- The Rio Grande Rivalry is 18 years older than New Mexico's statehood, and it means an awful lot for both those schools. Too bad it's up against games of importance.

10:00 - Washington at Utah, ESPN - 4.07
10:00 - Prairie View A&M at UNLV - 0.48

Utah is seemingly always good for a major conference upset or two, which makes their late-night tilt against Washington worth keeping an eye on. When the 8:00 games end, you'll know by that point if you need to divert your attention to Salt Lake City.

10:30 - Arizona State at San Diego State, CBS Sports - 6.05
10:30 - Fresno State at UCLA, FS1 - 5.18

Chip Kelly is still looking for win number one, and I don't know that he'll necessarily get it against a pretty good (and favored!) Fresno State team. Also, this Herm Edwards thing is, uh, working. Check out CBSSN to marvel at this reality we're living in.

11:00 - Southern Utah at Arizona, Pac 12 Network - 0.49

Khalil Tate has 22 rushing yards through two games.

Twenty-two yards.

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