We usually give you three games to watch each week and tell you who to root for a pick a winner. We tried to pick games that have at least some implication on the Utah Utes. This series started in 2015, a season where Utah climbed as high as No. 3 in the nation. Utah has been ranked for at least part of the season in each of the last four years, so we often focus not just on key Pac-12 games but also national games that had impacts on Utah’s ranking or possible College Football Playoff hopes. This week, we are making a change. Instead of giving you rooting interests, we will just highlight some great games since there are four games between ranked teams (none of which are in the Pac-12). None have any bearing on Utah because the Utes are out of contention for any national achievements after going on a three game losing streak. Given Utah is on the road at the Oregon Ducks, it will also be easy for Utah fans to tune Into these games. We picked four national games and two Pac-12 games. The national games all kickoff by 1:30 p.m. MT or earlier, and the Pac-12 games kickoff at 7:30 p.m. MT or later, so they will not interfere much time-wise with Utah-Oregon.
The Cowboys get a tough road test before taking on the Oklahoma Sooners in Bedlam. Can they avoid looking ahead and take care of business in Morgantown? Oklahoma State is coming off a poor performance against Texas, while WVU nearly let winless Baylor come back and win last week. The Big XII added a championship game this year featuring the two teams with the best conference records, so this game has a lot of Big XII championship game implications.
#4 TCU Horned Frogs at #25 Iowa State Cyclones 1:30 p.m. MT ABC
The other game with Big XII championship implications is TCU at ISU, a statement few would have thought possible before the season. TCU is the only undefeated team in the Big XII. Every other team in the Big XII has lost at least one conference game. The winner of this game will have at least a share atop the Big XII standings. TCU would obviously be alone atop the standings with a win since they would be undefeated. Iowa State though with a win would hold tie breakers over both Oklahoma and TCU. They have to play three of their final four games on the road. However, they do get Oklahoma State at home, their toughest remaining game. TCU still has to travel to Oklahoma. There are two Big XII games airing back to back on ABC that will have huge implications for the conference championship game, so make sure to tune in if you like some high scoring offenses.
ESPN College GameDay is in Columbus for this game. Penn State won in a huge home upset last year in a game where they were outplayed. Despite winning the game and the Big Ten Conference, the College Football Playoff committee felt Ohio State was more worthy of playing in the Playoff last year. Ohio State has played much better since losing at home to Oklahoma in week two. Penn State is undefeated and ranked No. 2, but they have not faced a road test like this in 2017. They have Heisman frontrunner Saquon Barkley, but he faces one of the best defensive lines in the country. The winner of this game will likely win the Big Ten East. OSU will be wearing an all grey alternate for this game.
#14 NC State Wolfpack at #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 1:30 p.m. MT NBC
Three ranked games all at 1:30 p.m. MT, all on national television, this should be fun! This is a strength versus strength matchup when the NC State rush defense facing the Notre Dame ground attack. NC State and Notre Dame both suffered early season losses (NC State to the South Carolina Gamecocks and Notre Dame to the Georgia Bulldogs). Since those losses, each of these teams have been played extremely well. The winner of this game is still firmly in the College Football Playoff discussion, which like TCU-ISU being the game of the week, is not something many figured would be said before the start of the season. NC State has to play Clemson at home next week in the game that likely will decide the ACC Atlantic division. Notre Dame still has to play at the Miami Hurricanes and the Stanford Cardinal. If Notre Dame wins out with the schedule they have faced, they could be in the College Football Playoff. NC State has a bad loss, but it could be hard to keep NC State out if they are a one-loss ACC champion.
After losing their Pac-12 opener to Utah, Arizona has been on fire with quarterback Khalil Tate. Tate has been impressive, running all over the Colorado Buffaloes, UCLA Bruins, and California Golden Bears. This will be the first good defense he has faced this year though, so will he dominate again or will reality set in that his rushing prowess was partially due to weak opponents? WSU needs this win to stay in the race in the Pac-12 North with a game against Stanford at home next week then road games at Utah and the rival Washington Huskies to close out 2017. Arizona could move to a tie atop the Pac-12 South with a win and USC loss. Arizona travels to USC next week.
USC, the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 South, has been less than impressive this season. They are facing an ASU team that has allowed only 17 points in their last two games and have scored multiple upsets already this season. An ASU win would put them in at least a tie atop the Pac-12 South standings. If USC wins, they will remain at the top of the Pac-12 South alone.