Last week was a good reminder to never shrug off a Saturday slate of college football games that appears to be short on marquee matchups.
Intrigue arises in odd places even without the obvious “big games.”
This week's schedule pops even less than that. If not for No. 24 Texas A&M and No. 25 Oregon squeezing into the bottom of the AP Top 25 there would be no matchups of ranked teams this week.
Still, there is still plenty of alluring games to look forward to.
The five most intriguing:
1) No. 13 Miami at No. 24 Texas A&M. What this game lost in luster — ESPN's “College GameDay” diverted travel plans — it gained in intrigue. How do the Aggies bounce back from the Appalachian State loss? Can the Hurricanes secure an early breakthrough victory under Mario Cristobal? ?
Line: Texas A&M by 5 1/2. Pick: Texas A&M 24-17.
2) No. 22 Penn State at Auburn
This rare SEC-Big Ten regular-season game is the return match of last season's meeting in Happy Valley. There has been so much made about Bryan Harsin's tenuous job status at Auburn. This game will either ignite the hot seat or provide a respite for the second-year coach.
Line: Penn State by 3 1/2. Pick: Auburn 23-20.
3) No. 12 BYU at No. 25 Oregon
Second straight game against a ranked opponent for the Cougars. Win this one and there is a path for BYU to make some noise nationally in October with back-to-back games against Notre Dame and No. 10 Arkansas. As for the Ducks, let's see if the Georgia game was an anomaly.
Line: Oregon by 3 1/2. Pick: BYU 28-27.
4) Texas Tech at No. 16 North Carolina State
The Wolfpack faced a scare at East Carolina in Week 1 and now get a Power Five test. The Red Raiders are coming off an overtime victory against Houston and are definitely capable of dousing N.C. State's high expectations.
Line: N.C. State by 9 1/2. Pick: Texas Tech 27-24, UPSET SPECIAL.
5) Fresno State at No. 7 Southern California
The Trojans are what was expected so far. QB Caleb Williams and WR Jordan Addison can score in bunches. The defense has lots of holes. Fresno State beat UCLA last year and nearly beat Oregon State last week. Can Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener keep up with USC’s stars?
Line: USC by 12 1/2. PICK: USC 42-35.
The rest of the ranked teams facing FBS opponents, with odds from FanDuel Sportsbook:
No. 1 Georgia (minus 24 1/2) at South Carolina
Gamecocks certainly did not look ready to upset the Bulldogs while getting run over by Arkansas last week ... GEORGIA 38-13.
Louisiana-Monroe at No. 2 Alabama (minus 49 1/2)
First of two games for the Tide to get some things sorted out ... ALABAMA 55-3.
Toledo (plus 31 1/2) at No. 3 Ohio State
Been more than 100 years since Ohio State lost to another Ohio school. Shout out to Oberlin College of 1921 ... OHIO STATE 45-17.
UConn at No. 4 Michigan (minus 46 1/2)
The nonconference schedule has been a three-week-long tune-up for the Wolverines ... MICHIGAN 56-7.
Louisiana Tech (plus 34 1/2) at No. 5 Clemson
The longest current winning streak among Power Five teams is Clemson's with eight ... CLEMSON 42-10.
No. 6 Oklahoma (minus 11 1/2) at Nebraska
The Sooners' first visit to Lincoln since 2009 and their old rivals couldn't be in much worse shape ... OKLAHOMA 38-21.
No. 11 Michigan State (plus 3 1/2) at Washington
QB Michael Penix Jr. and revived Huskies offense present a nice test for Spartans ... MICHIGAN STATE 31-24.
San Diego State (plus 21 1/2) at No. 14 Utah
Utes lost a wild OT game at San Diego State last season ... UTAH 31-13.
Akron at No. 15 Tennessee (minus 47 1/2)
From the Big Ten (Michigan State) to the SEC (Tennessee) for the Zips ... TENNESSEE 52-3.
Texas State at No. 17 Baylor (minus 29 1/2)
Good opportunity for the Bears to get some of the kinks out of that passing game ... BAYLOR 42-10.
South Florida at No. 18 Florida (minus 24 1/2)
USF was hoping to be in better shape when it signed up for this 2-for-1 series four years ago ... FLORIDA 42-14.
Liberty (plus 16 1/2) at No. 19 Wake Forest
Shifty QB Kaidon Salter (144 yards rushing) has emerged as a surprise starter for Liberty ... WAKE FOREST 38-24.
No. 20 Mississippi (minus 16 1/2) at Georgia Tech
Rebels and Yellow Jackets have not played a regular-season game since 1946 when they were both in the SEC ... OLE MISS 38-17, BEST BET.
UTSA at No. 21 Texas (minus 12 1/2)
A huge, flashing red LETDOWN ALERT sign over Darrell K. Royal Stadium ... TEXAS 31-17.
No. 23 Pittsburgh (minus 10 1/2) at Western Michigan
Panthers take a trip to MAC country after two straight hard-fought home games. Another letdown alert? ... PITT 34-17.
California (plus 10 1/2) at Notre Dame (@CBFriedman): Irish have not started 0-3 since 2007 ... NOTRE DAME 20-16.
South Alabama (plus 15 1/2) at UCLA (@MattSmithCFB): Beware the Sun Belt ... SOUTH ALABAMA 34-30.
SMU (plus 3 1/2) at Maryland (@markwnorris): Sweet under-the-radar QB battle between SMU's Tanner Mordecai and Maryland's Taulia Tagovailoa ... SMU 42-38.
Mississippi State (minus 2 1/2) at LSU (@brianhadad): Welcome to the SEC, Brian Kelly ... MISSISSIPPI STATE 28-24.
Purdue (minus 1) at Syracuse (@thebenwhitehead): Orange RB is Sean Tucker is the only player in the country with at least 200 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving ... PURDUE 28-21.
Last week: Straight-up — 18-3; Against spread — 10-11.
Season: 36-8; 21-24.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com
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