Games to Watch: Week Six

Steve Helwick

No. 23 West Virginia at No. 8 TCU

Saturday, 2:30 p.m., FS1

After watching 4–0 TCU dominate its competition through a quarter of the 2017 season, it’s hard to believe this same team fared 6–7 a season ago. TCU head coach Gary Patterson’s last losing season in 2013 was followed up by a 12–1 finish and a final No. 3 ranking, nearly earning a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff. With quarterback Kenny Hill (965 passing yards, 72.7 completion percentage) leading the charge, the No. 8 Horned Frogs fit the part of a playoff contender after rolling over Arkansas and Oklahoma State on the road. This week, West Virginia enters Fort Worth, Texas on a three-game winning streak. In their last three games, the Mountaineers have averaged 57 points per game under redshirt junior quarterback Will Grier. The former transfer quarterbacks lead potent offenses, so points should not be a rarity in Fort Worth.

No. 13 Miami (FL) at Florida State

Saturday, 2:30 p.m., ESPN

Florida State’s promising playoff hopes may have faded away before the dawn of October, but that does not stop this ACC rivalry from being a highly anticipated game. The Hurricanes have not topped the Seminoles since the 2009 edition of the rivalry — former head coach Bobby Bowden’s final season at the helm in Tallahassee, Florida. This year, Miami is flying high under second-year head coach Mark Richt and junior running back Mark Walton (403 rushing yards, 9.2 yards per carry). Although missing starting quarterback Deondre Francois, Florida State’s defense led by Demarcus Christmas and Derwin James is more than capable of bringing the Seminoles back to .500 after a nightmarish 0–2 start to 2017.

Michigan State at No. 7 Michigan

Saturday, 6:30 p.m., ABC

The two bitter rivals square off for the Paul Bunyan Trophy in Ann Arbor for the first time since the iconic 2015 matchup. In a game that would ultimately send the Spartans to the Playoff, Michigan fumbled a punt with 10 seconds remaining and Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson returned the loose ball to the end zone in a bizarre 27-23 finish. Although the Spartans have won seven of the last nine games over their in-state foes, Michigan opens as a heavy favorite. The Wolverine defense put the clamps on the offenses of Florida and Purdue, starting 4–0 for the second straight year in the Jim Harbaugh era. Michigan State finished 3–9 last season, but the Spartans have already earned a trio of wins, including a notable 17-10 victory over Iowa last Saturday.

No. 11 Washington State at Oregon

Saturday, 7 p.m., FOX

The Cougars’ air raid offense shined on “Pac-12 After Dark” last Friday night, upsetting the No. 5 USC Trojans 30-27 in Pullman, Washington. Washington State forced a key fumble on USC’s attempt at a game-winning possession, improving to 5–0 for the first time since 2001. The Cougars, led by redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk (1,718 passing yards and 16 touchdowns), are one of three undefeated programs remaining in their conference. Oregon sports just one loss: a heartbreaker to Arizona State in Week Four. The Ducks will have the backing of the home crowd in this matchup but may be without the nation’s rushing touchdown leader Royce Freeman. Instead, Oregon head coach Willie Taggart may have to look for another source of offense to match head coach Mike Leach’s talented Cougar unit Saturday night.