No. 8 Washington’s visit to Michigan State would have been one of the most closely watched intersectional games Saturday even without the latest scandal in East Lansing.
The Spartans are 2-0 following easy wins over Central Michigan and Richmond and their defense is in a good state of mind for the rematch with Michael Penix Jr., who threw for four touchdowns in the Huskies’ 39-28 win in Seattle a year ago.
Penix is sharp as ever through two games, ranking among the national passing leaders again with eight touchdowns against one interception. The Spartans’ tandem of quarterback Noah Kim and running back Nate Carter have fueled an offense averaging 435 yards and 38 points per game.
Not to be forgotten is that Washington joins the Big Ten next year.
Harlon Barnett took over as Michigan State’s acting coach this week following Mel Tucker’s suspension without pay in the wake of allegations that he sexually harassed a rape survivor during a phone call last year.
No. 11 Tennessee (2-0) at Florida (1-1), Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Anthony Richardson’s breakthrough performance last year wasn’t enough to offset Tennessee’s offensive eruption in a 38-33 victory in Knoxville, only the Volunteers’ second win in the series in 18 years.
The Gators have dropped consecutive games to Tennessee only twice since 1970, and they haven’t lost to the Vols in Gainesville since 2003. They are 7 1/2-point underdogs at The Swamp, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Florida’s 49-7 win over FCS McNeese ended a four-game skid dating to last season, a shot of confidence for new quarterback Graham Mertz following a 24-11 loss at nationally ranked Utah in the opener.
Tennessee still has kinks to work out and is yet to be tested; the Vols’ 30-13 win over FCS team Austin Peay was not a thing of beauty. Joe Milton has been good but far from great so far, so look for the Vols to lean on their SEC-leading rushing attack.
Texas QB Quinn Ewers has moved up the Heisman Trophy prediction board and now sits second behind 2022 winner Caleb Williams of Southern California, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Ewers’ ascent was predictable considering he passed for 349 yards and three touchdowns against Alabama while leading the Longhorns to the first win by a nonconference team in Tuscaloosa since 2007.
Ewers returns home to face a Wyoming defense that struggled against FCS team Portland State.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
6 — Nebraska quarterback Jeff Sims’ nation-high number of turnovers through two games.
7 — Oregon State’s win streak if it beats San Diego State, which would be the Beavers’ longest since 2000.
14 — Cincinnati’s consecutive wins in night games entering its “Victory Bell” meeting with Miami (Ohio).
76 — Rushing yards allowed by Kansas State through two games, fewest in the nation.
106 — “Backyard Brawl” games between Pittsburgh and West Virginia.
UNDER THE RADAR
TCU (1-1) at Houston (1-1), Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (Fox)
The Horned Frogs and Big 12 newcomer Houston open conference play, marking the start of the third time both teams have been in the same league. They previously were together in the old Southwest Conference (1976-95) and Conference USA (2001-04).
The teams’ most recent meeting was in the 2007 Texas Bowl, a 20-13 TCU win with Andy Dalton beating Case Keenum. The Frogs have won eight straight meetings since 1992.
The game matches coaches Sonny Dykes of TCU against Dana Holgorsen. The two worked together seven seasons (2000-06) on Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech.
Texas A&M seems stuck in the mud under Jimbo Fisher, who really needed a win at Miami last week to keep the restless 12th Man at bay.
The Aggies opened the previous two seasons in the top 10 and finished out of the Top 25. They haven’t lost fewer than four games in a season under Fisher, not including the 2020 pandemic year, and it’s hard to imagine them not dropping at least three games in SEC play.
Fisher’s $76 million buyout would seem prohibitive, but is it really to the deep pockets in Aggieland?