The college football schedule is still looking light, with the Southeastern Conference a week away from starting and the Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference still just warming up.
For the teams that are playing, it’s a chance to jump onto the main stage when otherwise they might have been relegated to side shows.
In the ACC, a matchup of talented quarterbacks could provide an early pecking order of potential contenders. And the American Athletic Conference gets its chance to grab some of that shine that went to the Sun Belts last week. Four AAC teams play power five opponents Saturday.
No. 17 Miami at No. 18 Louisville
The only game matching ranked teams on the schedule gets the prime-time treatment from ESPN.
The Hurricanes unleashed a powerful running game in the debut of Houston grad transfer D’Eriq King last week, going for 337 yards on the ground in a win over UAB.
Louisville’s Micale Cunningham flashed star potential after taking over last season for the Cardinals and then threw for 343 yards and three scores in an opening win over Western Kentucky.
Both teams have ACC title game aspirations. The winner gets to feel as if those are legitimate.
Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
Hubbard led the nation in rushing last year, breaking 2,000 yards. He had an interesting offseason, calling out his head coach. Things seemed to have calmed down in Stillwater, Oklahoma, since.
The junior will face tougher tests than the Golden Hurricane, but here’s a chance for him to get off to good start and grab some attention before all those star quarterbacks threaten to push him into the background.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
3 — Wake Forest’s winning streak against North Carolina State. The Demon Deacons opened by getting thumped last week by Clemson. They try to turn it around against an ACC rival they have owned lately. Wake last won four straight against the Wolfpack in the 1950s.
7 — The total margin in No. 14 UCF’s three losses last year. The Knights “fell off” to 10-3 season, but with a little better luck it could have been another year of debating whether UCF deserved to be in the playoff race. The Knights open with Georgia Tech on Saturday.
16 — Number of major college football games that have been postponed or canceled since Aug. 26 after two more were wiped off Saturday’s schedule because of COVID-19 issues. Houston-Baylor had to be called off because Baylor did not have enough players in a position group to meet the Big 12’s minimums to compete. That game was scheduled only six days ago after both teams had previous games postponed. FAU at Georgia Southern also was postponed because of positive tests among Florida Atlantic’s players.
UNDER THE RADAR
Interim Southern Mississippi coach Scotty Walden gets his first crack to impress the bosses when the Golden Eagles host Conference USA rival Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
The 30-year-old Walden replaced Jay Hopson, who parted ways with USM after an ugly opening loss to South Alabama.
Walden was a Division III head coach at East Texas Baptist before joining the Golden Eagles staff in 2017 as wide receivers coach. Considered a creative, up-and-coming offensive coach, Walden rose to offensive coordinator and now gets a chance to audition for the head coaching job.
That breakout season for Syracuse in 2018 is starting to seem like a fluke. Coach Dino Babers’ team followed up its 10-win season by going 5-7 last year. The Orange opened this season with a poor, but not entirely unexpected, showing against North Carolina.
This week Syracuse goes back on the road to face No. 25 Pittsburgh.
A weekly reminder that few coaches will be getting fired this year, but the glow around Babers is starting to fade.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/
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