GAME OF THE DAY
Florida A&M at No. 4 Ohio State, noon, Big Ten Network
Granted, it’s hard to consider the Rattlers an opponent in a top game, but look at the day’s schedule, will you?
At least with No. 2 Oregon off and No. 3 Clemson coming off a Thursday game, you get a chance to see the No. 4 team in the country and also the return of tailback Carlos Hyde, last season’s leading scorer and second-leading rusher for Ohio State, after a three-game suspension.
Hyde missed the first three games when he was suspended after an alleged assault against a woman at a Columbus, Ohio, bar this summer that did not lead to charges.
“I’ve got to make this clear: He is welcome back,” coach Urban Meyer said. “It’s been a terrible three weeks for him. He’s handled his business the right way. He’s been very unselfish.”
Jordan Hall has played well in place of Hyde. Now Meyer will have to wedge in another back, splitting the workload and tailoring plays for the senior.
Even though Ohio State is an overwhelming favorite against FCS-school Florida A&M, at least fans ought be entertained by watching the rotation of running backs and quarterbacks for the Buckeyes.
Hyde’s not the only new guy thrown into the mix.
Braxton Miller is expected to return from missing most of the past two games with a sprained knee ligament. He will vie with stellar fill-in Kenny Guiton for snaps.
“I think (Miller will) be ready in a still somewhat limited role,” Meyer said. “That’s kind of what I’m counting on.”
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: FCS VS. THE ACC
It’s also FCS weekend in the ACC, and some of the matchups could get ugly.
Bethune-Cookman of the MEAC plays at No. 8 Florida State while fellow MEAC member Savannah State is a 60-point underdog at No. 16 Miami, only the third 60-plus point spread since 1980. VMI of the Big South travels to Charlottesville to play Virginia.
The games are not likely to be competitive, but will be a win-win for the schools.
The ACC schools get a victory that counts toward bowl eligibility, and if things go as expected, a virtual live scrimmage that allows the coaching staff to get many backups some experience.
“For us, it’s just about getting our team better,” said Miami coach Al Golden, whose team played Florida in its previous game. “There is a big disparity from going to an SEC opponent to this week. … But what I’m trying to teach our team is that it really doesn’t matter what the other team does.”
For the little guys, it’s a nice payday: Bethune-Cookman will receive $475,000, Savannah State $375,00 and VMI $325,000, and that can be critical funding for a school whose athletic department is strapped for funds.
But VMI coach Sparky Woods said there’s more than money to be gained, there’s also the experience and exposure for the program.
“You want to, as a team and an individual player, to do well against these guys, so we’re excited about the opportunity,” he said of the Keydets, who haven’t had a winning season since 1981 and are coming off a 37-24 loss at home to North Greenville, an NCAA Division II program.
This season eight FCS teams knocked off FBS programs on the opening weekend, though that looks unlikely in the ACC matchups.
WORDS WITH … NORTH CAROLINA COACH LARRY FEDORA
North Carolina at Georgia Tech, Noon, ESPN
Q: What happened in last season’s 68-50 loss to Georgia Tech?
A: Mistakes, many mistakes in all three phases. … I know everybody jumped all over the defense, and we’re not sitting there condoning the way the defense played, but it was not a one-sided deal. It was not just the defense that gave up problems or created problems for us. It was the entire team.
Q: How much did you prepare for Georgia Tech this past summer?
A: We did some game-planning in the summer on their offense, especially. Defense it was a little tougher than on the offense because of Ted Roof. Yeah, we studied some things that Ted Roof did at Penn State. … Now if you guys saw the (Tech) game against Duke, they came out in a new offense. Probably 50 percent of the time they ran a new offense, they ran the gun with three backs in the backfield. So not running a triple option and being more of a … conventional offense, they ran a lot of different plays from that set back there. Again that puts stress on you defensively.
Q: What do you see on the Jackets’ defense and changes by Ted Roof?
A: I think what Ted is doing, it’s not anything that is extraordinary. What Ted’s got is he’s got them in position to play. … I think what he’s done is he’s settled them down, and they’re playing just good, solid football. They’re in position and where they’re supposed to be.
Q. What do you think of Tech coach Paul Johnson and his offense?
A. It’s totally different than anything else you see. … It keeps you very simple in what you do. … Paul has been running this offense since he was probably in diapers and he knows all the answers. … Whatever you throw at him, he’s seen it, I promise you. He’s going to find a way.
The best other games to look in on Saturday:
Michigan State at No. 22 Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m., NBC: Notre Dame already has a loss to a Big Ten school from Michigan and can’t afford another, or everyone will start saying this Irish looks like an ACC team. Michigan State is trying to get off to its best start since 2010, when a touchdown on a fake field goal in overtime gave the Spartans an overtime victory against the Irish and launched them to an 8-0 start and a share of the Big Ten title.
Purdue at No. 24 Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m., ABC: The Badgers are trying to get over last week’s stunning, stumbling 32-30 loss at Arizona State after officials mishandled the closing seconds to deprive Wisconsin of a late field-goal try. Purdue, in the middle of a tough stretch of three consecutive opponents who went to BCS bowls last season, will try to snap a seven-game losing skid to Wisconsin.
No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford, 7 p.m., Fox: Defending Pac-12 champion Stanford opens conference play with its first major test. Arizona State is coming off a controversial 32-30 victory against Wisconsin, the team the Cardinal beat in the Rose Bowl, and hopes to take another major step under second-year coach Todd Graham in its first road game.
Utah at BYU, 10:15 p.m. ESPN2: All eyes in Utah are on this game. Utah has won three in a row in its series with BYU, which, after Saturday, doesn’t resume until 2016. The series is unbroken back to World War II years.
Kent State at Penn State, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network: Here’s your chance to see freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg at this best — against another underdog — before he starts into Big Ten play. He has 851 passing yards and a 72 percent completion rate through three games.
No. 15 Michigan at Connecticut, 8 p.m., ABC: Michigan is trying to rebound from a close call against Akron with a good showing in its first road game. The Huskies are trying to avoid an 0-3 start at home after losses to FCS-school Towson and Maryland. A loss would turn the heat on coach Paul Pasqualoni, who is trying to avoid a third consecutive losing season at UConn.
SPOTLIGHT … MYLES JACK, UCLA
New Mexico State at No. 13 UCLA, 10:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Who he is: A 6-1, 225-pound freshman linebacker at UCLA who won an immediate starting spot.
Why teammates are impressed: He took the starting job from incumbent Aaron Wallace and has 13 tackles in his first two college games, but his freakish athletic ability allows him to make plays no one else can make.
Little-known fact: He was recruited as a running back by South Carolina and Georgia Tech.
What the coach says: “He never gets tired. He’s quick as a cat. He can run, he can jump, he can anticipate. He’s got really good football awareness. He comes out here and he’s a hard worker. He seems to get better every single day.” — Coach Jim Mora
What Jack says: “I used to play the entire game. If they want me to do that here, playing in different packages or playing the whole game, I’ll try. If they put me in, I’ll make it happen.”
Compiled by Ray Cox