Good day, and welcome back to the Watch Grid, your weekly best-guess guide to which college football games might be most watchable in each time slot. We're getting into the really good stuff now, and not just at the headliner level: this is also the time of year when things start to go totally sideways


As always, the Watch Grid does not rate games strictly by team quality, though it'll often end up looking that way, especially as some doomed programs fall off the radar until next year. The Watch Grid also considers factors such as likely competitiveness and messiness. You'll see an overwhelming case of this on Saturday.




Precisely one FBS game: #16 SMU at Houston (7:30 ET, ESPN). SMU's all but clinched its best season since 1984 and could go even higher. Expect the Ponies to win comfortably against a tanking rival, but even that's of interest, right?


Also, we can recall that time almost exactly 30 years ago, when UH's Andre Ware threw for 517 yards in the first half against an NCAA-cratered SMU, part of a 95-point outburst that stands as one of FBS' last truly old-school annihilation games. SMU's been waiting a looong time to avenge that one.


(Elsewhere in important anniversaries, today is 10 years after that time Nebraska produced a minus-eight turnover ratio in an upset loss at Iowa State. Best part: the Clones recovered six of the game's eight fumbles, then turned all that fortune into nine entire points.)



USC at Colorado (9 ET, ESPN2)! If the Buffs can't score more than 31 points, they lose -- that (or something even worse) has been the case every week so far. Might need to make it more like 40 here.


ET WATCH THIS Maybe watch It’s football
Noon Miami at Pitt, ESPN #13 Wisconsin at #3 Ohio State, Fox #21 Appalachian State at South Alabama, ESPNU
    #5 Oklahoma at Kansas State, ABC Liberty at Rutgers, BTN
    #20 Iowa at Northwestern, ESPN2 San Jose State at Army, CBSSN
    Illinois at Purdue, BTN Bowling Green at WMU, ESPN3
    Mississippi State at Texas A&M, SEC  
1     Southern Miss at Rice, ESPN+
2   Nevada at Wyoming, local  
    Ohio at Ball State, ESPN+  
2:30   WKU at Marshall, Stadium  
3   North Dakota State at South Dakota State, ESPN+ New Mexico State at Georgia Southern, ESPN3
3:30 #9 Auburn at #2 LSU, CBS #6 Penn State at Michigan STate, ABC North Texas at Charlotte, ESPN+
    #15 Texas at TCU, Fox FIU at MTSU, NFL
    Maryland at #17 Minnesota, ESPN FAU at ODU, ESPN+
    Oklahoma State at #23 Iowa State, FS1 Miami (Ohio) at Kent State, ESPN+
    Syracuse at Florida State, ESPN2 Akron at NIU, ESPN3
    Virginia at Louisville, ACC UConn at UMass you cowards, NESN/Flo
    Arizona at Stanford, Pac-12  
    Indiana at Nebraska, BTN  
    Tulane at Navy, CBSSN  
    CMU at Buffalo, ESPN+  
    EMU at Toledo, ESPN+  
    Towson at JMU, Flo  
3:45     USF at ECU, ESPNU
4   Hawaii at New Mexico, Spectrum  
    Duke at North Carolina, ACC  
    South Carolina at Tennessee, SEC  
7   UCF at Temple, ESPN2 Arkansas at #1 Alabama, ESPN
    Troy at Georgia State, ESPN+ Texas Tech at Kansas, FS1
    Sam Houston State at Central Arkansas, ESPN3 Memphis at Tulsa, CBSSN
    Weber State at UC Davis, Texas State at Arkansas State, ESPN+
7:30 #8 Notre Dame at #19 Michigan, ABC #24 Arizona State at UCLA, Pac-12 Boston College at #4 Clemson, ACC
    Missouri at Kentucky, SEC Colorado State at Fresno State, ESPNU
8     Louisiana Tech at UTEP, ESPN3
10   Cal at #12 Utah, FS1  
10:15   Utah State at Air Force, ESPN2  
10:30 Washington State at #11 Oregon, ESPN   San Diego State at UNLV, CBSSN

Why yes, that is MIAMI-PITT overshadowing games of some meaning. I'll defend myself:

  1. Miami has been perhaps the country's most chaotic team this season, finding absurd ways to lose three games they should've won.
  2. Pitt has been perhaps the country's most chaotic team this millennium
  3. This projects as a close one, with all the scoring being of the "just manufacture some points any weird way you can" variety, the most entertaining variety.
  4. New Year's stakes could be in play. Pitt can remain near the top of the ACC Coastal and keep hoping Virginia falls, while the Canes could claw back into the race with wins over two of the leaders, having already beaten UVA. And assuming Clemson makes the Playoff, the next ACC team in the rankings will get the Orange bid, no matter how non-good that team is.

The middle slot is a reasonably priced family buffet, with watchability in almost every FBS conference. The obvious headliner is whatever nonsense Auburn-LSU issues forth this time. If nothing else, Joe Burrow's offense vs. this defense should tell us a whole lot about the viability of that other game looming up ahead.


Irish-Wolverines: guaranteed to end with people declaring -- not without merit -- that the losing team is incapable of ever winning big games. Won't that be pretty fun!


WAZZU'S OFFENSE VS. OREGON'S ... DEFENSE shuts down your Saturday. Will the Ducks carry the Pac-12 North's fading banner into another week, or will Anthony Gordon's 72 pass attempts reroute all ambitions to Pasadena? (Yes, I said Oregon's "defense.")

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