For the first time this season, Penn State fans will need to find some way to survive a Saturday without the Nittany Lions. While James Franklin’s squad will benefit from the rest heading into its toughest stretch of the season, it’s still tough for fans who plan their Saturdays around Nittany Lion football.
But just because Penn State isn’t in the middle of the action this week doesn’t mean there aren’t any games this weekend that directly affect the Nittany Lions’ Big Ten Championship and playoff hopes. With teams like Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State all in action this weekend, there are plenty of games for the Penn State faithful to keep an eye on.
Here are a few game fans should be on the lookout for this weekend:
No. 2 Clemson at Syracuse — 7 p.m. Friday
The reigning national champion Tigers have gotten off to a perfect 6-0 start so far this season for the third consecutive year. Along the way they have beaten quality opponents like No. 10 Auburn, No. 15 Virginia Tech, and Louisville.
Most impressive about Clemson is its ability to keep momentum going even after star quarterback Deshaun Watson’s departure for the NFL after last season. In his absence, new signal caller Kelly Bryant has filled in admirably for the Clemson legend while the Tiger defense has continued to suffocate opposing offenses.
Clemson is currently ranked just a spot ahead of Penn State, so if these were the College Football Playoff rankings, the No. 3 Nittany Lions would face off against the No. 2 Tigers in a National Championship semifinal clash.
No. 17 Michigan at Indiana — noon Saturday
This is a game for Nittany Lion faithful to keep a close eye on as the result will directly affect the likelihood of #GameDayPSU. If the Hoosiers are able to hand Michigan its second loss in as many weeks, then Rece Davis and co. will almost certainly be headed elsewhere next weekend.
However, if the Wolverines fall to Indiana, this result would essentially knock them out of contention for the Big Ten East crown. This would leave only Ohio State and Michigan State as legitimate threats to Penn State in its quest to defend the division title.
Arkansas at No. 1 Alabama — 7:15 p.m. Saturday
Well, Alabama is a 28-point home favorite, but this one’s broadcast on ESPN, so why not check it out?
Arkansas is winless in its last nine games against Alabama, but Bret Bielema’s group operates out of a pro-style offense where freshman running back Chase Hayden leads the way. It’s an improbable upset opportunity, but crazier things have happened.
No. 9 Ohio State at Nebraska — 7:30 p.m. Saturday
This matchup pits two storied programs against one another in a game Nebraska needs a statement in. Ohio State has struggled to consistently pick up yardage in the passing game and its secondary has been shaky at times.
Nebraska, at 3-3, has struggled to find any type of consistency so far this season, but considering the Corn Huskers haven’t lost at home under the lights since 2008, they could extend the streak to 21 games against the Buckeyes, albeit in polarizing fashion.
Nebraska is a 22 and a half point home underdog, one of its largest point differentials in program history when playing at home. If the Corn Huskers can pull off the upset, it would give the Nittany Lions a little bit of breathing room atop the Big Ten East before the Nittany Lions visit the Buckeyes in Columbus on Oct. 28.
No. 21 Michigan State at Minnesota — 8 p.m. Saturday
Many people overlooked the Spartans at the beginning of this season following their miserable 3-9 showing last year. Those doubts were somewhat justified following Michigan State’s 38-18 whipping at the hands of Notre Dame in week three.
But after an impressive victory over Michigan in the Big House last week, these Spartans proved they should be taken seriously. Michigan State has another chance this week to prove how legitimate the squad is, traveling to TCF Bank Stadium to take on the Minnesota Gophers.
If the Spartans are victorious again this week, they might just prove they are in fact the biggest threat to Penn State’s title aspirations — not Ohio State or Michigan.