Battle of I-10 rivalry wins the trophy arms race; more Saturday Superlatives
Kind of like preseason awards for the upcoming weekend of football, and just as binding. For additional preview content heading into Week 3, please see Andy Staples’ Walkthrough.
• Best interstate rivalry game. From Tuesday’s Profiles in Profiteroles, we remind you that the Battle of I-10 passes two trophies back and forth between UTEP and New Mexico State. One is a brass spittoon, the other a shovel found in an abandoned mine. We cannot stress to you enough how thrilled we are that the Battle of I-10 is real. The world is a fine place.
• Best intrastate rivalry game. Central Florida and Florida International have much in common entering this matchup. Both have designs on their respective conference championships, pretty good chances of getting to the top once league play begins and a recent history of disappointments in nonconference play.
• Most promising ranked-teams football game. We suspect No. 2 USC will run (well, fly) away from No. 21 Stanford in kind of a hurry. No. 18 Florida vs. No. 23 Tennessee is a rare night kickoff, which sets off all sorts of bad-luck haunting alarms in our head. That leaves No. 20 Notre Dame at No. 10 Michigan State as the only remaining ranked-on-ranked game of Week 3. It also carries the most promise for a compelling, close-fought football product.
• Best player to get behind. Speaking of Notre Dame, say a prayer if you’re the praying sort for star linebacker Manti Te’o, who will suit up for the Fighting Irish tomorrow after losing his girlfriend and his grandmother in less than a day.
• Grisliest potential blowout. Continuing with our proud tradition of making blowout predictions that come to absolutely nothing, we are eyeing with sideways unease the specter of UMass at Michigan. The Minutemen have given up 82 points in two weeks and are traveling to face a Wolverines squad coming off two very frustrating games against Alabama and Air Force.
• Best one-player-versus-one-team scenario. Football is the teamiest of team sports, but if there’s one player we can’t wait to see take down an entire team by himself this weekend, it’s Robbie “Mighty Mouse” Rouse. A 1-1 Fresno State team plays host to 0-2 Colorado. The Buffs are allowing close to 140 yards on the ground per game after two weeks, and they have yet to face a back of this caliber. Rouse needs just 79 yards to become the Bulldogs’ all-time leading rusher. Shouldn’t take long.
• Quietest return with the biggest numbers. Also likely to put up gaudy numbers in Week 3: Sammy Watkins, fresh off suspension from Clemson football. After sitting out games against Auburn and Ball State, Watkins is back — just in time to face the unmighty Furman Paladins. Consider whatever he does tomorrow a televised practice run for the Tigers’ Week 4 trip to Tallahassee.
• Most curious potential upset. Can Arkansas State do to Nebraska what UCLA just did? The Red Wolves scored more points against Oregon than they did against Memphis, and we’re interested to see what they make of this road trip. Ryan Aplin needs two touchdown passes to become the Red Wolves’ all-time career leader, but he may want to rely on his ability on the ground — the Huskers have been particularly pillowy against the run. (Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead, by the way, was listed as “doubtful” on the latest injury report.)
• Best fallback plan. Will Auburn become the second straight SEC West team to fall to the ULM Warhawks? If so, take heart — there’s always a party to win on the Plains and these Pinterest awards to look forward to.
• Best nightcap. All post-8 p.m kickoffs in Week 3 feature one ranked team (No. 14 Texas at Ole Miss, No. 25 BYU at Utah, South Carolina State at No. 14 Arizona and Houston at No. 22 UCLA), but we’re waiting up for that rare and glorious 11:59 Hawaii home game.