Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press
The Big Ten season has arrived. After originally planning not to play in 2020, the conference’s teams will be having eight-game seasons comprising matchups against other Big Ten schools.
And with the Big Ten getting added to the mix, ESPN is heading to one of the conference’s schools for College GameDay on Saturday. The popular college football kickoff show will be held at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis ahead of the season opener between No. 18 Michigan and No. 21 Minnesota.
College GameDay begins at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN and will not have fans in attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has been the case each week this season. The Wolverines and Golden Gophers will face off at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC in a marquee primetime matchup.
That’s not the only exciting action taking place across the country this weekend. Here’s a look at the full Top 25 schedule, along with predictions, followed by a preview of the top matchups to watch.
Week 8 Top 25 Schedule, Predictions
Friday, Oct. 23
Illinois at No. 14 Wisconsin, 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Saturday, Oct. 24
Syracuse at No. 1 Clemson, noon ET, ACC Network
Nebraska at No. 5 Ohio State, noon ET, Fox
No. 23 NC State at No. 14 North Carolina, noon ET, ESPN
Kansas at No. 20 Kansas State, noon ET, Fox Sports 1
Georgia Southern at No. 25 Coastal Carolina, noon ET, ESPNU
Florida Atlantic at No. 22 Marshall, 2:30 p.m. ET
No. 2 Alabama at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
No. 3 Notre Dame at Pittsburgh, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
No. 17 Iowa State at No. 6 Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox
No. 8 Penn State at Indiana, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
No. 19 Virginia Tech at Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Virginia at No. 11 Miami, 8 p.m. ET, ACC Network
No. 9 Cincinnati at No. 16 SMU, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Texas State at No. 12 BYU, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Predictions in bold.
Top Matchups to Watch
No. 17 Iowa State at No. 6 Oklahoma State
Brody Schmidt/Associated Press
With Oklahoma and Texas having some struggles this season, the two highest-ranked Big 12 teams in the AP Top 25 poll are Oklahoma State and Iowa State, which have both gotten off to strong starts in 2020—even if it’s been a little while since these teams have played.
Iowa State had a bye in Week 7, so this will be its first game since Oct. 10. It’s been even longer for Oklahoma State, which had a bye and then had its game against Baylor last week postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak for the Bears. The Cowboys hadn’t had consecutive weekends off during a regular season since 1918, according to the Associated Press.
The teams’ matchup will affect the top of the Big 12 standings. Oklahoma State is 3-0, which includes a pair of conference wins over West Virginia and Kansas. Iowa State lost its season opener to Louisiana, but it’s still unbeaten in Big 12 play, notching wins over TCU, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Two of the top running backs from the Big 12 will be playing in this contest. Cyclones sophomore Breece Hall is the leading rusher in the conference with 531 yards and eight touchdowns, while Cowboys redshirt junior Chuba Hubbard ranks third with 339 yards and four touchdowns.
This should be a competitive matchup with plenty of exciting offense on both sides.
No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota
On the Big Ten’s first weekend of play, this has the potential to be the conference’s best game. It could also end up going either way.
The Wolverines have a challenging schedule, as four of their eight games are against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25. They have a strong defense, but it might take some time for their offense to get going, a unit that will be led by junior quarterback Joe Milton, who has only 11 career pass attempts for Michigan.
The Golden Gophers have a dynamic connection on offense between redshirt junior quarterback Tanner Morgan and junior wide receiver Rashod Bateman. And after going 11-2 last season, they could be poised to have another strong season, particularly if they notch wins over Michigan and Wisconsin.
It’s tough to know exactly what to expect considering these teams haven’t taken the field for a game in quite a while. Still, this should be a competitive game that gives us a better indication of the hierarchy of the Big Ten in 2020.
No. 9 Cincinnati at No. 16 SMU
Matthew Hinton/Associated Press
There are only two undefeated teams remaining in the AAC. On Saturday night, they will go head-to-head in what should be one of the best Group of Five games of the 2020 season.
Cincinnati is 3-0, but it hasn’t played since Oct. 3 after its scheduled game against Tulsa in Week 7 was postponed because of positive COVID-19 tests for the Bearcats. Meanwhile, SMU has opened the season 5-0, a stretch that includes a quality win over Memphis.
It will be exciting to see whether Cincinnati’s strong defense can limit SMU’s high-powered offense. The Bearcats defense is allowing only 306.7 total yards per game, which ranks 12th in the nation. However, the Mustangs offense ranks fourth in the country with 563.2 total yards per game. It is led by redshirt senior quarterback Shane Buechele, who has passed for 1,710 yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions this season.
The winner of this game is going to be the favorite to win the AAC Championship Game this season. And although there are still plenty of games to go before that, it will be a statement victory for whichever of these teams triumphs.