The Big Ten’s return fattens up the schedule

The Big Ten on Saturday finally shows up to the weird, awkward party that is college football in 2020, and suddenly the schedule below starts looking more like it does in normal times, because nothing — nothing — says “autumn Saturday” like Rutgers-Michigan State at noon.

Jim Harbaugh remains Michigan's coach despite near-constant speculation about his future.

© Tony Ding/AP
Jim Harbaugh remains Michigan’s coach despite near-constant speculation about his future.

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North Carolina and North Carolina State haven’t entered their annual matchup as ranked teams since 1993, and maybe that’s a good thing: That matchup was marred by a helmet-swinging brawl during the game and an impromptu postgame wrestling match between Tar Heels assistant coach Donnie Thompson and Wolfpack offensive coordinator Ted Cain. Mack Brown, who was UNC’s head coach back then and returned for his second stint last year, hasn’t given N.C. State much in the way of bulletin-board material. In fact, he sounded as if he was trying to rile up his own team this week by calling the Tar Heels “overrated” and the Wolfpack “underrated.” N.C. State Coach Dave Doeren responded by saying “it was nice of him to say that.” Guys, this is not how a rivalry game is supposed to work. …

Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy was in the news a lot during the offseason. After he publicly wore a T-shirt bearing the logo of One America News — a far-right cable channel that regularly promotes conspiracy theories and has called the Black Lives Matter movement “a farce” and a “criminal front group” — the Cowboys’ players threatened to boycott the program. Gundy apologized “for the pain and discomfort that has been caused over the last two days,” and now he has Oklahoma State back in the top 10 for the first time since 2017 entering its game with Iowa State. The Cowboys, who haven’t played since Oct. 3, have allowed just 27 points in three games, and the Cyclones have topped 30 points in each of their past three after a season-opening flop against Louisiana Lafayette. Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard averaged 7.3 yards per carry in his most recent game (against Kansas), but Iowa State’s run defense is allowing less than three yards per carry and under 100 yards per game. …

Michigan and Minnesota battle for the Little Brown Jug and kick off the latest installment of “Jim Harbaugh: Is he on the way out?” It’s seemingly the fourth season of that, even though Harbaugh has won at least eight games in all five of his Michigan seasons and most programs would kill for that kind of consistency. On Monday, Harbaugh confirmed that he has not signed a contract extension, meaning he’s the only Power Five coach with less than two years remaining on his contract and probably meaning competing programs are telling recruits he’s a lame duck. Losing to Minnesota for only the fifth time since the Lyndon B. Johnson administration would only make all the chatter even louder, but it’s a distinct possibility: The Gophers are coming off their first 11-win season since they won 13 games in 1904; they finished in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll in 2019 for the first time since 1962; and they have one of the best quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the country in Tanner Morgan and Rashod Bateman.

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