The start of the 2022-23 college football season has been full of thrilling endings, shocking upsets and incredible shootouts. This has actually described all three of Appalachian State’s first three games as they lost 63-61 to North Carolina after scoring 40 points in the fourth quarter, upset No. 7 Texas A&M on the road and defeated Troy on a Hail Mary. With conference play about to start fully kicking into gear, I will list five games that college football fans should be watching on Saturday.
5. Stanford at No. 18 Washington (10:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1)
Last week, the Washington Huskies made a statement on national television as Michael Penix Jr. balled out for Washington in their 39-28 win over Michigan State (was 29-8 at halftime). He threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns while his favorite target, Ja’Lynn Polk caught six passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns. Washington has shown themselves to be a contender in a Pac-12 conference with three other ranked teams in it (USC, Oregon and Utah). They must avoid a letdown performance as they open conference play against Stanford, a team accustomed to winning as a huge underdog (beat No. 3 Oregon last season).
Stanford is coming off a bye week after losing 41-28 at home against USC. With Tanner McKee at the helm, the Cardinal have the offense that should not be overlooked by opponents, especially one that is coming off a program-defining win in Kalen DeBoer’s first year with the team. Watching Penix will be a treat and per usual, Husky Stadium will be rocking on Saturday night.
4. Duke at Kansas (noon ET on Fox Sports 1)
Who would have thought these two legendary basketball programs would be facing off as undefeated teams in football a few weeks into the season? Certainly not me. The hype is so surreal for this game that Kansas Memorial Stadium is sold out. Lance Leipold has done a phenomenal job making Kansas a competitive football team after over a decade of historic futility. They won at West Virginia 55-42 in overtime at Morgantown to open conference play in Week 2 and last week, they traveled to Houston and defeated the Cougars 48-30.
As for Duke, they have taken care of business against Temple and North Carolina A&T, but came away with a huge road victory in Week 2 as they knocked off Big Ten foe Northwestern 31-23. One of these teams will leave Lawrence, Kansas 4-0 before heading into full-time conference play for the push of attaining bowl eligibility. Duke has missed the postseason in each of the last four seasons and Kansas hasn’t played in a bowl game since beating Minnesota 42-21 in the 2008 Insight Bowl. This game will be huge for both programs as dual threat QBs Riley Leonard (Duke) and Jalon Daniels (Kansas) will face off.
3. No. 15 Oregon at Washington State (4:00 p.m. EST on FOX)
If you need any proof that Georgia is by far the best team in college football this season, look no farther than Oregon. In Week 1, Georgia dominated Oregon 49-3. Two weeks later, the Ducks put on an impressive showing at home as they dominated No. 12 BYU 41-20 in a great all-around performance from the team. The Ducks open conference play at Pullman, a place where they have lost two of their last three matchups against the Washington State Cougars.
Wazzu has started 3-0 with a monumental win at No. 19 Wisconsin 17-14. Cameron Ward has started to gain buzz as an intriguing prospect for the 2023 NFL Draft with his mobility and arm strength. Can the Ducks continue to rebound from their brutal opening loss, or will the Cougars assert themselves as contenders in the improved Pac-12? This is the game to watch in the afternoon window.
2. No. 10 Arkansas at No. 23 Texas A&M (7:00 p.m. EST on ESPN)
Instead of watching Ohio State dismantle Wisconsin on ABC, college football fans should watch an intriguing SEC battle between Texas A&M and Arkansas during the evening window. One week after getting upset by App State, the Aggies defeated No. 13 Miami 17-10 with an impressive defensive showing and productive game from running back Devon Achane (130 total yards and a TD).
Arkansas has had an eventful start to the season themselves with a ranked win over No. 23 Cincinnati 31-24. After beating South Carolina 44-30, the Razorbacks got a scare from former head coach Bobby Petrino and Missouri State. The Bears led by double-digits multiple times throughout the game before Raheim Sanders put the game away for Arkansas (38-27 result). Arkansas is ranked 10th and can show they can contend with Alabama for a SEC West title with a win at Kyle Field. On the other hand, A&M can prove App State loss was a fluke with another top-15 win. So much intrigue here.
1. No. 5 Clemson at No. 21 Wake Forest (noon EST on ABC)
While Kansas and Duke is a game people should work in the early window, there is another game during the early window that should take priority (multiple monitors or channel flipping?). Clemson takes on Wake Forest in a crucial ACC showdown. Just how good is Clemson exactly? The offense struggled to start their Labor Day 41-10 win at Georgia Tech and have beaten up on Furman and Louisiana Tech after that. Facing Wake Forest will be their first true test.
Sam Hartman returned from injury after missing Week 1 and led the Demon Deacons to a 45-25 win at Vanderbilt in Week 2. However, fans in Winston Salem, North Carolina were given a heart attack as Liberty was a failed two-point conversion away from upsetting Wake Forest (WF won 37-36). It can be chalked up as looking ahead to Clemson as this can be a program-defining win for Wake Forest if they can knock off the Tigers. On the other hand, Clemson can prove their CFB Playoff candidacy in a huge way on the road.