Arizona State and Will Sutton have a wild month ahead of them
After three marquee games, Sept. 7 may end up being a slow week in college football. The schedule is littered with FCS games and off weeks before a mammoth Sept. 14.
Teams may not want to look ahead, but Athlon Sports does.
With the Week 1 madness out of the way, the season will start to take shape in the next four Saturdays. Here’s what we might learn before these huge games and why each of these 10 September games will be important into October and November.
TOP 10 GAMES FOR THE REST OF SEPTEMBER
1. Sept. 14: Alabama at Texas A&M
What we might learn before this game: With Alabama’s off week on Sept. 7, the Tide won’t have a chance to show if their offensive line struggles against Virginia Tech were an aberration or a sign of things to come. Alabama gave up four sacks and 12 tackles for a loss. Texas A&M’s defense got pushed around by Rice in the opener and faces a quality FCS team this week in Sam Houston State. Was the Aggies’ defensive performance due to first-game jitters and a handful of suspensions or is it a real reason for concern? Johnny Manziel’s on-field play is not in question, but will his combustibility become a liability?
Why this game will be important: This is Alabama’s toughest road game by a long shot. The Tide leave the state only two more times (Kentucky and Mississippi State) for the rest of the regular season. For the Aggies, there’s just the SEC West, the national title race and a Heisman on the line. The biggest game in College Station in quite some time.
2. Sept. 7: South Carolina at Georgia
What we know about this game: All the pressure is on Georgia as the Bulldogs try to avoid an 0-2 start. South Carolina has won three in a row. Aaron Murray is 1-10 against top-15 teams. As we said, a lot of pressure on the Dawgs to reverse field.
Why this game will be important: Sure, the Bulldogs can lose this game and still win the East, but a shot at any national prestige fades after a loss. The Gamecocks can establish themselves as the SEC East frontrunner and a potential national title contender with a win.
Related: Week 2 SEC Preview
3. Sept. 28: LSU at Georgia
What we might learn before this game: A kickoff return for a touchdown and an LSU fumble kept TCU in striking distance in the opener, but otherwise this looked an awful lot like a team that can challenge for the West. Only a home date with Auburn poses a threat against LSU between now and the trip to Athens.
Why this game will be important: Georgia cut loose Zach Mettenberger, and the now second-year LSU starter could spoil the Bulldogs’ season. If Georgia loses to South Carolina, the Bulldogs are staring down a 1-3 start. If LSU’s young defense and Cam Cameron’s new offense are clicking enough to defeat TCU and Georgia before October, they’ll be good enough to beat Alabama and Texas A&M in November.
4. Sept. 7: Notre Dame at Michigan
What we know about this game: Both teams handled their Week 1 opponents with ease. Strangely enough, Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees came out of the weekend looking better than Michigan’s Devin Gardner.
Why this game will be important: In the last two games, the winner has gone on to a combined 23-3 record while the losers have gone a combined 16-10.
Related: Week 2 Big Ten preview
5. Sept. 28: Oklahoma at Notre Dame
What we might learn before this game: Can Notre Dame trust Rees to lead the Irish to another top-10 season? Turnover-free against Temple is one thing. Turnover-free against Michigan and Oklahoma is another. The Sooners meanwhile were full of surprises early with their new athletic quarterback Trevor Knight and a stifling defense against ULM.
Why this game will be important: This is Oklahoma’s first road test before facing TCU in Norman and Texas in Dallas. While Notre Dame won’t impact OU in the Big 12 standings, the Sooners should have a good idea what kind of league contender they’ll be by the end of the month. With this game and the Michigan matchup, Notre Dame could be back in the title race or out of the BCS picture by the end of September.
6. Sept. 7: Florida at Miami
What we know about this game: Florida was impressive despite absences of tailback Matt Jones and cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy among others in the opener against Toledo. Miami was explosive as ever against FAU. It’s the Hurricanes’ big-play threats against Florida’s punishing D.
Why this game will be important: The last game between Florida and Miami in a while, the winner of this game will look the part of a conference contender when league play starts.
7. Sept. 21: Arizona State at Stanford
What we might learn before this game: Arizona State and Stanford are two of six FBS teams that didn’t play in Week 1, so anything will tell us something. Arizona State will show part of its hand by facing Wisconsin before Sept. 21, but Stanford catches San Jose State and Army before hosting the Sun Devils. Advantage: Cardinal.
Why this game will be important: For starters, this will be a competition between the two best defenses in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils, Athlon’s pick to win the Pac-12 South, will be in the midst of a four-game stretch against the Badgers, Cardinal, USC and Notre Dame.
8. Sept. 28: Wisconsin at Ohio State
What we might learn before this game: How much did Wisconsin miss quarterback Joel Stave last season, who was the Badgers’ top quarterback before missing all of November with an injury?
Why this game will be important: In Ohio State’s soft schedule, this game could be the key matchup in the Leaders Division.
9. Sept. 14: UCLA at Nebraska
What we might learn before this game: UCLA has an off week, and Nebraska catches a Southern Miss team that has lost 13 in a row. Not much, save for a disaster in Lincoln against Southern Miss.
Why this game will be important: Nebraska will learn if it needs to hit the panic button on defense after getting gouged by Wyoming in the opener. The Cornhuskers haven’t had an above average defensive performance since Nov. 23 against Iowa. That’s not a good trend against the Bruins’ Brett Hundley.
10. Sept. 14: Wisconsin at Arizona State
What we might learn before this game: Not a whole lot, probably: The Badgers and Sun Devils will have played Tennessee Tech, Sacramento State and UMass before this meeting.
Why this game will be important: Can Wisconsin’s normally stout offensive line hold up against the Sun Devils’ Will Sutton, the top lineman in the Pac-12.