Football feast in first week of November

Notre Dame QB Ian Book will have to improve from his last performacne against Clemson, when the Fighting Irish lost 30-3 in the CFP semifinal game at the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

Feasts may typically occur in the last week of November, but for football fans, the week of Nov. 2 presents a buffet of exciting options each day from Wednesday through Sunday.

Beginning on Wednesday, MACtion will be back with six games played to kick-off the MAC season. For football fans in the midwest, the Group of 5 conference provides entertaining football in the middle of the week.

With the last Group of 5 conference kicking off Wednesday, the feast continues Thursday. Two Mountain West games are good for college football fans, but the bigger game is the Green Bay Packers traveling to Santa Clara, Calif., to face the San Francisco 49ers.

The Packers are atop the NFC North at 5-2, while the 49ers are in last place in the deep NFC West at 4-4. 

In five wins, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 1,497 yards, 17 TDs and 0 INTs, while throwing for just 451 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs in two losses. The 49ers’ key to victory will be stopping Rodgers in a key match-up for both teams.

On Friday, No. 11 Miami (FL) – whose only loss is to No. 1 Clemson – takes on 4-2 NC State, with a chance to put themselves firmly in ACC contention with a 5-1 record on the line. 

Later Friday night, the biggest Group of 5 game of the season takes place as No. 9 BYU travels to Idaho to face No. 21 Boise State. In seven wins from seven games, BYU QB Zach Wilson has thrown for 2,152 yards, 19 TDs and 2 INTs to carry the Cougars into the discussion for best Group of 5 team, just behind No. 6 Cincinnati.

While Wednesday through Friday present some exciting options, the biggest games of the weekend take place on Saturday and Sunday, beginning with the kickoff of the Pac-12 season (Arizona State-USC at noon ET) and a battle between No. 23 Michigan and No. 13 Indiana (also noon ET). 

Coming off a disappointing loss to rival Michigan State, Michigan now faces upstart Indiana, who upset Penn State 36-35 in week one of the Big Ten season and beat Rutgers 37-21 in a sloppy win.

Also in the noon ET time slot is Virginia Tech hosting No. 25 Liberty, which is ranked for the first time in their brief history in the FBS. Not only does Liberty face an in-state opponent, they have the chance to defeat an ACC powerhouse in Blacksburg.

The biggest match-up in the SEC East this year will be played at 3:30 p.m. ET in Jacksonville, Florida, between No. 8 Florida (3-1) and No. 5 Georgia (4-1). The winner of this fiery rivalry game will be in the driver’s seat to win the East division and make the SEC Championship Game, where they will likely face No. 2 Alabama (6-0). 

The Bulldogs defense, coming off a dominant performance in a 14-3 win over Kentucky, will be up against the Kyle Trask-Kyle Pitts combo, which has racked up 22 connections for 355 yards and 7 TDs. 

As important as the Florida-Georgia game will be (not to mention Big 12 contenders Oklahoma State and Kansas State facing off at 4 p.m. ET), the game of the weekend across all of football will be No. 1 Clemson against No. 4 Notre Dame.

Clemson, without star QB Trevor Lawrence for the second straight game, will rely on D.J. Uiagalelei to reproduce his 30/41, 342-yards and 2-TD performance in an 18-point comeback win against Boston College. 

Meanwhile, veteran QB Ian Book will look to give the Fighting Irish the big-time win they have been lacking in recent years to take a big step toward making the College Football Playoff.

Neither team has an AP ranked team on their schedule the rest of the way – though Notre Dame does face North Carolina on the road – so whichever team falls in South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday will not be out of the CFP race.

Finally, the NFL Sunday slate has multiple match-ups between current playoff teams or close contenders: Ravens-Colts, Seahawks-Bills, and Bears-Titans at 1 p.m. ET; Dolphins-Cardinals at 4:25 p.m. ET; and Saints-Buccaneers at 8:20 p.m.

The winner of Ravens-Colts will be pushed to the front of the Wild Card race, while the Seahawks and Bills have the chance to bolster their division leads. The Bears and Titans got off to hot starts (Titans 5-0, Bears 5-1 through week six), but have each lost two in a row, increasing the importance of this week nine match-up.

Meanwhile, the young QB battle between Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa should be an exciting one as both the Cardinals (fifth seed in the NFC) and Dolphins (No. 9 in the AFC) fight for a mid-season foothold in the race for the playoffs.

On Sunday Night Football, an older QB match-up will be played for the second time this season, as Tom Brady leads the (6-2, 5-3) Buccaneers into New Orleans to face Drew Brees and the 5-2 Saints. The Saints won the first match-up 34-23, but the winner of this game will be in prime position to win the NFC South with eight weeks to go.

As we now approach the half-way week of the NFL season and a full conference slate of college football, the football feast has arrived.

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