This is the week when the 2012 college football season truly begins. A trio of big games between top-10(ish) teams highlights a week that should shape the national championship race, establish the pecking order in the SEC East, and determine the big dog in the Big 12. There's also a "big" Big Ten game between two college football blue-bloods. And, fortunately for us, at least one of those games is in the late afternoon window, allowing for a manageable window of doom in the evening. As always, Control Your Remote is here to help you figure out the week's college football TV schedule and determine what to watch and when.
Your guide to the guide: First Choice means this is a must-see game in that block; Last Button Option means you should have that "last" or "return" button on your remote ready to flick back during commercials; Know The (Channel) Numbers runs down games you'll want to find when Twitter tells you something nutty happened; Cover The Spread is a suggestion for how to feed yourself. All times listed are Eastern.
Early Block (noon to 3 p.m. Eastern)
First Choice: Penn State vs. Northwestern (noon, ESPN). Northwestern is 5-0 and has one of the most interesting offenses in the nation: Kain Colter has been a dual-threat quarterback, but he's added receiving to his arsenal, and gives the Wildcats perhaps America's most versatile weapon as a result. Meanwhile, Bill O'Brien's team has righted the ship after a disastrous 0-2 start, and is looking to play Big Ten spoiler all year long. If Northwestern can get to 6-0 and bowl eligibility, the Wildcats may be able to start thinking about the Rose Bowl, so this means a fair bit to nerds in Evanston and journalists in every newsroom in the country.
Last Button Options: Kansas State vs. Kansas (noon, FX). Recommended if you like curb-stompings, because there's no way Charlie Weis' team comes up with an upset on the road against a Bill Snyder-coached and undefeated Wildcats squad.
Auburn vs. Arkansas (noon, ESPN2). Neither of these teams are good, but two bad teams playing football against each other at noon on a Saturday is sometimes just as entertaining as two good teams meeting at night.
Know The (Channel) Numbers: You're probably good with the above two games, actually.
Cover The Spread: Unless you have a really good reason to be watching Northwestern and/or Penn State, your early afternoon should be free for boring things like flea market visits or reading about baseball.
How Texas can stop WVU || Week 6 picks || Can Gators score on LSU? ||Oregon's Carson York on Week 6
Late Afternoon Block (3 to 7 p.m. Eastern)
First Choice: Florida vs. LSU (3:30 p.m., CBS). Of the day's two SEC games, this is likely to be the lower-scoring, more defensive one: Florida's defense is talented and maturing, and has been hellacious in the second half, while LSU's may have the most players drafted next NFL Draft, and is liable to unleash a pass rush that is unlike anything Florida's seen so far. Given how the Gators' underwhelming line performed against Texas A&M, that might be bad for Will Muschamp's bunch, but Jeff Driskel looks to have the edge on the inconsistent Zach Mettenberger at quarterback, and Florida's playing a game that could begin its return to glory at home in The Swamp. And there's been some weirdness in this series in recent years, as Les Miles can attest.
Last Button Option: Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma (3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN). Oklahoma should be able to win games like these going away, but the Sooners' struggles with UTEP and loss to Kansas State may have been an indication that this Oklahoma team just isn't that good. Landry Jones, once a first-round lock, now looks more like a marginal NFL prospect, and throwing against the nation's top pass defense — Texas Tech has allowed fewer than 100 yards through the air per game — could be a bad thing for him and OU.
Know The Number: Stanford vs. Arizona (3 p.m., FOX): Two Pac-12 teams that need to get back to winning ways go at it; TCU vs. Iowa State (3:30 p.m., FSN): TCU's strong defense will have to make up for a suddenly quarterback-poor offense after Casey Pachall's arrest and suspension.
Cover The Spread: The chances of Florida-LSU not being close at game's end are minute, and the chances that it and the South Carolina-Georgia and Texas-West Virginia games don't overlap are even smaller. If you're in need of dinner or dinner plans, you're going to want to figure that out before Florida-LSU starts, or at least before the end of the first half.
Evening Block (7 to 11 p.m. Eastern)
First Choice: South Carolina vs. Georgia (7 p.m., ABC). It's hard to pick a game that doesn't involve West Virginia over one that does in a viewer's guide, but this is the most important game of the weekend, and one that could be the most exciting SEC game of the season. Georgia's 51-point outburst against Tennessee last week showed that the Bulldogs can score, and South Carolina's recovered from slow starts in more than one context this season and still has Marcus Lattimore, Conner Shaw, and Steve Spurrier to pace its offense. The game's also a matchup of two of the best pass-rushers in college football, Georgia's Jarvis Jones and South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, two players NFL fans will likely know and love in a few years' time. There's also a good chance that the winner of this game becomes the SEC's second-best shot at reaching the national championship game, so this could be the moment when a good team makes the leap to greatness.
Last Button Options: Texas vs. West Virginia (7 p.m., FOX). West Virginia has the nation's most explosive and entertaining offense, and the Mountaineers are playing their most important game of the year in their first Big 12 road game -- if West Virginia wins this game, it's got a really good chance of being favored in every other game this season, which is a favorable path to the Big 12 championship, and possibly the BCS National Championship Game. But Texas can claim the same thing, and the Longhorns are at home on Saturday, and their defense has taken its lumps in the last few weeks and is likely looking to do the impossible by shutting down Heisman front-runner Geno Smith. It's far more likely that we'll see a shootout, and Texas might have a chance in one of those, thanks to the development of quarterback David Ash.
Ohio State vs. Nebraska (8 p.m., ABC). Nebraska's grip on a spot in the top 25 is tenuous, as the Huskers were close to falling to an average Wisconsin team last week. Ohio State looks like the Big Ten's best team, which is to say it is one point better than offensively inept Michigan State on the road, and will not be able to represent the league in a bowl because of NCAA sanctions. So, an interesting question: do Big Ten partisans cheer for the Buckeyes to give the league an elite team, or do they hope Ohio State loses and donates wins to teams that could theoretically head to better bowls (and earn bigger payouts for the conference) as a result? Either way, don't believe the hype about Ohio State's Braxton Miller vs. Nebraska's Taylor Martinez being a matchup of two of the nation's most exciting quarterbacks: Miller is being used as Urban Meyer's Tim Tebow substitute despite a much different skill set, and Martinez remains one of the nation's preeminent arm-punters.
Know The (Channel) Numbers: Notre Dame vs. Miami (7:30 p.m., NBC): old rivals renew a rivalry that has totally different dimensions now, and the Irish get a much-diminished 'Canes team; North Carolina State vs. Florida State (8 p.m., ESPN2): 'Noles leave the Sunshine State for the first time in 2012, and get to beat up on another overmatched ACC team or flame out.
Cover The Spread: Just don't do anything Spilly does.
Late Night Block (10 p.m. Eastern onward)
First Choice: Oregon vs. Washington (10:30 p.m., ESPN). Washington bullied Stanford, which bullied USC, and bullying the track-ready Ducks has worked in the past -- ask Auburn. But Oregon's greatest weakness in 2012, a tendency to start slow, has been mitigated by Chip Kelly's blink-and-miss-six offense getting a quick-strike defense to go with it, and there's a chance that the Ducks let Washington hang around before blowing the Huskies out.
Last Button Option: California vs. UCLA (10 p.m., Pac-12 Network). UCLA has a good quarterback, Brett Hundley, but you probably don't get the Pac-12 Network anyway, which is a shame.
Cover The Spread: Ice cream, of course. Did you know there is now Willy Wonka ice cream? Because there is.
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