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What to Watch: Northwestern bye week

There are some intriguing matchups, and maybe even one across the pond you can check out.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

With Northwestern on a bye this week, the Wildcat faithful won't be glued to their TVs for three hours at any point this Saturday watching Pat Fitzgerald's bunch. That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't other options for you this weekend. There are a lot of intriguing games — although few matchups between highly-ranked opponents. Here's what our writers will be watching for this College Football Saturday.

Henry Bushnell: One word: Temple.

Okay, more than one word... So I was born and raised in Philadelphia. It's an amazing sports city, one that gets a lot of negative publicity, but often unfairly so. And what people don't understand is that the same reason it has such a bad reputation is what makes it so great. We care. People here in Chicago and at Northwestern think it's odd how much I care. Back home, it's the norm.

And Saturday, for the first time in forever, Philadelphia cares about Temple. And let's be real, three or four weeks ago, it didn't. I certainly didn't. But at 7-0, the Owls have the city at their backs. It's like St. Joe's basketball in 2004, or Smarty Jones that same year. It's like Villanova basketball and Scottie Reynolds in 2009. It's like Mo'ne Davis and the Taney Little Leaguers in 2014. The city has a unique capacity to rally around a fringe sports team and suddenly champion it as its own. It's special. So I'll be following Temple Saturday. In the morning, I'll be watching GameDay, which, in front of Independence Hall, will be amazing. I'll be emotionally invested in every play at night. And if Temple can pull it off against the Irish of Notre Dame... oh, man.

Josh Rosenblat: No. 11 Fordham visits Colgate in some FCS football action. The Red Raiders are 3-4, but 2-0 in league play while the Rams are an impressive 7-1. Why did I pick this Patriot League clash? Well, the other three members of my family will be up in Hamilton, New York this weekend. My parents are visiting my brother, a freshman tennis player at Colgate for parents weekend. And while there's no guarantee that they'll end up at beautiful Andy Kerr Stadium, I'll be watching at noon CT on Saturday. And so should you.

Zach Pereles: How dominant is Penn State's defensive line? The Nittany Lions lead the nation in sacks, while the Illini allow the fewest sacks in the nation.

Also, this game will go a long way to telling us about both teams. Illinois was a dumpster fire in the preseason and that status would carry over to the regular season, most people figured. But give credit where credit is due: Bill Cubit has rallied his troops and the Illini are in line for a bowl with an ok finish to the season. Penn State, meanwhile, boasts a good record, but hasn't beaten anyone of note. If Illinois goes into Happy Valley and wins, I think it says a lot about both teams — Illinois is solid and Penn State isn't as good as its record. If the Nittany Lions win this one at home, I think that proves less — maybe Illinois is more toward the cellar than they are the middle tier of the conference, but it still doesn't legitimatize Penn State quite yet in my mind.

And if you're looking for more, my hometown bias is to the University of Virginia, which has an atrocious 2-5 record this year, with a close win over in-state FCS opponent William & Mary and a triple-overtime victory against lowly Syracuse. The Cavaliers (known as the Wahoos or simply 'Hoos to locals) will almost certainly get demolished by Georgia Tech, which is coming off a shocker versus Florida State. The bigger headline, though, is that Mike London, whose seat is scorching hot right now, might need a win to keep his job in Charlottesville.

Ian McCafferty: Well we're all Terrapin fans this weekend I guess. From a Northwestern fan standpoint, the most important game is Iowa vs Maryland. Considering the Hawkeyes will have to lose three games for Northwestern to be able to win the Big Ten West, an Iowa win will essentially knock Northwestern out of contention. So just try to not think too much about that when Iowa is up 28 in the second quarter.

If you're interested in good games, then the there's a pretty good one going on in Gainesville on Saturday. Georgia takes on Florida in the de-facto SEC East Championship game. That's right, the winner of this game will get the pleasure of being blown out by either LSU or Alabama. Elsewhere, Stanford takes on Washington State in a game that suddenly matters. WSU can take control of the Pac-12 North with a win (!!!!) but Stanford will most likely just win in a blowout and make Northwestern's week one win all the more mystifying. I also think seeing how Michigan responds after their disastrous loss against MSU two weeks ago will be something to keep tabs on. Finally, Rutgers University will definitely put 11 players on the field versus Wisconsin.

Tristan Jung: To be honest, I will be watching a potentially explosive Chelsea vs. Liverpool game in the morning, followed by a dangerous away game for Arsenal at Swansea. Oh wait, wrong football. Seriously though, there are only two Top 25 teams favored by less than 7 points this Saturday, and they don't play until 2:30. The Premier League will be my most compelling early afternoon sporting event with Northwestern on bye.

Georgia vs. Florida should be interesting for SEC East fans. As a Big Ten observer, I should be watching the conference action this weekend, but the Mets are playing in the World Series on Saturday night. Sorry, but that trumps watching two double-digit underdogs get blown out by Iowa and Michigan. Oklahoma State at Texas Tech would be my game of the week in a weak slate this weekend.

Sam Brief: Since losing to Northwestern week 1, Stanford has been on an absolute tear, winning six straight and moving into the No. 8 spot nationally while running back Christian McCaffrey has asserted himself as a Heisman candidate. I'll be watching closely at their tough road test against 5-2 Washington State to see if the Cardinal can remain in the CFP conversation.

Another storyline I'll be watching is the potential continued success 7-0 Temple (@Henry) and 7-0 Memphis. The Owls face a huge home test vs. Notre Dame and 7-0 Memphis has what should be a walk in the park at home against Tulane. Both of these teams are looking to break into the CFP with a non-Power 5 label, and I'll be interested to see how both teams fare Saturday.

Head over to our Week 9 open thread to discuss the day's action as it happens.