A massive Big Ten matchup of undefeated teams kicks off a tripleheader when No. 7 Penn State hits the road to square off with No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday.
Big Noon Kickoff leads off the coverage at 10 a.m. ET live from Columbus, Ohio on FOX. And at noon ET, No. 3 Ohio St takes on No. 7 Penn State, followed by No. 8 Texas taking on Houston at 4 p.m. ET, and the action concludes with a primetime duel in the Pac 12 when No. 14 Utah visits No. 18 USC at 8 p.m. ET.
No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 7 Penn State
Saturday’s battle between the Big Ten powers features two evenly matched teams.
Penn State (6-0) has the best defense in the nation, and Ohio State’s (6-0) defense also ranks in the top 10.
The Nittany Lions are at the top of national defensive rankings, and are first in several categories, including pass defense, sacks per game (4.5) and yards per game at 193.7, according to the Associated Press.
Penn State Nittany Lions Quarterback Drew Allar (15) runs with the ball with West Virginia Mountaineers Linebacker Jared Bartlett (10) defending during the first half of the College Football Game between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Penn St
A potential defensive slugfest could put more pressure on both quarterbacks. Penn State’s Drew Allar and Ohio State’s Kyle McCord are first-time starters and will look to avoid turnovers and make plays for their respective offenses.
Ohio State has won the last six games in the series after a 24-21 Penn State win in 2016 helped propel the Nittany Lions to their only Big Ten championship under coach James Franklin. That was their first win in the series with Ohio State since 2011, which was also the last time they won in Columbus, the AP noted.
No. 8 Texas vs. Houston
Texas (5-1) and Houston (3-3) are playing against each other for the first time as Big 12 opponents and for the first time overall since 2002. The Cougars are looking for their first win over Texas in Houston since 1991.
The Longhorns have a season of big-play touchdowns but have struggled finishing long drives with touchdowns the last two weeks, including against Oklahoma on four consecutive plays inside the Sooners’ 5-yard line.
Jonathon Brooks #24 of the Texas Longhorn is hit by Kendel Dolby #15 of the Oklahoma Sooners in the fourth quarter at the Cotton Bowl on October 07, 2023 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Houston came out on top of their game against West Virginia by scoring on a 49-yard Hail Mary as time expired for a 41-39 win.
But special teams could be the difference in this game, which is a strength for the Cougars.
Houston's Matthew Golden leads the FBS with two kickoff return touchdowns this season, including one last week.
Golden had a 98-yard return for a touchdown against TCU before his 100-yard return against the Mountaineers, the Associated Press reported. The Cougars lead the country with eight kickoff return touchdowns since 2019.
No. 14 Utah vs. No. 18 USC
Utah (5-1) and USC (6-1) will feel good about its chances of playing for the Pac 12 title depending on who secures a win. The Utes are coming off a win against California on Saturday, while the Trojans want to erase the embarrassing loss they suffered against No. 15 Notre Dame, the AP noted.
The Trojans failed to protect QB Caleb Williams against a relentless Fighting Irish pass rush, which forced him into his worst game in college. And it could be more of the same if USC doesn’t get better protection this week.
USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) rolls out to throw a pass during a game between the San Jose State Spartans and the USC Trojans on August 26, 2023, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sport
Utah has one of the best rush defenses in the FBS, allowing 66.8 yards per game, according to the Associated Press.
Utah took down Williams 11 times in their two meetings last season in a 43-42 win in Salt Lake City, which was the Trojans’ only regular season defeat.
USC is 9-2 against Utah in Los Angeles. But the Utes picked up their first road win since 1916 and first victory at the Coliseum with a 42-26 triumph in 2021, the AP noted.
Utah freshman WR Mikey Matthews is coming off the best game of his young career after making seven receptions for 53 yards at Cal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Washington, D.C.