As the calendar turns to October and the weather begins to feel more like fall, the college football season is getting real interesting.
It’s now when the conference slates take on a whole new meaning. Let’s dive into the heart of the season and get to as many games as possible as we continue our Ultimate Road Trip for 2013.
Remember I have one simple, self-imposed rule: You can’t travel to the same stadium more than once. It’s a tough rule to follow.
Last week I picked the must-see games for August and September, and next week I’ll have November and December.
Oct. 3: Texas at Iowa State
As many times I have developed these ultimate road trips, not once has Ames, Iowa, made the cut.
Give me a Thursday night game against the Longhorns and the 55,000-seat Jack Trice Stadium is on the board.
The Cyclones could shake things up in the Big 12 as Paul Rhoads has built a solid football program. With Sam Richardson back at quarterback and James White at running back, Iowa State will make this a huge challenge for Mack Brown and the Longhorns on the road.
Oct. 4: Nevada at San Diego State
Let’s make it a full weekend and throw a Friday night game into the mix. San Diego in October isn’t a bad option either.
The Aztecs have a solid defense that is led by free safety Nat Berhe, who recorded 94 tackles last season. The offense should have adapted to Bob Toledo’s more up-tempo offense by this game.
The Wolf Pack are welcoming new coach Brian Polian, who must figure out a way to improve the defense and keep quarterback Cody Fajardo healthy. If he can accomplish those two goals, Nevada could be a bowl-caliber squad this fall.
Oct. 5: Notre Dame vs. Arizona State (at Arlington, Texas)
These neutral-site games give us some flexibility on only going to a location once a season.
ASU returns plenty of talent that there is no reason to believe the Sun Devils can’t make a run at the Pac-12. If Todd Graham can get his team to take down Notre Dame it will give him the cache he’s looking for to convince his players and the fans that ASU can turn the corner.
Quarterback Taylor Kelly was impressive in 2012 and he could be a big reason why the Sun Devils should be fun to watch.
Notre Dame won’t give this game away without a fight. Love him or hate him, Brian Kelly is a talented coach and he won’t let the Irish fall back too much.
Oct. 10: Arizona at USC
It’s a make-or-break season for Lane Kiffin, so the tension in Southern California is not “groovy.”
The Trojans have their typical 5-star talent scattered all over the roster, including receiver Marqise Lee, running back Silas Redd and quarterback Max Wittek.
Arizona appears ready to pass USC in the Pac-12 South in just Rich Rodriguez’ second season in Tucson. It won’t be easy, though, as the defense needs to get better and quarterback Matt Scott is gone.
So it looks like Los Angeles is the place to be this Thursday.
Oct. 11: Temple at Cincinnati
Going from LA to Cincinnati in October can translate into a tough change in climates, but it’s an chance to see Tommy Tuberville taking over a new program and Nippert Stadium is an underrated site.
The Bearcats have enough talent to possibly pull off a league championship, but the coaching transition could take a toll. Cincinnati had been running a wide-open offense, but that will possibly change with Tuberville.
The Owls also enter the season with a new coach — Matt Ruhle. There’s a lot of holes on Temple’s roster and that’s coming from a team that won four games in 2012.
Oct. 12: Oklahoma vs. Texas (at Dallas)
If you get a chance to attend a Red River Rivalry then you should take full advantage of it.
The Sooners enter this game on a three-game winning streak, including a 65-13 win last season.
The Longhorns will have some tests before this game, but we will probably learn how far Texas has come in this game.
OU is also trying to figure out if it is a Big 12 contender again, and seeing Blake Bell bulldoze his way around the field in Dallas is worth the trip.
Oct. 17: Miami at North Carolina
This key ACC Coastal game will be played in Chapel Hill and UNC would like to take advantage of the home-field advantage.
The Tar Heels will have to step it up on defense to take down the Canes.
Let’s not forget that Miami played more than a dozen freshmen last year while going 7-5. If the NCAA situation is no longer lingering, the Hurricanes could benefit from all of the raw talent that exists on the roster.
Oct. 19: UCLA at Stanford
Welcome to the Brett Hundley-Kevin Hogan showdown. This is easily one of the better matchups you could see all season between future NFL QBs.
Stanford was just as good last year without Andrew Luck and coach David Shaw has this program eyeing a shot at a BCS Championship in 2013.
This is the start of a tough three-game run that Stanford must survive to keep those Pac-12 and national title hopes alive.
Another reason to make this trip is to see how good Barry Sanders Jr. really is.
Oct. 22: Louisiana-Lafayette at Arkansas State
If you have a Tuesday game on the schedule you might as well go to it.
Lafayette is in the running for the Sun Belt crown and has a solid quarterback in Terrance Broadway.
The Red Wolves are coming off back-to-back conference titles, but it's hard to see that happening in Bryan Harsin's first season.
Oct. 24: Marshall at Middle Tennessee State
Don’t think this is a mid-week throwaway game.
Marshall and Middle Tennessee State are both Conference USA contenders and the winner here could take the East Division title.
Marshall has one of the conference’s most exciting players in quarterback Rakeem Cato, who threw for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns last year. Coach Doc Holliday needs a big season, but it shouldn’t be overlooked how he has restocked the talent in Huntington, W.Va., — mostly with guys from Florida.
On the other side is Logan Kilgore, who will finish his career among the best in every throwing category in Middle Tennessee State history. Kilgore has plenty of targets to throw to with Christian Collis, Kyle Griswould, Marcus Henry and Tavarres Jefferson.
Oct. 25: Boise State at BYU
With BYU’s tough schedule it would make sense to consider almost any week the Cougars play.
We’ve already passed up games with Virginia, Texas, Utah, Georgia Tech and Houston.
We’re not going to skip the matchup with Boise State in Provo, Utah.
BYU’s defense will probably struggle against Boise’s potent offense, but we’ll take our chances on this long road trip.
Oct. 26: UCLA at Oregon
I like UCLA’s potential this season so much I almost put the Bruins on the October slate three times (I skipped the Oct. 3 game at Utah). Don’t be shocked if we don’t go see them again before the season wraps.
The Bruins are on the rise under Jim Mora and it will be intriguing to see how UCLA fares against the Ducks in Eugene. The loud and crazy fans in Autzen Stadium make it one of the toughest places to play in the nation.
It’s hard to believe the up-and-coming Bruins can pull the upset, but this game is worth the gamble and who wouldn’t like to be there if UCLA actually does it.