College football Week 6 preview: Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher meet after testy offseason, key rivalry sets stage

It’s Red River Rivalry week, and college football fans would usually be clamoring for information on one of the greatest rivalries in the sport. 

But Saturday is filled with quality matchups, and a battle between two unranked schools just doesn’t have the zip to get all that much attention. 

Fans arrive at the Cotton Bowl before the 2021 Red River Showdown between the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners Oct. 9, 2021, in Dallas, Texas. 
(Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Oklahoma enters the game losers of two straight games after giving up 668 yards of offense and 55 points to an unranked TCU team. 

Oklahoma has dropped out of the poll after entering Week 4 undefeated and ranked No. 6 in the country before losing to Kansas State at home. 

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Texas is 3-2 after a last-second loss to Texas Tech in Week 4, but the Longhorns will reportedly be getting their five-star quarterback back in Quinn Ewers, who is expected to get the start under center after returning from an injury against Alabama in Week 2. 

Texas’ Quinn Ewers (3) in action, passing against Alabama at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
(Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

It’s the Red River Rivalry. It’s certainly worth a peek or two during the morning hours on Saturday, but there aren’t any College Football Playoff implications on the line, no national championship hopes for either school. 

Let’s take a look at a few games to be aware of Saturday as the college football season kicks off Week 6.

No. 25 LSU vs. No. 8 Tennessee – 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Vols are hoping for their first 5-0 start since 2016, but they better not look ahead to next week’s matchup against No. 1 Alabama because Brian Kelly has his Tigers playing well and ranked for the first time this season. 

Tennessee presents the first ranked matchup of the year for LSU, and Kelly knows it will take a great performance to knock off a top-10 team. 

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“It’s pretty clear this team plays with great heart, and they’ll fight, but heart and fight will not win games against the opponents that we’re going to have over the next month or so,” Kelly said. “What I will make clear when I get a chance to talk to the team is, having heart and fighting the way we do — that’s not going to get it done against Tennessee.”

Head coach Brian Kelly of the LSU Tigers reacts before a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Tiger Stadium Sept. 17, 2022, in Baton Rouge, La. 
(Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

The Tigers needed comebacks against Mississippi State and Auburn to win, and Tennessee head coach Josh Huepel knows no lead will be safe. 

“The way they play and compete, no matter what the scoreboard looks like, you have to be prepared for their best for 60 minutes,” Heupel said. “You can see that from Week 1 all the way through this past week.”

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Hendon Hooker of the Tennessee Volunteers looks to throw against the Florida Gators at Neyland Stadium Sept. 24, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won the game 38-33. 
(Donald Page/Getty Images)

Tennessee boasts the top offense in the country, averaging 559.3 yards per game of total offense and scoring 48.5 points per game. But LSU’s defense is stingy, allowing just 293.8 yards (19th in the country) and 14.8 points (tied for 14th) per game. 

Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker has thrown a touchdown pass in 16 consecutive games. 

No. 19 Kansas vs. No. 17 TCU – 12 p.m. ET, FS1

Here are a few words fans of the Jayhawks have never heard before: “‘College Gameday’ is coming to Lawrence, Kansas.”

For the first time, Lawrence will be the epicenter of college football as two unbeaten teams square off. 

At 5-0, it’s the best start to the season since 2009 for Kansas, the year the Jayhawks lost the last seven games on their schedule. TCU head coach Sonny Dykes is impressed. 

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“It’s really pretty remarkable just how quickly, you know, he’s been able to convince them and teach them really how to win. I think that sometimes takes a long time,” Dykes said of Kansas head coach Lance Leipold. “You can tell that they’re completely bought into his way of doing things.”

The Kansas Jayhawks offense runs the ball against the Duke Blue Devils defense during the first half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium Sept. 24, 2022 in Lawrence, Kan. 
(Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)

Even Leipold, who won six Divison III titles at Wisconsin-Whitewater before turning around the program at Buffalo, is surprised at the turnaround he’s led in Lawrence. 

“A year ago we were a ways away,” Leipold acknowledged this week. “I try to do a good job in this program of keeping this balance. But, yeah, there’s a moment where you pinch yourself a little bit.”

Expect an offensive explosion as both teams have no problems getting into the end zone. 

TCU is tied with Tennessee and Ohio State as the top-scoring teams in the nation (48.5) and Kansas isn’t far behind (41.6).

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Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels has thrown for 11 touchdowns and rushed for five more with just one interception, putting him in the Heisman conversation. 

TCU Horned Frogs head coach Sonny Dykes and tight end Dominic DiNunzio (84) run onto the field before a game against the Tarleton State Texans Sept. 10, 2022, at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. 
(Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Horned Frogs are coming off a 55-24 beat down of Oklahoma, and Dykes is looking to lead TCU to its first 5-0 start since 2017. 

“Just do what we’ve been doing, you know what I mean?” Dykes said. “So far, I think we’re in a good state of mind, and I’m hopeful that it doesn’t change between now and Saturday. We’re going to do everything we can on our end to ensure it doesn’t. But, you know, the players have to decide for themselves either we’re going to listen to this or we’re not.”

No. 18 UCLA vs. No. 11 Utah – 3:30 p.m. ET, By News4buffalo.com

UCLA is coming off an upset win against No. 15 Washington for the program’s first 5-0 start since the 2013 season. The Utes present an even tougher challenge as a team that started the season in the top 10 and has won four games in a row since a close opening week loss to Florida. 

Utah’s defense is the best in the Pac-12 (278.6 yards allowed per game) and is ninth in college football against the pass (155.4 yards). In its lone loss of the season, Utah allowed 283 yards on the ground, and UCLA is second in the PAC-12 in rushing yards per game (213.2). 

UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly gets a 40-32 win over the Washington Huskies at the Rose Bowl Sept. 30, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The Bruins will lean on wide receiver Jake Bobo, who has turned into a star after transferring from Duke, catching six passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns against Washington. 

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“There are guys that are tall, but they don’t play big and utilize their catch radius,” UCLA tight ends coach Jeff Faris said, according to the LA Times. “I think Jake Bobo, he’s got the tremendous length, but more important than that, he’s a physical player, he’s tough, he can make difficult catches, and he can turn 50-50 balls down the field into 90-10s.”

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising has carried the Utah offense through its first five games, throwing for 1,153 yards and 13 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He’s coming off a three-touchdown game against Oregon State. 

No. 1 Alabama vs. Texas A&M – 8 p.m. ET, CBS

Though it may not be the best matchup of the weekend, it certainly is the most interesting, and both teams are dealing with some uncertainty at the quarterback position.

College football fans had a blast over the summer as Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher had a war of words through the media. 

It got personal during the offseason when Saban said Texas A&M “bought every player on their team,” prompting Fisher to hold a press conference where he called Saban – without actually naming him – a “narcissist” while urging reporters to dig into his past. 

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But none of that really matters for Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, except the postgame handshake should be fascinating. 

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Texas A and M Aggies meet before a game at Kyle Field Oct. 9, 2021, in College Station, Texas. 
(Bob Levey/Getty Images)

“That’s over with,” Fisher said. “He [Saban] and I are in great shape … and we’ve moved on.”

Texas A&M took down No. 1 Alabama last season on a last-second field goal in College Station, but this Aggies team is dealing with injuries and coming off a bad loss to Mississippi State. 

It was reported Thursday that starting quarterback Max Johnson has a broken bone in his throwing hand and could miss the rest of the season. Johnson replaced Haynes King after Texas A&M lost to Appalachian State in Week 2. 

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For the Crimson Tide, reigning Heisman trophy winner Bryce Young will be a game-time decision after injuring his shoulder last week against Arkansas. 

Bryce Young of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the first half of a game at Bryant-Denny Stadium Sept. 24, 2022 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

“Bryce has been practicing, and all week, he’s been saying that he could play,” Saban told ESPN Thursday. “But that’s going to be a medical decision. We’ve still got some time, and I want to talk more to Bryce. He’s the only one who knows how he feels because it’s going to be a pain-tolerance thing.

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“He’s a tough kid and a great competitor. We’ll see where he is on game day.”

It’s a matchup with all types of storylines. Get your popcorn ready. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Joe Morgan is a Sports Reporter for Fox News.

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