This weekend has already seen the elimination of three college football playoff contenders: Washington State, West Virginia, and — with McKenzie Milton’s injury — almost certainly Central Florida.
Today, the stakes are just as large. Two SEC teams face bitter rivals they should be able to handle. but which could be problematic. Michigan looks to finally break its skid against Ohio State and punch its ticket to the B1GCG. Notre Dame can all-but-stamp its passport to the Playoffs (and seal Clay Helton’s fate) with a road win against rival USC. And so much more. You can’t fluff these kind of stakes — 12 hours in the regular season remain, and they’re all crucial.
Here’s your schedule and why-to-watch (all times Eastern):
|#4 Michigan at #10 Ohio State||12:00 PM||FOX||FoxSportsGo.com|
|Georgia Tech at #5 Georgia||12:00 PM||SEC Network||WatchESPN.com|
|#11 Florida at Florida State||12:00 PM||ABC||WatchESPN.com|
|#20 Syracuse at Boston College||12:00 PM||ESPN||WatchESPN.com|
|Marshall at Florida Intl||12:00 PM||None|
|Western Kentucky at Louisiana Tech||12:00 PM||CBSSN||CBSSports.com|
|Baylor at Texas Tech||12:00 PM||FS1||FoxSportsGo.com|
|Purdue at Indiana||12:00 PM||ESPN2||WatchESPN.com|
|Navy at Tulane||12:00 PM||ESPNU||WatchESPN.com|
|NC State at North Carolina||12:20 PM||ACC Network||WatchESPN.com|
|Wake Forest at Duke||12:30 PM||ACC Network||WatchESPN.com|
|Old Dominion at Rice||1:00 PM||ESPN+||ESPN+|
|New Mexico State at Liberty||2:00 PM||ESPN3||WatchESPN.com|
|Georgia Southern at Georgia State||2:00 PM||ESPN+||ESPN+|
|Wyoming at New Mexico||2:30 PM||AT&T SportsNet||WatchStadium.com|
|Troy at Appalachian State||2:30 PM||ESPN+||ESPN+|
|Southern Mississippi at UTEP||3:00 PM||ESPN+||ESPN+|
|Louisiana at UL Monroe||3:00 PM||ESPN+||ESPN+|
|UAB at Middle Tennessee||3:00 PM||ESPN3||WatchESPN.com|
|Stanford at UCLA||3:00 PM||Pac-12 Networks||Pac-12.com|
|Auburn at #1 Alabama||3:30 PM||CBS||CBSSports.com|
|Maryland at #12 Penn State||3:30 PM||ABC||WatchESPN.com|
|Illinois at #19 Northwestern||3:30 PM||BTN||FoxSportsGo.com|
|#24 Pittsburgh at Miami||3:30 PM||ESPN||WatchESPN.com|
|Arizona State at Arizona||3:30 PM||FS1||FoxSportsGo.com|
|Minnesota at Wisconsin||3:30 PM||ESPN2||WatchESPN.com|
|SMU at Tulsa||3:30 PM||CBSSN||CBSSports.com|
|Temple at UConn||3:30 PM||ESPNU||WatchESPN.com|
|Arkansas State at Texas State||4:00 PM||ESPN3||WatchESPN.com|
|Rutgers at Michigan State||4:00 PM||FOX||FoxSportsGo.com|
|Tennessee at Vanderbilt||4:00 PM||SEC Network||WatchESPN.com|
|Charlotte at Florida Atlantic||6:00 PM||Stadium||WatchStadium.com|
|South Carolina at #2 Clemson||7:00 PM||ESPN||WatchESPN.com|
|#15 Kentucky at Louisville||7:00 PM||ESPN2||WatchESPN.com|
|Kansas State at #25 Iowa State||7:00 PM||FS1||FoxSportsGo.com|
|San Jose State at Fresno State||7:00 PM||ESPNU||WatchESPN.com|
|Colorado at California||7:00 PM||Pac-12 Networks||Pac-12.com|
|North Texas at UTSA||7:00 PM||ESPN+||ESPN+|
|#7 LSU at #22 Texas A&M||7:30 PM||SEC Network||WatchESPN.com|
|#3 Notre Dame at USC||8:00 PM||ABC||WatchESPN.com|
|Oklahoma State at TCU||8:00 PM||FOX||FoxSportsGo.com|
|Nevada at UNLV||9:30 PM||CBSSN||CBSSports.com|
|BYU at #17 Utah||10:00 PM||FS1||FoxSportsGo.com|
|#21 Utah State at #23 Boise State||10:15 PM||ESPN||WatchESPN.com|
|Hawai'i at San Diego State||10:30 PM||ESPNU||WatchESPN.com|
The Big Game — No. 4 Michigan -4.5 at No. 9 Ohio State: Whet your whistle with this rivalry which is almost always close, even when one of the teams stinks. These programs sport the same record and both are in playoff contention, but they seem to be going in different directions, with Blue ascendant as Urban Meyer’s future hangs in the air. If this were in Ann Arbor, you’d feel better about UM. But, with some critical injuries on defense, a coach that goes into the shell on the road, facing one of the two coaches of his generation, you have to think Ohio State will have something waiting for Harbaugh and crew. With Michigan facing a steep rebuild, this is their best chance at a playoff run for the next few years. Can they finally do it?
No. 21 Utah State +3 at No. 23 Boise State — If Memphis ends UCF’s playoff dreams next week, as I suspect the Tigers will, the winner of this one takes the MWC Mountain crown and faces No. 24 Fresno State for a momentous MWCCG — and likely a New Year’s Six game. This is another fun, big game in the Mountain that you shouldn’t miss.
No. 7 LSU +3 at No. 22 Texas A&M — If you like overthrown passes, lots of ground and pound action, and two coaches that will commit malpractice down the stretch, then this one should be your jam. For Texas A&M and their $75 million dollar bet, it’s time to see if the Same Ole November Aggies are still a thing. This is a tough winnable home game, if A&M doesn’t get cute. For LSU, can even Joe Burrow exploit a woeful Aggie secondary, and help the Whos reach an excellent 10-2 record to keep their razor thin playoffs hopes alive. This is a tough winnable road game, assuming LSU doesn’t get cute — coaching truly will decide this one (and that’s probably why A&M is favored.)
Iron Bowl — No. 1 Alabama -24 vs. Auburn — 80% of the time the higher ranked or Vegas-favored team wins this rivalry, and does so pretty handily. It’s the 20% of the time, where the weird stuff happens, that makes the series so memorable. This is in Tuscaloosa, and this is an aggressively average Auburn team vs. a Tide squad on a lot of missions: senior day, individual awards, SEC and national title aspirations. This will not be one of the more memorable games in the series, one that gets its own nickname. The only question is if ‘Bama covers 24 in a revenge beatdown (pssst, they will.)
KEEP AN EYE ON:
Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate — No. 5 UGA vs. Georgia Tech +17 — The Jackets are big underdogs on the road, and the defense is the reason why. While it has improved, it’s probably not up to the task here. That said, the real matchup to watch is how uncomfortable GT’s running game makes it: The ‘Dawgs give up well over 4 YPC and have surrendered 11 rushing scores. They face a Tech team that gains 6 yards per rush, 354 YPG on the ground, and has pounded in 44 rushing scores. All the pressure on the world is on the Dawgs here.
No. 11 Florida at Florida State + 7.5 — FSU’s bowl streak, the longest in the nation, is at stake vs. the hated cross-state Gators. The ‘Noles have played better the last month and it seems UF may have peaked in October. The ‘Noles improvement can be traced to the offensive line, which is playing a little better; conversely, the Gators woes can be traced to Feleipe Franks being a sentient fire hydrant. The loser will have a lot of questions to answer here — it’s winnable by either. This one will probably be a pretty ugly viewing experience TBH. But, it is an important game — and in the end, Cam Akers may be gone from Tallahassee no matter the result.
The Old Oaken Bucket — Purdue at Indiana +3.5 — Two 5-6 B1GW teams both fighting for a bowl bid, and man, this should be a fun one, particularly if you like slow white guys in shootouts under permagrey skies (and you know I do). But, for the Boilermakers, it may also signal a premature end to their rebuild, as rumors swirl around Jeff Brohm returning to Louisville. Bitter, bitter rivalry, and these teams are so close too — though the overall talent edge still goes to the Hoosiers, and the coaching nod tilts to the Boilers.
Holy War — BYU at No. 17 Utah -11 — This is the dirtiest rivalry in all of college football. The sectarian divide is very real and it doesn’t help that BYU plays like straight trash between the lines: It’s always chippy, mouthy, and hard hitting series. The Cougars defense may keep this one close, but the Utes should be the far better team today. They’re certainly a more complete one.
LEFT FOR DEAD — It’s firing time!
All of these games have at least one team that will be shopping for a new coach because they’re frankly awful or disappointing.
Jeweled Shillelagh Notre Dame -11.5 at USC — I have no idea why this spread is so narrow. This is the Irish’s last chance to impress the committee. Helton’s already jettisoned his offensive staff and it made no impact. He’s a dead man walking.
Arkansas State -11 at Texas State — The Bobcats have never quit on their coach, in games, or on their season. They’re just really ungood. Withers is already gone. For ASU it’s weirder; maybe not gone, but certainly the seat is heating up in Jonesboro — no Sun Belt team disappointed quite like the Red Wolves this year. For Blake Anderson, 37-24 in six years isn’t exactly what this proud program is used to seeing.
No. Texas -24.5 at UTSA — Seth Littrell is being bandied about for the Colorado opening, among others. That’s a huge blow for the Mean Green, who are among the class CUSA. For the Roadrunners, Frank Wilson’s results seem to be diminishing, as UTSA has hit rock bottom in this 3rd year. Both of these teams will likely have new head coaches for different reasons.
N.C. State -7 at UNC — Larry Fedora has a sizeable buyout (for a basketball school,) but you’ve seldom seen a P5 team that does everything as bad as the Tar Heels do. The Wolfpack can force the UNC Board to scrounge up $12 million to 86 Fedora with a sound beating of their archrival in Chapel Hill — and I think they get it too.
Kansas State + 12.5 at No. 25 Iowa State — Is it the end of an era (again) in Manhattan? It looks like it very well could be. Coach Snyder’s not exactly being forced out, but like Frank Beamer, he has overstayed his welcome in a place he built and can no longer can compete in a game that seems to be passing him by. At the end of the day, he has no one to blame except himself, either — even Hall of Famers mismanage their rosters, particularly under center. It doesn’t help that media reports increasingly portray a thin-skinned, petulant and vindictive old man intent on snubbing student athletes on their way out the door. If this story doesn’t sound like a Trustee or Booster leaking to try to and force a change, then I don’t know what does.
Today’s Unwatchable Filth...that you’ll watch anyway.
Tennessee at Vanderbilt -3 — Like the Oaken Bucket, this one pits two 5-6 teams both looking to make a bowl. For Derek Mason, it could mean preserving his job. For Jeremy Pruitt, it could mean keeping the howling hillbillies at bay for the next 8 months — and avoiding passive-aggressive backseat deiving from puppet master AD, Phil Fulmer. If you’ve seen the Commodores try to run the ball, or Tennessee try to throw the ball; if you’ve seen either of these squads meltdown on special teams and on the sidelines, then you know why this game has very high probablity of being farcically bad football. The ‘Dores will have soent 2018 wasing Senior Kyle Shurmur no matter who wins this bad matchup