Like we’ve done in years past, every week throughout the season we’ll be highlighting the best games of the coming weekend. We’ll be doing it a little differently this year, however. We’ll rank the top five games we’re most intrigued by while also providing some insight on other games that will be worth your time.
Can you believe that we’re 10 weeks into the 2017 college football season? Wasn’t Alabama just playing Florida State in Atlanta just a few weeks ago?
Time has flown — as it always does — this season. November’s here, and that’s moving season for college football. With the first College Football Playoff rankings now out, we have an idea of what the best teams in the country have to do to position themselves to be in line for a top-tier bowl.
Week 10 could significantly help some top 10 teams with their positioning. Five top-10 teams play ranked opponents this week, including two of the top four teams in the rankings.
Starting with the five best games, we broke down this week’s slate for you:
5. No. 19 LSU (6-2, 3-1) at No. 2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0) — 8 p.m., CBS: LSU has reeled off three straight conference wins after its embarrassing home slip-up against Troy, but it’s going to need to play its best game of the year to upset Alabama. The Tigers gave Alabama a heck of a game last year, but just could not score against the vaunted Crimson Tide defense. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the game went down a similar route for the LSU offense.
LSU is a bit more imaginative under Matt Canada but is averaging only 27.4 points per game. Alabama’s defense allows only 9.8 points per game. It’s going to be tough unless running back Derrius Guice can really get going, but without a significant passing threat from LSU, that seems unlikely. Alabama seems primed to take another step toward an SEC West title.
4. No. 4 Clemson (7-1, 5-1) at No. 20 NC State (6-2, 4-0) — 3:30 p.m., ABC: After last week’s loss at Notre Dame, NC State will play on a big stage yet again. This time, first place in the ACC Atlantic is on the line with Clemson coming to town. NC State is a perfect 4-0 in ACC play and would give itself a two-game cushion in the division if it could upset Clemson.
Clemson, which came in at No. 4 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, rebounded from its loss at Syracuse by handling Georgia Tech at home last week. Quarterback Kelly Bryant returned from injury and played well. He’ll have a stout NC State front coming after him all afternoon. But for as tough as the NC State defensive line is, Clemson’s may be better. NC State has a nice collection of playmakers on offense, but the Wolfpack would get a big boost if running back Nyheim Hines were to return to the lineup.
3. No. 22 Arizona (6-2, 4-1) at No. 17 USC (7-2, 5-1) — 10:45 p.m., ESPN: There’s nothing not to like about this quarterback matchup. You know the name Sam Darnold. The preseason darling has struggled with turnovers for much of the year, but he and USC responded nicely to the Notre Dame loss by trouncing Arizona State on the road last week. This week, Darnold will likely be tasked with going score for score with one of the most entertaining players in the game: Arizona QB Khalil Tate.
Tate didn’t even begin the season as the Wildcats’ starter, but he has emerged as a legitimate Heisman candidate. Tate has 926 rushing yards on 69 carries with a rush of at least 70 yards in his four starts. In Arizona’s win over Washington State, Tate showed he can that he can throw, too, with a career-high 275 yards and two touchdowns.
The winner at the Coliseum on Saturday will take sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 South.
2. No. 13 Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1) at No. 10 Miami (7-0, 5-0) — 8 p.m., ABC: Will the real Miami please stand up? The Hurricanes are undefeated, but their No. 10 spot in the first CFP rankings show the level uncertainty that surrounds Mark Richt’s team. Miami’s last four wins have come by a combined 18 points, including a five-point decision last week over one-win North Carolina. Miami can remove some of that skepticism by taking care of ACC Coastal foe Virginia Tech.
A win would be huge for both teams. For Miami, it would provide a two-game lead in the division (Miami can actually clinch the division with a win and a Georgia Tech win over Virginia) and a coveted quality win for the CFP committee. Similarly, Tech, which has just one loss (to Clemson) would vault to the top of the division standings while also giving itself the win over a Top 25 team it lacks.
1. No. 5 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1) at No. 11 Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1) — 4 p.m., FS1: Bedlam! Bedlam! Bedlam!
It feels weird to have this game so early in November, but with the Big 12 title game back in the picture, it makes sense with the possibility of a rematch on the table. Oklahoma has knocked off its in-state rival the last two seasons, both times with the Big 12 title on the line. This year, the rivalry returns to Stillwater with the Cowboys seeking revenge.
These teams have high-powered offenses with Heisman caliber quarters. For OU, Baker Mayfield runs the show. He doesn’t have as many recognizable faces to spread the ball to, but he’s still playing at an extremely high level. For Oklahoma State, it’s Mason Rudolph. He has a true deep threat in James Washington to lead a deep stable of explosive wideouts.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are tied with Iowa State and TCU atop the Big 12 standings with 4-1 Big 12 records, so there’s a lot at stake in both the conference and in the College Football Playoff picture.
Keep an eye on…
No. 7 Penn State (7-1, 4-1) at No. 24 Michigan State (6-2, 4-1) — Noon, FOX: Penn State, after blowing a two-score lead at Ohio State, is on the outside looking in when it comes to a spot in the College Football Playoff. PSU needs to win out and chaos elsewhere in the top 10 to potentially crack the top four. Meanwhile, Michigan State, coming off a loss to Northwestern, still controls its own destiny in the Big Ten East. The Spartans just have to beat PSU and OSU first. Good luck.
No. 21 Stanford (6-2, 5-1) at No. 25 Washington State (7-2, 4-2) — 3:30 p.m., FOX: This is a big one in the Pac-12 North. With a win, Stanford would be able to clinch the division title at home next Friday against Washington, which hosts Oregon Saturday. But the Cardinal barely squeaked past Oregon State last week, prompting a QB change. Redshirt freshman K.J. Costello will get the start over junior Keller Chryst but may not have Bryce Love for a second straight week. Love, the nation’s leading rusher, is nursing an ankle injury. Stanford is going to need a much better offensive showing to keep up with the Cougs.
No. 15 Iowa State (6-2, 4-1) at West Virginia (5-3, 3-2) — 3:30 p.m., ESPN2: Probably the biggest surprise in the country, Iowa State has won four straight and knocked both Oklahoma and TCU from the ranks of the unbeaten. But a trip to Morgantown won’t be easy. WVU, led by QB Will Grier, has one of the top offenses in the country. Iowa State’s defense has allowed just 20 points combined over the past three games. Can ISU’s dream season continue?
Wake Forest (5-3) at No. 3 Notre Dame (7-1) — 3:30 p.m., NBC: Notre Dame, with a trip to Miami next week, can’t afford to look past Wake Forest. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko is tasked with containing a much-improved Demon Deacons offense, but he’s very familiar with Wake. Why? He left Wake to accept the Notre Dame job and has been an excellent hire for the Irish, who have won six in a row.
Channel surf through…
No. 14 Auburn (6-2, 4-1) at Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2) — Noon, ESPN: The Kevin Sumlin hot seat talk ramped back up after A&M was blown out at home by Mississippi State last week. Was it the beginning of another late-season slide for the Aggies? We’ll see if A&M can bounce back when Auburn comes to town off a bye week. Auburn is 6-0 coming off a bye under Gus Malzahn.
South Carolina (6-2, 4-2) at No. 1 Georgia (8-0, 5-0) — 3:30 p.m., CBS: Undefeated Georgia has been blowing out opponent after opponent and rightfully earned the No. 1 spot in the first College Football Playoff rankings. But South Carolina shouldn’t be overlooked. The Gamecocks have won three in a row and have an improved run defense that will be put to the test against the Bulldogs.
No. 6 Ohio State (7-1, 5-0) at Iowa (5-3, 2-3) — 3:30 p.m., ESPN: Coming off the big win over Penn State, will there be any hangover effect for Ohio State? Kinnick Stadium is traditionally a really tough place to play, but the Buckeyes were spared the dreaded nighttime kickoff. Don’t be surprised if Iowa keeps things close, but J.T. Barrett and the OSU offense will likely be way too much to handle.
Texas (4-4, 3-2) at No. 8 TCU (7-1, 4-1) — 7:15 p.m., ESPN: TCU can’t afford any slip-ups if it wants to stay in the College Football Playoff race. Texas plays everybody tough (average margin of defeat: 5.25 points) and has a really solid defense. After reverting back to his turnover-plagued play of the past in the loss to Iowa State, Horned Frogs QB Kenny Hill needs to get back on track against the Longhorns.
Western Kentucky (+10) at Vanderbilt — Noon, ESPNU: Make no mistake, WKU has taken a step back this season, but I think the Hilltoppers can cover the 10 against Vandy. Vandy was supposed to be this defensive juggernaut, but it has lost five in a row to open SEC play, giving up 46.6 points per game in that stretch.
Syracuse (+5.5) at Florida State — 12:20 p.m., ACCN: The idea that Florida State (2-5, 2-4) will finally put it all together and snap out of this funk at some point this season needs to be thrown out the window. Even with all of that talent, FSU is just a bad team. Syracuse (4-4, 2-2), which upset Clemson and nearly did the same to Miami, is coming off a bye.
Maryland at Rutgers (+3) — 3:30 p.m., BTN: This game was originally going to be played at Yankee Stadium in New York City, but the possibility of a World Series game in the Bronx (supposedly) prompted a move back to Piscataway. Maryland (4-4, 2-3) got its offense going last week in a win over Indiana, but I’m not so sure the Terps can do it again, especially on the road against a Rutgers (3-5, 2-3) team that has covered the spread in six of its eight games.
Southern Miss (+6.5) at Tennessee — 7:30 p.m., SECN: Tennessee played hard last week against Kentucky but gave up a late score and lost its fourth straight game. The Vols are really beat up and fans are clamoring for Butch Jones to be fired. Maybe a loss to Southern Miss on homecoming will finally be enough for John Currie to cut Jones loose.
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