The first week of November very well may have eliminated the Big Ten from the playoff after both Penn State and Ohio State lost. This is what happens this time of the year as we start to see more and more games within the conferences featuring highly ranked teams that essentially have playoff stakes attached to them. Last week we gave you six games to watch. This week, we’ll go back to five but you better believe we’ve got a couple of bonuses you should keep your eye on throughout the day on Saturday.
#15 Oklahoma State @ #21 Iowa State (+6.5), Saturday 12:00 p.m. (ABC)
The Cowboys lost a barn-burner last week to Oklahoma 62-52 continuing their streak of futility against the Sooners. Iowa State was in control of the conference heading into last week’s game against West Virginia and they fell on the road to the Mountaineers knocking them off the top. Now, the teams meet hoping to stay alive for a chance at making the conference title game at year’s end.
The Cyclones really struggled to stop the Mountaineers from moving up and down the field last week, allowing 524 yards, and Will Grier to completed 20 of his 25 pass attempts. That doesn’t bode well as they get ready to face Mason Rudolph and the Cowboys offense that lit up the Sooners defense for 52 last week. The Cyclones have been good at keeping teams out of the end zone however, allowing just 23 points in their last two games. The Cowboys struggled against Texas in the red zone, if that happens here, the Cyclones could pull off the win.
#1 Georgia @ #10 Auburn (+2.5), Saturday 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
The Bulldogs retained their hold on the top spot in the country with a 24-10 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks last Saturday afternoon. Now, they face their final test of the regular season when they head to Jordan-Hare for a date with Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers. Auburn remains in the race for the SEC West title, but if they lose here it would be their second SEC loss, likely handing Alabama the West title.
Fascinating battle here. Two teams that love to run the football in wildly different ways. Georgia is more of an old school, singleback set with a tight end or two in the formation, while Gus Malzahn uses more zone-read, option-style hand-offs. Both have been getting the job done this year with Georgia ranking 8th (279.3 YPG) and Auburn at 20th (236.7 YPG). At the same time, both are in the Top 25 at stopping the run, Georgia is 5th (89 YPG) and Auburn is 24th (126.4 YPG). Battle in the trenches will be fun to watch here.
#20 Iowa @ #8 Wisconsin (-12), Saturday 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Wisconsin hasn’t gotten much in the way of respect nationally largely due to the fact that they have yet to win a game over a Top 25 ranked team. That’s why they remain 8th in the rankings despite having an unblemished record this season. This week, they get their first chance to bolster their resume against a Hawkeyes team that blew out the Buckeyes last week at Kinnick Stadium. Honestly, Wisconsin probably needs to win this game for the Big Ten to have any hope of the playoff. If they don’t end the year undefeated, the Big Ten likely gets left out.
The Hawkeyes and Akrum Wadley will find it to be tough sledding on the ground against the Badgers who are 4th in the nation at stopping the run allowing just 87.8 yards per game. As is usually the case, Wisconsin features a punishing running game, with freshman back Jonathan Taylor already over 1,300 yards on the season. He’s averaging 7.2 yards per carry and if you haven’t watched Wisconsin yet, he’s the guy to keep your eye on.
#6 TCU @ #5 Oklahoma (-6.5), Saturday 8:00 p.m. (FOX)
Last week, we saw the Sooners battle the Cowboys for the right to remain atop the Big 12 standings. Now, it’s the Sooners welcoming in the Horned Frogs to Norman with the top spot in the conference on the line. Baker Mayfield vaulted back to the top of the Heisman conversation with his 598 yard, six-touchdown week and the TCU defense will have its hands full containing him. How Gary Patterson game plans this will be fascinating to watch.
The Horned Frogs have the best defense in the Big 12 in terms of opponents scoring, allowing just 13.9 points per game (6th FBS). Their biggest issue has been allowing explosive plays in the passing game, ranking 113th in Bill Connelly’s Passing IsoPPP metric. Oklahoma’s passing offense ranks 8th in that metric. Those big plays or TCU stopping them, will likely be the difference in this one.
#3 Notre Dame @ #7 Miami (+3), Saturday 8:00 p.m. (ABC)
The Notre Dame-Miami rivalry gets renewed Saturday night and with the teams entering with a combined one loss, this should be a whole lot of fun. Miami, like Wisconsin, hasn’t gotten a ton of respect for their undefeated record because it has come in largely unimpressive fashion. That could change in a hurry with a win over the Irish Saturday night.
The big match-up here is going to be Miami’s front seven going up against the Notre Dame offensive line. The Irish have multiple projected first round picks (Quinten Nelson, Mike McGlinchey) up front leading a rushing attack with Josh Adams that averages 324.8 yards per game (5th FBS). The Hurricanes’ run defense is average against the run, but they’ve got some studs in the front seven like linebackers Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney and linemen RJ McIntosh and Trent Harris. How they hold up against this physical Notre Dame front will determine how close this game is.
#12 Michigan State @ #13 Ohio State (-15.5), Saturday 12:00 p.m. (FOX)
The Spartans are a team to watch here over the next couple of weeks. They have just one loss in the Big Ten, in overtime, to Northwestern just a couple of weeks ago. If they beat Ohio State, and finish out with wins over Maryland and Rutgers, they win the Big Ten East, which nobody saw coming at the beginning of the year.
#2 Alabama @ #16 Mississippi State (+14), Saturday 7:00 p.m. (ESPN)
The Tide remain undefeated, though they are banged up, losing LB Shaun Dion Hamilton for the year due to a knee injury, LB Mack Wilson for 4-6 weeks due to a foot injury and having Minkah Fitzpatrick hobbled by a nagging hamstring injury. Still, Alabama is favored in a big way against the Bulldogs because of how good they’ve been in the SEC this season. The Tide have allowed 48 points total in six SEC games. That’s an average of just 8 points per game. Meanwhile, they’ve scored 262 points in that time. Nick Fitzgerald and Dan Mullen are going to need to get creative in this one.