Have you been waiting for a weekend that will allow us to separate some contenders from the pretenders? This Saturday is set up to do just that.
We have a couple of significant showdowns between ranked teams. The kind of games that will have an impact on the first set of College Football Playoff rankings (they’re closer than you think). There are also games that might have less at stake in the immediate future but could play a major role in how the rest of the season shakes out.
So get ready to ignore the outside world Saturday. You’re going to want to stay inside.
No. 11 Southern California at No. 13 Notre Dame, NBC, 7:30 p.m. ET: As they enter this game, both of these teams have College Football Playoff aspirations. Only one of them will after the final whistle blows Saturday.
Notre Dame has put the disaster that was 2016 behind it already, as the Irish are off to a 5-1 start. Of course, as lovely as that start is, the Irish haven’t beaten a team at USC’s level yet — though I guess opinions of Michigan State might vary.
USC is the more proven of the two, picking up wins over Stanford and Texas, but it ha struggled on the road. The Trojans struggled at Cal and lost at Washington State. So, in a sense, this could prove its toughest test yet.
No. 19 Michigan at No. 2 Penn State, ABC, 7:30 p.m. ET: On its own, a game between Michigan and Penn State is enormous. They’re two of the best teams in the Big Ten East, and every game they play against one another matters.
But there’s just so much more to this game than just that.
Last season, Michigan beat Penn State 49-10 — the largest margin of victory in the history of the series — and that loss was certainly in the minds of the College Football Playoff committee when it passed over the Big Ten champion Nittany Lions for Ohio State. Penn State is out to not only pick up a big win but to get some revenge as well.
No. 10 Oklahoma State at Texas, ABC, noon ET: A critical Big 12 matchup, as both teams enter the game at 2-1 in conference play and in the hunt to make the Big 12 title game. Oklahoma State is considered the better team, as it is a touchdown favorite on the road, but Tom Herman teams tend to do well when they’re the underdog.
Tennessee at No. 1 Alabama, CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET: The way I see it, this game can go one of two ways. Either Alabama crushes Tennessee like it has done to nearly everyone else, driving yet another nail into the coffin of Butch Jones, or the Vols make it closer than they have any right to do. I’m expecting the former, but hoping for the latter.
Syracuse at No. 8 Miami (Fla.), ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET: Have you seen Miami’s past two games? They’ve both come down to the final seconds as the Hurricanes pulled out wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech. This week, the Canes play a Syracuse team that just knocked off Clemson. I’m interested to see how this goes.
No. 20 Central Florida at Navy, CBS Sports Network, 3:30 p.m. ET: UCF has been great this season. It has what could be the most exciting offense in college football, and is definitely the highest scoring. Now we get to see how it fares against an option team like Navy in a game that could prove to be a preview of the AAC Championship Game.
- Louisville at Florida State, ESPN, noon ET
- No. 9 Oklahoma at Kansas State, Fox, 4 p.m. ET
- No. 24 LSU at Ole Miss, ESPN, 7:15 p.m. ET
- Colorado at No. 15 Washington State, ESPN, 10:45 p.m. ET