In college football, polls and rankings are the ultimate seeds of debate. Our Pylon University panel of experts bring you a rundown of national title contenders each week. We’ll be looking at teams, plays, trends, and experiences that make college football great ‒ from Division 3 to the Power Conferences ‒ along with key weekend matchups.
The official NCAA College Football Playoff Rankings are out ‒ and so are the knives. We’re headed into the homestretch and the weekend’s marquee matchups will end with someone’s national championship dreams crushed. Saturday night features #2 Florida State at home against Virginia (ESPN, 6:30 PM) , #7 Kansas State visiting #6 TCU (FOX, 7:30 PM), and #5 Alabama traveling to #11 LSU (CBS, 8:00 PM). Poor ABC ‒ they get #9t Michigan State hosting Ohio State in a Big Ten battle (8:00 PM) that no one will be watching outside of the Rust Belt. Here is your CFB weekend preview.
This week, voter Tom Ricardo offers his thoughts alongside the FCU Staff on the week’s slate, including our featured matchup.
#6 TCU (7-1) vs. #7 Kansas State (7-1) ‒ 7:30 PM, FOX
FCU Staff: This week is a monster purple battle for control of the Big 12. TCU’s fourth-quarter letdown at Baylor isn’t holding them back. That three-point loss on the road is their only blemish, and they have solid wins over #15 Oklahoma and #23 West Virginia and a non-conference win against 6-2 Minnesota.
Tom: The Wildcats’ one loss was to a very good Auburn (#3). Their key games remaining are all on the road: at #6 TCU, at West Virginia, at #12 Baylor. However, taking care of Oklahoma proved they can win on road. They likely won’t beat themselves.
Why You Should Watch: The loser of the Kansas State-TCU game is probably out of the title picture and the Big-12 title race. You’ve seen Alabama & LSU before and the FSU & Michigan State games are commercial-break check-ins. Give the purple people a try.
The Rest of the Rankings
#1 Mississippi St. vs. Tennessee-Martin ‒ 4 PM, SEC Network
Tom: Clear favorites for the one seed in the playoff, as long as they don’t blow it. The Bulldogs have the best win, over Auburn, and another good win over LSU. If they win at Alabama (#5) and Ole Miss (#9t) ‒ assuming survival in the Vanderbilt upset special ‒ they make the SEC Championship game against either Missouri or Georgia. Nothing to it!
FCU Staff: They won’t blow it this week against Tennessee-Martin. FCS games in November, an SEC tradition like no other.
Why You Should Watch: You are related to someone involved in the game, or you have a “financial interest.”
Virginia at #2 Florida State ‒ 6:30 PM, ESPN
Tom: The Seminoles are making their title defense look like a tightrope walk and appear determined to make every game interesting. While still chalking up wins they aren’t impressing all of the voters, and were inches away from a loss against Louisville last week..
FCU Staff: Virginia has been up (win over Louisville, close loss to UCLA) and down (losers of their last three) this season. Way back in 1995, Virginia handed FSU their first ACC loss. Will they give the Noles their first setback since 2012?
Why You Should Watch: You’re a Jets fan and you want to know if Jameis Winston is a better prospect than Marcus Mariota. (He’s not.)
Texas A&M at #3 Auburn ‒ 3:30 PM, CBS
Tom: The Tigers only have to beat rivals Georgia and Alabama, and hope Mississippi St. loses for a chance at the SEC championship. Pretty easy right? That said, Auburn and Mississippi St. winning out is the best chance for two SEC teams making the national championship.
FCU Staff: Texas A&M licked their wounds last week against UL-Monroe, after losing three straight division games. Auburn should romp over the Aggies.
Why You Should Watch: Gus Malzahn’s offense is lots of fun but this probably won’t be competitive. Check in during commercials.
#4 Oregon at #17 Utah ‒ 10:00 PM, ESPN
Tom: The Ducks control their own fate. Though Utah and Oregon St. are no pushovers, Oregon should win out, setting up a possible rematch against Arizona or Arizona State in the PAC-12 Championship.
FCU Staff: The Utes are stinging from a tepid offensive performance loss against Arizona State, with only 57 yards passing. But games in the thin air in Utah aren’t easy tough for road teams.
Why You Should Watch: There are few things better than a run and fun Pac-12 late night game to end your Saturday night.
#5 Alabama at #12 LSU ‒ 8:00 PM, CBS
Tom: Nick Saban’s crew has not looked impressive outside of Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide begins a hellish stretch with a big game at LSU that will determine if they are just pretenders or the real deal.
FCU Staff: LSU needs a lot of help, but a win this week against Alabama would get them back into the SEC West race. Both teams are coming off a bye.
Why You Should Watch: Half the first round of next year’s NFL draft is playing in this game. And so are half the busts. And Les Miles might eat some grass.
#8 Notre Dame at #11 Arizona State ‒ 3:30 PM, ABC
Tom: Irish quarterback Everett Golson seems to want to see how many heart attacks he can cause. Their one loss came against Florida State, with the potential game-winning touchdown erased because of offensive pass interference. With Stanford collapsing this year, there are no quality wins yet for the Irish. The Sun Devils lost badly to UCLA at home, but control their own fate going forward. A win against Notre Dame can really solidify them as a legitimate contender.
FCU Staff: ASU is perennially underrated; Notre Dame is perennially overrated. Even FCU’s voters (well, some of them) think the Irish are better than the Sun Devils. Editors rarely root for a result, but we’re rooting for ASU, if only to find out what alum and voter Ed Mastrangelo is going to do in celebration. Although frankly, what he does after a loss might be more interesting…
Why You Should Watch: Best of the day games, and the loser is eliminated from the national title race. This should be a fun game to watch.
#9t Michigan State vs. Ohio State ‒ 8 PM, ABC
Tom: Is the Big Ten this bad? It can’t be, right? Michigan State has its biggest challenge this weekend against a solid if unspectacular Ohio State team. The Big Ten has given us nothing to think they can hang with the other power conferences, and Michigan State’s best non-conference game was a 19-point loss at Oregon.
FCU Staff: The Big Ten is this bad.
Why You Should Watch: This clearly should be the game left out of your rotation Saturday evening. Only alumni are tuning into this unless it gets really interesting in the 4th quarter.
Andrew Pina has covered LSU’s running game, the historic season of Marcus Mariota, the disadvantages of being Kansas State, why Thanksgiving is the obstacle to expanded playoffs and whether SEC crossover games are unfair.
All times are EST.