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 CFB weekend matchups.
Rivalry weekend. There are more Bowls worth caring about this weekend than in the entire months of December and January (no offense intended to the fine fans of the Duck Commander Independence Bowl). The Game. The Egg Bowl. The Civil War, with the winner earning the Platypus Trophy. The Mugshot Bowl. The Duel in the Desert. And don’t forget Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
These traditional rivalries, most pitting bitter intrastate enemies against one another, dominate the weekend lineup. The Saturday midday slate, at 3:30 p.m. EST (all times Eastern due to our undeniable bias), features several of those matchups, but the top seeds in the College Football Playoff will be at stake in the later games.
With many of our resident pollsters taking the week off to maximize their waistlines and strain gullet capacity by engorging multiple servings of holiday fare in the five-figure calorie range, this week’s FCU rankings reflect the latest ordering by the NCAA’s 13-member CFB committee.
Game of the Week:
(#15) Auburn @ (#1) Alabama ‒ 7:30 p.m. (Saturday) ‒ ESPN
FCU Staff: It’s the Iron Bowl. Buckle up your chinstraps. Unlike last year, where Auburn had a chance to jump over Alabama into the SEC title game, the Tigers are out of the conference race as they head to Tuscaloosa. Auburn will still look to play the role of spoiler, as a Crimson Tide loss and Mississippi State win will propel the Bulldogs into the SEC championship game.
Why You Should Watch: Nothing can possibly top last year’s Iron Bowl, with Chris Davis’s 109-yard* return of a missed field goal at the final gun. Or can it? These bitter rivals meet Saturday with the Tigers looking to spoil Alabama’s route to the promised land.
*Under NCAA rules Davis was only credited with a 100-yard return, but we don’t care. It was 109 yards, plain and simple, and everybody knows it.
The Rest of the Rankings
(#2) Oregon @ Oregon State ‒ 8:00 p.m. ‒ ABC
FCU Staff: The 10-1 Ducks travel to Corvallis to face the 5-6 Beavers in what is likely to be a tune-up for the Ducks’ on way to the Pac-12 Championship and likely the College Football Playoff. Oregon has won the last six games in the Civil War, a trend expected to continue this weekend.
Florida @ (#3) Florida State ‒ 3:30 p.m. (Saturday) ‒ ESPN
FCU Staff: Florida State has jumped back into the driver’s seat in this matchup over the last several years, taking three out of the last four games and outscoring the Gators 115-58 in the process. This year’s edition looks to be another tough matchup for Florida, though the Seminoles have looked vulnerable of late. Look for a Florida State win, but this may be closer than expected.
(#4) Mississippi State @ (#19) Ole Miss ‒ 3:30 p.m. (Saturday) ‒ CBS
FCU Staff: The Bulldogs need a victory in the Egg Bowl to have a chance at reaching the SEC Championship game. Even without an Alabama loss, a victory in this matchup should still be enough for Mississippi State to secure a spot in the College Football Playoff. On the other side of the field, the Rebels have lost three of their last four games after starting the season 7-0. They’ll look to keep their heads above water and pull off an upset that could shake up the Playoff.
Why You Should Watch: The Bulldogs currently occupy the fourth and final playoff spot, but cannot afford a letdown in the Egg Bowl. The Rebels plummeted in the most recent Playoff rankings, and bouncing their in-state rivals is a nice way to take out their frustration.
(#5) TCU @ Texas ‒ 7:30 p.m. (Thursday) ‒ FOX Sports 1
FCU Staff: TCU looks to put up a big number when they travel to Austin to face Texas. It’s the Horned Frogs’ last chance to make a statement to the College Football Playoff committee. Texas enters the game at 6-5, but the Longhorns have come on strong as of late by winning their last three contests. They will face their toughest test of their season in the Frogs, who will be looking to score style points all night.
Why You Should Watch: The Thursday night game between the 49ers and the Seahawks does not kick off until 8:30, so what else are you going to do until then? Plus, it is too early to make that post-Thanksgiving meal sandwich consisting of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Save that for halftime of the NFL game. Just settle in and see if TCU can turn in a good enough performance to vault over Mississippi State.
Michigan @ (#6) Ohio State ‒ 12:00 p.m. (Saturday) ‒ ABC
FCU Staff: Blowout potential? Maybe not. Last year’s game in this storied rivalry was supposed to be a cakewalk for the Buckeyes, who turned in a lackluster performance but still came out on top for the ninth time in their last ten meetings. Ohio State will look to win with a stronger statement, as they continue their push for the fourth and final Playoff spot.
Why You Should Watch: You need something to flip to during commercials in the Georgia-Georgia Tech game. Although “Armageddon” is on Cinemax during this time slot, so that is also a good option. And Sunderland squares off against Chelsea in the Barclays Premier League. If those two games are in a commercial break that just happens to coincide with the “animal crackers” scene between Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler, then sure, see how badly the Wolverines are losing.
(#7) Baylor @ Texas Tech ‒ 3:30 p.m. (Saturday) ‒ ABC
FCU Staff: There was a time in recent history when Texas Tech fielded good football teams. That time has ended. This game is likely to be a blowout, with Baylor’s high-flying offense having a chance to put up big points against a weak Red Raiders defense.
Why You Should Watch: Baylor averages 50 points per game. The Red Raiders surrender an average of 40 points a game. If you like points in bunches, or watching helpless creatures get slaughtered, this is a good way to spend your Saturday afternoon.
Stanford @ (#8) UCLA ‒ 3:30 p.m. (Friday) ‒ ABC
FCU Staff: UCLA will be closely watching the matchup between Arizona and Arizona State, but even after dispatching USC last weekend the Bruins still need a win against Stanford to help their own chances. The Cardinal enter the game at 6-5 and, while they are out of the running for a Playoff spot, they still have a chance to finish alone in second place in the dreadful Pac-12 North. The Bruins’ undoing in their two losses has been their defense, but it remains to be seen whether Stanford’s anemic offense poses a threat to UCLA’s Playoff chances.
Why You Should Watch: UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley declared this week that he will enter the NFL draft. Early word is that he is a 2nd to 3rd round talent. So tune in to watch who the Jets will reach for way too early in the 1st round.
(#18) Georgia Tech @ (#9) Georgia ‒ 12:00 p.m. (Saturday) ‒ SEC Network
FCU Staff: Georgia enters the game seventh in the nation in scoring over 43 points per game. Georgia Tech is just behind with almost 38 points per game, good for 14th in the country. Rushing yards will be had in spades, as this should be a tremendous battle between two teams fighting for high-quality bowls outside the playoff.
Why You Should Watch: You love the flexbone option offense that Paul Johnson’s team runs at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets average 327 yards per game on the ground, fourth best in FBS. Georgia Tech has secured a berth in the ACC Championship Game against Florida State, so this is a chance to watch the team that just might ruin FSU’s shot at back-to-back championships.
(#10) Michigan State @ Penn State ‒ 3:30 p.m. (Saturday) ‒ ESPN2
FCU Staff: Penn State has somehow managed to put together a 6-win season to this point, but this game is likely to be relatively uncompetitive. That is a nice way of saying that the 110th-ranked Nittany Lions offense is probably going to be outgunned by Michigan State’s 6th-ranked offense.
Why You Should Watch: Your son is playing in the game. Even then, bring an iPad so you can see a better game from your seats.
(#13) Arizona State @ (#11) Arizona ‒ 3:30 p.m. (Friday) ‒ FOX
FCU Staff: One of the best matchups of the weekend, this game features two of the top offenses in college football facing off with a bid to their conference championship potentially hanging in the balance. This should be another high-scoring affair featuring great plays that could have repercussions for some major bowls.
Why You Should Watch: The Stanford-UCLA game will likely be a blowout, so you can turn to this game. The winning team receives the Territorial Cup, acknowledged by the NCAA as the oldest rivalry prize in all of college football. Feel free to use that little tidbit during Thanksgiving dinner, you might impress an uncle or two.
Kansas @ (#12) Kansas State — 4:00 p.m. (Saturday) — FOX Sports 1
FCU Staff: Kansas has moved on to basketball at this point, but they still have to play this game. The Jayhawks have the 119th-ranked offense in college football, so this game is likely to be over whenever Kansas State scores their first points.
(#18) Minnesota @ (#14) Wisconsin ‒ 3:30 p.m. (Saturday) ‒ Big Ten Network
FCU Staff: Wisconsin enters this game with one of football’s top rushing attacks as well as one of the top defenses in the country. The winner of this matchup will gain a slot in the Big Ten Championship against Ohio State, so there is a lot at stake. Look for both teams to pound the ball on the ground in this traditional Big Ten battle.
Why You Should Watch: Two weeks ago Melvin Gordon became the NCAA’s single game rushing leader with a 409-yard performance against Nebraska. Last week Oklahoma freshman Samaje Perine turned in a 427-yard performance against Kansas. Sure, Gordon was very congratulatory of Perine on Twitter, but you know he wants that record back. Minnesota’s run defense is ranked 50th in the nation, surrendering over 150 yards per game on the ground.
Notre Dame @ (#19) USC ‒ 3:30 p.m. (Saturday) ‒ FOX
FCU Staff: Although Notre Dame’s Playoff hopes have been dashed after four losses in their last five games, they will still look to finish their season strong against longtime rival Southern California. The Trojans are coming off a 38-20 loss to UCLA, and will look to build momentum heading into bowl season. Look for passing yards aplenty in this matchup of top-20 passing offenses.
Why You Should Watch: USC has been known to fall victim to the sprint right option.
Arkansas @ (#20) Missouri ‒ 2:30 p.m. (Friday) ‒ CBS
FCU Staff: Missouri looks to lock up the top seed in the weak SEC East and secure its spot in the SEC Championship. Arkansas is coming off back-to-back wins against LSU and Ole Miss after losing to Mississippi State by just a touchdown at the beginning of the month. Pay no attention to the 2-5 conference record, this Razorback team has the potential to pull off a win against the Tigers this weekend.
Why You Should Watch: A shot at a Playoff berth is unlikely for Missouri, but a win in the SEC Championship Game would cause a lot of headaches for the selection committee.
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