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Without a doubt, November is the most consequential month of the college football season. Conference play heats up, as teams jostle for position in the top 25. The stakes feel even higher this year with the weekly release of the playoff committee’s top 25 teams.
The high stakes were on full display in the first Saturday of November, with TCU edging out West Virginia on a game-winning field goal to keep their playoff hopes alive. Meanwhile, Ole Miss suffered perhaps the most devastating defeat of the year as they fell to Auburn in dramatic fashion.
With 1:30 remaining, receiver Laquon Treadwell appeared to have scored the go-ahead touchdown after breaking tackles on a catch-and-run. The play went to review, and replays showed Treadwell fumbling the ball just short of the end zone after being on the receiving end of a devastating hit. The hit was so severe that Treadwell suffered a broken leg on the play. The refs reversed their decision, and rewarded the football to Auburn who clearly recovered the ball in the end zone. The play will go down in SEC lore.
Ole Miss’ quest to make the playoffs is likely over, though you could still make a compelling case for them given the circumstances of how last Saturday’s game ended. Regardless of what the future holds, Auburn and Ole Miss played what looked like a playoff game in my eyes.
Not long ago, some power players in college football protested a potential playoff because they believed it would diminish the value of the regular-season. Last week proved that notion wrong, and this week looks even better.
Here is my preview of this week’s top five games:
Last Week: 4-1
Season Record: 38-14
No. 10 Notre Dame at No. 9 Arizona State
Time/TV: 3:30 PM EST Nov. 8, ABC
Prediction: Despite nearly upsetting No. 2 Florida State in Tallahassee, Notre Dame isn’t receiving much respect from the selection committee. The Fighting Irish don’t have a signature win this season, as normal powerhouses (Michigan and Stanford) are having off years. Arizona State isn’t having an off year, though, and this game represents the Fighting Irish's last chance to make a major statement. The Sun Devils are 4-0 since losing to UCLA on a Thursday night last month. Three of those wins came against teams ranked in the AP top 25 at the time of the game. Arizona State possesses a talent edge over Notre Dame, but Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson may be the best player on the field. He willed his team to victory against Navy last week, scoring six total touchdowns. As long as he keeps playing at a high level, Notre Dame is going to be tough to beat regardless of who their opponent is. Arizona State will find that out on Saturday.
Notre Dame 37 Arizona State 31
No. 7 Kansas State at No. 6 TCU
Time/TV: 7:30 PM EST Nov. 8, FOX
Prediction: If last week’s game between Auburn and Ole Miss wasn’t the first elimination game between playoff contenders, then this week’s matchup between TCU and Kansas State is. The Wildcats lone loss on the year came against Auburn, while TCU suffered a fluky fourth-quarter collapse to Baylor. The Horned Frogs struggled against West Virginia last Saturday. Quarterback Trevone Boykin made poor decisions with the football, and his accuracy was poor. He’ll need to play better against Kansas State, as the Wildcats are a far more efficient football team than the Mountaineers are. Kansas State won’t beat itself, so Boykin is going to have to make big plays with both his arm and legs for TCU to get the win. I think last week was an anomaly for him. Expect a bounce-back performance, as the TCU signal caller establishes himself as a Heisman contender, and puts the Horned Frogs in position to win the Big 12.
TCU 34 Kansas State 28
No. 5 Alabama at No. 16 LSU
Time/TV: 8:00 PM EST Nov. 8, CBS
Prediction: The Tigers are an impressive 46-4 in home night games under coach Les Miles. Two of those losses, however, came against Nick Saban and Alabama. Still, LSU is playing their best football right now after defeating Kentucky and Ole Miss in their last two games. The Tigers defense has stepped up, allowing a combined 10 points in those contests. Alabama features a ton of offensive firepower. Running backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry form a potent backfield duo, and receiver Amari Cooper could be the best overall player in the country. A big performance from Cooper on Saturday and he should begin to receive overdue Heisman consideration.
Alabama 35 LSU 21
No. 14 Ohio State at No. 8 Michigan State
Time/TV: 8:00 PM EST Nov. 8, ABC
Prediction: After weeks of ridicule, the Big Ten finally features a marquee matchup between conference foes. The Buckeyes are playing great, averaging 45.6 points per game. Michigan State is right on their heels, averaging 45.5. As a result, you can expect many points on Saturday night. The difference in the game will be the quarterbacks. With only one exception, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett has played well over the last month in a half. The lone exception was a shaky performance at night in Penn State. He will face a similar environment this Saturday; only Michigan State is a far better team than Penn State is. Look for Spartans quarterback Connor Cook to handle the big-game atmosphere like a pro, while Barrett makes a couple of mistakes that the Buckeyes are unable to overcome.
Michigan State 40 Ohio State 28
No. 4 Oregon at No. 17 Utah
Time/TV: 10:00 PM EST Nov. 8, ESPN
Prediction: The key to this game is whether Utah can control the clock, and keep Oregon’s high-octane offense on the sidelines. The Utes have the running game to enact that game plan, as junior running back Devontae Booker has 100-plus rushing yards in five consecutive games. Utah is also accustom to playing close games, as each of their last fives games has been decided by single digits. That trend could end on Saturday night, though, as Oregon’s offense is playing their best football since Chip Kelly left nearly two years ago. Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who looks like the potential No. 1 overall draft pick, is beginning to run the ball as well as he’s throwing it. Not even Utah’s stubborn defense can stop him right now.
Oregon 40 Utah 30