The road to the College Football Playoff is narrowing with three weeks left in the regular season.
The top-10 teams in the latest rankings are the teams that have a realistic chance at grabbing those four spots, and 10 games on the regular-season schedule stand out. These are the games that will determine if that road widens in the final week, or if the same-old teams will get back to the College Football Playoff.
Which games should college football fans make it a point to be in front of the TV for? Here are those big games:
BENDER: Committee ignores head-to-head results? | Week 11 picks
Saturday, Nov. 13
Michigan at Penn State (12 p.m., ABC)
This is a tough spot for Michigan, which still has a chance to win the Big Ten East. The Wolverines have lost their last two trips to Beaver Stadium by an average of 18 points per game, and the Nittany Lions have a top-10 defense. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is 3-3 against Penn State, however, and this one will come down to whether the Wolverines can maintain balance on the road. At least it’s not a “Whiteout” with the noon kickoff.
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Oklahoma at Baylor (12 p.m., FOX)
The Sooners are coming off a bye week and they enter the pivotal part of the Big 12 schedule. That starts with the Bears on the road. Baylor will test Oklahoma’s patience with a rushing attack that averages 230.9 yards per game, and it’s just the second road start for freshman quarterback Caleb Williams. The Sooners have won the last three visits to McLane Stadium, but all three games were decided by 10 points or less.
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Tennessee at Georgia (3:30 p.m., CBS)
Georgia can complete a perfect 8-0 record in SEC play with a victory against rival Tennessee. The Bulldogs also have Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech left on the schedule, but this is the biggest test. Tennessee averages 38.2 points per game, and the Vols have improved with each week under first-year coach Josh Heupel. Still, the Bulldogs haven’t allowed more than 13 points in a game this season.
Saturday, Nov. 20
Michigan State at Ohio State (12 p.m., ABC)
Speaking of home dominance, Ohio State hasn’t lost a home Big Ten game since Nov. 21, 2015. That was against Michigan State in a surprise upset that vaulted the Spartans to the Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff. Will history repeat itself almost six years to the day? The Buckeyes have won the last five meetings since, and the last two games in Columbus have been blowouts. This would be Kenneth Walker III’s best chance to make another Heisman Trophy statement.
Oregon at Utah (Time/TV TBD)
The Ducks remain the team to beat in the Pac-12, and they are 5-2 against Utah in Pac-12 matchups since 2009. That includes a 37-15 victory in the 2019 Pac-12 championship game. There is a good chance these teams meet again in the conference championship game this year. This is the tougher spot knowing the Utes are unbeaten at home this season and have won all three of those games by double digits.
SMU at Cincinnati (Time/TV TBD)
SMU has slipped down the rankings after back-to-back losses, but that pass-happy offense will test the Bearcats at home. The Mustangs are 10th in the FBS at 322.2 yards per game. Cincinnati is being pressed to win the perception battle on the scoreboard, and the good news is this matchup is at home. Cincinnati has the second-longest active home winning streak at 26 games.
Saturday, Nov. 27
Ohio State at Michigan (12 p.m., FOX)
If both teams can get to The Game with matching 10-1 records, then the Big Ten East will be on the line. Harbaugh’s 0-5 record against the Buckeyes remains the top storyline, and he did take 10-1 teams to Columbus in 2016 and 2018. This one is in Ann Arbor, and it could give Michigan another all-in moment against its most-storied rivals. Ohio State could be in position to book their fifth consecutive trip to the Big Ten championship, and it’s always sweeter when that happens at the Wolverines’ expense.
Alabama at Auburn (Time/TV TBD)
Nick Saban missed the Iron Bowl last season after testing positive for COVID-19. This one is at Jordan-Hare Stadium, where Saban is 3-4 since taking over at Alabama in 2007. Bo Nix also was the Auburn quarterback in the last meeting, and he will be the key to any upset hopes with first-year coach Bryan Harsin. How will Heisman Trophy contender Bryce Young respond to this environment? Will the Tigers hand the Crimson Tide their second loss? The stage remains the same.
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Oregon State at Oregon (Time/TV TBD)
Oregon State stunned Oregon 41-38 last season in one of the season’s biggest upsets, and the Ducks cannot afford for that to happen again. The Beavers haven’t won at Autzen Stadium since 2007, and the Ducks have weathered a series of injuries to star players to keep their CFP playoff hopes alive. This is the under-the-radar game on rivalry weekend that could get wild.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (Time/TV TBD)
Oklahoma also plays Iowa State on Nov. 20, but the Bedlam matchup could evolve into a two-week affair depending on how the Big 12 standings shake out. Given the Sooners’ looming departure to the SEC, this game could be nastier than usual. Lincoln Riley is a perfect 4-0 against the Cowboys, and the last two meetings haven’t been close. Will the Cowboys break a six-game losing streak to the Sooners?