October and its last couple of weeks of drab scheduling are over. Now onto the finish where the next month will be a sprint of competitive football.
1) #4 LSU at #7 Alabama (-6), 7 p.m., CBS
Here it is... "The Game of the Centrury III (of the last four years)" If the season ended today, neither of these teams would play in the conference title game. As SBNation's Steven Godfrey said cheekily earlier this week, "One team has a running back, the other was beat by a team that was beat by Memphis." It's undoubtedly a big game, and of course will be blown out of proportion. At least the aforementioned running back is lighthearted during practice this week:
2) #17 Florida State at #3 Clemson (-11), 2:30 p.m., ABC
The Tigers continue to be the most complete team in the country, handling good teams and beating the brakes off of bad ones. Deshaun Watson will be tested against an athletic and ever improving Seminole defense. Who will be under center for the Noles is still up for debate because of Sean Maguire's solid play last week filling in for an injured Everett Golson. The home crowd at Memorial Stadium should be enough, as Clemson has its best team in a while with a favorable home schedule.
3) #5 TCU (-4.5) at #12 Oklahoma State, 2:30 p.m., FOX
Here's where the backloaded Big 12 schedule gets its start. The Cowboys enter undefeated -- playing weak competition all the way -- to play fellow undefeated conference foe. This will be the first true test of the season for OSU, which, in its defense, has won the games on the schedule. It will play the spoiler against the Horned Frogs. Look for an old-fashioned Big 12 shootout with no over being high enough.
4) Arkansas (+11) at #19 Ole Miss, 2:30 p.m., CBS
Last year the Hogs turned one of the more forgettable 24-hour periods of my life into one I'll never forget. I had committed an ultimate sin by forgetting my ID two states away for a weekend-long bachelor party, rendering me an illegal designated driver. I was more frustrated with myself than anything and a little cold. Bars and breweries still won't let you in even if you tell them all you want to do is be with your friends, promising you won't drink. We got back to the cabin and then all hell broke loose. A 12-hour bug found its way into the most responsible of the 10 guys on the trip. Everything was forcing its way out of everywhere. I missed paintball the next day because of it, too, which meant I stayed back and watched college football by myself. The saving graces of the weekend were Powerade, Nyquil and watching every down of Arkansas annihilate the Rebels after enduring the three previous seasons.
This year, I almost would take the twice hourly trips to the basement bathroom all to see Arkansas do it to them again the following afternoon.
5) Duke (+8.5) at #21 North Carolina, 11 a.m., ESPN2
Never did I see the day when Duke losing at home to Miami was a stunner... Duke alumni that I know were upset about a football loss! After one of the most unfortunate losses of the year, the Blue Devils still have plenty of reasons not to give up. First and foremost is to beat the hated Tar Heels. Also, the winner of this game will be in the driver's seat of "who gets to play the winner of FSU-Clemson" in the ACC Championship Game.
6) #8 Notre Dame (-7.5) at Pittsburgh, 11 a.m., ABC
The Irish dug deep last week to defeat Temple in Philly and will face its second stingy defense in the Keystone State in as many weeks. Traveling in consecutive weeks always takes its tole on any football team no matter the level. But with the Panthers down their best skill position player, Notre Dame should find a way to win. That is if Brian Kelly doesn't assault anymore of his assistants.
7) Auburn at #25 Texas A&M (-7), 6:30 p.m., SEC
Whichever coach loses this game will serious questions to answer and have a uncontrollable mob after their job. Someone here is going to lose twice. Auburn is putting together one of the most disappointing seasons of the year. On opposing sideline Texas A&M has had difficulty finding consistency at quarterback, leading to play of the like and decreasing support.
8) #13 Utah (+1.5) at Washington 6:30 p.m., FOX
The Utes travel to Seattle this weekend looking for the program's first-ever win over the Huskies. The bearish Utah team has gone from a playoff contender to trying to hang on. The Huskies seemed to have found their stride under Chris Petersen and are becoming better as each week passes.
9) #10 Iowa (-6.5) at Indiana, 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Remember when the Hoosiers almost defeated Ohio State? That was over a month ago, and they haven't won a game since John Boehner stepped down from Congress. And to the Iowa fans upset about the attention they've received because of their perfect start. Just stop. It's finally some good press your way. Clever spot from a Hawkeye dad here in response to this video about an undefeated Iowa:
10) Kentucky at Georgia (-14), 11 a.m., SEC Network
If there ever was a "must-win" game for Mark Richt, despite much higher stakes in his career, this is it. His seat is scalding more than it ever has been during his tenure in Athens. If his offense cannot find a way to score more points than a flailing Wildcat team, Richt will be jobless come season's end. That said, the second half of the season is much easier and if UGA can win out, they'll post a 10-3 record...
Vanderbilt at Florida (-20.5)
Navy at Memphis (-7)
Stanford (-16) at Colorado
Wisconsin (-11.5) at Maryland
Arizona State at Washington State (-2)
Season Record: 56-51