Two months of college football are in the books and now the contenders are starting to separate from the pretenders in the College Football Playoff conversation. The push for the postseason fun will truly begin this week as we get started with the November slate, and this month should serve up some of its best selections yet.
The Baylor Bears, with a freshman quarterback stepping in, begin what has always been perceived as their gauntlet of the schedule. It starts Thursday night on the road against Kansas State. The Wildcats may not be much of a threat this season, but a trip to Manhattan is rarely an easy one for any contender. Earlier this season TCU escaped with a 52-45 victory to keep their undefeated season in play. The Big 12 is going to have a wild ride down the stretch this month as Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will all play each other. Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State are all undefeated, and the Sooners have just one loss.
The ACC and SEC West will be in the national spotlight this week with Alabama hosting LSU and Clemson hosting Florida State in a delightful doubleheader. In the ACC, the winner of the Clemson-Florida State game has gone on to play for the ACC championship each of the past five seasons, and the winner this year will emerge was the conference’s best possible College Football Playoff candidate. Clemson would be a near lock for the playoff if they end the year without a loss, but where a one-loss Florida State would stand at the end of the season among other potential playoff candidates is a bit of a more difficult situation to figure out. There are simply too many unknowns at this point, but that is why November will be so much fun.
Alabama also has one loss, but nobody realistically thinks a one-low SEC champion at the end of the season would be left out of the playoff. That is what Alabama needs to hope for, as the Crimson Tide already have one blemish (against Ole Miss). A win against LSU helps Alabama move closer to a trip to Atlanta, although Ole Miss holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Tide. Ole Miss also still gets a crack at LSU, as well as rival Mississippi State. The SEC West could be in for a wild ride as well, but will it cannibalize itself this month, costing the SEC a playoff spot?
The Pac-12 South is another fascinating division, although Utah still has the upper hand entering November. The Utes are in first place but USC and UCLA are sitting next in line. USC already has ahead-to-head victory against Utah and UCLA gets their chance later this month. Of course, USC and UCLA also play each other. Up north, Stanford looks to be in a solid spot with a road game at Colorado this week followed by three huge games at home to close out the regular season; Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame. Games against Oregon and Cal are always big for Stanford, as they should be again this season, but the regular season finale against Notre Dame could be a playoff elimination game between one-loss teams. If Stanford plays for the Pac-12 title with two losses against a one-loss or even two-loss Pac-12 South champion, the Pac-12 could also be at risk of missing out on the playoff.
And don’t forget about the Big Ten. Iowa is putting together a special little season int he West, but the Big Ten East still gets to see Ohio State play Michigan State and Michigan. The Buckeyes and Spartans are 4-0 in Big Ten play. Michigan is 3-1. Heck, even Penn State is mathematically in the mix in the division at 3-1 with games against Michigan and Michigan State. Can the Buckeyes or Spartans remain undefeated through the end of the year?
This is going to be a fun month.