The top two teams in the country are on the road this week, and they both could see their opponent in December for their conference championship game.
*All rankings from Coaches Poll.
#1 Alabama at #9 Tennessee. 3:30pm on CBS.
Since taking over in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban is a perfect 9-0 against the Vols. Saban’s Tide has had better success in Knoxville than in Tuscaloosa. The Tide struggled against Tennessee last season at home, winning 19-14 on a late Derrick Henry touchdown. Of the nine wins, four have come in Knoxville with the Tide winning by an average of 24 points. Though the Tide has dominated “The Third Saturday in October”, this is definitely Tennessee’s best team since Saban has been at Alabama.
Last week Tennessee suffered their first loss of the year in double overtime at Texas A&M. Even though the Vols turned the ball over seven times, they found a way to get it into OT. Tennessee will not be able to do that again if they plan on beating Alabama. The Tide have scored a defensive or special teams touchdown in every game this season. DB Minkah Fitzpatrick picked off Arkansas QB Austin Allen three times last week, returning one the length of the field for a touchdown. OLB Tim Williams also had a scoop and score for the Tide. It is very possible that this will be the first of two meetings between the two rivals; with a loss, Tennessee would need some help to get to Atlanta, but Alabama controls their fate no matter the outcome on Saturday.
#18 West Virginia at Texas Tech, noon, FS1
Heading into this week, the Big 12’s playoff hopes rest on Baylor and West Virginia’s shoulders. With the two undefeated, and everyone else in the conference with two losses at minimum, the conference looks like it will be left out come December. Dana Holgorsen’s Mountaineers had to Texas Tech to keep their unbeaten hopes alive. This season, West Virginia is not your typical Holgorsen team - they are playing very good defense and not scoring at will. The Mountaineers have only given up more than 21 once this year, in a 35-32 win over BYU on a neutral field, while they have yet to score 40 points on the season. After the 17-16 comeback win against Kansas State two weeks ago, this will be the Mountaineers’ first true road game.
Texas Tech suffered their second loss last week on the road to Kansas State by a 44-38 score. The Red Raiders have only held Stephen F. Austin (FCS) and Kansas to under forty this season, and will have a tough time stopping West Virginia RB Justin Crawford. Crawford has gone over one hundred yards combined rushing and receiving against Missouri, BYU, and Kansas State this season.
#13 Ole Miss at #22 Arkansas, 7pm, ESPN
The Rebels have had a week off after big wins over Georgia and Memphis. Arkansas is searching for their first win in the SEC after dropping their first two games to Texas A&M and Alabama last week. The Hogs’ main concern will be the turnovers. They lost three fumbles in the defeat to A&M and gave up two defensive touchdowns off of five turnovers against Alabama.
The Rebels currently have one of the nation’s top offenses - the lowest point total they have put up this year was 34 in the opener to FSU. With Arkansas giving up 45 and 49 in their two defeats, the Rebels will like their chances of hitting 40 again this week. The problem for the Rebels, however, is that Arkansas will also like their chances of lighting up the scoreboard. This is a huge game for the two as both still have chances of a New Year’s Six bowl game. Ole Miss could find themselves back in the top ten over the next few weeks as well.
#2 Ohio State at #10 Wisconsin, 8pm, ABC
This is the Buckeyes’ second road trip against a ranked opponent, having beaten Oklahoma in Norman earlier this year. Wisconsin is still in the top ten with a record of 4-1, their lone defeat coming in their last game at Michigan. The Badgers had a bye week following their 14-7 defeat to the Wolverines. The Buckeyes are coming off a 38-17 home win vs Indiana, a game that was much closer than the score would indicate. QB J.T. Barrett had a rough day through the air against the Hoosiers, completing only 9 of 21 passes for 93 yards with a touchdown and interception, but did add 137 yards and another TBon the ground. The key in this one will likely be whoever wins in the trenches. The Buckeyes have ran the ball well (currently ranked fourth in the nation in rushing) but the Badgers run defense is currently ranked fourth in yards allowed. If the Buckeyes cannot get off to a fast start and Barrett struggles through the air again, this one will remain low scoring.
Others to watch:
Mississippi State at BYU, Friday, 10:15pm, ESPN
Kansas State at Oklahoma, noon, ESPN
#9 Nebraska at Indiana, 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2
North Carolina at #17 Miami, 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2
Arizona State at Colorado, 8pm, Pac-12 Network