With most of the nation reaching the mid-way point of the season this week, the major players for the college football playoff are taking shape. Three more ranked matchups take place this week, but none bigger than the top ten matchup in College Station.
*All rankings from Coaches’ Poll
#9 Tennessee at #7 Texas A&M, 3:30pm, CBS
These two teams are hoping to be the one to end Alabama’s reign, with both taking on the Tide in their next game. Both head coaches have been under fire the past years for not finishing strong, and it could be the same case this year for the loser. After the Hail Mary at Georgia last week, Tennessee could all but wrap up the SEC East with a win. With their wins over Florida and Georgia, Tennessee must drop two games minimum to lose the East. If they can get through the next two weeks 1-1, only trips to South Carolina and Vanderbilt and home games against Kentucky and Missouri stand in their way to Atlanta.
For Texas A&M, it is time for Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies to put a full season together. They have become known for fading after September, but with wins in these next two games (at Alabama next), the Aggies should vault into the top four of the first college football playoff rankings. A&M struggled at South Carolina last week, but were able to come away with a 24-13 win with the help of errors by Gamecock special teams and despite missing WRs Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil, along with the best player on their team in Myles Garrett. The winner of this one could be decided at QB as both Josh Dobbs and Trevor Knight have been inconsistent this season.
Texas vs. #22 Oklahoma (in Dallas), noon on FS1
The Red River Rivalry has had its fair share of classics with national implications, but this year it’s more about job security. Oklahoma is 2-2, but Bob Stoops’ job is secure (as it should be with his record). Not the same can be said for Charlie Strong. After a hot start by Texas, Strong looked as if he was finally getting the support he needed. He was even carried off the field by players after the win against Notre Dame. But after back to back road losses at California and Oklahoma State, Texas has fired up the grill under his seat again.
The good thing going for both teams is the Big 12 is struggling. Of the 10 teams in the conference, only Baylor and West Virginia are undefeated, with Texas Tech being the only one-loss team. The Sooners opened up conference play last weekend with a road win at TCU. Both teams score points and both have trouble stopping the opposing offense. This one could be a typical Big 12 shootout. One thing to watch is Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield taking care of the ball, as in Oklahoma’s two losses this season, Mayfield turned it over twice.
#1 Alabama at #17 Arkansas, 7pm, ESPN
The number one team in the country begins a brutal stretch in their schedule with a trip to Arkansas. The Crimson Tide avoided the early loss to Ole Miss this season, but their next four games are away to Arkansas and Tennessee, home to Texas A&M, and away to LSU. The offense for Alabama has not been the best, with freshman QB Jalen Hurts struggling with consistency. Alabama’s run game had also been struggling early, but with the emergence of freshman RB Joshua Jacobs to complement Damien Harris, the run game is looking better. Jacobs has 250 yards and three touchdowns on only 34 carries. He received an increased workload the last two weeks, running for 197 yards on 27 carries against Kent State and Kentucky. Another thing going for Alabama is they have scored a defensive or special teams touchdown in every game this season.
This game has often proved to be tricky for the Tide. Alabama won 14-13 at Arkansas in 2014 and trailed at the half before a 27-14 win in Tuscaloosa last season. The Hogs suffered their first defeat against Texas A&M two weeks ago before beating Alcorn State (FCS) last week. Arkansas can throw their hat back into the SEC West race with an upset this week.
#21 Florida State at #10 Miami, 8pm, ABC
With Hurricane Matthew going up the Florida coast, the game is still going on as planned. Through his first four games, head coach Mark Richt has the ‘Canes inside the top ten. Richt’s team has the chance put a firm grip on the ACC Coastal over the next few weeks, with a home game against North Carolina and a trip to Virginia Tech looming after this one. A 3-0 run could see Miami inside the top 6 and in the ACC Championship game. For that to happen, the Miami offense needs to perform better than they did last week. The ‘Canes won 35-21 at Georgia Tech with the help of two defensive touchdowns in the second quarter. Miami was out-gained by Tech and only converted one third down the whole game. They’ll need to be much more efficient on offense to knock off their hated rivals.
Florida State’s hopes of the college football playoff are done. With defeats to Louisville and North Carolina, they need a miracle to win the ACC Atlantic. They can still play spoiler though, as they have the opportunity to hurt three rivals still on the schedule. They host Clemson and Florida later on. They could also still finish 10-2 and find themselves in a New Years’ Six bowl game, and it could start by spoiling the good opening to Mark Richt’s tenure in South Florida.
Others To Watch
Auburn at Mississippi State, noon, SEC Network.
#5 Houston at Navy, 3pm, CBS Sports Network
Virginia Tech at #16 North Carolina, 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2
#23 Colorado at USC, 4pm, PAC-12 Network
#6 Washington at Oregon, 7:30pm, FOX