Saturday will bring us college football history, the first time that two games will be played on the same day matching teams that are 8-0: Penn State at Minnesota, Louisiana State at Alabama.
You can read about the Nittany Lions elsewhere on this site. Regarding the other game, you’re supposed to ignore the College Football Playoff ranking (Alabama is No. 3) and go with that of the Associated Press (LSU No. 1, Crimson Tide No. 2), making this the first 1-vs.-2 matchup since 2011, one that involved these same two teams.
The first CFP ranking of the season came out this week, giving teams an idea of where they stand with the committee and what they need to do before the final pairings for the playoff semifinals and New Year’s Six bowl games are announced on Dec. 8.
And that is, win (duh!).
You’ve got to love Nick Saban, who provided the answer to how he might prepare differently for an opponent ranked No. 1 before he was even asked the question.
“You guys always ask me what are you going to do different this week because you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country,” the Crimson Tide coach said. “Well, every game that we play is an important game, especially when you’re playing in the SEC, especially when you’re playing in the [West] division. And this is certainly an important game.”
It’s a matchup of the top two 2019 Heisman Trophy candidates, quarterbacks Joe Burrow of the Tigers and Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama. They have combined to throw 57 touchdown passes, and their teams average 95 points between them.
Saban has called Tagovailoa a game-time decision while he continues to recover from surgery to his right ankle, which was injured three weeks ago against Tennessee. However, the coach told ESPN that he is “not going to put Tua in a situation that could be detrimental to him or his future relative to his physical circumstance.”
A bit of a cloud formed over this game Friday when Ohio State’s athletic administration announced that defensive end Chase Young, a rising Heisman Trophy candidate, would not play “due to a possible NCAA issue from 2018 that the Department of Athletics is looking into."
That shouldn’t hurt the Buckeyes too much this week against the woeful Terrapins (3-6) or next week against hapless Rutgers (2-7). But will the issue be resolved in time for Penn State’s visit in two weeks?
The Buckeyes’ defense has allowed 42 points total in its last seven games. Quarterback Justin Fields has accounted for 33 touchdowns — 24 passing, nine rushing — and that’s second in the nation.
About one year since they came one missed two-point conversion away from defeating the Buckeyes in overtime, the Terps are a 43-point underdog.
Dabo Swinney was eating birthday cake with his mother — she turned 75 Tuesday — when he said “my phone started blowing up” over Clemson’s being ranked fifth by the CFP committee.
“People were so mad,” the Tigers coach said. “I’m like hey, it’s all good; we’re one of those teams. We’ve just got to keep winning and hopefully we’ll scratch and claw, only got one spot to go to get in there. We got a lot of ball left. Barbershop mentality, right? One at a time.
“I would say rest easy and just enjoy the journey. They don’t give those trophies out after nine games.”
The Tigers should make it 10-0 this season and 25 in a row overall, against the injury-racked Wolfpack.
The undefeated Bears of Matt Rhule begin the homestretch of their unlikely march to the Big 12 championship against a Horned Frogs team that has beaten them the last four years. Baylor must keep from looking ahead to back-to-back home games coming up against Oklahoma and Texas.
Should Minnesota lose its showdown against Penn State, the winner of this game will be just one game behind the Golden Gophers in the Big Ten West with a game yet to play against them. This is a matchup of the Hawkeyes’ top-10 defense, which has allowed nine touchdowns in seven games, against the Badgers’ Jonathan Taylor, who has rushed for 1,000 yards for the third straight season.
The Sooners, still hurting from their upset loss two weeks ago against Kansas State, have won 17 consecutive November games dating to 2014, and they sure could use No. 18 to keep their playoff chance alive. The Cyclones will ride the arm of Brock Purdy, third in FBS in passing yards (320.9 per game), in the hopes of remaining in Big 12 title contention.
- Notre Dame has been exiled to the ACC Network for Saturday night’s game against Duke, knowing it must win to help its dwindling New Year’s Six bowl hopes. The Blue Devils have to hold onto the ball, having turned it over 17 times in their four losses.
- Georgia (No. 6 in both rankings), which will host Missouri, stayed alive in the playoff hunt with a win over Florida, and Jake Fromm played more like Jake Fromm by passing for 279 yards and two touchdowns. The Tigers lead the nation with five defensive TDs.
- A win by Wake Forest over Virginia Tech would set up the Demon Deacons for an ACC Atlantic Division showdown next weekend at Clemson. Wake quarterback Jamie Newman leads the conference and is seventh in FBS in total offense with a 337.7-yard average.
Omar Speights, who played high school football at Imhotep Charter before moving west for his senior year, has excelled as an inside linebacker at Oregon State. The 6-foot-1, 233-pound freshman is fifth on the team in tackles with 33 even though he has started just two of the eight games in which he has played. Speights matched his season high with 10 tackles last week against Arizona.