November football is finally here, and the debate is only getting started. The College Football Playoff released their initial rankings of the 2016 season and it raised more than a few eyebrows. One-loss Texas A&M leapfrogged several teams to appear at #4 in the first rankings. Undefeated Washington was left a little surprised and confused as to why they were not at #4. The Huskies were at #4 in the most recent AP Poll. The committee basically confirmed that strength of schedule is a huge part of their decision and A&M had beaten more teams above .500 than the Huskies had. It does appear, on the other hand, that the Huskies would make the playoffs if they win out and win the Pac-12 title. The Big 12 looks to be doomed as far as the playoffs are concerned. Louisville being passed up by A&M is also something to look out for down the road. The Cardinals playoff hopes seem to have taken a hit with the release of the rankings. Louisville is ranked #7 in the first playoff ranking.
With so much debate and football left to be played, November football will decide so many conference races and will upset so many championship hopes. There are only two ranked teams facing each other in week 1o, however, the two match-ups are monumental. #1 Alabama goes on the road to Death Valley to take on the #13 LSU Tigers. In the Big 10, #10 Nebraska goes to #6 Ohio State in a playoff-elimination game for both teams. Including those games, there are 10 ranked teams facing road challenges this weekend.
Here is a preview of some intriguing week 10 match-ups:
#4 Texas A&M at Mississippi State (11:00 am central SEC Network)
The Aggies have received a boost after a tough road loss at Alabama. Ranked #4 in the first playoff rankings has to give them a vote of confidence. Mississippi State is having a completely different season. The Bulldogs are 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the SEC. Dak Prescott has left and he left a huge absence in the program. MSU is ranked 77th in passing offense and 82nd in points against. The combination of those two statistics is not a good sign for the team. Texas A&M is looking to shed that loss to Alabama and validate their #4 ranking. The Aggies rank 13th in rushing offense and 21st in points against. One of the keys to this match-up is how the Bulldogs defend the A&M running game. Another key is going to be the Mississippi State offensive line going up against the Aggie defensive front and Myles Garrett. The good news for MSU? The Bulldogs rank in the top 40 with 14 sacks allowed in 8 games. Mississippi State must protect the ball because the Aggies are +5 in turnover margin this season.
Texas at Texas Tech (11:00 am central FS1)
Charlie Strong is still the head coach at Texas and the Longhorns travel to Lubbock to take on the high-flying offense of the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The key to this game will be balance. Texas Tech ranks 1st in the nation with 500.6 passing yards per game. The Red Raiders also rank 124th in rushing offense with 102.8 yards per game. The Longhorns have a little bit more balance with 259.9 passing yards per game and 226.5 rushing yards per game. Neither defense has been that good this year and the key will be how many turnovers can they force. The Longhorns are 105th in points allowed and the Red Raiders are 123rd. The early start will be interesting to follow for both teams. Texas LB Breckyn Hager gave the Red Raiders some bulletin board material when he said that the Longhorns wanted to injure their quarterback. Hager has since apologized and said he meant that Texas needs to be physical. The Red Raiders have given the Longhorns trouble in Lubbock several times and this has all the makings of a shootout this weekend. It might not reach the levels of the Oklahoma game a few weeks ago, however, it should get close to the over/under of 81.
#8 Wisconsin at Northwestern (11:00 am central ABC)
The Badgers have to be happy to be finished with that grueling stretch that saw them play 4 top 10 teams in a 5-week stretch. It may not get any easier this week. Northwestern is playing some very good ball in the Big 10 and gave Ohio State all they could handle last week. The Wildcats, led by Clayton Thorson, are passing for 243.3 yards per game and they have playmakers on the outside. Wisconsin leans on their defense and they hold opponents to 14.6 points per game (3rd in the nation). The Badgers have had problems with turnovers and scoring in the red zone. Wisconsin threw several interceptions against Nebraska as they rotated quarterbacks. The Badgers need to get off to a quick start against the Wildcats in an early kickoff. Even if their offense struggles at times, the Badgers know their defense will get them the ball back. The Badgers rank 8th in third-down defense by only allowing opponents to convert on 29% of their attempts. The key match-up will be Wisconsin RB Corey Clement against the Northwestern defense. Clement is starting to get things going and has 699 yards on the season. Northwestern ranks 38th in rushing yards allowed with 141.5 yards per game.
Oregon at USC (6:00 pm central ESPN)
Oregon seems to have stopped the bleeding for the moment. The Ducks beat Arizona State 54-35 and will try to get close to .500 this weekend against USC. It will be easier said than done for the Ducks defense. Oregon ranks 125th in the nation in points allowed with 42.3 points per game. The offense still ranks 15th with 40.5 points per game. USC seems to have found something that works after the initial few weeks and that debacle opening game against Alabama. Sam Darnold has given this team a spark at quarterback. The team ranks 42nd in passing yards and 40th in rushing yards per game. The defense has also picked up the pace with 24 points per game allowed. The key to this game will be the young quarterback for the Ducks, Justin Herbert, and how he will react to the road test against a USC defense with some athletes. USC will look to control the time in this game and keep the Oregon defense tired.
#1 Alabama at #13 LSU (7:00 pm central CBS)
This has become a bigger showdown than it looked a few weeks ago. LSU has turned the ship around after letting Les Miles go. The Tigers have scored 42, 45, and 38 points in their last three games. The defense still ranks 5th with only 15 points per game allowed. Talent and playmakers were never questioned at LSU and now it seems that the players are fitting this scheme a lot better. There is no doubt that Alabama is number one and they seem to score in every aspect of the game. Rueben Foster leads the defense that is the stingiest against the run. The offense has playmakers like Calvin Ridley on the outside and Jalen Hurts at quarterback. Death Valley may play a huge factor in this game. It is a night game and the momentum seems to be building for the Tigers. The key match-up will be that Alabama defense against Leonard Fournette. Last season, the Tide held Fournette to 31 yards on 19 carries.
#10 Nebraska at #6 Ohio State (7:00 pm central ABC)
Nebraska has to feel they let a game slip away last weekend at Camp Randall in Wisconsin. The Huskers took the Badgers to overtime but could not match the Badgers touchdown in the extra quarter. Nebraska has had a resurgent season under coach Riley and look to try to bounce back in a difficult environment. Ohio State bounced back after losing to Penn State, however, it was a much closer call than they would prefer. The Buckeyes beat Northwestern 24-20 and will try to bounce back this week. There is a lot of pressure on these young Buckeyes and Nebraska will be another true test. Ohio State will likely make the playoffs if they win out but the players cannot look ahead. Tommy Armstrong Jr. has been dynamic for Nebraska and a stable of running backs have allowed the Huskers offense to be diverse. The Huskers defense ranks 15th with 18.4 points per game allowed. The key to this game will be keeping JT Barrett contained like Northwestern did. Barrett did not find the endzone in that game and the Huskers have to keep an eye on his running ability. The Huskers need to keep it a low scoring game because they do not rank in the top 50 in most offensive categories.