Even with a four-team playoff, college football still has the most meaningful regular season of just about any major pro or college sport. There is no such thing as a meaningless game and every loss for any title contender is costly, if not fatal to its playoff chances.
This week several de facto elimination games will be played as conference season gets really serious. Division titles could potentially be decided, even though we’re only midway through October. And without winning the division – and thus the conference – there is virtually no way of making it to the College Football Playoff.
In two weeks, the selection committee will be meeting for the first time this season. But they’ll be paying close attention to a bunch of games on this week’s national TV menu, but these in particular:
Game of the Week
Alabama at Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Texas A&M has been a bit of a tease since joining the SEC in 2012. Led by Johnny Manziel, the Aggies made a splash by upsetting the Tide in their inaugural SEC season and came close again in 2013. But unlike fellow expansion-mate Missouri, A&M has not been able to win its division and really put a stamp on its new conference.
Everyone seems to think this year might be different. The Aggies have a chance to knock off the Tide for good, since Alabama already has a divisional loss to Ole Miss while A&M remains undefeated. The new Kyle Field will be rocking as its biggest crowd ever will be anticipating a possible changing of the guard in the SEC West.
Other games the committee will be watching
UCLA at Stanford, 10:30 p.m. ET (Thursday), ESPN
Michigan State at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Florida at LSU, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
USC at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Arizona State at Utah, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
The battle of Michigan will be for a lot more than bragging rights this season, as the loser will be effectively eliminated from the Big Ten East race. Though the Wolverines have lost six of seven to their rivals, they have been revived far ahead of schedule by the arrival of Jim Harbaugh. A resounding win over Sparty will be firm indication that Michigan is ready to win again, now.
Besides Texas A&M, the only two other SEC unbeatens are meeting at Death Valley, but the contest has lost a lot of its luster after the shocking news that Florida QB Will Grier will miss the rest of the season due to a violation of NCAA’s PED rules. Leonard Fournette, on the other hand, will have a chance to really lock down the Heisman Trophy, if he hasn’t done so already.
The Pac-12 continues its slugfest, with the only two teams in the South Division still in control of their own destinies meeting in Salt Lake City. The Utes have been flying high since their season-opening win over Michigan, but now must go through the gauntlet of the other South contenders, starting with Arizona State.
Also keep an eye on …
Boise State at Utah State, 9 p.m. ET (Friday), CBSSN
Mississippi at Memphis, noon ET, ABC/ESPN2
The Group of Five race is really heating up, with four undefeated teams vying for the New Year’s Six automatic berth with one-loss Boise State, last year’s winner. Memphis, one of three unbeaten American Athletic teams, can gain the inside track with a home win over Ole Miss, which won at Alabama earlier this season. Tigers coach Justin Fuente is also a hot candidate for several potential openings, and a victory in a landmark game like this will only boost his job prospects, should he choose to bolt after the season.
Without another high-profile nonconference opponent left, Boise State will have to run the table in the Mountain West to have any shot to get back to an NY6 bowl. Utah State will serve to be a stern test, perhaps the toughest for the Broncos for the rest of the season.
Texas Tech at Kansas, noon ET, FS1
There is no Power 5 program more downtrodden than Kansas, which is off to another winless start at 0-5, having lost its games by an average of 45.4 points. The Jayhawks opened the season losing to an FCS team (South Dakota State) and are coming off a 66-7 drubbing by Baylor.
With a bunch of high-powered offenses still looming on its schedule, Kansas likely will continue to get pummeled for awhile. Its opponent this week, Texas Tech, is averaging 52.7 points per game and has scored no fewer than 35 in any of its games. This figures to be another long afternoon in Lawrence.
Last week’s Despicable Meet: Texas 24, Oklahoma 17 (upset).