By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
November is here. Finally, the month when the playoff picture will take shape is upon us. This week saw the first official release of the College Football Playoff Rankings and it shows a top four of #1 Clemson, #2 LSU, #3 Ohio State and #4 Alabama. Two of those teams square off this week, and that’s just one of the can’t miss games of this weekend.
Saturday 12 pm ET (ESPNU)- Penn State at #21 Northwestern
The Nittany Lions have only two losses this year and those came against #3 Ohio State, and #22 Temple – both on the road. The offense has begun to light up for Penn State the past two weeks putting up 31 and 39 on Maryland and Illinois, respectively. They’ll face a Northwestern defense that was very stout to start the year but has fallen off a bit since. The Nittany Lions’ last three games come against ranked teams in the Wildcats, #17 Michigan and a season ending contest with #7 Michigan State. NFL fans that are beginning to wonder about top draft prospects, check out QB Christian Hackenberg and DT Anthony Zettel for the Nittany Lions. Hackenberg is only a junior so he may not come out, but he’s lit it up in his past six games with 12 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
Saturday 3:30 PM ET (ABC)- #16 Florida State at #1 Clemson
The biggest game left on the Tigers schedule. Dalvin Cook is back practicing for the Seminoles this week and looks as if he’ll return, but QB Everett Golson’s status is more uncertain returning from a concussion. Clemson is fresh off a barn burner against NC State and will be looking to clamp back down on defense. The Seminoles will have to find a way to win on 3rd down on both sides of the ball. The Tigers are 13th in offensive 3rd down efficiency at 46%, and 1st on the defensive side allowing opponents to convert just 21% of the time. That will be a key battle if Florida State wants to pull the upset.
Saturday 3:30 PM ET (FOX)- #8 TCU at #14 Oklahoma State
This is where multiple screens (tv’s, laptops, tablets) come in handy. Two ranked vs. ranked match-ups at the same time. This game features two of the top Big 12 teams going at it which means one thing: fireworks. Neither team is particularly good defensively, the Cowboys rank 41st allowing 357 yards per game and the Horned Frogs are 59th allowing 388.6 YPG. The Cowboys allow 23 PPG and the Horned Frogs allow 24.5. What I’m trying to say is: expect a lot of offense.
Saturday 7 PM ET (ESPN2)- Navy at #13 Memphis
This may seem a bit off-the-radar. I get it, but hear me out. Memphis’ QB Paxton Lynch is 10th in the country in passing yards, 17th in touchdowns, and 7th in completion percentage. On the other side you have QB Keenan Reynolds for the Midshipmen who is attempting to break the record for career rushing touchdowns as he enters tied with Montee Ball at 77. Completely opposing styles at work in this game. The Tigers spread style vs. Navy’s triple option. Navy is still in the race for the American Athletic Conference West Division crown tied with Memphis and Houston for the top spot. Memphis wants to run the table and try to get a playoff spot. Plenty at stake in early November.
Saturday 8 PM ET (CBS)- #2 LSU at #4 Alabama
Here’s the big one. If there’s only one game you can watch Saturday make it this one. Les Miles vs. Nick Saban is always a classic battle. The two running backs (Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry) are two of the best in the country. The run defenses also have that distinction of being two of the best in the nation. That means the QBs who many consider “game managers” in Brandon Harris and Jacob Coker will be the difference between the two. This is essentially a playoff game because if Alabama loses, their playoff hopes are pretty much crushed. If LSU loses, they no longer control their fate. At 8 pm ET from Tuscaloosa, you’re going to want to get your popcorn ready.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.