The National Championship race heats up on Saturday. There are at least eight schools which have a decent shot at the big prize this season, and all but one are in action this weekend. Second ranked Baylor defeated Kansas State 31-24 on Thursday. This is going to be a great weekend for watching the best in college football as they begin the final push for glory. November is here, and the action is about to get intense.
Notre Dame (5) @ Pitt 12 Noon Eastern ABC/WatchESPN
The Fighting Irish are in that position where they are currently the odd man out. They are the first school outside of the playoffs. The one black mark on the Notre Dame record this season came at the hands of the team currently atop the rankings. It has not been an easy season in South Bend. The Irish have been forced to come from behind in four of their seven victories. If they want a chance to compete for the ultimate prize they are going to have to stop flirting with disaster. Pitt is one of those teams that thrives in close games and if Brian Kelly's team allows the Panthers to hang around into the fourth quarter the dream could end this week for Notre Dame.
Florida State (16) @ Clemson (1) 3:30 PM Eastern ABC/WatchESPN
These rankings are more commonly reversed, but this time it is the Tigers who sit atop the polls and the Seminoles who are further down in the standings. Death Valley is always tough on opposing teams, and Florida State has always been on the "most hated" list, so you know Clemson Memorial Stadium is going to be rocking this weekend. In recent years the winner of this game has always gone on to win the ACC and to be a player in the National Championship picture. The Tigers are going to be ready to lay claim to what they want while the Noles would love to play the spoiler role. For my money, this is the game of the week.
TCU (8) @ Oklahoma State (14) 3:30 PM Eastern Fox
This is one of those times where I would love to have a second TV in my living room. This one is going to be on the air around the same time as the FSU-Clemson contest and both are worth watching. The Horned Frogs are attempting to fight their way into the big picture, but they have a tough road ahead. They cannot afford to falter if they want the eventual meeting with Baylor to really count. With no Big 12 Championship Game both schools could easily find themselves out in the cold again this season, especially if they do not both arrive at the November 27th showdown undefeated. Rivals since 1899, it is in the best interests of both schools that TCU prevail in this one.
Michigan State (7) @ Nebraska 7:00 PM Eastern ESPN
The Spartans are another team that is going to see their dreams vanish if they do not get some movement ahead of them. They should have a relatively easy time this week, but there is also that looming showdown with Ohio State ahead of them. At least the Spartans will have a chance to make something happen there. A win over a higher ranked team would free up some space which they might be able to squeeze into. A miscue this week could make that all for naught.
LSU (2) @ Alabama (4) 8:00 PM Eastern CBS
I know that this one is bigger, at least on paper, than the ACC showdown earlier in the day, the stakes are just as high, but this one often is not the kind of game that is enjoyable to watch for many fans. You remember the field goal fest of a few years back, don't you? One of the two combatants will reign supreme in the SEC West and the other will be left to think about next year. One thing about it, if you are a Notre Dame fan, you know that somebody is going to lose and that may open the door for your school.
Minnesota @ Ohio State (3) 8:00 PM Eastern ABC/WatchESPN
The Buckeyes had a bye last week and still managed to lose. Quarterback J.T. Barrett, also a team captain, was arrested for drunken driving and he has been suspended for this game. At first glance the Buckeyes should still have a relatively easy time against the Golden Gophers this week, but an upset is not out of the question, Backup Cardale Jones will lead the offense against the 4-4 Minnesota squad. if the Gophers pair of highly-touted corners can take advantage of the situation, Ohio State may also find itself in a situation where they are fighting for their playoff lives.
If things fall right, there could be a lot of movement in the top four this weekend and some teams in the second tier could suddenly find their fortunes have changed. I am looking at you Notre Dame, Baylor, and TCU. I know all three schools have plenty of fans in this community. Things get serious this weekend and the playoff picture could shift in the blink of an eye. Set back on the couch, grab a cold drink, order a pizza and enjoy the football this Saturday.