Here are the key matchups, storylines, and people to watch in Week 10 of the college football schedule:
5. No. 7 Oklahoma at Texas Tech (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Do I really need to sell this one?
It sounds silly to say this matchup will come down to defense. More aptly, can one team get, say, two stops?
Oklahoma’s defense has improved a little since Ruffin McNeill replaced Mike Stoops as coordinator, but it's still bad by Power 5 standards.
Meanwhile, Tech's defense is as stinky as ever, ranking 79th in defensive S&P+. Forcing turnovers will be the name of the game, but that will be hard against the best offense in the country.
4. No. 13 West Virginia at No. 17 Texas (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
In terms of raw entertainment value, this could wind up being the game of the week.
Texas stalled against Oklahoma State, thanks in large part to a poor defensive game plan and errors in crucial spots. Hopes of a trip to the Big 12 title game (yes, that’s still happening) will be on the line against West Virginia.
The Mountaineers will head to Texas as the favorite. They’re coming off a shellacking of Baylor in which their offense got back to its best. Still, it’s tough to forget the disastrous loss to Iowa State.
This should be a fun one.
3. No. 6 Georgia at No. 9 Kentucky (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
I hate to be a party pooper ... but are we sure this will be close?
I think it was the latter. While Kentucky’s defense has been exceptional, it simply doesn’t have the caliber of athletes needed against Georgia. Even Florida eventually wore down against the Bulldogs after fighting well for two and a half quarters.
Even if - and it’s a big if - Kentucky’s defense keeps the game close, how does the offense move the ball? Everyone loves Benny Snell and the line is great, but Georgia’s front is athletic and deep.
Whomever Kentucky sticks at quarterback will need to complete throws to sustain drives. That’s a major ask.
I’ll offer the slightest glimmer of hope, though. This is the biggest Kentucky game since the 1970s. Georgia was all sorts of sluggish, on both sides of the ball, against LSU. Passion, energy, and a strong pass rush can do big things. Kentucky will need to force a couple of turnovers early.
2. No. 14 Penn State at No. 5 Michigan (3:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Why do we have three of the week’s top games in the same TV slot, again? Get it together, college football.
Michigan is a much better team than Penn State this season. Jim Harbaugh has fashioned a balanced, explosive offense. His defensive coordinator, Don Brown, is orchestrating a unit that’s as impressive as any we’ve seen in modern college football - schematically, metrically, and personnel-wise.
Asking Trace McSorley to break that down - while keeping pace with Michigan, while battling an injury, and with little help around him - seems like a bridge too far. There's only so much the mini maestro can do, right?
Still, don't bet against McSorley. He's capable of stringing together moments of magic.
Meanwhile, these two coaching staffs do not, umm, get along. There will be a ton of passion, fire, and ill-will in this game. If McSorley is healthy, Penn State might cobble together a chance. If not, Michigan will roll comfortably.
1. No. 1 Alabama at No. 3 LSU (8 p.m. ET, CBS)
This has all the hallmarks of a game that looks close in the box score but isn’t that close in reality.
I’ll remind you: It’s officially November and Tua Tagovailoa has yet to throw an interception. Read that again and let it sink in.
Alabama simply lives on a different plane of existence from anyone outside of Clemson right now.
Sure, everything you need for an upset is here. LSU’s defense is dominant - even better than Bama’s. And this marks Tagovailoa’s first matchup against a truly elite unit (except for that second half of the national championship game, of course). The game is in Baton Rouge … at night! Ed Orgeron is involved!
And yet, I don’t think any of that will matter. The gap between the teams' defenses is tiny, but the chasm between their offenses is extraordinary. LSU will struggle to move the ball across midfield, barring some trickery and the odd explosive play that Alabama's been prone to giving up.
On the other side, the Crimson Tide will put up points, just not as frequently or as fast as they have so far this season. With a win, Nick Saban would secure his team another berth in the playoff, no matter what happens in the SEC championship game.
No. 15 Utah at Arizona State (4 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
You may not have noticed, but Utah is really, really good. Kyle Whittingham’s side ranks 12th in offensive efficiency and 23rd in defensive efficiency. The team is also 25th in explosive plays on offense and 13th on defense.
Not even Alabama can match that. Alabama!
Whittingham next takes his guys to face Herm Edwards' Sun Devils in an all-time battle of rah-rah coach-speak guys. It’s going to be glorious.
Edwards' team is doing surprisingly innovative things on both sides of the ball, as detailed earlier this week. ASU is bullying folks on defense and its pound-the-rock offense is dressed up in all sorts of funky formations and snazzy pre-snap movements.
The story is Utah, though. Win here, and it’s a clear path to the PAC-12 South title and a shot at a berth in the Rose Bowl.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Is it an even-number year? Yes? Then Gus Malzahn must be on the hot seat.
The excuses are there for Malzahn if you want to make them. His defense still ranks fifth in the country. The loss to LSU was by one point, and Auburn should have won. The Tigers beat Washington, which was impressive at the time.
Football is difficult! Stringing together successive seasons when you continually lose talent is really, really hard in the most normal of situations.
But, of course, this isn’t a normal situation. There's a Saban complex hanging over everything Auburn does. The team believes it should live in the Alabama-Clemson-Ohio State tier. The Tigers never restock - they reload. And they probably should.
And indeed, you're afforded a down year after an Iron Bowl win and a near-playoff berth. But only one. And this isn’t Malzahn’s first. That’s his great crime.
Malzahn probably wouldn't survive that. A fresh seven-year, $49-million contract is meaningless when it comes to football in the state of Alabama. Perhaps skedaddling to Arkansas wouldn’t have been such a bad option, after all.