Several SEC teams are playing bye weeks disguised as FCS football teams. Kirk Herbstreet, on ESPN's College Gameday, suggested that these games shouldn't be played and that the teams should be penalized. I tend to agree, except the SEC is one of the few conferences to play league games in the first week or two of the season. Auburn, who is playing Samford today, opened the season against western division foe Arkansas. Georgia, who hosts Charleston Southern, opened their schedule with Clemson and South Carolina. And Clemson isn't in the ACC, but they opened against Georgia and host recent a recent FBS addition, 1 - 9 Georgia State. So while I tend to agree with Kirk, it's difficult to fairly criticize a team for playing the same teams late in the season that other FBS schools played in August and early September.
Now regarding the games that matter this week:
Western Carolina (7 - 4) 13 @ (1) Alabama (9 - 1) 38: Really? The top team in the College Football Playoff rankings plays a school from the FCS in the heat of the race. I'm hoping this type of game will go away in the coming years. It would serve the Tide right if the Catamounts pulled the upset of the century.
Colorado (2 - 8) 20 @ (2) Oregon (9 - 1) 42: The Ducks are on a roll and Colorado doesn't have enough for me to even consider giving them a chance to pull an upset.
Boston College (6 - 4) 23 @ (3) Florida State (10 - 0) 34: If this game was being played in Boston, I might see an upset coming, not much different than the one they pulled over USC. But at home, the 'Noles should be able to outlast the Eagles, even if it takes another comeback from Jameis Winston.
Vanderbilt (3 - 7) 17 @ (4) Mississippi State (9 - 1) 30: I know Vanderbilt doesn't bring much to the table, but the Bulldogs are coming off a huge loss. Fortunately, this one's in Starkville and Mississippi State still has a lot to play for. They're number four and if they win out, it would appear that they'll be in the final four.
Indiana (3 - 7) 16 @ (6) Ohio State (9 - 1) 41: The Buckeyes are 34 point favorites over the Hoosiers, and probably need an impressive win to stay in the playoff hunt. I don't have them getting in the final four, but a stumble or two from the incumbents and they're in as long as they keep winning.
Oklahoma State (5 - 5) 24 @ (7) Baylor (8 - 1) 38: The Bears are on the outside looking in at the moment, but strange things happen in the final two or three weeks of college football Saturdays. As long as Baylor keeps winning, things could break their way. As for the Cowboys, they need a win over either Baylor or Oklahoma to get to a bowl game.
(8) Ole Miss (8 - 2) 24 @ Arkansas (5 - 5) 27: The Razorbacks finally ended their 17 game SEC losing streak. Now the Rebels head into Fayetteville with the stingiest scoring defense in the country. Unfortunately, they're giving up 175 yards a game on the ground, the strength of Arkansas' attack. This game comes down to whether the Hogs can stop Ole Miss enough to come away with a win. I think they can.
(19) USC (7 - 3) 20 @ (9) UCLA (8 - 2) 23: When I was growing up, this was such a cool game to watch. Sunny southern California juxtaposed against the dreary weather of late autumn in Virginia. And those cheerleaders...Okay, I digress. I no longer watch for the cheerleaders, but now it's the sunny southern California skies against the now southern midwest dreary weather. What was once O.J. Simpson and Gary Beban is now Cody Kessler and Brett Hundley. I'll be watching, you know, for the game, the players...
Charleston Southern (8 - 3) 20 @ (10) Georgia (8 - 2) 41: Come on now. See the Alabama game...
Rutgers (6 - 4) 17 @ (11) Michigan State (8 - 2) 30: While Michigan State is still mathematically in the Big Ten East race, it will take a miracle for them to unseat Ohio State. Rutgers, despite it's bowl eligible record, hasn't been competitive against quality opponents.
Washington State (3 - 7) 27 @ (13) Arizona State (8 - 2) 44: Arizona State stumbled in a big way last week against Oregon State, but I don't expect it to happen two games in a row, especially since Sun Devils return home to take on the Cougars.
Samford (7 - 3) 20 @ (14) Auburn (7 - 3) 47: This is just getting old...
(15) Arizona (8 - 2) 23 @ (17) Utah (7 - 3) 24: Believe it or not, even with three conference losses, Utah is still alive in the Pac-12 South. A USC win over UCLA would end those hopes, but as of this writing, both of these teams are playing for a potential title. I really like Utah to upset the Wildcats in Salt Lake City.
(16) Wisconsin (8 - 2) 34 @ Iowa (7 - 3) 21: Despite their impressive record, Iowa hasn't really beaten anyone of any consequence. Beating up on the Purdue's, Illinois' and Indiana's doesn't really stack up against Wisconsin's impressive run of the last few weeks, capped by a destruction of Nebraska last week.
(20) Missouri (8 - 2) 30 @ Tennessee (5 - 5) 21: I heard someone on ESPN predicting that Tennessee would roll over Missouri. Really? I'm assuming that was based on a 50 - 16 win over a mediocre Kentucky team. Missouri has methodically run off wins, with the exception of a total gaff against Indiana.
Kansas (3 - 7) 17 @ (21) Oklahoma (7 - 3) 34: The Jayhawks were able to put a scare into TCU last week, but that wasn't in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners are just on the outside of the large group of one and two loss teams, but still very dangerous. There's really nothing wrong with a 9 - 3 season and probably the appearance in a warm weather bowl game.
Georgia State (1 - 9) 14 @ (22) Clemson (7 - 3) 37: Maybe Clemson got confused about which Atlanta team they were playing last week, mistaking Georgia Tech for their crosstown newcomers. Well, probably not, but I'm still looking for a reason that the Tigers got rolled by Georgia Tech.
(25) Minnesota (7 - 3) 28 @ (23) Nebraska (8 - 2) 30: Nebraska was humbled by Wisconsin last week, while Minnesota gave Ohio State all they could handle in a 31 - 24 loss. The outcome of this game hinges on how well the 'Huskers can put the badger game behind them and realize they still have a shot, however long it is, at the Big Ten West title. I'm going with Nebraska, but not all that confidently.
(24) Louisville (7 - 3) 37 @ Notre Dame (7 - 3) 30: Notre Dame headed to Tallahassee on October 18 with a top ten ranking and an undefeated record. Since then, they've lost three of four and are reeling a little bit. Actually, the signs for this swoon was evident in a 50 - 43 win over North Carolina in the game before the big showdown with the 'Noles. I don't like the trend in South Bend.
Virginia Tech (5 - 5) 26 @ Wake Forest (2 - 8) 16: After upsetting Duke last week, the Hokies have their twenty-second consecutive bowl appearance clearly in sight. They head to Winston-Salem with renewed defensive energy against a team coming off six consecutive losses, with only one of them where the Demon Deacons were competitive.
Miami (6 - 4) 31 @ Virginia (4 - 6) 21:Virginia got off to a 4 - 2 start and stood atop the ACC Coastal division until a four game losing streak put them on the verge of bowl ineligibility. It also puts Mike London's head coaching job in jeopardy. Even though the Hurricanes are coming off a tough loss to Florida State, I don't see the Cavs stopping Miami running back Duke Johnson.
Maryland (6 - 4) 24 @ Michigan (5 - 5) 23: Neither of these teams has a quality win and Maryland has been overwhelmed by the best four teams on their schedule. Michigan's season, most likely its last one under coach Brady Hoke, has been devoid of anything impressive. This is a tough pick, but for some reason I like Maryland to go into the Big House and steal one from the Wolverines.
Oregon State (5 - 5) 23 @ Washington (6 - 5) 34: The Beavers pulled off a huge comeback upset over Arizona State last week, but a lot of that was because the Sun Devils let down late in that one. The Huskies are probably back on the rise in the Pac-12 and can't afford to lose to a team they should beat.