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College Football's Must-Watch Games of Week 11

Gary Patterson

Gary Patterson

Time to sort through the contenders and the pretenders in the College Football Playoff race.

Certainly, the top teams in the mix have challenges ahead of them for the remainder of the season, but this will be a critical week for teams ranked fifth and lower.

Start with the Big Ten: Michigan State and Ohio State have recovered from Week 2 losses to set up the game of the year in the Big Ten in East Lansing.

Kansas State and TCU meet in a matchup to become the Big 12’s best representative for the playoff while Baylor and Oklahoma are fighting for survival.

Arizona State and Notre Dame will meet in Tempe in a matchup of one-loss teams looking for a signature win to boost themselves into the playoff conversation.

Not that Alabama needs much help to get attention, but the Crimson Tide begin a critical stretch that includes LSU on the road and Mississippi State and Auburn at home.

The Week Ahead: Nov. 8

All times Eastern. All games Saturday.

Kansas State at TCU

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When and where: 7:30 p.m., FOX

We’re watching because... we’re happy to be along for the ride in potentially magical seasons for Kansas State and TCU. The winner of this game is in position to crash the SEC/Florida State/Oregon playoff party. TCU is two weeks removed from hanging 82 on Texas Tech, but the Horned Frogs can still win on defense. The D saved an inconsistent performance in Morgantown by forcing five West Virginia turnovers and holding the Mountaineers’ offense to 162 passing yards. TCU’s offense will be tested by a Kansas State defense that clamped down on Texas and Oklahoma State for a total of one offensive touchdown in the last two weeks. Neither opponent topped 200 yards passing.

Vegas says: TCU by 5

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Baylor at Oklahoma

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When and where: Noon, Fox Sports 1

We’re watching because... the preseason Big 12 favorites are relegated to undercard status. The two teams won their Week 10 matchups by combined scores of 119-28 over a pair of teams winless in conference (Iowa State and Kansas). The question is if any of this is too little too late for a two-loss Oklahoma and a one-loss Baylor with few major non-conference wins. Beyond the playoff, the loser of this game may find itself relegated to a second-tier bowl game.

Vegas says: Oklahoma by 4 1/2

Notre Dame at Arizona State

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When and where: 3:30 p.m., NBC

We’re watching because... Arizona State may be the Pac-12 South favorite, and Notre Dame has yet to prove playoff-worthy. The Sun Devils have defied the odds all season: First, starting quarterback Taylor Kelly was lost for three games due to injury. And second, a rebuilt defense has become one of the best in the league. Heading into the game against Notre Dame, Kelly has returned to action (though he’s been unspectacular), and the Sun Devils’ defense has allowed two offensive touchdowns in the last three games against Stanford, Washington and Utah. Notre Dame’s Everett Golson will lead the best offense ASU has seen in a month. The selection committee isn’t convinced Notre Dame is playoff worthy yet, but this would be the perfect time to prove it.

Vegas says: Arizona State by 1

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Ohio State at Michigan State

When and where: 8 p.m., ABC

We’re watching because... this will have the feel of a Big Ten championship game. The Spartans and Buckeyes are the top two teams in the conference (thought Nebraska may attempt to object). Michigan State swiped Big Ten dominance from Ohio State last season with a 34-24 championship game win and a victory in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes could get revenge by knocking the Spartans out of the Big Ten East and playoff races in a single game. This game has all the signs for a powerhouse matchup as neither team has faltered since their Week 2 losses.

Vegas says: Michigan State by 1 1/2

Alabama at LSU

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When and where: 8 p.m., CBS

We’re watching because... Alabama takes its final road trip of the season. That’s right, the Crimson Tide won’t play a road game after Nov. 8 after not playing on the road until Oct. 4. That’s some fortunate scheduling, but LSU is better in November than it was at the start of October. After a loss to Ole Miss and a scare against Arkansas, Alabama’s offense is back to its early season form, albeit against Texas A&M and Tennessee. Meanwhile, LSU is starting to look like LSU. In wins over Florida, Kentucky and Ole Miss, the Tigers are allowing 4.4 yards per play with three total offensive touchdowns. LSU also is averaging 254 rushing yards on 52 carries per game during that span.

Vegas says: Alabama by 6 1/2

Talk Back on U-verse Game of the Week: Florida at Vanderbilt

Each week, AT&T U-verse and Athlon Sports will host a live interactive experience for an SEC game in which two greats from each school will take fan questions live throughout the game. 

This week, former Florida quarterback Rex Grossman and former Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson will join Athlon Sports’ Braden Gall at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta for the fun.

Visit att.com/talkback during Florida-Vanderbilt to watch the game with us.

When and where: 7:30 p.m., SEC Network

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We’re watching because... Florida may be worth watching again. The Gators’ 38-20 win over Georgia might not be enough to save Will Muschamp’s job, but it at least makes the Gators a more interesting team down the stretch. The Gators rushed for 445 yards against Georgia in the first start for freshman quarterback Treon Harris. For all of Florida’s struggles, the Gators should be a bowl team this season a year after finishing 4-8. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, is just looking to pick up any kind of meaningful win. The Commodores’ victories this year are over UMass, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion.

Vegas says: Florida by 14 1/2