Halloween is over, the air is getting colder and the fall foliage is turning into the beautiful hues we all know and love across the country. As good as college football has been so far in 2016, things are about to ramp up even more as we enter the final few weeks of the season.
While the fantastic non-conference slate brought us some great games in the month of September and the early upsets made October a must-see, there’s potential for some epic clashes in the coming weeks as the national title chase starts to clarify and the field starts to narrow in every conference title race. Plus we get mid-week MACtion and Sun Belt Fun Belt games to satisfy your appetite for football on every day of the week.
So clear out your schedule, stock up on supplies, say goodbye to your loved ones and get ready for one wild ride in college football over the coming weeks. Here are the best college football games in the month of November and why you should watch.
1. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 26)
The hype for this one was off the charts when both teams were undefeated and in the top five but things haven’t slacked off all that much even after the Buckeyes suffered a loss. Let’s face it, even though this game likely decides the Big Ten East and a potential College Football Playoff berth, everybody is interested in seeing a rematch between Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh.
2. Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 26)
The Iron Bowl has annually been one of the most entertaining games on the schedule and it looks like this year’s edition will once again have SEC and national title implications when these two in-state rivals square off. The Tigers’ recent hot streak makes them the most dangerous foe left for the No. 1 team in the country and both teams’ defenses will make this a hard-fought game for both sides.
3. Washington at Washington State (Nov. 25, Friday)
The Apple Cup has long been one of the best kept secrets on the West Coast because even if one of the two teams isn’t all that good, chances are high that something strange will happen. The stakes in this one might be the highest ever though, as a Pac-12 division title and potential playoff berth both might be on the line in what should be a fun atmosphere on the Palouse.
4. Alabama at LSU (Nov. 5)
It really doesn’t get much better in college football than a night game at Tiger Stadium and the atmosphere should be electric with the No. 1 team in the country coming to town as well. LSU has been on a roll and has the defense to make this an interesting battle if Leonard Fournette and the offense show up too. The Crimson Tide tend to play well in big games and they’ll need their best effort if they want to leave Baton Rouge with a win.
5. Florida at LSU (Nov. 19)
It seems like just yesterday that we were discussing possible make-up scenarios after a hurricane slammed into Florida and postponed the meeting between the Tigers and the Gators. There was a lot said on both sides about what happened and why this game is being made up in a different state than originally planned so there’s a bit of an extra emphasis on this one beyond the battle on the field.
6. Oklahoma at West Virginia (Nov. 19)
The Big 12 doesn’t have a title game just yet but this one could be the de facto one as the Sooners head to Morgantown. The Mountaineers’ defense has really stepped up in 2016 but will have its hands full trying to stop one of the best offenses in the league with Baker Mayfield, Dede Westbrook and Joe Mixon.
7. Louisville at Houston (Nov. 17, Thursday)
There was a time where this looked like a potential College Football Playoff play-in matchup. That isn’t quite the case now but there’s still plenty of fun to be had when potential Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson faces off against one of the most opportunistic defenses in the country. While there can be only one winner on the field, Tom Herman’s bank account figures to get an even bigger boost if the Cougars come out on top.
8. Utah at Colorado (Nov. 26)
It’s hard to imagine before the season that this game could determine the Pac-12 South and even crazier that the league’s two expansion candidates have reached this point, this quickly. It’s been a while since a truly meaningful big game was played in Boulder but this one is it and it should be rocking in the thin air on the edge of the Rockies.
9. LSU at Texas A&M (Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Day)
Thanksgiving and football have been a time honored tradition in the state of Texas for a long, long time but that might be coming to an end in College Station as these two SEC West rivals meet for what will apparently be the final time on Turkey Day. It should make for a great atmosphere either way but keep in mind this sub-plot as well: Ed Orgeron’s interim title could be on the line depending on how the dominoes fall.
10. Toledo at Western Michigan (Nov. 25, Friday)
There’s a pretty good late November slate on tap this season but let’s face it, MACtion in the middle of the week adds another element to the month. Toledo and Western Michigan both have established themselves as the class of the conference and will meet for an extra huge game on Friday that might have Group of Five implications if the Broncos run the table. Either way, expect a whacky game.
11. Nebraska at Ohio State (Nov. 5)
The shine is off this one a little thanks to losses by each side but there’s still a lot to play for in a primetime meeting between Big Ten powers. Both are looking to keep pace in the division and sport stingy defenses that make life difficult no matter how good you are offensively. Don’t forget how interesting things are in this one offensively either, with both the Cornhuskers and the Buckeyes needing to jumpstart their respective units.
12. Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 12)
These two Big 12 rivals have split their last six games in the series and the past four winners have eventually become Big 12 champions. The Bears typically have trotted out the more explosive offense but that might not be the case this year with the Sooners being led by Baker Mayfield at quarterback and wide receiver Dede Westbrook. Baylor isn’t any pushover with Seth Russell and company though as the Bears look for just their second ever win in Norman.
13. Michigan at Iowa (Nov. 12)
If you’re looking for the best chance for Michigan to lose before the end of the year battle at Ohio State, look no further than the Wolverines’ trip to Iowa and the defending Big Ten West champions. We’ve seen the Hawkeyes rise to the occasion before and knock off a title contender at home and they sport a veteran quarterback under center and a solid defense. It might just be enough to contain Heisman candidate Jabrill Peppers and company in one of the biggest games left on the Big Ten schedule.
14. Appalachian State at Troy (Nov. 12)
The Sun Belt’s nickname isn’t the Fun Belt for nothing and this mid-November meeting could decide the conference crown as both teams enter the month undefeated. Troy has been one of the biggest surprises in the Group of Five, nearly upsetting Clemson to open the year and running off six straight wins since. Appalachian State pushed Tennessee to overtime in its opener and has lost just once in the league in more than two years. This should be a fun one even if it’s under the radar for all but the die-hard college football fans.
15. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 26)
These two in-state rivals meet in Tallahassee with each program experiencing a surprising season. The Seminoles are undoubtedly bummed with three losses before entering November after being a trendy national title pick to begin the year. Nothing would make their season quite like beating the Gators however, who might be looking ahead to a potential SEC title game appearance and have just one win in their past six tries against FSU.
16. USC at Washington (Nov. 12)
The Pac-12’s best team plays host to what might be the most talented in this meeting of the conference’s historical powers. USC has come on lately after making a change at quarterback and there’s no question that Sam Darnold’s dual-threat ability could make things interesting in this one. The Huskies have the best defense out West though and a chance to make a Heisman statement on a big stage for Jake Browning.
17. Pitt at Clemson (Nov. 12)
There’s not a ton of drama left in the ACC entering November but this might be a sneaky great game that’s still on the schedule. The Tigers are certainly a College Football Playoff contender and all but a lock to win the Atlantic division but this might be their toughest game left before Orlando. The Panthers have a strong ground game with James Conner leading the way and you know Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi will have something special cooked up in order to pull off an upset.
18. Washington State at Colorado (Nov. 19)
Go ahead, read the names of these two teams and do a double-take. But that’s where we’re at in Pac-12 play as this amazingly could be a preview of the conference title game a few weeks later. The Cougars have regrouped after losing to an FCS team to open the year and have turned into a potential title winner in the Pac-12 North behind Luke Falk and company. They’ll travel to Boulder in a possible Apple Cup look-ahead situation, needing to get by an underrated defense from the Buffs.
19. Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 12)
This has been the Pac-12’s game of the year since, well, the conference changed its name from the Pac-10. Unlike all those past meetings however, this one will have no national title game implications or any Pac-12 North impact at the top of the standings. Both teams are much improved after a rough two months to begin the season and there should be enough interest in seeing a now-healthy Christian McCaffrey do his thing against the Ducks’ defense while seeing if young quarterback Justin Herbert can pull off the upset to keep bowl hopes alive in Eugene.
20. TCU at Texas (Nov. 25, Friday)
Heat up some Thanksgiving leftovers and tune into this contest between a pair of defensive head coaches who have resorted to leaning on their offense in 2016. Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs have not lived up to the preseason expectations but remain dangerous to any Big 12 team they face with some experienced faces on both sides of the ball capable of making big plays. This game has much more meaning for his opposite number Charlie Strong, as this might just be his final game in burnt orange period if he ends up losing.
21. Florida at Arkansas (Nov. 5)
These two teams are just about polar opposites of one another in the most surprising respects. While Bret Bielema has become known for running the ball and playing stiff defense, that’s been the m.o. Florida has used to go to the top of the SEC East standings. Meanwhile the Hogs have turned into a pass-happy attack behind quarterback Austin Allen. Strange things can happen in Fayetteville when fall starts to come around and that could make for a fun game between these two.
22. Cal at Washington State (Nov. 12)
This has been one of the oddest series in the Pac-12 the past couple of seasons and is worth tuning in if you love the Air Raid offense. Mike Leach is of course one of the architects of the pass-happy attack but has one of the most complete teams he’s had in Pullman playing at a high level right now. Sonny Dykes is a Leach disciple and had plenty of success to the point where this is likely a meeting between two of the top five quarterbacks in the country in passing yards and touchdowns.
23. TCU at Baylor (Nov. 5)
Let’s be honest, even dating back to the SWC days, these two in-state rivals haven’t really enjoyed each other’s company and that was before each got into a war of words over a Big 12 title back in 2014. It doesn’t look like this will be the third straight game where both are ranked in the top 15 but it will nevertheless be a potentially fun and entertaining shootout if history is any guide.
24. Oklahoma State at Kansas State (Nov. 5)
They are not talked about with the likes of Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma but the Cowboys also are in the thick of the Big 12 title race and looking like a top-15 team thanks to their high-flying offense with quarterback Mason Rudolph. Mike Gundy’s team should beware of this trip to the Little Apple though, as Kansas State is always good for a hard-fought game at home and Bill Snyder loves to have a say in the Big 12 race even if his team isn’t in the running.
25. Navy vs. Notre Dame (Nov. 5 in Jacksonville, Fla.)
The 90th meeting between these two historic powers has a bit of a different look in 2016, with Notre Dame fighting for even a chance at making a bowl game while Navy is in the running to make it to a New Year’s Six bowl game as the potential Group of Five selection by the CFP selection committee. Neither team’s defense is anything to write home about after their past few performances but each features plenty of playmakers on offense and a fun clash of styles between the Midshipmen’s triple option and Brian Kelly’s spread attack. Add in a new setting in Jacksonville for this one and one of the best intersectional rivalry games in the country certainly is worth tuning in for.
Best of the rest:
Nebraska at Iowa (Nov. 25, Friday)
Iowa at Penn State (Nov. 5)
Oregon at USC (Nov. 5)
LSU at Arkansas (Nov. 12)
USC at UCLA (Nov. 19)
Ole Miss at Texas A&M (Nov. 12)
West Virginia at Texas (Nov. 12)
Pitt at Miami (Nov. 5)
Wisconsin at Northwestern (Nov. 5)
Arkansas State at Troy (Nov. 17, Thursday)
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)