Alabama still has two large hurdles to clear in the regular season
Sad as it is to say, we’re on to the home stretch for the college football season as the conference title races start to narrow across the country and the chase for the College Football Playoff begins to come into focus. Though we’ve flown past the midway mark, there is a good thing about the calendar flipping over to month No. 11: just three days without any football from now until December when factoring in the NFL.
Yes, that’s right, we’ve got the glorious return of midweek MACtion and late-night Sun Belt FunBelt to go with all the glorious action each and every Saturday the rest of the way.
What games are absolutely worth marking the calendar for though? Here are 20 of the best college football games during the month of November and why you should tune in:
1. Alabama at LSU (Nov. 3)
While it’s not quite "Game of the Century" levels that we’ve seen in the past for this SEC West showdown, this is still as good as it will get in college football in 2018. Potential division and conference titles, plus a trip to the College Football Playoff will all be on the line as one of the best defenses in the sport tries to defend home turf under the lights against one of the best offenses.
2. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 24)
Not a game, The Game. Aside from perhaps the Iron Bowl, no rivalry seems to have the kind of animosity that these two schools have whenever they get together. The outcome will likely determine who gets a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game and there figures to be huge playoff implications as well. Jim Harbaugh will no doubt be looking for a bit of revenge in this return to the Horseshoe too after the last trip involved a controversial spot.
3. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Nov. 10)
There’s just something about Bedlam that is special for both sides of this rivalry and, more often than not, there’s huge Big 12 implications going on to add to the stakes even more. The Sooners have made this fairly one-sided as of late but the Cowboys love to play spoiler for their in-state rivals when they have a special season going.
4. Georgia at Kentucky (Nov. 3)
This is a de facto SEC East final and a conference semifinal the way the race has shook out so far. You’ve got two defenses filled with playmakers, a bunch of talented, hard-running tailbacks and two quarterbacks itching for national recognition. Oh, and the most frenzied environment Lexington has likely ever seen on the gridiron.
5. Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 24)
The Iron Bowl, enough said. Even if the Tigers aren’t holding up their end of the bargain by making this a top 25 matchup, this game is always a must-watch.
6. Oklahoma at West Virginia (Nov. 23)
Could this be a preview of the Big 12 title game? We’ll find out as Oklahoma faces off in one of their stiffest tests of the home stretch. This game could also double as a Heisman elimination race as Kyler Murray and Will Grier have the potential to put up points upon points upon points.
7. Penn State at Michigan (Nov. 3)
The Wolverines' defense is the best unit in the country, shutting down players and programs alike this year with a combination of speed and power. Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders have been in plenty of big games before but this might be one of their biggest challenges as they go into the Big House hunting for an upset.
8. Washington at Washington State (Nov. 23)
The road for the Pac-12 North looks like it runs through the Apple Cup once again. The Huskies have run off five in a row in the series and made this a decidedly one-sided affair regardless of the locale or how good the Cougars are. This has the potential to either be a dream season completed for Mike Leach and Gardner Minshew by grabbing the Cup back or another disappointing ending to the regular season.
9. Fresno State at Boise State (Nov. 9)
These two played twice last year and each won at home to split the Milk Can. However, the Broncos had the last laugh as they took home the MWC title in the process. The Bulldogs will no doubt be looking to prove that was just a one-off and make their own strides toward a conference title of their own. Who knows, a Group of 5 bid could be on the line too.
10. West Virginia at Texas (Nov. 3)
This has been a fun and competitive series since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 and the outcome of this one could be the difference between one or the other making it to AT&T Stadium for the conference title game. Both sides match up extremely well against each other and this could be a thriller down in Austin.
11. Ohio State at Michigan State (Nov. 10)
The Buckeyes and Spartans have staged some absolute epic confrontations over the years and Mark Dantonio alone is responsible for three of Urban Meyer’s five losses in conference play at Ohio State. Mix in a little bit of weather for this one and you have all the ingredients for another classic Big Ten clash that will go a long ways in shaping the East division.
12. LSU at Texas A&M (Nov. 24)
Yes, yes, this one should be fantastic given the annual SEC West matchup pits two programs from neighboring states with a lot of talent against each other. But there are two more things going on here: the Tigers have never lost to the Aggies since they joined the SEC and many at the school made no secret about pining for Jimbo Fisher, who used to be an assistant in Baton Rouge, to be the head coach. Fisher eventually left for a huge contract in College Station but you can bet Ed Orgeron has a bit extra saved up for this one.
13. Utah State at Boise State (Nov. 24)
The Aggies have been one of the best turnaround stories in the country this season, narrowly losing to Michigan State in the opener and the laying waste to everybody else on their schedule. One of the highest scoring MWC teams will be aiming to host the conference title game in Logan but will need to get a win against a tough defense on the Blue Turf first.
14. UCF at USF (Nov. 23)
These two staged one of the most incredible games of the 2017 season last year, so why not do it again? Everything could be on the line for this one once again as the Knights may be looking to cap off another perfect regular season and secure a division title in the process. Can the Bulls' defense step up at home and ruin the dreams of their I-4 rivals?
15. Notre Dame at Northwestern (Nov. 3)
Ryan Field figures to be split between green and purple as the two nearby schools renew their rivalry in Evanston for the first time since 1976. The Irish will be hoping to keep their undefeated season going but they’ll face a surprisingly stiff test in the Wildcats, who are improbably atop the Big Ten West going into this game. Add in some crisp fall weather and you just might be transported back to yesteryear in the process.
16. Clemson at Boston College (Nov. 10)
This is just about the only test left for Clemson on the schedule and their only remaining division game will pit one of the best defensive lines in the country against one of the best tailbacks in the country in AJ Dillon. The Tigers have run off seven in a row but things have been closer than normal when things take place in Chestnut Hill. We’ve seen some November upsets shake up the playoff picture before, could this be one of them?
17. Syracuse vs. Notre Dame (Nov. 17 in the Bronx, New York)
The spectacle of this one is worth tuning in for alone considering it will take place at Yankee Stadium and will feature the Irish in some pinstripe-inspired uniforms. The Orange are no joke however as they will bring in one of the most dangerous passing offenses in the country to the place with the short porch. There aren’t a ton of potential landmines for Notre Dame as they look to make the playoff but this should be one of them.
18. West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Nov. 17)
The Cowboys have won three in a row during this series and put up some points in the process on the Mountaineers. This is one of those round-robin Big 12 games that has the potential to alter the conference race significantly for both sides and should feature some of the best play-callers in the sport.
19. Stanford at Washington (Nov. 3)
This has been the Pac-12 North — and by extension, the conference itself — game of the year. That’s not quite the case in 2018 but you can bet a lot that both sides will be looking to avoid another loss that would certainly send them spiraling even further. While defense has normally been a calling card when the Huskies and Cardinal meet, the two offenses should take center stage in what could be a surprisingly fun game on Montlake.
20. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 24)
The greatest intersectional rivalry in college football features two teams going in opposite directions but that is never a good reason to avoid watching which side can take home the Jeweled Shillelagh. The Trojans are 19-1 at the Coliseum under Clay Helton so even if the Irish are eyeing a playoff spot on Selection Sunday, they’ll have to get through the Cardinal and Gold first.
Best of the rest:
Oklahoma at Texas Tech (Nov. 3)
Iowa at Purdue (Nov. 3)
Texas A&M at Auburn (Nov. 3)
Nebraska at Ohio State (Nov. 3)
BYU at Boise State (Nov. 3)
South Carolina at Florida (Nov. 10)
Wisconsin at Penn State (Nov. 10)
Temple at Houston (Nov. 10)
Oregon at Utah (Nov. 10)
Northwestern at Iowa (Nov. 10)
Auburn at Georgia (Nov. 10)
Mississippi State at Alabama (Nov. 10)
Buffalo at Ohio (Nov. 14)
San Diego State at Fresno State (Nov. 17)
Cincinnati at UCF (Nov. 17)
Virginia at Virginia Tech (Nov. 23)
Nebraska at Iowa (Nov. 23)
BYU at Utah (Nov. 24)
— 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.