Alabama still has two big hurdles to clear to get a shot at another SEC title, let alone get into the College Football Playoff
The crisp fall air is turning colder and with the calendar rolling over to November, that means we're hitting the home stretch of the college football regular season. Sad as that sounds to say, the flip side is that conference title races and the chase for the College Football Playoff are heating up as critical games are staged pretty much every weekend.
Plus we'll be entering a stretch where there's football on pretty much every day right up until Championship Weekend.
What games are absolutely making plans for (or getting rid of others)? Here are the 25 best college football games in November and why you should tune in:
1. LSU at Alabama (Nov. 9)
This SEC West battle has earned the "Game of the Century" moniker a few times but it feels like everything has aligned to the point where this could be the best edition yet. The College Football Playoff Selection Committee will be paying close attention as two of the best offenses in the country meet in Tuscaloosa and we could even see the first salvo in the race for the Heisman Trophy too. Heck, if things are close and a little chaos happens elsewhere, this could be the first of two meetings this season between the Tigers and Crimson Tide.
2. Penn State at Ohio State (Nov. 23)
If LSU-Alabama could turn out to be what amounts to a quarterfinal game to get into the playoff, this Big Ten East tilt could serve as the same thing even later in the month. The Buckeyes have looked unstoppable on both sides of the ball so far in 2019 but the Nittany Lions are their biggest threat to capturing division and conference crowns.
3. Alabama at Auburn (Nov. 30)
The Iron Bowl, not much needs to be said, right? Auburn's defense is one of the best in the country and one of the few that has a chance to slow down the Tide's prolific offense. Tigers QB Bo Nix is no stranger to this rivalry, which is always one of the biggest and most competitive in the country and often carries huge national and SEC championship implications.
4. Ohio State at Michigan (Nov. 30)
The Game. What more needs to be said at this point that hasn't already been said between these two? This one has been discussed for months in both Columbus and Ann Arbor given what happened last year and the lack of success against the Buckeyes that Jim Harbaugh has had. It only takes one upset to change the narrative though, could this meeting at the Big House be it?
5. Oklahoma at Baylor (Nov. 16)
Bears fans probably couldn't have imagined that they'd make it this high on the list but such is life now for Matt Rhule's squad. This could be a preview of the Big 12 Championship Game and has some serious playoff implications as well for both sides.
6. Georgia vs. Florida (Jacksonville, Nov. 2)
Nothing like the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party to really usher in the month of November. Both of these one-loss teams have their aim on making it to Atlanta with a division title on hand and given the state of the rest of the SEC East at the moment, this one has a good shot at being the deciding contest between the Gators and ‘Dawgs just like it typically has been.
7. Penn State at Minnesota (Nov. 9)
Nov. 9 features not one but two games matching up 8-0 teams against each other and though the attention for most is on Tuscaloosa, do not sell this meeting in the Twin Cities short. P.J. Fleck's squad has gotten better each week and are rolling (or is it rowing?) into this one brimming with confidence. They'll face their toughest test of the year against the Nittany Lions though, who have their eyes on much more if they can win this one.
8. Georgia at Auburn (Nov. 16)
The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry has been a close, hard-fought affair most years and there's nothing to think this year's edition won't be the same given the boatloads of talent on both sides of the ball involved. Each head coach is feeling a little bit of the pressure from their respective fan bases too, making a win on the Plains paramount to both sides.
9. Wisconsin at Minnesota (Nov. 30)
Paul Bunyan's Axe is one of the best rivalry trophies around and the Gophers shock upset in last year's edition certainly makes the 2019 game even more interesting. The Big Ten West title may very well be on the line as the Gophers and Badgers try to really battle it out in the trenches.
10. SMU at Memphis (Nov. 2)
How big is this one? College GameDay will be on Beale Street and the game itself will be broadcast on ABC in prime time. The two programs used to be some of the absolute worst in all of FBS but have turned things around under bright offensive-minded head coaches to the point where this may be the deciding factor in the AAC title race and the Group of 5 bid.
11. Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (Nov. 30)
Question, do you like ridiculous offensive skill position talent and some of the brightest play-callers in the entire sport? Well, enter Bedlam. This series has annually produced some bonkers back-and-forth results between the two in-state rivals and chances are the two defensive coordinators involved this season will be pulling out their hair by halftime given how quickly the QBs and WRs can take it to the house.
12. Iowa at Wisconsin (Nov. 9)
This matchup has tilted in favor of the Badgers (six of the last seven) but tends to be played close to the vest given that both offenses are far more likely to mount a nine-minute drive than they are to toss a 90-yard scoring strike. That makes it a fun throwback game with significant Big Ten West title implications.
13. Michigan State at Michigan (Nov. 16)
Jim Harbaugh's record against his rivals has been well-documented but he has at least had some success in sneaking past the in-state foe. The offensives in this one have made for a difficult watch at times but if you love linebackers filling gaps and great secondary play to serve as highlights, this one is for you. Just don't call the loser little anything.
14. Minnesota at Iowa (Nov. 16)
The Gophers' quest to reach Indianapolis faces a few stiff tests in the month of November but the biggest on the road comes at Kinnick against the Hawkeyes. Kirk Ferentz' squad has owned the Floyd of Rosedale for the most part but if Minnesota's undefeated start is more than just a product of their schedule, we'll find out in this key division meeting.
15. SMU at Navy (Nov. 23)
The AAC West might be the most competitive division in football and one only has to look at these two teams (combined record entering the month: 14-1) as being a key reason why. There's a real contrast in styles that makes this fun as it's not often you'll see an option offense trying to outwit the Air Raid in a game that could determine a Cotton Bowl berth down the road.
16. Cincinnati at Memphis (Nov. 29)
Could this be the AAC Championship Game preview on Black Friday? There's the case to be made as each side has been ranked this season and currently sit atop their respective divisions. The Bearcats' defense is one of the best in the conference but they'll have their hands full trying to contain Kenneth Gainwell and the Tigers' high-flying attack.
17. Oregon at USC (Nov. 2)
While we're on the subject of potential previews of conference title games, this meeting in Los Angeles might double as that too. The Ducks and Trojans are each in control of their respective division fates at the moment and are doing so in vastly different ways. USC freshman QB Kedon Slovis and his terrific group of wideouts will face a tall task going up against Oregon's stout defense in a game that means a ton on the recruiting trail for their respective coaching staffs too.
18. Wake Forest at Clemson (Nov. 16)
Clemson's schedule this season has lacked a ton of top 25 opponents but this contest against the Demon Deacons represents the defending champion's biggest challenge in the ACC left on the docket. Left unsaid is that if Wake can pull off the upset or keep it close, they might be able to wind up in the Orange Bowl as improbable as some once thought that was.
19. Virginia Tech at Notre Dame (Nov. 2)
The last time these two met in South Bend, they staged a close, fun game. Here's to hoping that will be the case once again under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus as the ACC Coastal leaders try to get past an Irish squad looking to get back on track.
20. Texas A&M at LSU (Nov. 30)
The last time these two got together, they staged so many fireworks that they literally re-wrote the rule book to make sure something like 74-72 in seven overtimes couldn't happen again. While we won't reach that level of absurdity, this is Jimbo Fisher's chance to go into a familiar place in Baton Rouge and knock off the Aggies' nearby SEC West rival.
21. Appalachian State at South Carolina (Nov. 9)
The Mountaineers have consistently been one of the best programs in the country ever since joining the FBS ranks and their current undefeated run has put them in prime position to secure the Group of 5 bid for the first time. They've already knocked off a Power 5 opponent and if they can go into Columbia to get another big win, they'll do more than just own the Carolinas.
22. Baylor at TCU (Nov. 9)
These two schools' rivalry dates back well before the Big 12 was a thing but the battles they've staged in recent years have been among the most thrilling. Matt Rhule and Gary Patterson each have one of the league's best defenses but don't discount the offensive playmakers involved in this year's meeting that can post some ridiculous highlight-reel moments too.
23. Iowa State at Oklahoma (Nov. 9)
The Cyclones' last trip to Norman memorably included an upset of the No. 3 Sooners that snapped a number of long, long losing streaks dating back to the Big 8 days. Kyler Murray needed a huge game to fend off ISU last season in Ames and given the number of high-caliber players involved in the 2019 contest, something says this Big 12 shootout could be a great one like the last few meetings have been.
24. Appalachian State at Georgia State (Nov. 16)
Georgia Southern is Appalachian State's more pressing rival but the Panthers represent the Mountaineers' biggest obstacle to a Sun Belt title. GSU already shocked the world in Knoxville this season and will be looking to pull off yet another upset in 2019 with big implications.
25. Boise State at Utah State (Nov. 23)
This looks to be one of the biggest games left on the Mountain West slate and very much could determine the Mountain division title. The Broncos remain in contention for the Group of 5 bid so clamping down on Jordan Love and company would be a great way to impress the committee while knocking off a rival at the same time.
Best of the rest:
Texas A&M at Georgia (Nov. 23)
Navy at Notre Dame (Nov. 16)
Miami at Florida State (Nov. 2)
Iowa at Nebraska (Nov. 29)
Texas at Baylor (Nov. 23)
Kansas State at Kansas (Nov. 2)
Clemson at South Carolina (Nov. 30)
Washington State at Washington (Nov. 29)
UCLA at USC (Nov. 23)
Florida State at Florida (Nov. 30)
— 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.