A huge week of college football kicks off on Tuesday night, continues to simmer with games Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and then reaches a boiling point on Saturday when undefeated SEC Western division foes Alabama and LSU collide in Tuscaloosa and, for good measure, undefeated Big Ten cross-divisional rivals Minnesota and Penn State battle in Minneapolis.
In the plain, immortal words of Dick Enberg, "Oh my".
LSU is vying to become only the 11th different team to make the cut for the College Football Playoff Final Four.
In the five seasons, that the playoff format has been in existence, the list of participants has included only 10 different teams - Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington. 10 playoff games and 5 national championship contests have been played and either Alabama or Clemson (or both) have played in 12 of the 15 total games.
LSU's last national title came in 2007 under 7 Les Miles, four years after the Tigers won the BCS title game under Nick Saban. Since then, Saban has won 5 more championships for Alabama.
The first playoff rankings of the 2019 season will be released by the committee at approximately 9 p.m. ET on ESPN and it is NOT a foregone conclusion as to which team will be No. 1. While it will likely be either Alabama or LSU, it could also be Ohio State. Defending champion Clemson is the outlier.
Here are the rankings of those four teams heading into this week's action:
Congrove Computer Rankings:
1. Ohio State
FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll:
1. LSU (17 first-place votes)
2. Alabama (17 first-place votes)
3. Ohio State (9 first-place votes)
4. Clemson (3 first-place votes)
AP Poll (Sportswriters):
1. LSU (17 first-place votes)
2. Alabama (21 first-place votes)
3. Ohio State (17 first-place votes)
4. Clemson (7 first-place votes)
1. Alabama (37 1st-place votes)
2. LSU (11 first-place votes)
3. Clemson (9 first-place votes)
4. Ohio State (8 first-place votes)
Alabama leads the all-time series with LSU by a wide margin of 53-25-5. It has grown dramatically wider under Saban who is 10-3 against the Tigers and has taken the last 8 in-a-row. 'Bama's last loss came in the infamous 2011 battle of field goals (9-6) which set up the immediate rematch in the BCS title game that Alabama won 21-0.
The Congrove Computer Rankings favor the Tide by a mere 0.38 points in Saturday's 3:30 p.m. ET battle.
While this game isn't nearly steeped in rich tradition like the LSU-Alabama affair, make no mistake that this week's meeting is positively epic for these two schools.
Minnesota has won or shared 6 national titles, but the last came in 1960. The Golden Gophers have won or shared 16 Big Ten titles, most of which occurred when it was known as the Western or Big Nine Conference. Minnesota's last league title came in 1967. The program has experienced 13 undefeated seasons, but none since 1947. Head coach P.J. Fleck has everyone onboard and ready to row the boat to victory. A win this week and the dream of ascending to the top 4 remains alive.
Penn State is also ecstatic about its prospects of crashing the playoff party. The Nittany Lions have just two national titles, both of which came in the 1980's (1982 and 1986). The Congrove Computer Rankings also made Penn State the 1994 national champs when that team went 12-0 but finished second in AP and Coaches' Poll balloting behind undefeated Nebraska.
Penn State's football history has been exclusively wrapped around Joe Paterno and a legacy which was unfortunately, but significantly, tarnished by the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Now, the opportunity exists for a new legacy to begin under current head coach James Franklin.
The Congrove Computer Rankings favor the visiting Nittany Lions by a slim 4.73 points.
In all, 7 teams remain perfect. LSU-Bama and Penn State-Minnesota feature head-to-head matchups and narrow projected margins of separation.
2 of the other 3 undefeated teams are huge favorites over outmanned opponents as Ohio State has a 42.54-point home field advantage over spiraling Maryland, and Clemson is a 23.90-point road pick at North Carolina State.
Baylor, on the other hand, has a major fight on its hands as the Bears visit TCU as a fractional favorite (0.32). The Bears struggled to a 17-14 home win last Thursday over a West Virginia team that is now 3-5. The Horned Frogs are only 4-4, but have already knocked off Texas at home.
Akron, New Mexico State and Rice are still searching for their first victory.
Akron and Rice are idle this week. New Mexico State is a 32.02-point underdog at Ole Miss.
The chase for the lone automatic entry to the Near Year's Six bowl party is quite competitive. The race drew tighter after Appalachian State and SMU each lost for the first time this past week, leaving several 1-loss teams in the hunt.
This week, 6 teams from non-Power 5 conferences are ranked in the AP and Coaches' polls. Cincinnati drew the highest ranking, followed by Memphis, Boise State, SMU, San Diego State and Navy.
Appalachian State and UCF aren't out of it, but the Mountaineers are a 13.48-point underdog at South Carolina while UCF gets a 16.76-point edge at Tulsa on Friday.
Cincinnati is favored by 34.43 at home over hapless UConn, Boise State is a 12.51-point home choice over Wyoming, SMU is a 21.93-point bounce-back favorite over East Carolina, and San Diego State has a 13.50-point computer edge over Nevada.
Memphis and Navy are idle this week.
Interim head coach Odell Haggins is back in charge after Willie Taggart was fired on Sunday when a 27-10 home loss to Miami dropped Florida State to 4-5. Haggins was also the man appointed to lead the 'Noles in 2017 after Jimbo Fisher resigned to accept the job at Texas A&M. Haggins was 2-0 with wins in the season finale versus Louisiana-Monroe, and against Southern Miss in the Independence Bowl.
Taggart's tenure at Florida State was simply awful, but Fisher hadn't done his successor any favors by leaving behind a program that as undisciplined and in complete disarray. Taggart had more issues to fix than just wins and losses, and whoever replaces him will have to continue the cleanup. For now, there is no better fit than Haggins who has been with the program for 26 years and is the second-longest tenured assistant in the FBS behind Virginia Tech's Bud Foster.
Haggins will have the instant respect and attention of the team which travels to Boston College this week as a slim 0.59-point underdog. Of course, that projection has no way math variable of adjustment for a program in a state of flux.
Florida State fans, especially those who reportedly helped raise 20 milion bucks to buyout Taggart's contract, will be absolutely giddy with a victory. For the record, FSU denies the money was for that purpose (wink, wink).
In no particular order, keep at least one eye on these games:
Wake Forest (-0.99) at Virginia Tech - Wake tries to get to 8-1. VT tried to recover from disappointing last second loss at Notre Dame and notch 6th win of the season. The Hokies need 7 wins to become bowl eligible since the schedule included two FCS schools. Virginia Tech's 26-year bowl appearance streak is currently the longest in the nation and stands as the fifth-longest of all-time.
Washington (-11.82) at Oregon State - The Huskies have lost 2 of their last 4 games. The Beavers have won 3 of their last 4. Could an upset be brewing? Oregon State is now 4-4 and in second place in the PAC-12 North division at 3-2. The Beavers need 2 more wins to end a 5-year bowl absence.
USC at Arizona State (-2.23) - These teams were tied with Arizona and Utah for the PAC-12 South lead not long ago. But Arizona has faded to 2-4 in the conference, Arizona State has dropped to 2-3 and Utah has taken sole possession of the lead at 5-1 ahead of USC's 4-2 mark. The winner of the USC-ASU game becomes bowl-eligible this week.
Notre Dame (-6.64) at Duke - Duke beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg by 35 in September. Notre Dame beat Virginia Tech by 1 in the last minute in South Bend on Saturday. It's an interesting comparison, even if it means absolutely nothing.
Iowa at Wisconsin (-6.88) - This looks like the race for 2nd in the Big Ten West, but the winner could pull to within a game of Minnesota if the Golden Gophers lose at home to Penn State and both teams have Minnesota coming up on their schedule.
This week's 49-game schedule kicks off with a pair of MAC games on Tuesday and one more on Wednesday. Thursday gives way to a Sun Belt game and an American Conference battle, and Friday features another American Conference clash to go with a PAC-12 tussle. (Complete Schedule and Picks).
Wednesday is November 6th, the date falsely being promoted as the day the first collegiate football game was played in 1869 at Rutgers against Princeton. In truth, that game more resembled a rugby match than anything we remotely consider football today. College football, as we know it, began to take shape when Walter Camp set forth rules of the game in 1880. This, Camp is hailed as the "Father of American Football".
32 teams are idle, including Auburn, Michigan, Oregon and Utah.
114 games this year pit FBS teams against FCS schools. That's two more than a season ago when FBS teams won 105 of 112 games.
No FBS-FCS games will be played this week.
FBS teams are 101-3 (.971) for the season. Since we began tracking this in 2003, the FBS schools are 1,425-127 (.918).
FCS victories over FBS teams in 2019:
August 29: Central Arkansas 35, Western Kentucky 28
September 7: Southern Illinois 45, Massachusetts 20
September 14: The Citadel 27, Georgia Tech 24 (OT)
FCS victories over FBS teams in 2018
August 29: UC Davis 44, San Jose State 31
September 1: Villanova 19, Temple 17
September 1: Northern Arizona 30, UTEP 10
September 1: Nicholls State 26, Kansas 23 (OT)
September 2: North Carolina A&T 28, East Carolina 23
September 8: Maine 31, Western Kentucky 28
September 22: Illinois State 35, Colorado State 19
CLEMSON - Won 24 straight over-all (FBS longest). Won 26 straight regular season games (FBS longest) games. Won 19 straight conference games (FBS longest). Won 10 straight true road games (FBS longest).
Last: 59-14 home win over FCS member Wofford on November 2.
Next: Visits NC State on November 9.
ALABAMA - Won 31 straight home games (FBS longest).
Last: 48-7 home win over Arkansas on October 26.
Next: Hosts LSU on November 9.
RUTGERS - Lost 18 straight conference games (FBS longest).
Last: 38-10 loss at Illinois on November 2.
Next: Hosts Ohio State on November 16.
AKRON - Lost 14 straight overall (FBS longest). Lost 6 straight home games (FBS longest).
Last: Lost 35-6 at Bowling Green on November 2.
Next: Hosts Eastern Michigan on November 12.
NEW MEXICO STATE - Lost 15 straight vs FBS teams (FBS longest).
Last: Lost 41-7 at Georgia Southern on October 26.
Next: Visits Ole Miss on November 9.
RICE - Lost 15 straight road games (FBS longest).
Last: Lost 20-7 at home to Marshall on November 2.
Next: Visits MTSU on November 16.