There are four weeks left until the college football conference championship games that will finally conclude this season, one in which Ohio State is ineligible to capitalize on its perfect record and represent the Leaders (Legends?) Division in Indianapolis, Indiana and, possibly, in the BCS Championsip Game. So, Ohio State has to take advantage of the schedule and treat a trip to Penn State, also ineligible, as akin to a bowl game. That Penn State, which started the season 0-2, is surging helps make the TV schedule for the B1G TEN this week a little more palatable. Beyond Ohio State-Penn State and Nebrasky-That Team Up North? Well, there’s Iowa-Nerdwestern, and Illinois-Indiana, Minnesota-Purdue, and Michigan State-Wisconsin.
Still, there’s other doin’s a-transpirin’ around the country. Here’s what’s on, for your consideration.
- Arkansas State @ Louisiana-Lafayette (ESPN2, 8:00pm ET). Gus Malzahn wasted no time in putting this game from reach. The Team Formerly Known As The “Indians” won handily in Lafayette, 50-17.
- Clemson @ Wake Forest (ESPN, 7:30pm ET). Thursday night football comes a little earlier in the evening this time around and will go head-to-head with Tampa Bay-Minnesota (for you NFL junkies) and Game 2 of the World Series. Is Clemson becoming what Ohio State was in the very last few years of John Cooper’s tenure at Ohio State? It seems like Clemson is becoming that type of program that is the least interesting top 10 team. Clemson is ranked #18 now, but has just one loss. By comparison, in-state rival South Carolina and Stanford both have two losses and are ahead of the Tigers. You’re almost waiting for the other shoe to drop, much like it did for the 2000 Buckeyes against Purdue. Of note: Clemson is 1-9 in Thursday night football games played since 1998. The last time Clemson played Wake Forest on Thursday night was in 2008. Wake won 12-7. Tommy Bowden was fired days later.
- Cincitucky @ Louisville (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). This is a knockout game in the Big East. There are three teams that are still in competition to get the Big East’s automatic bid to the BCS, where, my guess is, they’re going to get a SEC also-ran in the Sugar Bowl. One is of no surprise; Louisville was the conference favorite from the first day. That the Bearcats are in this discussion despite losing a lot of production from last year’s team is a bit of a surprise. But, just for fun, they lost to Toledo last week. Despite the ability for the Big East to really put to rest the conference championship given its lack of quality teams, it looks like this race will go into December, even. Both the Bearcats and the Cardinals still have to play Rutgers, and will each play Tutgers late into the season.
- Nevada @ Air Force (CBS Sports Network, 8:00pm ET). It’s here if you want it. This is a knockout game in the Mountain West Conference. Both Air Force and Nevada have one loss each in conference play, along with Fresno State and San Diego State. Everyone is chasing Boise State, which is undefeated in the conference and just has that Week 1 loss at Michigan State on their record.
- Tennessee @ South Carolina (ESPN, 12:00pm ET). This game seemed much more intriguing at the beginning of the month. Both programs are reeling right now, with the last few weeks exposing problems for both. Still, it might be Tennessee that’s in more trouble. Count me as one of those that is not totally convinced Derek Dooley is on the hot seat, but if the Vols get lit up in Columbia this afternoon? Well, look at this way: Derek Dooley has as many SEC wins in three seasons as Lane Kiffin had in one season.
- Iowa @ Nerdwestern (ESPN2, 12:00pm ET). Both these programs have some rethinking to do. In Iowa’s case, it just had the doors blown off it by Penn State in Iowa City. For Nerdwestern, it had a spectacular 4th quarter collapse at home against the Cornhuskers, a collapse which was in no way Nebrasky’s doing. Will Iowa’s “Wildcat woes” continue? It won last year’s contest, but had lost four straight in the series before that.
- Kentucky @ Missouri (ESPNU, 12:00pm ET). No time like the present for Missouri to get that first SEC win…
- Indiana @ Illinois (BTN, 12:00pm ET). It’s homecoming for Illini fans, which means Memorial Stadium might be at 60% capacity instead of its usual 55% capacity. Ohio State hosts Illinois next, so maybe you want a sneak peek of the B1G TEN’s worst team.
- Ole Miss @ ArKansas (“SEC Network”, 12:21pm ET). Oh God no way am I watching this.
- Colorado @ Oregon (Pac-12 Network, 3:00pm ET). Is it still a snuff film if no one watches it? How would you like to be Colorado this season, playing at USC and at Oregon in consecutive weeks? USC waxed Colorado 50-6 last week. Meanwhile, Oregon @ USC is next week.
- Florida vs. Georgia [in Jacksonville] (CBS, 3:30pm ET). World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. It’s also Florida’s penultimate SEC game, to be followed by Missouri. Thereafter, Florida plays two cupcakes (UL-Lafayette, FCS squad Jacksonville State) and Florida State, in Tallahassee. Thus, a Florida win here sends them to Atlanta in December to play, ostensibly, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama has never won the SEC West without Florida also winning the SEC East.
- Texas Tech @ Kansas State (FOX, 3:30pm ET). How did this become the marquee Big XII game? Texas Tech takes its traveling show to the Little Apple to play the undefeated Kansas State Wildcats and its Heisman front runner at quarterback, Collin Klein. There’s still a long way to go in the Big XII conference championship picture, but a Kansas State win would put them as almost a lock into the Fiesta Bowl (or better). Texas Tech would be dropped from the ranks of the one loss Big XII teams and K-State has the important tie-breaker against Oklahoma.
- USC @ Arizona (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET). Lane Kiffin v. Rich Rodriguez. What’s not to love? Well, everything.
- Michigan State @ Wisconsin (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET). In the past three years, this has been, easily, the best series in the B1G TEN. So, it’s incredibly likely that this year is the Godfather: Part III of this series (though it’s the fourth game played since 2010).
- Ohio State @ Penn State (ESPN, 5:30pm ET). This is what you’re watching. More on this later.
- Texas A&M @ Auburn (ESPNU, 7:00pm ET). Texas A&M was the weaker team than Missouri, entering the tougher division in the SEC, but has put together quite the nice little season for themselves. At 5-2, A&M has a very real potential of finishing the regular season 9-3, looking at either the Cotton Bowl or one of the two Florida bowls against the B1G TEN. Auburn, meanwhile? Well…
- Notre Dame @ Oklahoma (ABC, 8:00pm ET). This is getting Gameday, as it should. This is one of those occasions where Notre Dame’s independent status seems like a good thing, because we get fun matchups like this on the eve of November. If Oklahoma loses this game at home, it can kiss an at-large bid goodbye. It will probably have to settle for the Cotton Bowl, maybe the Holiday Bowl. If Oklahoma loses, Notre Dame seems set on a BCS bid, possibly a championship game bid. The only other team on Notre Dame’s schedule that can stop it is USC, which will be the season finale.
- That Team Up North @ Nebrasky (ESPN2, 8:00pm ET). The Cornhuskers got back at one of the B1G TEN teams that beat the holy hell out of it last year, beating the Badgers with a second half comeback. Could it pull off a similar feat against the Wolverines, which hammered the Cornhuskers last year in Ann Arbor? If the B1G TEN didn’t absolutely suck out loud this year in overall quality, I think the Cornhuskers are a 6-7 win team overall this year. The Wildcats should have beaten them. For all intents and purposes, the Wolverines may walk all over them. The Cornhuskers would need a lot from Memorial Stadium this evening.
- Mississippi State @ Alabama (ESPN, 8:30pm ET). I’m not even bothering with this game. It comes on ESPN after the Buckeyes finish playing.