It's another huge weekend for college football teams in the national title hunt. Almost all of the 25 ranked schools in The Associated Press weekly poll will be on the field Saturday, as they try to impress a selection committee who will decide the top four college football teams which will compete in a national championship playoff.
As a part of that playoff, there will be two national semifinal games, utilizing the Rose and Sugar Bowls to be played on January 1, 2015. The semifinal winners will meet in the national championship game on Jan. 12.
Saturday, top-ranked Mississippi State, No. 2 Florida State, and third-ranked Auburn are all in action. Looking at games where ranked teams will meet, No. 4 Alabama could have its hands full, taking on 14th-ranked Louisiana State at Baton Rouge.
Alabama has a record of seven wins and one loss, coming into this game. Their 4-1 Southeastern Conference record has them one game behind Mississippi State in the SEC West division. If the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs both win Saturday, it would set up a huge contest between the two next Saturday at Alabama. The winner of the SEC West plays the SEC East champion the first Saturday in December for the conference championship.
Both Alabama and LSU have had a week off to prepare for this game. The Tigers are coming off an emotional home victory over then-third ranked Mississippi and can play spoiler while keeping their own SEC title hopes alive with a fourth consecutive win at home.
You can watch Alabama play LSU on CBS, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern time Saturday.
Another big game with playoff implications will have No. 5 Oregon at No. 20 Utah. This Pacific-12 Conference clash features Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is a Heisman Trophy candidate this fall. Mariota has completed 68 percent of his passes so far this season, good for 2,541 yards and 26 touchdowns. The Ducks average over 530 yards a game on offense, fifth-best in the nation. They are currently 8-1 and are leading the Pac-12 North division with a 5-1 mark. Like the SEC, the Pac-12's two division winners will meet in early December for a conference championship game.
Utah has quietly put together a 6-2 record so far this season, primarily based on a tough defense and controlling the ball with a strong running game on offense. UtahUtes.com reports the Utah defense leads the nation in quarterback sacks with 39. Utes junior running back Devontae Booker is 13th in the nation rushing, with 990 yards gained and eight touchdowns.
Oregon vs. Utah will be broadcast on ESPN, beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern Saturday.
A game that is expected to eliminate the losing team from national title contention is No. 9 Kansas State at sixth-ranked Texas Christian. This is a matchup of one-loss teams – the Wildcats and the Horned Frogs are both 7-1. But K-State is 5-0 in Big 12 Conference play, while TCU is a game back at 4-1.
This figures to be a classic offense versus defense ballgame. TCU is ranked third in the country in total offense, averaging 550 yards per game. Kansas State is in the top 20 in the nation for total defense, allowing 321 yards per contest.
Both teams feature quality quarterbacks who can run as well as throw the football. For the Horned Frogs, Trevone Boykin makes the offense go. He's thrown for 2,472 yards and 22 touchdowns while rushing for 423 yards and four touchdowns this year. At quarterback for K-State is Jake Waters, who has thrown for 1,848 yards and 11 TDs while running for 404 yards and 7 touchdowns.
You can watch Kansas State and TCU at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Saturday on Fox.
Other contests Saturday feature an important game in the Big Ten Conference – seventh-ranked Michigan State going up against No. 13 Ohio State. Both teams are 4-0 in the Big Ten East division. This game will be televised by ABC and will start at 8 p.m. Eastern.