Nine November games that will shape the season

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With two months of the regular season in the books, the race for the College Football Playoff now turns to November and a series of games that will determine which teams will ultimately play for the national championship.

Things are about to heat up in the Bowl Subdivision. That begins Saturday with a series of games featuring some of the top teams in the US LBM Coaches Poll, including a matchup between No. 13 LSU and No. 8 Alabama that should decide the SEC West.

And it continues throughout the month, culminating in what once again looks to be the biggest pairing of the year in college football: No. 3 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan, with the winner likely to advance to the Big Ten Championship Game.

Interspersed in between are make-or-break games featuring each Power Five league and the top teams in the Group of Five. Here are the November college football games that will have the biggest impact:

Kansas State at No. 6 Texas, Saturday (noon ET, Fox)

Quinn Ewers’ status remains up in the air, leaving Maalik Murphy in line to make his second straight start after throwing for 170 yards and two touchdowns in last weekend’s win against Brigham Young. This is easily the Longhorns’ biggest test of the month: Kansas State cruises through the Big 12, taking its last two league games by a combined score of 82-3.

No. 5 Washington at No. 22 Southern California, Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

It’s the Huskies’ first big test of November, preceding games against No. 18 Utah, No. 19 Oregon State and rival Washington State. But despite some glaring and lingering defensive flaws, the Trojans may be Washington’s biggest obstacle en route to a 12-0 march to the conference title game. USC can work with UW and would be comfortable in a game where each team scores 40 or more points.

No. 13 LSU at No. 8 Alabama, Saturday (7:45 p.m. ET, CBS)

LSU has offensive firepower but a defense that ranks near the bottom of the Power Five. To win this game for the second year in a row, the Tigers will need a big game from quarterback Jaden Daniels, a heavy Heisman Trophy contender. Alabama turned its season around after hitting a speed bump in September and would have been a near lock to enter the SEC Championship Game at 11-1 with a win on Saturday. If that happens, put this season among the best coaching positions of Nick Saban’s career.

No. 2 Michigan at No. 9 Penn State, Nov. 11 (noon ET, Fox)

It’s the weaker of Michigan’s two tests in November, and it’s one the Wolverines must handle given how they’ve played all season, coupled with Penn State’s continued struggles against the Big Ten’s top teams. While the Nittany Lions fumbled against Ohio State and looked listless last weekend against Indiana, Michigan took down teams with an elite combination of offense (Big Ten-leading 6.9 yards per play) and defense (4.2 yards allowed per play). A loss would drop James Franklin’s record to 4-16 against the Buckeyes and Wolverines.

No. 4 Miami at Florida State, Nov. 11

With Pittsburgh next, Florida State’s winning streak should reach 15 games when it meets rival Miami. (Then again, that’s when the Panthers are most dangerous.) The Seminoles have regained some ground against the Hurricanes with two straight wins, highlighted by last year’s 45-3 rout after losing the previous four games of the series. While there’s also Florida (on the road) and the ACC championship to manage, Miami looks like FSU’s biggest obstacle on the way to an undefeated regular season.

No. 1 Georgia at No. 16 Tennessee, Nov. 18

Georgia will play three ranked teams in a row to open the month: No. 14 Missouri, No. 10 Mississippi and the Volunteers. With the top two coming at home, Tennessee is most likely to snap the Bulldogs’ 24-game (and counting) winning streak in SEC regular-season play, the second-longest streak in league history. The passing game looked good in last week’s win against Florida (315 yards on 11.3 yards per attempt), the Bulldogs’ first game without star tight end Brock Bowers.

No. 17 Air Force at Boise State, Nov. 24 (4 p.m. ET, FS1)

Unbeaten Air Force gets a rejuvenated UNLV a week early and will have to deal with one of the best offenses in the Mountain West before a tough trip to Boise. The Broncos are in a hit-or-miss funk under coach Andy Avalos, but have fared well against the Falcons, taking five of the last six games in the series after dropping three in a row from 2014-16. Air Force is having one of the best years in program history thanks to another potent running game (FBS-best 300.4 yards per game) and one of the best defenses in the country (4.2 yards allowed per play , the best in the group of five) .

No. 19 Oregon State at No. 7 Oregon, Nov. 24 (8:30 p.m. ET, Fox)

This could be the last battle between the two in-state rivals, though both sides appear poised to find a way to continue the streak with Oregon headed to the Big Ten and Oregon State still looking for a new home. While California, USC and Arizona shouldn’t stop the Ducks, the Beavers just might: OSU can punish at the point of attack and is very capable of going up against one of the most physical teams in the FBS. The Beavers have won two of three in the rivalry, but haven’t taken a game at Autzen Stadium since a memorable overtime victory in 2007.

No. 3 Ohio State at No. 2 Michigan, Nov. 25 (noon ET, Fox)

It’s the game of the year, and once again a game that has to rank among the most raucous in the rivalry’s history. By the last Saturday of the month, it’s possible this game pits No. 1 against No. 2 for the second time in the series, joining Ohio State’s unforgettable 42-39 victory in 2006. It’s hard to forget what Michigan has done in the last two meetings : 42-27 in 2021 and 45-23 a year ago. But OSU has been a tougher team this season with a dramatically improved defense, giving the Buckeyes a good chance to start a run toward the playoffs and a national championship.

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