By Brad Carroll
The best part of the new College Football Playoff is the regular season elimination games. No, they aren't an official thing set up by the Playoff selection committee, but those specific games are everywhere for fans who enjoy watching matchups all through the year that have immense meaning.
Saturday's Week 11 slate of games features a host of those elimination games, plus more with teams playing with no room for error if they want to make the final four at season's end and get the opportunity to play for a national championship. This week's knock-out games are No. 12 Baylor at No. 15 Oklahoma, No. 10 Notre Dame at No. 9 Arizona State, No. 14 Ohio State at No. 8 Michigan State, and the big one, No. 7 Kansas State at No. 6 TCU.
Also on the menu for games with Playoff meaning are Virginia at No. 2 Florida State, Texas A&M at No. 3 Auburn, No. 5 Alabama at No. 16 LSU and No. 4 Oregon at No. 17 Utah. If the favorite in any of those games were to be defeated, there would be little chance of getting back into the Playoff. So, yes, this is another huge week of college football games.
We preview all of those games, plus many more, and our college football experts pick each against the spread for the night games below and the day games by clicking here. Follow me on Twitter for all the latest college football analysis and picks. Plus, if you desire, you can make actual wagers on all the games by clicking here.
Virginia at No. 2 Florida State, 6:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Virginia +19; Florida State -19
Brad's Breakdown: Seemingly each week I've written this could be the moment Florida State snaps into the form it had while winning the national title last season. And seemingly each time, the Seminoles struggle to put bad teams away or inch past the very good ones. But last week's performance in the second half against Louisville might have truly been the spark Florida State needs to run the table with huge victories and go on to successfully defend its national championship. The Seminoles trailed the Cardinals 24-7 with under 10 minutes to go in the third quarter, but ended up winning 42-31, and even covered the point spread. Quarterback Jameis Winston looked like his old self from last year, where he was nearly perfect every week, and Florida State had its mojo back. Virginia shouldn't pose much of a threat Saturday night, as the Cavaliers have lost three straight, to Duke, North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Florida State is finally back and Virginia is going to pay.
Brad's Score: Florida State 42, Virginia 10
Craig's Score: Florida State 45, Virginia 20
Glenn's Score: Florida State 35, Virginia 20
Matt's Score: Florida State 28, Virginia 7
No. 18 UCLA at Washington, 7 p.m., FS1
The Spread: UCLA -5; Washington +5
Brad's Breakdown: Washington's Shaq Thompson and UCLA's Myles Jack provide a great story to this Pac-12 matchup, as both players star on both sides of the ball. Thompson, a linebacker by trade, had 215 all-purpose yards on offense during a win over Colorado last week. Jack, also a linebacker, became an instant star last season after playing running back, torching Washington for four touchdowns. Thompson, however, has been the better dual-role player this season. UCLA is the better team. The Bruins still have a shot at playing in the Pac-12 title game, but would need help from an Arizona State loss. Washington is 6-3, with all three losses coming against ranked teams, Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State. Washington scored just 10 points against the Sun Devils, while in an earlier game, the Bruins put up 62 on those same Sun Devils. Thompson may shine brightest in the battle of running back-linebackers, but UCLA will win the battle on the field.
Brad's Score: UCLA 31, Washington 24
Craig's Score: UCLA 34, Washington 28
Glenn's Score: UCLA 28, Washington 13
Matt's Score: UCLA 31, Washington 20
No. 7 Kansas State at No. 6 TCU, 7:30 p.m., FOX
The Spread: Kansas State +6; TCU -6
Brad's Breakdown: The winner of this game could find itself in the final four by year's end, that's how big a matchup this is. TCU has lost just once this season, allowing 24 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and losing on a last-second field goal to Baylor. The Horned Frogs bounced back from that tough loss with an 82-27 win over Texas Tech and a 31-30 triumph over West Virginia, where they overcame a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Kansas State hasn't lost since a 20-14 setback at home to Auburn back in mid-September. The Wildcats have won five straight since, including victories over Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State the last three. Both teams need a victory not only for Playoff positioning, but for the Big 12 title race as well. TCU will be playing without leading rusher B.J. Catalon, which is a big loss. But even with that, there is no stopping the Horned Frogs again this regular season.
Brad's Score: TCU 41, Kansas State 31
Craig's Score: TCU 33, Kansas State 24
Glenn's Score: TCU 48, Kansas State 28
Matt's Score: TCU 42, Kansas State 28
No. 5 Alabama at No. 16 LSU, 8 p.m., CBS
The Spread: Alabama -6.5; LSU +6.5
Brad's Breakdown: Alabama, much to most college football fan's chagrin, controls its own destiny to make the final four in the College Football Playoff. But it won't be easy for the Tide to make it there. Alabama must play LSU on the road Saturday night, then face No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 3 Auburn, both at home. Win them all and Alabama would be no worse than a two-seed. Lose just one and playing for a national title will be impossible. Alabama is a completely different team at home than it is on the road, which isn't good news going to Baton Rouge. In the SEC, the Tide have routed Florida and Texas A&M at home, while on the road they lost to Ole Miss, barely survived in a one-point win over Arkansas and didn't cover in a 14-point victory over Tennessee. LSU has won three straight games to get back on track with a 7-2 record. The Tigers lost to Mississippi State and Auburn but have since defeated Florida, Kentucky and then-No. 3 Ole Miss at home. LSU is a monster in Death Valley, but Alabama should have just enough offense to slip through with a touchdown victory.
Brad's Score: Alabama 24, LSU 17
Craig's Score: Alabama 27, LSU 17
Glenn's Score: Alabama 24, LSU 17
Matt's Score: Alabama 30, LSU 20
No. 14 Ohio State at No. 8 Michigan State, 8 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Ohio State +3.5; Michigan State -3.5
Brad's Breakdown: The Big Ten desperately needed this primetime matchup to prove the conference isn't dead yet and belongs in the College Football Playoff. And for the first time in a long time, the conference's marquee game of the year could feature a ton of scoring. Michigan State averages 45.5 points per game, fifth best in the nation, while Ohio State is even better, averaging 45.6 points, which is fourth best in the nation. Both teams are 7-1, so this is another elimination game, with the loser falling by the waist-side in the Playoff hunt and the winner taking a major step toward it. The Spartans are undefeated in the Big Ten but lost in Week 2 to Oregon. Ohio State is also unbeaten in conference play but has a bad loss to Virginia Tech on its resume. The Buckeyes had a scare two weeks ago against Penn State, but ended up winning in double overtime. Ohio State is better than the pollsters give it credit for, but winning at Michigan State isn't going to happen. Spartans win, which gives the Big Ten its best and possibly only shot at playing in the College Football Playoff.
Brad's Score: Michigan State 30, Ohio State 24
Craig's Score: Michigan State 24, Ohio State 20
Glenn's Score: Michigan State 28, Ohio State 21
Matt's Score: Michigan State 35, Ohio State 24
No. 4 Oregon at No. 17 Utah, 10 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Oregon -9; Utah +9
Brad's Breakdown: Oregon passed its biggest test of the season last week by rolling to a 29-point victory over a Stanford team that was a thorn in the Ducks side for several years. It was the first time quarterback Marcus Mariota had beat the Cardinal. The reward for the win was moving up a spot and into the College Football Playoff's top four. To stay there, the Ducks will have to beat Utah on the road. The Utes dropped to 6-2 this season after a 19-16 loss in overtime to Arizona State last week. The Utah defense is solid, allowing 21.3 points per game, 21st in the nation. But the Oregon offense has become unstoppable again, scoring 45 against the tough defense of Stanford, and Mariota is the front-runner for the Heisman. Utah won't be able to stop the Ducks in the nightcap Saturday.
Brad's Score: Oregon 45, Utah 31
Craig's Score: Oregon 48, Utah 28
Glenn's Score: Oregon 52, Utah 24
Matt's Score: Oregon 42, Utah 20
Click here for our previews and picks on the biggest day games
Brad Last Week: 7-7 (spread), 13-1 (straight-up), 1-0 (upset picks)
Brad Season: 59-61-1 (spread), 93-28 (straight-up), 6-5 (upsets)
Craig Last Week: 8-6 (spread), 13-1 (straight-up), 1-0 (upset picks)
Craig Season: 55-65-1 (spread), 89-32 (straight-up), 6-8 (upsets)
Glenn Last Week: 10-4 (spread), 12-2 (straight-up), 1-1 (upset picks)
Glenn Season: 67-53-1 (spread), 92-29 (straight-up), 7-7 (upsets)
Matt Last Week: 6-8 (spread), 12-2 (straight-up), 1-1 (upset picks)
Matt Season: 59-61-1 (spread), 91-30 (straight-up), 4-5 (upsets)