By Brad Carroll
This week, among the primetime games Saturday night, all five matchups feature teams still in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth, with one game being the mega matchup we've been waiting all season long for. No. 2 LSU takes on No. 4 Alabama in a matchup that will see one team likely vault to the top spot in the rankings, while the other will drop out of contention completely. It's the first true must-win game involving two teams already in the Playoff rankings, and it's long overdue in a season void so far of blockbuster games.
In addition to that matchup, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 7 Michigan State and No. 13 Memphis look to remain undefeated as favorites and No. 12 Utah attempts to remain relevant with a road matchup against Washington as a small underdog. All eyes will be on LSU-Alabama, but there's plenty of important games across the dial Saturday night.
Here is our look at those primetime games Saturday. Check out our early Saturday game picks here, which includes our analysis of the first College Football Playoff rankings, with plenty of disagreements. As always, follow us on Twitter here.
Navy at No. 13 Memphis, 7 p.m., ESPN2
The Spread: Navy +7; Memphis -7
Analysis: Memphis isn't getting much respect around the nation, even with an 8-0 record and a big home win against Ole Miss, which is ranked No. 18 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Memphis has two games remaining against ranked teams this season, but both are against AAC schools, so it might not make a big difference when it comes to the Playoff committee. But as we discussed in our early Saturday games column, if Memphis is undefeated and Ole Miss ends up winning the SEC championship, there is no way the Rebels can get in over the Tigers. Of course, things don't work out as they always should. Looking ahead, the Tigers play at No. 25 Houston and at No. 22 Temple. But looking past Navy could be a huge mistake, as the Midshipmen are always a threat to upset a highly-ranked team, especially considering the offense they run. Navy is 6-1 with its only loss coming against Notre Dame, 41-24. While Navy is allowing under 20 points per game on defense, Memphis is scoring nearly 50 a game. The Tigers should win that matchup and continue their unbeaten season for at least another week.
Brad's Score: Memphis 35, Navy 24
Craig's Score: Memphis 24, Navy 9
Glenn's Score: Navy 17, Memphis 14 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: Memphis 45, Navy 17
No. 7 Michigan State at Nebraska, 7 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Michigan State -6.5; Nebraska +6.5
Analysis: Michigan State is among the group of undefeated teams not happy at all with the first batch of College Football Playoff rankings. Despite being undefeated and playing in a Power 5 conference, the Spartans are ranked below two one-loss teams and another undefeated from the Big 12. Of course, the Spartans haven't been overly impressive this season, with even their win over Michigan likely working against them at this point rather than for it, based on how the game ended. The Spartans should get two shots to move into the top four, however, as they play at No. 3 Ohio State on Nov. 21 and, if they win that game, against Iowa in the Big Ten championship game. Win both and Michigan State should play for a national championship. Lose either, and the Spartans will be eliminated. First, Michigan State has to get past a struggling Nebraska team, which is 3-6 on the season. The Huskers have lost four of their last five games, against Illinois, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Purdue. Nebraska is playing at home and the crowd should be ready for a season-making victory, but the Spartans should have plenty of motivation to get an impressive victory after seeing where they stand in the Playoff rankings.
Brad's Score: Michigan State 28, Nebraska 20
Craig's Score: Michigan State 34, Nebraska 21
Glenn's Score: Michigan State 31, Nebraska 20
Matt's Score: Michigan State 28, Nebraska 3
No. 12 Utah at Washington, 7:30 p.m., FOX
The Spread: Utah +1; Washington -1
Analysis: Utah was riding high two weeks ago, ranked No. 3 in the nation with many believing the Utes could be the best team in the country. But then Utah went to unranked Southern Cal and everything quickly fell apart. The Trojans won the game 42-24, knocking Utah out of the national title conversation and likely giving it no chance to make the College Football Playoff, even if the Utes end up winning the Pac-12 championship. Utah will play UCLA later this month which could determine who represents the South against Stanford in the conference title game, but the Utes have to get past Washington first as a small underdog. Washington is 4-4, breaking a two-game losing streak last week with a win over Arizona. Before that, the Wildcats lost to Oregon and Stanford. Washington did defeat USC on the road this season, 17-12, which started the Trojans' downfall that resulted in the coach getting fired. The last time I thought Utah was disrespected with the point spread was against USC. This game against Washington qualifies as well. But this time Utah should get the victory. Hopefully I don't get burned a second time.
Brad's Score: Utah 38, Washington 31
Craig's Score: Utah 24, Washington 17
Glenn's Score: Utah 35, Washington 30
Matt's Score: Utah 28, Washington 17
No. 2 LSU at No. 4 Alabama, 8 p.m., CBS
The Spread: LSU +6; Alabama -6
Analysis: With how the first College Football Playoff rankings went, both LSU and Alabama control their own destinies to make the final four. LSU is obviously in the driver's seat if it wins out, including the SEC title game, as nobody would deny the Tigers a spot in the championship tournament if they finish undefeated. LSU would likely gain the No. 1 ranking as well. For Alabama, even with one loss, it is ahead of a host of undefeated teams, so if the Tide win out, there should be no stopping them from making the Playoff tournament, especially since LSU would be eliminated in the process. While the rankings will be on everyone's mind, the sheer magnitude of this matchup makes this the game of the year so far. It's also a matchup of two of the best running backs in the nation, as LSU's Leonard Fournette and Alabama's Derrick Henry are both game-changers and, not surprisingly, Heisman trophy contenders. Fournette has 1,352 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Henry has 1,044 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Whichever defense holds the opposing running back in check better will likely win the game. Of course, home field advantage is huge here, and should make a difference in the end of the game. Alabama survives a thriller.
Brad's Score: Alabama 28, LSU 27
Craig's Score: Alabama 31, LSU 24
Glenn's Score: LSU 24, Alabama 17 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: Alabama 9, LSU 6
Minnesota at No. 3 Ohio State, 8 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Minnesota +23.5; Ohio State -23.5
Analysis: Ohio State has made its home playing on ABC in primetime recently, which is great for the school but not so great for all of us who want to see some variety on national television. Especially when the opponents are Penn State, Rutgers and Minnesota, two teams with little to no chance of beating the Buckeyes. Luckily, most will be watching LSU and Alabama on CBS at the same time, with a good number of Ohio State fans as well I'd bet. Despite being the No. 1 team in the AP poll, Ohio State is No. 3 in the Playoff rankings, obviously a indictment by the committee on the lackluster performances put forth by the Buckeyes over the course of the season. And it's true, Ohio State has not be impressive at all, despite winning all eight of its games. But in the week ahead, Ohio State will get the opportunity to prove just how good it is. To close the regular season, the Buckeyes play home to Michigan State and then at Michigan, two huge games that will validate or destroy OSU's Playoff resume. Survive those games, and Ohio State will get undefeated Iowa, if it runs the table, in the Big Ten championship game. So, Ohio State will make the College Football Playoff if it wins out. Minnesota is 4-4 and coming off a close loss to Michigan, 29-26. The Gophers lost by 23 to Nebraska the week before. Coach Jerry Kill was forced to retire before the Michigan game and obviously the team rallied around him against the Wolverines. But losing that game likely took a lot of fight away, and Ohio State will take advantage.
Brad's Score: Ohio State 48, Minnesota 20
Craig's Score: Ohio State 38, Minnesota 3
Glenn's Score: Ohio State 48, Minnesota 20
Matt's Score: Ohio State 35, Minnesota 13