For the second straight week, the college football schedule has produced seven games between ranked opponents. In fact, the latest College Football Playoff rankings have set the stage for three top-10 matchups on one Saturday: No. 1 Georgia at No. 10 Auburn, No 3 Notre Dame at No. 7 Miami and No. 6 TCU at No. 5 Oklahoma. Throw in important games for No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Clemson, among others (No. 9 Washington already lost to Stanford on Friday), and this could be the most pivotal week of the playoff race all season.
So what should you watch in a busy Week 11? Let's break down all the key games.
All times are Eastern, and within each time slot games are previewed in order of importance and watchability.
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Saturday Early Afternoon
No. 12 Michigan State at No. 13 Ohio State
The last time Michigan State visited Ohio State, on a rainy Saturday in November 2015, the Spartans spoiled the Buckeyes' hopes of repeating as national champions by shutting down their offense and sparking Ezekiel Elliott's postgame complaints about play-calling. Michigan State went on to win the Big Ten and go to the playoff. Last year, the Spartans stumbled to 3-9, but they've bounced back in a big way in 2017. They've lost to Notre Dame and Northwestern, only to upset Penn State last week and emerge as a Big Ten contender. In fact, the Big Ten East could come down to the result of this game, as both teams have two losses overall but one loss within the conference.
The big question: How does Ohio State respond to a shocking 31-point loss at Iowa that likely ended its playoff pursuit? Michigan State has a good enough defense to cause more problems for the Buckeyes, and quarterback Brian Lewerke is coming off an impressive day against Penn State. The key for Ohio State is to get the ball to J.K. Dobbins in space, avoid the costly turnovers made by J.T. Barrett last week and get pressure on Lewerke. After what happened at Iowa, there are no certainties here, but Ohio State is too talented to pick against a strong rebound performance.
Pick: Ohio State 31, Michigan State 17
No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 21 Iowa State
Losses last week by Oklahoma State (vs. Oklahoma) and Iowa State (at West Virginia) made this firmly into the Big 12's Week 11 undercard, with a top-10 TCU-Oklahoma showdown later, but this still holds importance in the conference race. Both teams are 4-2 in the Big 12, so the winner here will still be very much alive in the race for a spot in the Big 12 championship game, presumably against the winner of TCU-Oklahoma. Every Oklahoma State visit to Ames brings back memories of the Cyclones stunning the BCS-contending Cowboys back in 2011; this one is much different, as Iowa State already boasts two top-10 wins this season and is merely a slight underdog on its home field. The Cyclones are better equipped than most Big 12 defenses to give Oklahoma State's explosive offense some problems, and the Cowboys could be shorthanded if All-America wideout James Washington (ankle) isn't able to play. But although this is a significantly improved Cyclones team, three marquee wins might be a bit much to ask in Matt Campbell's impressive second season.
Pick: Oklahoma State 33, Iowa State 24
Rutgers at No. 14 Penn State
Noon, Big Ten Network
Chris Ash has quietly done a nice job turning Rutgers in a positive direction over the course of this season. After a 56-0 loss to Ohio State, the Scarlet Knights have won three of the past four against Illinois, Purdue and Maryland. They are improving, and they are capable of being more competitive. With that said, there has been no indication yet that they can beat a top-25 team like Penn State. Coming off deflating back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Michigan State -- after rising to No. 2 in the polls -- Penn State enters Saturday in a somewhat vulnerable position, but returning home, against a beatable opponent, should allow the Nittany Lions to get back on track and perhaps get Heisman candidate Saquon Barkley rolling again after a rough couple weeks following the opening kick return touchdown in Columbus.
Pick: Penn State 49, Rutgers 17
Arkansas at No. 24 LSU
Arkansas mercifully escaped Coastal Carolina by a point last week, after escaping Ole Miss by a point the week before. Back-to-back wins to get to 4-5 are nice, but a bowl game for Bret Bielema -- a coach widely viewed as on the hot seat -- will require winning two of three against LSU, Mississippi State and Missouri. LSU has faults, but this is a tough trip for the Razorbacks, as LSU is playing well defensively (it just held Alabama to 116 rushing yards) and now has a healthier Derrius Guice at tailback. Guice rushed for 276 yards a few weeks ago against Ole Miss, and he rushed for 252 yards last year against Arkansas, which is struggling against the run again.
Pick: LSU 30, Arkansas 16
No. 17 Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech
12:20 p.m., ACC regional
The Hokies lost a de facto ACC Coastal title game at Miami last week, and now they find themselves in a somewhat difficult spot: They have to go back on the road and defend the option attack of Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have lost three of four, including at Virginia last week, but it can be a tough game to prepare for the week after a physically draining prime-time game. The road team has actually won the past four meetings, however, and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster has plenty of experience preparing for the Yellow Jackets. The Hokies are capable of rebounding behind that defense.
Pick: Virginia Tech 29, Georgia Tech 24
No. 23 N.C. State at Boston College
N.C. State's breakthrough season hit a snag the past two weeks against the hardest teams on its schedule, both of whom are in the top four of the playoff rankings: a 35-14 loss at Notre Dame and a 38-31 loss vs. Clemson. After that brutal two-game stretch, the Wolfpack return to the road for a pair of trickier than expected games. Next week, it's Wake Forest. This week, it's Boston College, which won three games in a row against Louisville, Virginia and Florida State and scored 35-plus points in all of them. The Eagles are coming off an off week, and they suddenly have optimism on offense heading into a matchup against the Wolfpack's excellent defensive front. Despite the tough spot, I'll stick with N.C. State, which can contain the Eagles' recent scoring surge.
Pick: N.C. State 28, Boston College 23
Connecticut at No. 18 UCF
No matter what either team says now, it will always be the Civil ConFLiCT to me. As ESPN.com wrote, somebody just needs to find ex-UConn coach Bob Diaco's wonderful, lost rivalry trophy. After two UConn wins in a row, UCF edged the Huskies by eight last year. This year, things look much more lopsided in the former "rivalry." Under second-year coach Scott Frost, the Knights are 8-0 and the last remaining undefeated team in the Group of Five conferences. They are the favorite to win the AAC and a major bowl bid, behind QB McKenzie Milton and an offense scoring a national-best 48.5 points per game. UConn has occasionally shown flashes of potential on offense, but UCF is far better on both sides of the ball
Pick: UCF 49, Connecticut 13
Florida at South Carolina
The second Muschamp bowl (Florida won by 13 last year) features a South Carolina team on much sturdier ground than Florida. After parting ways with Will Muschamp's replacement, Jim McElwain, Florida lost 45-16 at Missouri, its fourth loss in a row. The Gators are reeling and, at 3-5, would have to win out to get to a bowl game. South Carolina has flaws, but it is 6-3 and already bowl-eligible. Playing at home, it's hard not to like the Gamecocks against a Florida squad that has seen its season already lost by early November.
Pick: South Carolina 24, Florida 20
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Saturday Late Afternoon
No. 1 Georgia at No. 10 Auburn
3:30 p.m., CBS
The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry has become one of the biggest games of the college football season. Despite losing to Clemson and LSU on the road, Auburn comes into this game playing well, having blown out Arkansas and Texas A&M in back-to-back road games. Jarrett Stidham played an excellent game in College Station last week, Kerryon Johnson has gone over 100 yards rushing in four of the past five games and the Auburn defense continues to play at a high level under coordinator Kevin Steele. Of course, Georgia is No. 1 for a reason: It has been even better than Auburn defensively, ranking fourth in yards per play. It has been physical on offense, and it has put efficient freshman quarterback Jake Fromm in position to succeed. He already proved he can win in a tough road game, as he one his first career start at Notre Dame.
There's a lot of pressure on both sides here. Georgia is undefeated and moving forward with a playoff bid on the line. It can afford a loss, as long as it wins out and wins the SEC, but it wants to keep that margin for error and stay atop the rankings. Auburn has lost three straight in the rivalry series since the 2013 Prayer at Jordan-Hare. Making matters worse is the fact that it has scored a total of 27 points in those three losses, which have played a big role in the questions about Gus Malzahn's future. If Auburn's offense truly has made significant strides, it's going to need to show it on Saturday. It will put up a better showing than the past few years, but this is also the best Georgia team it has seen in that span.
Pick: Georgia 20, Auburn 17
No. 20 Iowa at No. 8 Wisconsin
3:30 p.m., ABC
Scheduling perception changes over the course of a season. No matter what happens, Wisconsin is going to have a weak schedule, by Power Five standards, but this week's College Football Playoff rankings turned Northwestern into a "top-25 win" for Wisconsin and turned this week's game against Iowa into a top-25 showdown. The Hawkeyes deserve the ranking, after shockingly dominating Ohio State 55-24, after three weeks of 17-10 final scores. The Hawkeyes' three losses were all close, they've gotten solid play from QB Nathan Stanley (22 TDs, four INTs) and they have an excellent tailback in Akrum Wadley, but it will be interesting to see how they respond from the emotional high of last week's game. They have to turn around and go on the road and face the unbeaten Badgers, who are the Big Ten's likely last playoff hope after Iowa took care of Ohio State.
Neither team has broken 20 points in either of the past two Iowa-Wisconsin games, and although Iowa put up 55 against Ohio State, it wouldn't be surprising to see another low-scoring Hawkeyes-Badgers slugfest. The last time Iowa went to Madison, it continued its perfect regular season with a 10-6 win. Wisconsin finds itself in a situation similar to the 2015 Hawkeyes and can perhaps turn the tables behind tailback Jonathan Taylor.
Pick: Wisconsin 20, Iowa 18
Florida State at No. 4 Clemson
3:30 p.m., ESPN
One of the biggest upsets of the season is the fact that there are seven games between ranked teams this weekend and Florida State at Clemson, projected to be one of the biggest games of 2017 in August, is not one of them. There are top-25 matchups involving teams like Iowa, Iowa State and Mississippi State … but not Florida State. Because they rescheduled their canceled September game against UL Monroe, the 3-5 Seminoles don't necessarily need to win this game to have a chance to extend their national-best bowl streak that dates back to 1982. (They'll have to win out against Delaware State, Florida and ULM to get to six wins.) That's good news, because despite last week's win over Syracuse -- which beat Clemson -- it's hard to imagine this Florida State team going into Death Valley and escaping with a win. Although the Seminoles have the talent on defense to give Clemson some trouble, the mismatch of the game will be Clemson's defensive front attacking the FSU offensive line and freshman QB James Blackman, who has often had to deal with relentless pressure. Clemson will keep its dreams of a third straight playoff bid alive.
Pick: Clemson 28, Florida State 14
No. 11 USC at Colorado
4 p.m., Fox
At 6-1 in the Pac-12 with back-to-back wins over the two 4-2 teams in the South, Arizona and Arizona State, USC has a clear path to the Pac-12 championship game. It responded well to the blowout loss at Notre Dame with those two wins over the Wildcats and Sun Devils, and it is a clear favorite in Boulder against the defending division champs. Colorado is a win away from bowl eligibility but only 2-5 in Pac-12 play with wins over Oregon State and California. Its defense has fallen to 113th in yards per rush allowed, which is bad news against a balanced USC team. Sam Darnold is the most hyped Trojans player, but tailback Ronald Jones II has been the team's best offensive weapon. He's coming off back-to-back prolific games and is poised for another one. This has felt like a slightly disappointing USC season, but a Pac-12 championship is well within reach.
Pick: USC 38, Colorado 20
West Virginia at Kansas State
3:30 p.m., ESPN2
After last week's home win over Iowa State, West Virginia is quietly hovering around the race for a spot in the Big 12 title game. At 4-2 in league play, it is in a three-way tie for third place behind Oklahoma and TCU, with Iowa State (who it beat) and Oklahoma State (who it lost to). The hope for West Virginia is to win the next two games against Kansas State and Texas and take a two-loss conference record into the season finale at Oklahoma. It's a lot to ask, of course. Kansas State is never an easy road trip, and after a rough first half, the Wildcats have bounced back to 5-4 thanks to back-to-back wins over Kansas and Texas Tech. It appears that West Virginia will be tasked with slowing down new Kansas State starting quarterback Skyler Thompson, who played well down the stretch in leading that OT win over the Red Raiders. The Wildcats have a knack for playing spoiler, and they could do that here for the Mountaineers' Big 12 title game chase.
Pick: Kansas State 31, West Virginia 27
Michigan at Maryland
3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Maryland coach D.J. Durkin spent 2015 on Jim Harbaugh's first coaching staff at Michigan. Their first head-to-head showdown as head coaches resulted in a 59-3 Michigan win last November. Given the limited nature of Michigan's passing offense -- new starter Brandon Peters hasn't been asked to do much yet -- it's unlikely that Saturday's game will compare to what we saw a year ago, but Michigan nevertheless possesses some decisive advantages. Injuries have ravaged Maryland's quarterback situation, and sophomore Ryan Brand may be forced to start for the banged-up Max Bortenschlager. Either way, it's a difficult matchup for Maryland against Michigan's superb defensive front, which has had 24 tackles for loss over the past two wins vs. Rutgers and Minnesota.
Pick: Michigan 34, Maryland 13
Virginia at Louisville
3:30 p.m., ESPNU
Virginia hasn't been to a bowl game since 2011, but it enters Saturday's game with a better record (6-3, 3-2 ACC) than the Louisville team led by the defending Heisman Trophy winner (5-4, 2-4). The Cardinals' disappointing record is anything but Lamar Jackson's fault: He averages a national-high 426.3 yards of total offense per game. Louisville has lost three of its past four games, and all three of those losses featured Jackson putting on a one-man show in which he had over 400 yards. The defense has fallen apart, dropping from 14th to 83rd in yards per play allowed, but perhaps Louisville can regroup after an off week behind another big performance from Jackson.
Pick: Louisville 40, Virginia 28
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Saturday Early Evening
No. 19 Washington State at Utah
5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network
After a 6-0 start, Washington State has had an erratic past month: double-digit losses to Cal and Arizona, a shutout win over Colorado and a three-point win over Stanford. There have been bumps, but the Cougars are 5-2 in the Pac-12, a game behind rival Washington in the North Division. Beat Utah this week, and Washington State could enter the Apple Cup on Nov. 25 with a chance to win the division. There's an off week between the two games, but both are on the road. Although Utah is coming off a blowout win over UCLA, Washington State has actually been the more complete team, with one of the Pac-12's top defenses paired with Mike Leach's Air Raid attack on offense.
Pick: Washington State 31, Utah 27
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Saturday Prime Time
No. 3 Notre Dame at No. 7 Miami
8 p.m., ABC
By no means is Miami the Miami of old yet, but it's at least back playing in one of the biggest games of the season, again. That used to be a regular occurrence for the Hurricanes, but their downturn upon joining the ACC has meant that the national spotlight has shied away from them in recent years, beyond the bad news. Now, in Mark Richt's second season, Miami is undefeated and coming off its most impressive win of the season, a 28-10 victory over Virginia Tech in which it made several big plays on both sides of the ball. The Canes are a bit inconsistent, sure, giving up big plays on defense and making a few too many mistakes on offense, but they rank in the top 15 nationally in yards per play on both sides of the ball. Although they have won several close games and have flaws, they're fully deserving of their status as an undefeated team and playoff contender.
But this will be Miami's biggest test yet, against a surging Notre Dame team that went 4-8 lat year and lost by just one point to Georgia in Week 1. The Fighting Irish have won seven games since that one loss, making themselves playoff contenders with double-digit wins over Michigan State, USC and N.C. State. Their offensive line is physically dominant, and their running game has overwhelmed teams behind QB Brandon Wimbush and RB Josh Adams -- both of whom are expected to play after missing some time during the win over Wake Forest.
Notre Dame has been the better team this season, despite that one loss. The questions are whether Miami can generate enough negative plays defensively, against that Notre Dame offensive line, and whether Wimbush can beat Miami with his arm if he needs to. Notre Dame enters the game as a justified favorite on the road, but Miami just keeps finding ways to win, and it may be difficult for the Irish to avoid a second loss during this second-half schedule grind.
Pick: Miami 26, Notre Dame 24
No. 6 TCU at No. 5 Oklahoma
8 p.m., Fox
Oklahoma has won four of five games against TCU since the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12. They've played a few big games against each other, but in terms of rankings, this is the biggest yet: two top-six teams, with the Big 12's best defense facing off against Heisman Trophy favorite Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma's prolific offense.
Mayfield passed for nearly 600 yards in last week's wild 62-52 Bedlam win over Oklahoma State. Oklahoma's defense has struggled many times in the past two seasons, and yet Mayfield has often overcome such problems to lead Oklahoma to wins anyway. This week, Mayfield has to outmaneuver a veteran TCU defense that ranks fifth nationally in yards per play allowed has allowed a total of 51 points in its past five games, including 14 or fewer points in four straight. Those past four games, of course, have seen nothing like the Oklahoma offense. The Sooners are scoring 45 points per game and averaging a national-best 8.6 yards per play. Mayfield has played brilliantly behind one of the nation's best offensive lines, and new playmakers are emerging -- especially breakout wide receiver Marquise Brown.
This is effectively a playoff elimination game between one-loss teams, and although there's a chance for a rematch in the Big 12 championship game, the winner here can feel a whole lot better about its chances of playing for the conference title. And if Mayfield burns the TCU defense, it's going to be difficult for anybody to catch him in the Heisman race.
Pick: Oklahoma 40, TCU 30
No. 2 Alabama at No. 16 Mississippi State
7 p.m., ESPN
There's no question that this is one of Alabama's biggest challenges of the season. It hasn't played a particularly difficult schedule yet, because of weakened depth in the SEC, and it's coming off the always exhausting game against LSU. Now, it has to go on the road to Starkville to face a Mississippi State team that beat LSU by 30 and Texas A&M by 21. However, for as dangerous as the Bulldogs are behind QB Nick Fitzgerald, they're coming off a sluggish performance against UMass and they lost to Georgia by 28 and Auburn by 39. Both of those blowout losses were on the road, but it's not as if their history is favorable against Alabama: Mississippi State has lost nine straight in the series and has scored more than 10 points only once in that span, a 25-20 loss in 2014. In two games since then, Alabama has won by a total score of 82-9. Mississippi State can be a tricky matchup, but it doesn't have the depth to beat the Crimson Tide, who rarely have a down week …
Nick Saban is the last coach to beat Alabama by more than 17 points (2003)- Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB) November 6, 2017
Pick: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 13
Purdue at No. 25 Northwestern
7 p.m., ESPN2
Purdue has to win two of its final three games at Northwestern, at Iowa and vs. Indiana to reach a bowl game in Jeff Brohm's first season after a four-year drought. Unfortunately, the Boilermakers head into Saturday's trip to Evanston with a quarterback injury, as David Blough was lost for the season because of a leg injury in last week's win over Illinois. This remains a tricky Purdue team to play, but Northwestern, which has won three straight overtime games to move to 6-3, is playing with confidence and has gotten stellar defensive efforts and strong running from Justin Jackson to move into the top 25.
Pick: Northwestern 27, Purdue 21
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Saturday Late Night
Oregon State at Arizona
10 p.m., ESPN2
There's a bigger game in the Mountain West in the late time slot -- Boise State at Colorado State -- but it's going to be difficult to turn away from this matchup. Although Arizona is coming off a loss to USC, Khalil Tate still made some breathtaking plays in that game, as he's done for five games now. The primary quarterback for only those five games, Tate has racked up 1,087 rushing yards on 95 carries, giving him an average of 11.4 yards per rush. He also averages 9.5 yards per pass attempt. So, after playing a talented USC team, Tate turns his attention to a home game against the Beavers, who are 1-8 and rank 127th in points allowed.
Pick: Arizona 52, Oregon State 24