By Kevin McGuire-
(CBS) It took a while, it seems, but we finally have a great week of college football coming right at us this coming weekend. The first weekend in October will serve up six games between top 25 teams, which will be a nice breath of fresh air after the last few weeks.
Two games worth paying close attention to will see top five teams on the road. No. 3 Alabama heads to No. 11 Ole Miss in the SEC Game of the Week on CBS. The Crimson Tide looks to establish dominance in the powerful SEC West against one of the division’s upcoming threats. Ole Miss brings one of the top offenses in the SEC and it will go against the SEC’s best defense. With both teams entering 4-0, something is going to have to give.
Meanwhile, in the Big 12, No. 4 Oklahoma looks to keep the Sooner Schooner rolling along smoothly on the road against No. 25 TCU. The Horned Frogs have a knack for playing tough at home. TCU is also coming off a 56-0 victory over SMU and can put a nice dent in Oklahoma’s path to a possible playoff spot at the end of the year. One loss in the Big 12 could prove incredibly costly for Oklahoma or Baylor. No. 7 Baylor is on the road at Texas at the same time.
Back in the SEC, No. 6 Texas A&M visits No. 12 Mississippi State and No. 5 Auburn will host No. 15 LSU. These games will also prove to be incredibly important in the crowded SEC West race. This could be an early weekend that separates the contenders from the pretenders in the SEC West. The Aggies bounced Arkansas in overtime over in Arlington, Texas this weekend, but they will face a very confident Mississippi State team coming off a win over LSU and a bye week. The cowbells will be clanging with vigor. Are the Aggies ready for this environment? They should be. Texas A&M has already won at South Carolina, so going on the road does not appear to bother them. LSU looks to have a quarterback now with Brandon Harris showing some good signs in a rout of New Mexico State. How he leads the offense on the road against Auburn on the road could be the difference in the game as LSU looks to avoid a second-straight loss in division play.
If you were one of the many to eliminate the Big Ten from your consciousness this season, this weekend may have a game you want to pay attention to. No. 10 Michigan State hosts No. 19 Nebraska in what looks to be a potential Big Ten championship game preview. The Spartans have been the Big Ten’s premier program this season, but the Huskers have one of the best running backs in the country with Ameer Abdullah. A big performance from Abdullah could make him an emerging candidate in the Heisman Trophy conversation. Nebraska needs to prove it can win a big game, which seems to have escaped the team for the past few years. A win over Michigan State could remove the Spartans from the playoff conversation as well, while boosting the chances the Huskers get a chance to represent the Big Ten.
The last match-up between top 25 teams taking place this weekend is a big one. No. 9 Notre Dame hosts No. 14 Stanford, and there is some revenge on the line for the defending Pac-12 champions. Stanford probably still feels it should have beaten Notre Dame two years ago in South Bend, and it will once again bring the stiffest defensive test the Irish see this season. Notre Dame’s chance to prove worthy of playoff consideration begins this week, with Florida State looming in two more weeks. Stanford already has a loss on the year as well, and is starting to have a very small margin of error with Oregon still to play later on.
October is the best month for college football, and it is getting started on the right foot this weekend.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation.