College football’s best month of the year begins Friday.
The national title contenders have been established, the Heisman field has been narrowed and many of the seasons that have gone wrong are still salvageable thanks to rivalry games at the end of the month.
Part of the fun of every season is late-season games that no one anticipated being important in September may define the entire year.
That’s not the case with the top game of the final full month of the season, but who would’ve anticipated the Iron Bowl being as important as LSU-Alabama, if not moreso? Who would’ve tabbed Baylor-Texas Tech as one of the key games for the Big 12?
From in-state and conference rivals to surprise matchups and key games in the Heisman race, November should shape up to be another wild month. Here's why:
Top 20 College Football Games in November
1. Nov. 7 Oregon at Stanford (Thursday)
Stanford’s offense is still trying to find consistency without the wealth of tight ends the Cardinal had for the last three seasons. The defense, though, is just as stifling. Stanford will need another standout defensive performance after forcing the Ducks to punt eight times in last year’s 17-14 win in Eugene. Meanwhile, Oregon is looking to hold off Florida State and Ohio State in the BCS standings while Stanford is trying to remain the first one-loss team in the pecking order for the title game.
2. Nov. 30 Alabama at Auburn
Has Auburn replaced LSU as the Crimson Tide’s toughest game before the SEC Championship Game? A rivalry game on the road against a team that has lost one game on the road to LSU sure makes it look that way. The Tigers have lost by a combined score of 91-14 to Alabama post-Cam Newton. This Iron Bowl might not be as lopsided.
3. Nov. 7 Oklahoma at Baylor (Thursday)
By defeating Texas Tech on Saturday, Oklahoma made sure this Thursday night matchup — the same day as Oregon-Stanford, no less — will still be meaningful. The Sooners held Texas Tech to 2.9 yards per carry, but just as important, OU finally got a complete game out of its passing attack. Even if Baylor doesn’t approach 70 points in this game, Oklahoma can’t expect a low-scoring affair.
4. Nov. 2 Miami at Florida State
The last meeting between undefeated teams before bowl season had a wet blanket thrown on it by a three-touchdown point spread. Florida State has been dominant, outscoring ACC opponents by 34.8 points per game, and Miami has needed second-half comebacks against North Carolina and Wake Forest. Still, this is a rivalry game between top-10 opponents and perhaps Florida State’s toughest game for the remainder of the season.
5. Nov. 9 LSU at Alabama
Arguably the most intriguing SEC series of the last five years, Alabama has a 4-2 edge since the Crimson Tide returned to power in the SEC West. Three of the last four have been decided by less than a touchdown, the exception being the 21-0 Alabama win in the BCS championship game rematch following the 2011 season. Both quarterbacks, AJ McCarron and Zach Mettenberger, have had among the finest games of their careers in this series.
6. Nov. 30 Ohio State at Michigan
Barring a shocking Big Ten upset, Ohio State will visit Ann Arbor undefeated, possibly with national title hopes in the mix. Michigan may need this game to win the Legends Division with a chance for a rematch with the Buckeyes for the Big Ten championship game. Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke have stoked the rivalry, but stakes like that will give this game a dimension it hasn’t had since 2006.
7. Nov. 30 Clemson at South Carolina
Clemson-South Carolina may have passed Florida State-Florida as the top ACC-SEC rivalry to end the regular season. Both teams have had setbacks this season, but this should be a top-10 matchup provided both teams win out. South Carolina has won the last four, but both teams may have BCS at-large implications at stake in Columbia. Jadeveon Clowney had 4.5 sacks in this game last season.
8. Nov. 30 Florida State at Florida
A month before the meeting in the Sunshine State, this game doesn’t appear to be competitive. Florida’s offense has backtracked while Florida State looks like it could score 42 points on an off day. Still, it would be intriguing for a national title-contending Florida State team to face Florida in the last week of the regular season and potentially Miami in the ACC Championship Game.
9. Nov. 23 Texas A&M at LSU
Johnny Manziel’s worst career game came against the LSU defense last season when the Aggies quarterback was 29 of 56 for 276 yards with three interceptions. Manziel in front of a raucous Baton Rouge crowd will be a key game in his bid to win a second Heisman Trophy.
10. Nov. 16 Baylor vs. Texas Tech (in Arlington, Texas)
The Big 12’s two surprising contenders in the Big 12 meet at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, the fourth consecutive meeting on a neutral site. That’s been a good move for offensive numbers, as both teams have scored at least 38 points in each of the last three meetings. Expect another offensive showcase.
11. Nov. 13 Ball State at Northern Illinois (Wednesday)[inline_html]
Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox talk Bo Pelini, Michigan-Michigan State, Miami-Florida State and more Week 10 action in this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.[/inline_html]November football wouldn’t be complete without high-stakes midweek MAC football. Ball State, under rising star coach Pete Lembo, may be the biggest threat to Northern Illinois’ undefeated regular season. A loss here and NIU might not even win the MAC West.
12. Nov. 29 Oregon State at Oregon
Stanford bottled up Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, but the Pac-12 passing record hopeful will get another crack at top team in Eugene.
13. Nov. 23 Arizona State at UCLA
The Sun Devils and Bruins are a combined 0-3 against Oregon and Stanford, but the Pac-12 South is still up for grabs. The winner here likely wins the division ... and another meeting with either Stanford or Oregon.
14. Nov. 2 Michigan at Michigan State
If Devin Gardner can limit turnovers, Michigan will have a chance in this critical Big Ten Legends matchup. If he can’t, this could get ugly.
15. Nov. 9 Virginia Tech at Miami
Virginia Tech found a way to lose to Duke at home, and Miami may be coming off a loss to Florida State. The winner of this game likely heads to the ACC Championship Game, however.
16. Nov. 30 Texas A&M at Missouri
One last showcase for Manziel against a standout Missouri defensive line and potential national defensive player of the year Michael Sam. The Tigers may be fighting for an SEC East title at this point.
17. Nov. 9 Nebraska at Michigan
If Michigan defeats Michigan State, this will be a key game for the Big Ten Legends Division. Bo Pelini is in must-win territory for the division and perhaps his job.
18. Nov. 16 Michigan State at Nebraska
The Spartans could be 8-1 heading into this meeting in Lincoln after an off week. If Nebraska drops a game to Michigan, the Spartans could come close to wrapping up the Legends division in this game.
19. Nov. 30 Notre Dame at Stanford
Notre Dame could enter this game with a chance to finish the season 10-2, which would be a major feat for at team that lost quarterback Everett Golson before the season started.
20. Nov. 16 Georgia at Auburn
Like many of Auburn’s traditional rivalries, the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry hasn’t been competitive in the last two seasons. That will change thanks to a former Georgia cornerback (Nick Marshall) playing QB for Auburn.