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#Nuggets: A swing game in College Station, rivalry smack in the Northeast and Hugh Freeze returns to Oxford

Plus: Divisional races heat up in Conference USA, a new era at TCU, and Kentucky looks to end a decades-long streak

A huge opportunity in College Station. The College Football Playoff selection committee is ready to crown Alabama right now, anointing the Crimson Tide the No. 2 team in the country. Considering just how dominant Georgia's been, Alabama would be No. 2 win or lose in College Station back on Oct. 9.

But that game did happen, and it begat another huge game in College Station.

No. 13 Auburn controls its own destiny to win the SEC West. Beat No. 14 Texas A&M on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS), defeat No. 17 Mississippi State (at home) and South Carolina (on the road), and suddenly the Iron Bowl becomes a winner-take-all affair at Jordan-Hare (rhyme absolutely intended). The last two times such a game happened in Auburn, in 2013 and '17, the Tigers won. 

The path isn't quite so clear for Texas A&M, since Mississippi State continues hanging around. If the Aggies win Saturday, they need to immediately become the world's biggest Auburn fans; a 3-way logjam with the Aggies, Tigers and Tide all at two losses favors the A&M. Keep in mind, the home team is 1-8 in this series since the Aggies joined the SEC. 

Regardless of what does or does not happen from here, a win Saturday gives Jimbo Fisher's team the chance to defeat Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the same season for the first time ever. 

Meanwhile, in Tuscaloosa... The LSU-Alabama game is noteworthy for how non-noteworthy it is. 

For the first time since Nick Saban returned to Alabama, in 2007, CBS has passed on Tigers-Tide. The Deep South Super Bowl is no more, at least not right now. 

ESPN will air No. 2 Alabama taking on 4-4 LSU (7 p.m. ET). It's a far, far cry from LSU's last visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“I wish it wouldn’t have gotten out. I meant no disrespect to anybody at Alabama. I just wish that wouldn’t have gotten out. That was not supposed to get out. It wasn’t intended to," Ed Orgeron said this week, echoing comments he made when the video first surfaced back in 2009.

Alabama is a 28.5-point favorite. Anyone taking the Tigers? 

Jimmy Lake talks academic smack, gets smacked. Recruiting has been the talk of the sport this week, stretching from the Georgia-Florida rivalry all the way up to Oregon and Washington.

"Our battles are really the schools we go against, that have academic prowess like the University of Washington -- Notre Dame, Stanford, USC. We go with a lot of battles, toe to toe, all the way to the end, with those schools," U-Dub head coach Jimmy Lake said on recruiting against Oregon. "So I think that’s made up and pumped up in [the media’s] world. In our world, we battle more academically prowess teams.”

 “UW is a wonderful school with a great football history. I have great respect and affection for its president, its academic and football program and its former exceptional football coach, coach Petersen," added Oregon president Michael Schill. "I look forward to our team meeting theirs on the gridiron this Saturday.”

Note how Schill praised Chris Petersen, not Jimmy Lake. That's how you smack talk.

On the field, Oregon has done most of the smacking of late. The Ducks own two straight and, prior to the Petersen-led Huskies nabbing two straight in 2016-17, won 12 in a row from 2004-15. 

No. 4 Oregon is heavily favored to make it 15 of 17 in Seattle on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

The one time you don't want to play Purdue. Michigan State is up to No. 3 in the CFP poll and No. 5 in the AP after knocking off Michigan, and now they get the ultimate trap game. In fact, one could argue Purdue's entire program is built around simply ruining other teams' seasons.

Already this year, a 3-2 Boilermakers team flattened No. 2 Iowa, fresh off winning an emotional home game against Penn State. And now they have the opportunity to do the same to Sparty.

Perhaps the fact that Michigan State is a couple spots below the dreaded No. 2 provides karmic shelter. Maybe. Possibly. Hopefully. 

Hugh Freeze returns to Oxford. Liberty at No. 16 Ole Miss (noon ET, SEC Network) is not the game some predicted it would be in preseason, but it's still a "Life Comes at You Fast" moment. 

“That will be probably the strangest thing, being in the visitors' locker room and on the visitors' sideline,” Freeze said this week. “Truthfully, I told our kids (Monday) morning in the class I teach, I'm just really excited to go back and see people."

This will not only be a showcase game for Freeze and Liberty in taking on a top-20 SEC foe, it could also be a showdown of the top two quarterbacks selected in the 2022 draft.

Liberty's Malik Willis: 140-of-210 (66.7 percent) for 1,985 yards (9.5 per attempt) with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions 173.4 rating ranks 8th nationally; 684 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
Ole Miss' Matt Corral: 162-of-245 (66.1 percent) for 2,203 yards (9.0 per attempt) with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions, 160.2 rating ranks 17th nationally; 519 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. 

The over/under here is 66.5. Here's hoping it hits by halftime.

Possible conference semifinals game in C-USA. A quick look at the C-USA East standings as we head into the season's final month: 

Florida Atlantic -- 3-1
Marshall -- 3-1
Western Kentucky -- 3-1
Charlotte -- 2-2
Middle Tennessee -- 2-2

Marshall's trip to Florida Atlantic on Saturday (6 p.m. ET) begins the round-robin between the top three teams. FAU and WKU have stronger positions than Marshall, since their losses came to West opponents while the Herd dropped a game to MTSU on Oct. 2. 

And the West:

UTSA -- 4-0
UAB -- 3-1
UTEP -- 3-1
Rice -- 2-2

If UTSA wins in El Paso on Saturday night (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2), the picture becomes pretty clear: UAB's visit to San Antonio on Nov. 20 will decide the division. If UTEP springs the upset, then the Miners' trek to Birmingham on Black Friday suddenly becomes the C-USA West Championship. 

Rapid Fire

-- Georgia State at Louisiana (7:30 p.m. ET Thursday, ESPN): Louisiana can outright clinch its fourth straight Sun Belt West title with a win (the division has existed for four seasons), while Georgia State needs a win to keep pace with App State and Coastal in the East.

-- Army vs. Air Force (11:30 a.m. ET, CBS): Air Force can win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the 21st time ever, and first since 2016, with a win here. Army has won this game three of the last four years, including 2020, which means the CIC Trophy has lived in West Point three of the last four years, including 2020. 

Also: this game will be in Arlington, Texas but not AT&T Stadium. It'll be across the street, at the former home of the Texas Rangers that's been repurposed into an outdoor football venue, now known as Choctaw Stadium. To my knowledge, this is the first FBS game at Choctaw Stadium.

-- No. 5 Ohio State at Nebraska (noon ET, Fox): Part of the reason Nebraska is seemingly so unhappy in the Big Ten? They get Ohio State as their permanent crossover game. After defeating the Luke Fickell-led Buckeyes in 2011, the Big Red is 0-6, losing by an average of 53-18. Where is Rutgers when you need them?

-- No. 9 Wake Forest at North Carolina (noon ET, ABC): Wake on Sunday became the last Power 5 team to join the AP Top 10, and their first game with that top-10 ranking comes against their oldest foe. The Deacons' first two games came against UNC, way back in 1888, and they've played 106 times since. 

This is another battle of top 20 QBs. Wake's Sam Hartman is sixth in passing efficiency, hitting 65 percent of his 250 throws for 9.9 per attempt with 22 touchdowns against three interceptions; UNC's Sam Howell is 19th.

-- Kansas State at Kansas (noon ET, FS1): K-State has won 12 straight and is 24-4 in the Sunflower Showdown since 1993. Still, KU owns a 17-game advantage all-time. 

-- Illinois at No. 17 Minnesota (noon ET, ESPN2): A live look at the Minnesota football offices during Tuesday night's rankings reveal.

Nets kid

The Golden Gophers are the equivalent of 31st in the AP rankings, but they're alone in first place in the Big Ten West, thanks to a running game that led the conference in October (235.3 yards per game). Illinois rates 12th in the B1G at stopping the run, so here's an opportunity to keep on chugging before a massive trip to Iowa City next week. 

-- Tulsa at No. 6 Cincinnati (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Cincinnati hosts GameDay for the first time. The UC students might have something to say about the CFP committee ranking them four spots below the Associated Press.

-- Navy at No. 10 Notre Dame (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC): A Notre Dame win gives them five straight in this series, which matches the Irish's longest streak since their FBS-record 43-game series winning streak was snapped in 2007. 

-- No. 12 Baylor at TCU (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox): The first TCU game without Gary Patterson on the sidelines since Nov. 20, 1997 -- a span of 295 games. This is the 117th edition of the Revivlary; TCU owns a 56-53-7 lead, including five out of six and a 33-23 win in 2020.

-- Middle Tennessee at Western Kentucky (3:30 p.m. ET): 100 Miles of Hate is moving north soon, with both schools expected to join the MAC soon. MTSU owns a 35-34-1 record, but WKU has taken two in a row and five of six.

-- Penn State at Maryland (3:30 p.m. ET, FS1): Penn State is Maryland's biggest Big Ten rival; Maryland has also never beaten Penn State twice in a row. That would be because the Nittany Lions own a 40-3-1 all-time record, though the Terps did win 35-19 in State College last November.

-- No. 19 NC State at Florida State (4 p.m. ET, ACC Network): A win here gives the Wolfpack four out of five against the Seminoles for the first time ever. NC State beat FSU four times total from 1953 to 2000.

-- Boise State at No. 23 Fresno State (7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network): Fresno is looking to score back-to-back wins over Boise for the first time since the series' first three games, spaced out from 1977 to '96. Once the Broncos and Bulldogs began playing on a regular basis in 2001, Boise is 15-4. 

-- No. 22 Iowa at Northwestern (7 p.m. ET, BTN): Iowa has been one of the worst teams in the nation ever since rising to No. 2 in the AP poll. Northwestern has won four out of five in this series, all four by seven points or fewer. 

-- Tennessee at No. 22 Kentucky (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Tennessee leads this series 81-26-9. One of those nine came last year, a 34-7 stomping in Knoxville. Would you like to know the last time blue beat orange in back-to-back seasons? Reader, that would be 1976-77. 

-- Clemson at Louisville (7:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network): Clemson is 6-0 all-time against Louisville, so if the Cardinals ever want to get on the scoreboard here, now's probably the time. 

-- Texas at Iowa State (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1): Steve Sarkisian has already lost a game by a grander margin than Tom Herman ever did (19 points), blown a larger lead than Herman ever did (21), and suffered a longer losing streak than Herman ever did (three games). A loss here and Sarkisian will surpass Charlie Strong's longest losing skid, tying Mack Brown's 2010 mark at four straight setbacks.  

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