The SEC West could be all but decided Saturday.
Seems like a strong statement, but with three games involving ranked teams it is possible for the leader of the division to exit this weekend with essentially a two-game lead on all the closest contenders with three games to play.
The leader will be determined in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when the top-ranked Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0) faces No. 6 Texas A&M (6-0, 4-0). The winner will be the only undefeated team left in the Southeastern Conference and the loser will need the winner to lose twice to have a chance to win the West. Not impossible, but any plan that involves Alabama losing two of its last three SEC games seems like a bad plan.
Elsewhere in the SEC West, No. 23 Mississippi (3-3, 1-2) is at No. 25 LSU (4-2, 2-1) and No. 17 Arkansas (1-2, 5-2) travels to No. 21 Auburn (4-2, 2-1). If the two Tigers take a second conference loss, the winner of A&M-Alabama will be in total command — and there will still be more than a week until Halloween.
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THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
BYU (plus 7) at No. 14 Boise State
Resume game for the Broncos as they eye a New Year’s Six bowl bid … BOISE STATE 28-23.
SETTLING THE SEC WEST
No. 6 Texas A&M (plus 18½) at No. 1 Alabama
Aggies QB Trevor Knight already has led a team to victory against the Tide. That team was Oklahoma. Nick Saban’s teams are excellent at revenge … ALABAMA 35-20.
No. 17 Arkansas (plus 10) at No. 21 Auburn
For the Tigers, who have already lost to Texas A&M, it would be better for Alabama to win the showdown in Tuscaloosa. So Roll Tide, Auburn fans … AUBURN 28-20.
No. 23 Mississippi (plus 5½) at No. 25 LSU
The Tigers still have to play A&M and Alabama. Get through this and their SEC titles hopes are very much alive … OLE MISS 31-28, UPSET SPECIAL.
COUNTDOWN TO THE GAME
No. 2 Ohio State (plus 20) at Penn State
The Nittany Lions are hoping to have two or three linebackers return from injury … OHIO STATE 45-21.
Illinois (plus 35½) at No. 3 Michigan
The Illini should definitely be tougher than Rutgers for the Wolverines. Not necessarily tough … MICHIGAN 48-10.
North Carolina State (plus 20) at No. 7 Louisville
The Wolfpack could not close the deal against Clemson; maybe better luck against Lamar Jackson? … LOUISVILLE 35-17.
No. 10 Wisconsin (minus 3) at Iowa
Despite the losses to Ohio State and Michigan, the Badgers can grab control of the Big Ten West in the next two weeks against the Hawkeyes and Nebraska … WISCONSIN 20-14.
TCU (plus 5½) at No. 12 West Virginia
The Horned Frogs have won 12 of their last 13 coming off an open date … WEST VIRGINA 28-24.
No. 19 Utah (Off) at UCLA
The Bruins are again uncertain of the status of QB Josh Rosen (lower body/throwing shoulder); UCLA is trying to avoid being 1-4 in the Pac-12 for the first time since 2009 … UTAH 21-17.
Oregon State (plus 36½) at No. 5 Washington
The Beavers lost QB Darell Garretson (ankle) for the rest of the season … WASHINGTON 48-7.
Purdue (plus 24) at No. 8 Nebraska
The Boilermakers’ first game since coach Darrell Hazell was fired … NEBRASKA 45-10, BEST BET.
No. 11 Houston (minus 21) at SMU
The Cougars have won the last three meetings by an average of 39-12 … HOUSTON 39-12.
No. 16 Oklahoma (minus 13½) at Texas Tech
Sooners RB Samaje Perine (hamstring) will miss a few weeks, which means more Joe Mixon for Oklahoma. That’s OK, but the Sooners are thin behind Mixon with only one more scholarship running back … OKLAHOMA 45-35.
Eastern Michigan (plus 23½) at No. 20 Western Michigan
EMU won three straight against WMU from 2011-13; the last two seasons the Broncos have won both meetings and outscored the Eagles 109-35 … WESTERN MICHIGAN 48-20.
No. 22 North Carolina (minus 8) at Virginia
The Cavaliers have scored more than 30 points each of their last three games … NORTH CAROLINA 38-34.
Memphis (minus 2) at No. 24 Navy
The Tigers have not missed a beat under new coach Mike Norvell … MEMPHIS 31-24.
Texas (plus 3) at Kansas State —@BelkBro
Coach Bill Snyder and the Wildcats are 8-4 against the Longhorns as members of the Big 12, so maybe a tougher conference is not the best route for Texas … TEXAS 28-24.
Miami (plus 5) at Virginia Tech, Thursday night — @DABomination4
The Hurricanes would be pretty much out of the ACC Coastal race if they lose a third straight game … MIAMI 24-21.
Oregon (plus 3) at California, Friday night — @dpsmith5791
The Ducks have lost four straight and if they are going to have any realistic chance to get to six victories and bowl eligibility, this is a must-win … OREGON 48-45.
Michigan State (minus 2½) at Maryland — @vincefrillici
The Spartans have lost four straight and if they are going to have any realistic chance to get to six victories and bowl eligibility, this is a must-win … MICHIGAN STATE 28-21.
USF (minus 6½) at Temple, Friday night — @BillyBoSoxFWF
First-place on the line in the American Athletic Conference East … USF 31-21.
Record: Last week 14-7 straight; 9-11-1 vs. points.
Season: 103-36; 65-69-3.
Upset specials: 2-5.
Best bets: 1-6.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP