The race for the BCS National Championship is heating up for the 2013 college football season. As the leaves change color, the importance of each game is elevated. Halloween may be just around the corner, but treats are already being handed out for college football fans, as many exciting games will be played in the coming Saturdays. Here are the 10 most important games left in the 2013 season. The implications of these games not only impact the BCS National Championship Game, but all high-profile bowl games, as well as the race for the Heisman Trophy.
10. Michigan at Northwestern - Week 12, Sat. Nov. 16
This game could decide which team represents the Legends Division in the Big Ten Football Championship Game in Indianapolis. Northwestern, a program on the rise, recently suffered a tough loss at home to the Ohio State Buckeyes and faces Wisconsin this coming Saturday. If the Wildcats and their dual-quarterback system can beat the Badgers at Camp Randall, this game will be an exciting matchup.
The Wolverines are undefeated thus far but haven’t impressed, partly due to Devin Gardner’s apparent color blindness. If Gardner cannot improve on his 1:1 touchdown/interception ratio to start to the year, Michigan will have a hard time with this tough Wildcats squad. These two teams have a month to strengthen their records and ready themselves for the affair.
9. Florida at LSU - Week 7, Sat. Oct. 12
The Florida Gators stroll into Tiger Stadium to face LSU for an exciting matchup in mid-October. Both teams come into the game win one close loss to impressive teams that hail from the South. The lone loss for LSU is a bit more impressive - a shootout that went to the last minute with No. 9 Georgia. Florida’s defeat came at the hands of, at the time, unranked Miami, which is now undefeated with a 5-0 mark. As the weeks pass, the loss to the Hurricanes becomes easier for Florida to swallow.
Tiger Stadium is as difficult a place to play as there is in all of college football, but Florida’s loss at “the U” may have prepared the Gators for the hostile crowd the LSU faithful will unleash upon them. This is certainly the game of the week and could have national championship implications, more so for LSU. The Tigers will need Zach Mettenberger to continue his remarkable season at quarterback to win out. The contest is also extremely important for Florida because it kicks off a brutal three-game stretch against Top-25 ranked SEC opponents.
8. Oklahoma at Baylor - Week 11, Sat. Nov. 9
This game is a matchup of the Big 12’s best teams. Both are undefeated, yet neither has cracked the Top 10 in the AP Poll, which shows the lack of respect for the conference this season. Yet, this one could change some minds in a hurry. Oklahoma has won a few close matchup in keeping its undefeated record alive, while Baylor is averaging an insane 70.5 points-per-game, winning every game in blowout fashion.
Bears running back Lache Seastrunk is having a monster year, but he hasn’t faced a defense on Oklahoma’s level yet. Sooners quarterback Blake Bell has also come on strong for Oklahoma in the last few games following starting quarterback’s Trevor Knight’s injury, though Knight may be back for the game against Baylor. The winner of this game could possibly make a run at the BCS National Championship Game.
7. Florida at Georgia - Week 10, Sat. Nov. 2
This game is being held at a neutral site, thus the truly better team should win the game. Georgia’s lone loss came in week one of the season to still-undefeated Clemson. Florida faces LSU three weeks prior, so we will know much more about the Tigers afterward. Senior Aaron Murray is having another outstanding season for the Bulldogs and they seem to be getting better as the year rolls on. Florida’s junior quarterback Tyler Murphy also seems to be getting better as the season continues. Murphy’s best game came against SEC rival Arkansas, in which he threw three touchdown passes.
This one could be remembered as a classic depending upon the records of the two teams heading in (both teams face ranked opponents before the game will take place on Nov. 2nd). Georgia still has the national championship on its horizon and if the Bulldogs win out, they certainly could be extended an invitation. This game will go a long way in determining that.
6. Ohio State at Michigan - Week 14, Sat. Nov. 30
This year’s installment of “The Game” is poised to continue the refreshingly competitive streak of close games between these storied rivals. Both teams are undefeated so far this season, but the Buckeyes have looked like the better team. Michigan struggled to win against both Akron and Connecticut, pulling out close victories late, whereas Ohio State has beaten Wisconsin and Northwestern in consecutive weeks.
These teams could meet two weeks in a row if they wind up playing in the Big Ten Football Championship Game. The winner of that game – if still undefeated – could be invited to the BCS National Championship Game for a chance to end the SEC’s streak of seven consecutive championships.
5. Florida State at Florida - Week 14, Sat. Nov 30
Another chapter in a phenomenal college football rivalry will be unfolding as Florida State trudges into the swamp to face the Gators. If the Seminoles remain undefeated until this game, the words “national championship” will be stated after nearly every sentence. It would be quite a final test for Florida State - Florida dominates at its home stadium in Gainesville.
Florida may also have lofty expectations if the Gators can survive their brutal SEC schedule down the stretch. For Florida State, this game could be Jameis Winston’s last impression on the Heisman committee. If Florida State remains unbeaten until this rivalry game and Winston again shows up big, there may very well be a redshirt freshman winning the Heisman Trophy in consecutive seasons. This game is always exciting to watch and the environment will be insane, but if both teams keep on winning, this rivalry game could be even bigger.
4. Texas A&M at LSU - Week 13, Sat. Nov. 23
Johnny Football will have his chance to wow the nation again like he did in Tuscaloosa last year. Texas A&M does not face another ranked opponent until it faces the Tigers. LSU, on the other hand, faces two ranked SEC opponents.
If both teams enter this game with one loss – which they both currently have – this game could decide (depending on Alabama) which team goes to the SEC Championship Game. If Manziel plans on repeating as Heisman Trophy winner, he'll need to put up a dominant performance in a victory over LSU at Tiger Stadium.
3. LSU at Alabama - Week 11, Sat. Nov. 9
This is one of the games everyone had circled on their calendars at the beginning of the year. Even with LSU’s loss to Georgia, this game still lives up to its billing. The modern day dynasty that is No. 1 Alabama dispatched No. 6 Texas A&M and Johnny Football and do not have another significant test besides LSU. The Tigers, on the other hand, have a much more difficult schedule.
Cerebral quarterback A.J. McCarron is having another solid season for the power-running Crimson Tide, but will that be enough to roll LSU? Mettenberger must duplicate his impressive performance against Georgia for LSU to remain in the game at Bryant–Denny Stadium. For Alabama, it is business as usual - another big game against a tough opponent in Nick Saban’s quest for his fourth national championship in five seasons. An invitation to the BCS National Championship Game is also possibly on the line for LSU, if the Tigers can pull the upset. This monumental clash should be a fun watch.
2. Florida State at Clemson - Week 8, Sat. Oct. 19
The No. 6 Florida State Seminoles are looking to end the SEC’s streak of seven consecutive national champions and subsequent dominance of college football. But first they must bring their undefeated record to Death Valley to face Clemson. The Tigers have thoughts of their own at ending the SEC’s streak, as they are also undefeated and currently ranked No. 3 in the country. The winner of this game will be a prime candidate to be invited to the BCS National Championship Game.
The Seminoles have a serious Heisman candidate in remarkable freshman Jameis Winston and beating Clemson would undoubtedly be his “Heisman Moment.” Clemson has a stud quarterback of its own, experienced senior (and Heisman candidate) Tahj Boyd, who could make his resume stronger with an impressive showing. This game is as high-profile a game that the ACC has had in recent years.
1. Oregon at Stanford - Week 11, Thur. Nov. 7
This is the game of the year in the Pac 12 and it is being held on a Thursday night. These are two powerful programs that have both won the Rose Bowl in recent years. They are set up to battle in what could be the most exciting game of the year in college football. The two contrasting styles will be entertaining to watch, especially if both teams can remain undefeated. Last year, Stanford knocked the Ducks out of title contention with a 17-14 victory in Eugene. It's doubtful that the Ducks have forgotten.
The Ducks have a Heisman favorite at quarterback, Marcus Mariota, leading their second ranked offense in terms of points-per-game in the country. The Ducks’ defense is also ranked second in points allowed in the nation. No. 5 Stanford is led by gritty senior running back Tyler Gaffney and junior quarterback Kevin Hogan. The game is at Stanford Stadium, known as “The Farm,” and their raucous fans hope to slow down the historic Oregon offense. The winner of this game is very likely to be invited to the BCS National Championship Game.