Senior College Football Columnist

College football midseason: 10 must-see games in second half

Ohio State vs. Michigan will be a huge game at the end of the year. (USATSI)
Ohio State vs. Michigan will be a huge game at the end of the year. (USATSI)

We're at the midway point of the season. Time to look at head to the most compelling games remaining in the regular season.

1. No. 6 LSU at No. 1 Alabama, Nov. 9: Nick Saban's bid for a three-peat is right on track with the Tide having avenged last season's loss to Texas A&M. The next remaining big hurdle -- the only remaining match-up against a Top 20 team will be against an LSU team with a strong-armed QB -- a powerhouse runner and two dynamic receivers. Worse, LSU's young D is maturing fast, and the Tigers did beat the Tide the last time they played in Tuscaloosa.

2. No. 5 Florida State at No. 3 Clemson, Saturday: The game of the year in the ACC should determine who wins the Atlantic Division. It also could determine the ACC champ and who may get a shot at the BCS national title, and maybe play a role in the Heisman race since both QBs Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston are close to to Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota. In the past four seasons, the winner of this game has gone on to play in the ACC title game.

"He is going to be a ridiculous player," Boyd said of Winston. "He just goes out and lays it all on the line and that's what it's all about. He goes out and competes. I've never met him but I respect him."

3. No. 2 Oregon at No. 13 Stanford, Nov. 7: Kevin Hogan's first career road start last season at Autzen Stadium proved to be a memorable night for the Cardinal. That 17-14 Stanford win helped cement DC Derek Mason's rep as one of the best in the game since he bottled up the Ducks. Mariota had his worst passing game of his career. Oregon didn't have a pass play longer than 28 yards. Can the Cardinal contain the Ducks again and wreck Oregon's national title hopes? This should be an amazing Thursday night in northern California.

4. No. 7 Texas A&M at No. 6 LSU, Nov. 23: The Tigers' speed and athleticism presented different problems than any other D did for the Aggies last season. Johnny Manziel was picked off three times. What will be different this time as the Aggies face a younger Tiger D? If LSU beats Bama earlier in the month an SEC West title could be on the line. So could Manziel's second Heisman Trophy.

5. No. 9 UCLA at No. 2 Oregon, Oct. 26: The Bruins have two brutal road games later this month. Either could've made this list, but I'll go with the second. I'm not guaranteeing a Bruin win over Stanford, but the feeling here is Oregon, lined up right after a battle against a physical Stanford game, will be an even tougher test for Brett Hundley and Co. Jim Mora and Lou Spanos first look at the Ducks scheme will be an interesting match-up especially since UCLA has arguably the best linebacking group in the country.

6. No. 10 Miami at No. 5 Florida State, Nov. 2: If the Noles can get past Clemson on the road Saturday, they'll play unranked NC State before the archrival Canes visit Doak Campbell. Miami, of course, has a long history of derailing FSU's national title path. The Canes, like the Noles, also are one of three teams ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense and scoring defense (Oregon is the other). With upcoming games at UNC and vs. Wake Forest, the Canes likely will be 7-0 coming north.

7. No. 4 Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 30: Brady Hoke has beaten the Buckeyes, but he hasn't beaten Urban Meyer's Buckeyes, and there clearly is a big difference. The Wolverines haven't looked like a Top 25 team for the past month and finally went down to unranked Penn State last week. Still, as underwhelming as the Wolverines have been this year, they still probably pose the biggest threat Ohio State remaining unbeaten in the regular-season.

8. No. 16 Texas Tech vs. No. 12 Baylor, Nov. 16: Former Red Raiders assistant Art Briles hosts former Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury as two of the game's sharper offensive minds square off in Arlington with perhaps the Big 12 title in the balance. The Bears should be 7-0 when OU visits on a Thursday night (Nov. 7). Given the way the Sooners looked in Dallas last week, this game against Tech could prove to be a tougher test. Meanwhile, if Tech can survive back-to-back games against the Oklahoma schools, the Red Raiders could come into this one 10-0.

9. No. 3 Clemson at No. 11 South Carolina, Nov. 23: Steve Spurrier probably would like nothing better than to be the one to ruin the Tigers' perfect season if Clemson can stay unbeaten till late November. Spurrier's squad has beaten the Tigers four straight. Or as Spurrier cracked after last season's 27-17 win in Tiger territory, "When we play Clemson, they don't seem to play very well." The Tigers and Tajh Boyd will have a lot to prove after the Clemson star went only 11 of 24 with two picks last season.

10. (tie) Ball State at No. 23 Northern Illinois , Nov. 13: The two best teams in the MAC West division meet up on a Wednesday night in a game that figures NIU's biggest hurdle to a perfect season. It also pits the MAC's top two QBs, Jordan Lynch against Keith Wenning. Pete Lembo's Cardinals are much improved and have shown they can handle the road, thumping UVA. Can they handle Lynch though? Last season, he ran for 207 yards and three TDs against them.

10. (tie) No. 8 Louisville at Cincinnati, Dec. 5: Even though the Bearcats have struggled more than most expected they would have in the first half of the season, getting blasted at Illinois and then losing to a winless USF team, Tommy Tuberville's rep for taking down elite teams is strong. Tubs has a jaw-dropping 6-3 record against Top 5 opponents. Then again, the Cards might not get all the way into the Top 5.

 
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