College football previews: SEC matchups highlight slate

Rawleigh Williams III looks for the end zone during Arkansas’ 34-30 victory over Ole Miss last week, the Razorbacks’ first SEC win of the season.
Rawleigh Williams III looks for the end zone during Arkansas’ 34-30 victory over Ole Miss last week, the Razorbacks’ first SEC win of the season. AP

North Carolina State (4-2, 1-1 ACC) at No. 7 Louisville (5-1, 3-1 ACC) (11 a.m. Saturday, WFAA/8): North Carolina State came within a 33-yard field goal of upsetting Clemson on the road last week. It will be a tough turnaround, however, for the Wolfpack, as they face a second straight top-10 team on the road. Lamar Jackson, Louisville’s Heisman hopeful at quarterback, will get a chance to showcase his talent against a team that Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson struggled against at times.

No. 17 Arkansas (5-2, 1-2 SEC) at No. 21 Auburn (4-2, 2-1 SEC) (5 p.m. Saturday, ESPN): Auburn has been on a comeback trail after losing early games against Clemson and Texas A&M. The Tigers have won three straight, but they will have to get past a tough Arkansas team at home to keep coach Gus Malzahn off the hot seat. Auburn has found an offensive rhythm, scoring more than 30 points a game, and has clamped down on defense (giving up 16 points a game, No. 11 in the country). Arkansas, which has lost to Texas A&M and Alabama, will present a physical test for the Tigers.

No. 23 Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2 SEC) at No. 25 LSU (4-2, 2-1 SEC) (8 p.m. Saturday, ESPN): LSU and Ole Miss have combined for classic October matchups, including the historic Halloween game in which LSU’s Billy Cannon returned a punt 89 yards for a game-winning touchdown to clinch the Heisman race. This year both teams desperately need a win. Ole Miss is the only team in the Top 25 with three losses and is on the precipice of its season falling apart. LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron is hoping to win the permanent position. With evenly matched teams, this one has the makings of an instant classic.

Playoff watch

No. 1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC): Alabama is rounding into shape with a dominant defense and a special teams unit that can break any game open. While the Crimson Tide have a tough home matchup this week against No. 6 Texas A&M, the path is wide open for Alabama to defend its title in January.

No. 2 Ohio State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten): The Buckeyes looked vulnerable last week in the first half at Wisconsin. But Ohio State turned the game around and edged the Badgers using a suffocating defense and an offense that scored all 17 second-half points to win 30-23. The Buckeyes, who will have to play No. 3 Michigan at the end of the season, are still on track to represent the Big Ten in the playoff.

No. 5 Washington (6-0, 3-0 Pac 12): Washington sat out last week while Ohio State and Clemson sweated out close wins. After playing Oregon State this weekend, the Huskies will travel to Utah, the only ranked team left on their schedule.

No. 3 Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC): Clemson is still unbeaten but shouldn’t be. North Carolina State missed a short field goal as time expired last weekend, and the Tigers stayed perfect on the season with a 24-17 win in overtime. While Clemson should have dropped its first game, it still got the win to stay in the College Football Playoff picture.

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