The first month of the season thinned the herd, eliminating Heisman candidates and national championship contenders. That has narrowed the focus for the rest of the college football season.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let’s not jump ahead to Nov. 3 — Alabama at LSU, Oregon at USC — right now. Let’s just look at October and recalculate the games we are most anticipating, that will be the most important.
Depending on how these games turn out, Nov. 3 might be anti-climactic.
This Saturday is huge, with five games matching ranked teams. The rest of the month ain’t bad, either.
Here’s a look at the 10 biggest games of October:
1. Georgia at South Carolina, Oct. 6
This is the day the SEC East begins to really shake out. The Gamecocks have won two in a row in the series, a time period that coincides with running back Marcus Lattimore having his way with the Georgia defense. Defense might not tell the tale, however, as the Dawgs can overcome deficiencies on that side of the ball with quarterback Aaron Murray, who is third nationally with a passing efficiency rating of 183.35), and freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. The Bulldogs haven’t run into a defense as fierce as South Carolina’s yet, so something will have to give. The Gamecocks have 22 sacks in five games. If they can pressure Murray with just their front four, edge to South Carolina.
2. West Virginia at Texas, Oct. 6
An absolutely fascinating game, with the prolific Mountaineers attack going against a Texas defense that has underperformed by the numbers so far (390.2 yards allowed) but figures to be one of the rare teams that can slow down the Geno Smith point-fest. On the other side, Longhorns sophomore David Ash has turned into exactly what Texas needed in a quarterback — he’s accurate (78 percent) and has eliminated all the INTs from last season. Ash has been picked only once in 109 throws.
3. LSU at Florida, Oct. 6
The Tigers keep winning, but not very impressively, which is why they have dropped to No. 4 in the AP poll. The Gators, meanwhile, appear to be as improved as any team since the start of the season, having figured out their quarterback situation with Jeff Driskel at the helm and letting the running game and a stout defense do the rest. Said LSU coach Les Miles: “Their quarterback, Jeff Driskel, seems to get better with each throw.” The same can’t be said of LSU’s Zach Mettenberger. He needs to cut back on turnovers for the Tigers to keep on a national championship path.
4. South Carolina at LSU, Oct. 13 — The importance of this game depends on what happens this Saturday, but imagine a scenario in which one of these teams, or both, is coming off a loss. This could essentially be an SEC elimination game in mid-October.
5. South Carolina at Florida, Oct. 20 — What a stretch for the Gamecocks. Let’s just say if South Carolina goes 3-0 vs. Georgia, LSU and Florida, it would unquestionably have to be No. 1 in the country (sorry, Alabama).
6. Kansas State at West Virginia, Oct. 20 — If all goes well for each team, this should be a battle of the top two Heisman candidates — West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Kansas State’s Collin Klein.
7. Georgia vs. Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.), Oct. 27 — One of the great rivalries/spectacles in college football has been one-sided of late; the Gators are 18-4 vs. Georgia since 1990.
8. Notre Dame at Oklahoma, Oct. 27 — It’s a big month for both teams, with the Sooners also playing rival Texas on Oct. 13 (how did that game not make this list?) and the Irish also taking on Miami (this Saturday) and then playing in the game below.
9. Stanford at Notre Dame, Oct. 13 — First one to 10 points wins? Enjoy an increasingly rare college football defensive battle. This will not be West Virginia-Baylor.
10. Florida State at Miami, Oct. 20 — There aren’t many potholes on the Seminoles’ road to the national championship game. This is kind of, maybe, possibly one of them.