The lights go on or off in November for college football teams.
It's the month when teams prove they are worthy to play for a conference championship. It's the month in which some of the sport's best college rivalries are played. It's the month when the haves make travel plans for sunny, warm destinations while the have-nots start catching up on home-improvement projects.
It's also the month that sees teams waiting, wondering if certain scenarios will play out which could bolster their chances of playing for a crown. It's the month where fans get down on their knees and pray to the football gods.
November can be nirvana for some, hell for others. It's a cruel, cruel world.
Saturday, November 3, will be the cruelest day for college football and its fans. So many pivotal contests, so many teams' seasons dependent on one Saturday. So many questions will finally be answered.
Alabama at LSU is on November 3. Last year it was the Game of the Century, but it won't be this year. LSU already has one loss (to Florida), and the Crimson Tide are undefeated. If LSU beats Alabama, both the Crimson Tide and the Tigers will probably have one loss each, assuming LSU beats Mississippi State and Arkansas and Alabama beats Mississippi State and Texas A&M.
If Alabama loses in Baton Rouge, Louisiana—hold on, we'll get to Mississippi State in a minute—and both LSU and Alabama end the regular season with only one loss, then LSU will represent the West in the conference championship.
Does this sound familiar? The difference between this year and last year is that LSU doesn't look as strong as last year's team, so if Alabama loses to LSU, Alabama probably won't have a case for another BCS Championship invite.
Mississippi State is currently 7-0, but its three-game stretch—starting this Saturday—is at Alabama, Texas A&M and at LSU. The Bulldogs really haven't played anybody thus far, so they may take a free fall in the next few weeks. Still, the fact that Mississippi State is a player in this whole scenario must make Starkville a pretty exciting place right now.
Auburn hosts New Mexico State on November 3, and normally this game wouldn't catch anyone's eyes. But think about this: The Tigers will have snapped their five-game losing streak, assuming Auburn loses to Texas A&M this Saturday.
In Big 12 country, November 3 is almost Mayan-esque. Oklahoma travels to Iowa State, and the Cyclones, so far, have pulled one upset over TCU. Do they have another up their sleeve? Texas travels to Texas Tech in a game where both teams will be bowl eligible—assuming Texas beats Kansas this Saturday—but fighting for a winning record.
Perhaps the biggest game will be Oklahoma State at Kansas State. The Wildcats most likely will be undefeated prior to this game, and since both Alabama and LSU play each other on that same day, Kansas State has a potential No. 1 ranking in the BCS standings. But that's only if LSU beats Alabama and Kansas State beats Oklahoma State.
Think about that.
The ACC, in its never-ending battle for respectability, has a game with huge implications for both the Atlantic and Coastal divisions—Clemson at Duke.
As it stands right now, Duke is the sole leader of the Coastal division and is already bowl eligible. The Coastal division-leading Duke Blue Devils, by the way, aren't even ranked in the BCS standings. You can't make this stuff up.
If Clemson loses, that should take care of its conference championship berth, because it has already lost to Florida State, and that head-to-head competition gives the Seminoles the edge.
Finally, we have Oregon at USC in the Pac-12. This date has been circled since last year, and although these two teams play in different divisions, two factors differentiate this year's contest versus last year's contest.
First, USC is now eligible to play for the Pac-12 Championship because it has served out its NCAA-mandated two-year postseason ban. Second, the team with the best overall conference record will host the Pac-12 Championship, and while that hasn't changed since last year, the Ducks will actually have to fight for Autzen to hold the conference championship this year.
Oregon is currently undefeated, and USC has one conference loss. If USC wins out then it will host the conference championship, because Oregon will have had a loss to USC and the second criteria for the Pac-12 Championship will come into play—head-to-head competition.
USC could lose to Notre Dame but win all of its conference games and still host the Pac-12 Championship. Of course, Oregon State could throw a wrench into all of this by beating Oregon.
Which team(s) will lose on November 3?
Furthermore, the Beavers would hold the Pac-12 Championship in Corvallis because they will have had the best conference record over the South champion. Even if the Beavers drop one game (as long as that game wasn't against Oregon), they still host the Pac-12 Championship. Why?
If we assume USC wins out, they'll be the South champion with an 8-1 conference record, the same record Oregon State will have had if it drops one game. The site selection procedures are determined in this order: overall conference record, head-to-head competition and finally, highest BCS ranking.
Since Oregon State and USC don't play each other in the regular season, the Pac-12 will have to resort to its third criteria for selecting the site of the championship game—the highest-ranked BCS team. The Beavers are currently ranked No. 7, while the Trojans are ranked No. 9.
Oregon State hosting a Pac-12 Championship? Duke playing in an ACC football championship?
Mississippi State the new title town of the SEC West?
November 3, 2012 is the day the college football landscape changes in ways unimaginable.