College football games to watch: Texas A&M-Alabama is prelude to packed night

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Alabama and Texas A&M play the biggest game of the day on this Saturday, but the night window is full of good games.

College football's gradual shift of its greatest games from Saturday afternoon to Saturday evening has rarely seemed as stark as it does on this Saturday. After only a few must-see games kick off early in Week 11, Saturday night's TV schedule is loaded with four or five games deserving of minutes of your time. But the day's best game, as is often the case, is an SEC showdown at 3:30 on CBS. As always, Control Your Remote has you covered on what to watch.


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Your guide to the guide: First Choice means this is a must-see game in that block; Last Button Option means you should have that "last" or "return" button on your remote ready to flick back during commercials; Know The (Channel) Numbers runs down games you'll want to find when Twitter tells you something nutty happened.


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Early Block (noon to 3 p.m. Eastern)


First Choice: Northwestern vs. Michigan (noon, ESPN). One of a only a few games between two teams with winning records, this one is a must-win for both teams in the Big Ten Championship Game race. Denard Robinson's senior year has been underwhelming compared to past brilliance, but he's still a dynamic player who can make a highlight happen on any play, and the Wildcats' bizarre offense (Kain Colter is second on the team in passing and rushing and fifth in receiving) has scored 21 or more points in every game this year.

Last Button Option: Iowa State vs. Texas (noon, Longhorn Network). The Longhorns try to keep their very faint Big 12 title hopes alive, and fend off an Iowa State squad that has hovered near the lower reaches of the top 25 all year. It's a shame that this one's not more widely available, especially given the competition in the time slot, but that's the peril of the Longhorn Network.

Know The (Channel) Numbers: Louisville vs. Syracuse (noon, ABC): Cardinals shoot for 10-0 in the Carrier Dome; Arkansas vs. South Carolina (noon, CBS): potential showdown diminished by both teams' rugged schedules and injuries; UL Lafayette vs. Florida (12:21 p.m., SEC Network): the Gators have one of the nation's worst passing games, and the Ragin Cajuns have one of the nation's worst pass defenses, so if you like movable object vs. resistible force, this is your game.


Late Afternoon Block (3 to 7 p.m. Eastern)


First Choice: Texas A&M vs. Alabama (3:30 p.m., CBS). Alabama doesn't lose football games very often under Nick Saban, and when it does, at least one of two things usually happens: 1) Alabama loses or is stalemated in the turnover battle (true of every 'Bama loss dating to 2010); 2) a mobile quarterback makes Alabama's defense vulnerable in certain spots (true of every 'Bama loss dating to 2010, despite Stephen Garcia and Jordan Jefferson being among those mobile quarterbacks). Texas A&M certainly could have the latter in dynamo Johnny "Football" Manziel, but the Aggies haven't had a positive turnover margin in a game since September, which bodes ill.

Last Button Options: Oregon State vs. Stanford (3 p.m., FOX). It's a contest for second place in the Pac-12, and will provide clarity on whether Stanford's going to ebb back to the margins of the top 25 without a transcendent player like Andrew Luck or remain a force to be reckoned with on the West Coast and on whether Oregon State has the talent to be one of the nation's top 10 teams in 2012.

Baylor vs. Oklahoma (3:30 p.m., FSN). The Sooners look for revenge after Robert Griffin III torched them in 2011, while the Bears look to win their second game against Oklahoma ... ever. The Bears are 1-20 against the Sooners, and 1-15 since 1996.

Know The Number: Maryland vs. Clemson (3:30 p.m., ESPNU): in case the Terps have to play a lineman at quarterback; Arizona State vs. USC (3 p.m., Pac-12 Network): Trojans staring a five-loss season in the face with a loss here, and may play Heisman candidate Marqise Lee at defensive back because Lane Kiffin is insane; West Virginia vs. Oklahoma State (ABC/ESPN2): POINTS!

Evening Block (7 to 11 p.m. Eastern)

First Choice: Kansas State vs. TCU (7 p.m., FOX). If you want Kansas State to lose, this is your best chance to see it happen: it's still unclear if Collin Klein will be ready to go for the Wildcats on Saturday night in Fort Worth, and K-State's offense is so heavily reliant on the run-pass threat he brings that scoring could be tough, even against a defense that has given up 130 points in the last three weeks. But the Wildcats have a damn good defense, too, and so TCU is a heavy underdog whether or not Klein plays.

Last Button Option: Mississippi State vs. LSU (7 p.m., ESPN). LSU played its best game since 2011 in nearly upsetting Alabama last week, and the Tigers have every reason to treat the reeling Bulldogs, recipients of 38-7 and 38-13 thumpings over the last two weeks, like a team that plays letdown games would. But LSU figuring it out is more likely, I think, and the fans in Death Valley tend to get that team amped for even lesser foes at night.

Georgia vs. Auburn (7 p.m., ESPN2). Gene Chizik is either as good as gone or coaching for his job, depending on which message boards you read, but Auburn's annual rivalry with Georgia, the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, is a good one, and the Tigers have nothing to lose. With a win, the Bulldogs will head to the SEC Championship Game, and tie the all-time series, at 54-54-8, for the first time since 1987.

Know The (Channel) Numbers: Notre Dame vs. Boston College (8 p.m., NBC): Irish likely had their sleepwalking stumble last week against Pittsburgh; Louisiana Tech vs. Texas State (7 p.m., Longhorn Network): another good game hidden from the masses.

Late Night Block (10 p.m. Eastern onward)

First Choice: Oregon vs. California (10:30 p.m., ESPN). Cal has lost three straight and its only good win is over UCLA, so this should be another Oregon steamrolling.

Last Button Option: UCLA vs. Washington State (10:30 p.m., ESPN2). UCLA finally looks like a competent team again under Jim Mora Jr., and Wazzu appears to be in complete disarray in its first season under Mike Leach. So, yes, this is ripe for an inexplicable Pac-12 upset.

Check the national college football scoreboard right here, and look through SB Nation's many excellent college football blogs to find your team's community.

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