AP Top 25 Picks: Time to whittle field of contenders
Time to start whittling down the field in college football.
November began with 11 undefeated FBS teams, and already one has been knocked off. Northern Illinois upset No. 20 Toledo on Tuesday night.
There were three undefeated teams at this point last season. While that makes this season seem unusual, it's mostly just a function of a back-loaded schedule.
That schedule starts producing huge games this week:
- No. 4 LSU at No. 7 Alabama
- No. 17 Florida State at No. 3 Clemson
- No. 5 TCU at No. 12 Oklahoma State
The Big 12's schedule is so stacked with late-season games matching contenders that even the loser in that undefeated matchup in Stillwater, Oklahoma, could rally, win the Big 12 and reach the playoff.
The losers in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Clemson, South Carolina, probably won't recover.
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
No. 2 Baylor (minus 17) at Kansas State
Bears turn to freshman QB Jarrett Stidham to save their season ... BAYLOR 42-28.
No. 24 Mississippi State (minus 8) at Missouri
Tigers are one of the most imbalanced teams in the nation - sixth nationally in total defense and 126th in total offense ... MISSISSIPPI STATE 20-17.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
No. 23 Temple (minus 13) at SMU
Short week, road game; sets up as a tricky game for the Owls ... UPSET SPECIAL, SMU 35-24.
TRYING TO STAY UNBEATEN
Minnesota (plus 23) at No. 1 Ohio State
No safety net for Buckeyes QB Cardale Jones this week ... OHIO STATE 38-13.
No. 17 Florida State (plus 12 1/2) at No. 3 Clemson
Seminoles have won three straight in what has become one of the best rivalries in the country, but this is the first year the Tigers have the better team ... CLEMSON 27-16.
No. 4 LSU (plus 6 1/2) at No. 7 Alabama
This is the seventh time since 2005 that the Tide and Tigers play with both in the top 10 ... ALABAMA 24-17.
No. 5 TCU (minus 5 1/2) at No. 12 Oklahoma State
The first of what could be several teams reaching 60 points in the Big 12 this month ... TCU 52-49.
No. 6 Michigan State (minus 5) at Nebraska
No. 10 Iowa (minus 7) at Indiana
Two of the three Big Ten unbeatens are on the road. At least one won't be unbeaten after this weekend ... NEBRASKA 28-24; IOWA 30-26.
Navy (plus 8) at No. 15 Memphis
Midshipmen are the American Athletic Conference's forgotten West Division contender ... MEMPHIS 35-24.
Cincinnati (plus 8) at No. 18 Houston
Bearcats QB Gunner Kiel went 15 for 15 for 319 yards and five TDs last week. Pretty good ... HOUSTON 42-35.
No. 8 Notre Dame (minus 9) at Pittsburgh
Fighting Irish last played a regular-season game that kicked off at noon Eastern time on Sept. 24, 2011 - at Pitt ... NOTRE DAME 31-20.
No. 9 Stanford (minus 16) at Colorado
Cardinal lead the Pac-12 in time of possession (34:56) and fourth-down conversions (87.5 percent) ... STANFORD 42-21.
No. 13 Utah (plus 1 1/2) at Washington
Huskies have the top defense in the Pac-12 by yards per play (4.79) ... UTAH 21-17.
Arkansas (plus 11) at No. 19 Mississippi
Razorbacks are last in the SEC in pass defense; Rebels are tops in pass offense ... OLE MISS 36-23.
Duke (plus 7 1/2) at No. 21 North Carolina
If the Tar Heels take care of business, the Coastal is all but theirs - and last week's fiasco in Durham, North Carolina, won't affect the ACC title game ... NORTH CAROLINA 27-16.
Auburn (plus 7 1/2) at No. 25 Texas A&M
Aggies QB Kyler Murray had 379 total yards in first start last week ... BEST BET, TEXAS A&M 38-24.
Vanderbilt (plus 21 1/2) at No. 11 Florida
Gators can clinch the SEC East. Yes, Vandy still has a shot ... FLORIDA 31-7.
Iowa State (plus 26) at No. 14 Oklahoma
Four of the Cyclones five losses are to unbeaten teams ... OKLAHOMA 45-17.
Rutgers (plus 24 1/2) at No. 16 Michigan
Not sure there is enough sleep, whole milk, water and steak to help the Scarlet Knights get past Jim Harbaugh's team ... MICHIGAN 34-7.
No. 22 UCLA (minus 17 1/2) at Oregon State
Beavers upset the Bruins last season ... UCLA 42-14.
California (plus 4) at Oregon - (at)Schrock-And-Awe
Bears have lost three straight and are on the verge of giving away their great start ... OREGON 42-28.
Texas Tech (plus 8) at West Virginia - (at)TDCityWV
Mountaineers looking to snap four-game skid after running the gauntlet of at Oklahoma, at Baylor, Oklahoma State and at TCU ... WEST VIRGINIA 38-33.
South Carolina (plus 17) at Tennessee - (at)ORourkeJonathan
Volunteers are finishing strong ... TENNESSEE 37-14.
Penn State (plus 2 1/2) at Northwestern - (at)DCAbloob
Nittany Lions QB Christian Hackenberg has thrown 12 touchdowns and no INTs past six games ... PENN STATE 20-16.
Ohio (plus 21) at Bowling Green - (at)emarktaylor
Falcons can all but lock up the MAC East title ... BOWLING GREEN 48-24.
Last week's record: 15-5 straight; 4-15 vs. spread.
Overall: 138-46; 88-89-3.
Upset specials: 3-7.
Best bets: 3-5.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org