Neither Alabama nor Clemson would be featured in the College Football Playoff if the season ended before Saturday’s games, a mind-blowing byproduct of the season’s relative zaniness. Whether that stays true remains to be seen — Nick Saban seeks out the playoff like water seeks its own level — but the early returns are promising, and Saturday’s sleepy slate of games could continue us down a path of chaotic enlightenment (or enlightened chaos, take your pick).

Time
Game
TV
Noon
Central Florida at No. 3 Cincinnati
ABC
Noon
No. 12 Oklahoma State at No. 25 Texas
Fox
Noon
Auburn at No. 17 Arkansas
CBS
Noon
No. 20 Florida at LSU
ESPN
Noon
Nebraska at Minnesota
ESPN2
Noon
Tulsa at South Florida
ESPNU
Noon
No. 21 Texas A&M at Missouri
SEC Network
Noon
Rutgers at Northwestern
Big Ten Network
Noon
Yale at Connecticut
CBS Sports Network
Noon
No. 10 Michigan State at Indiana
Fox Sports 1
12:30
Duke at Virginia
MASN
2
James Madison at Richmond
NBC Sports Washington
3:30
No. 11 Kentucky at No. 1 Georgia
CBS
3:30
Purdue at No. 2 Iowa
ABC
3:30
No. 19 BYU at Baylor
ESPN
3:30
Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech
ESPN2
3:30
Kent State at Western Michigan
ESPNU
3:30
Miami at North Carolina
ACC Network
3:30
Toledo at Central Michigan
CBS Sports Network
3:30
Arizona at Colorado
Pac-12 Network
3:30
Fresno State at Wyoming
Fox Sports 2
4
Vanderbilt at South Carolina
SEC Network
7
No. 5 Alabama at Mississippi State
ESPN
7
Utah State at UNLV
CBS Sports Network
7:30
TCU at No. 4 Oklahoma
ABC
7:30
No. 13 Mississippi at Tennessee
SEC Network
7:30
No. 22 North Carolina State at Boston College
ACC Network
7:30
Iowa State at Kansas State
ESPN2
7:30
Stanford at Washington State
ESPNU
8
Army at Wisconsin
Big Ten Network
8:30
UCLA at Washington
Fox
9
Air Force at Boise State
Fox Sports 1
10
No. 18 Arizona State at Utah
ESPN
10:30
Hawaii at Nevada
CBS Sports Network

Oklahoma State hasn’t exactly been dominant this season. The Cowboys opened by letting Missouri State of the Football Championship Subdivision hang around in a seven-point win, and their biggest margin of victory has been 11 points over Kansas State on Sept. 25. But unbeaten is unbeaten, and the 5-0 Cowboys have ascended to No. 12 in the rankings (it’s the 14th straight season Oklahoma State has been ranked, an active streak topped by only nine other Football Bowl Subdivision programs). The Cowboys’ game at Texas might be a matchup of the Big 12’s best defense (Oklahoma State has allowed only three passing touchdowns, and only four teams have allowed fewer scrimmage plays of 10-plus yards) vs. the conference’s best offense (the Longhorns are averaging 50 points in Big 12 play). Defensively it’s a far different story for the Longhorns, who are coming off a massive collapse against Oklahoma. Texas led 28-7 after the first quarter and 41-23 with 2:45 left in the third quarter before it surrendered 25 consecutive points in the 55-48 loss. …

Featuring the lone unbeatens in the SEC East, Georgia-Kentucky probably will go a long way toward determining that division’s representative in the conference title game in December (though both teams still must play one-loss Tennessee). Three years ago, Mark Stoops’s Wildcats had crept up the rankings to No. 11 and were 7-1 entering their meeting with the then-No. 6 Bulldogs. The end result was dispiriting for Kentucky — a 34-17 loss that wasn’t as close as the score indicated — but it echoes the situation this year, with the No. 11 Wildcats also starting the season unranked but steadily moving up the top 25 thanks to their first 6-0 record since the Bear Bryant-coached team of 1950. The difference this year is Georgia’s smothering defense: The Bulldogs, who are No. 1 in a midseason AP top 25 for the first time since 1982, have allowed only 33 points through six games. Kentucky’s defense has been similarly stout on paper, allowing 17.5 points per game (tied for 19th nationally) and 4.61 yards per play (15th), but the Wildcats put up only 36 combined points in wins over South Carolina and Florida, the two best defenses they have faced this season. Georgia is on a different level than those two teams. …

Since the start of the 2011 season, Alabama has lost only six games in the middle of a regular season (in other words, regular season games that aren’t the annual Iron Bowl finale vs. Auburn). Twice its next opponent after one of those losses was Mississippi State, and that’s the case again Saturday when the Crimson Tide visits the Bulldogs one week after falling flat at Texas A&M. Both of those previous games likewise were in Starkville, and Alabama rebounded from its losses fairly easily each time (a 24-7 win in 2011 and a 38-7 victory in 2019). The Crimson Tide last lost consecutive regular season games in 2007, which was Coach Nick Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa, but now it gets a Mississippi State team that, unlike Alabama, beat Texas A&M in College Station and is coming off its bye week. … TCU won 10 or more games in 12 of 18 seasons from 2000 to 2017 but has been mostly mediocre of late, with a 21-19 record over the past three-plus seasons. The Horned Frogs are 3-2 this year and will need a win over Oklahoma to escape the Big 12′s mushy middle. Sooners Coach Lincoln Riley wouldn’t commit to a starting quarterback after Caleb Williams replaced Spencer Rattler vs. Texas last weekend and rallied Oklahoma to victory, but Williams was spotted by binoculars-clad OU Daily reporters taking first-team reps at practice this week.