Hey Miami: Whatchugot?
Dear Washington: Quack.
To the SEC: Who wants Bama?
With less than a month until the College Football Playoff selection committee releases its first ranking on Nov. 1, there are still plenty of questions looming for the nation's top contenders. One week after Clemson and Louisville delivered an Atlantic Division answer with an instant classic, Week 6 features four games between ranked opponents, including one undefeated top-10 showdown in the SEC in No. 9 Tennessee at No. 8 Texas A&M.
This sport now embraces the No. 4. Four teams in the playoff. Four big games this week, and four burning questions facing each of them:
No. 9 Tennessee at No. 8 Texas A&M (3:30 pm. ET, CBS)
Burning question: Who will be Alabama's key challenger?
Both are undefeated with a shot to dethrone the Tide. This is Tennessee's first game against back-to-back SEC heavyweights, as the Vols will face Alabama next Saturday. ESPN's Football Power Index considers this the toughest stretch of the season for Tennessee, giving it an 11 percent chance to win its next two games. The Vols haven't won three straight games against ranked opponents since 1991. A win over the Aggies would prove that Tennessee hasn't just made a statement in the East; it's ready to contend with the Best of the West, too. The Vols are on the fast track to win the East division, which means that even if they lose to Alabama during the regular season, they could get another shot at the defending national champs in the SEC title game -- unless, of course, A&M proves worthy of winning the West. Since Texas A&M hired Kevin Sumlin, though, the Aggies are 1-5 at home against ranked opponents.
No. 5 Washington at Oregon (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
Burning question: Can the Huskies handle success and follow a big win by beating their rival?
Washington stated its case as a playoff contender last week when it bullied Stanford in all three phases of the game, but that moment will be fleeting if it loses to Oregon -- again. The Ducks' 12-game winning streak against the Huskies is the longest by either team in the 108-game history of the series. It's also the longest active win streak by Oregon against any Pac-12 team. Washington has separated itself not just as the team to beat in the North, but as the league's best hope at a playoff contender. It has to be careful, though, because its nonconference schedule will be called into question by the selection committee. According to ESPN's Stats & Information, the Huskies' wins against Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State are good for the 127th nonconference schedule in the country -- ahead of only Baylor. Washington can lose a game and still get to the Pac-12 championship, but its overall resume doesn't have much wiggle room when it comes to the top four. The Huskies have to keep looking like a top four team -- especially against a beleaguered Oregon team that's 0-2 in conference play and riding a three-game losing streak.
No. 23 Florida State at No. 10 Miami (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Burning Question: Is Miami for real?
The Hurricanes have snuck into the Associated Press top 10 after wins against Florida A&M (1-4), FAU (1-4), Appalachian State (3-2) and Georgia Tech (3-2). That's one win against a Power 5 opponent with a winning record. It's no wonder they're one of two FBS teams that haven't trailed yet this season, along with Boise State. Miami is playing well under first-year coach Mark Richt, and the Canes look good enough to contend for the ACC's Coastal Division, but this will be their toughest test to date -- and it's against a Florida State team that's off to its first 0-2 start in league play since 2011. This is the start of a season-defining stretch for Miami, which then faces No. 17 North Carolina and No. 25 Virginia Tech. Miami can help legitimize its ranking with a home win against rival Florida State, but it will certainly need more to impress the selection committee.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 16 Arkansas (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Burning question: Can the Tide handle its season-defining stretch?
Alabama answered one of its biggest questions already when it won at Ole Miss on Sept. 17, knocking off the only SEC team that had been able to beat the Tide in each of the past two seasons. This, though, could get a little tricky -- even for the King. Three of the next four games are on the road against ranked opponents, starting on Saturday in Fayetteville, Arkansas, followed by a trip to Tennessee. Alabama returns home on Oct. 22 against Texas A&M, and then has a bye week before traveling to LSU. If Alabama can survive that stretch, there's no question it's one of the four best teams in the country. Arkansas hasn't been a problem in the past, as Alabama has won nine straight in the series. Since joining the SEC in 1992, Arkansas is 1-10 vs. AP No. 1 with its only win in that stretch coming at LSU in 2007.
Week 6 superlatives
Most intriguing mascot battle: Big Al vs. Big Red.
The elephant vs. the hog. Alabama has the size advantage, but the razorback is faster (no really, look it up).
Upset watch: Texas vs. Oklahoma.
An unranked Texas team has beaten a ranked Oklahoma team in six of the past eight meetings. Texas coach Charlie Strong has made defensive changes after losing two straight, but will it be enough to derail the Sooners?
CAN-miss game: No. 4 Michigan at Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights are trying to recover from back-to-back losses, and this will be their second straight game against a top five opponent after losing 58-0 at Ohio State last week.
Player in the spotlight: Arkansas QB Austin Allen.
He's had 10 passing touchdowns and no interceptions since the season opener against Louisiana Tech. Limiting the turnovers will be key against an Alabama defense that has an FBS-high five defensive touchdowns this season.
Matchup to watch: Texas A&M defensive line vs. Tennessee offensive line.
The Vols' pass protection has improved in each of the past two games, but they haven't faced anyone as good as Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall yet. Hall had two sacks against South Carolina last week when Garrett was out with an injury.
Under the radar: Maryland.
The Terps have quietly gotten off to a 4-0 start, but have split the series and played it close against Penn State since joining the Big Ten, as both games have been decided by a point.
Must-win game: Houston at Navy.
Both teams are undefeated in conference play, and the Midshipmen have won 12 straight home games dating back to 2014. Navy is trying to rebound from a disappointing loss to Air Force, while Houston has no margin for error if it wants a shot at the top four.
Don't forget about: No. 25 Virginia Tech at No. 17 North Carolina.
The Tar Heels have reeled off four straight wins since losing their season opener to Georgia, and are surging after an upset of Florida State in Tallahassee. This game will help sort out the Coastal Division standings and determine who will be Miami's top challenger.