Games with coaching implications

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  • Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio will lead the Spartans against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday. 

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It’s the first week of November, meaning the final weeks of the college football regular season are here. Divisional games, Top-25 games and MACtion are all on the slate. Realize this: From now on, there will be football every day of the week. Thank you, MACtion. 

But not every game is equal — some will carry more weight than others. With the new playoff system in full swing, every game matters for the teams ranked in the top 10. What makes these games even more interesting is the coaching implications they carry. 

Nov. 8:  No. 14 Ohio State at No. 8 Michigan State

Maybe the Big Ten can secure a playoff spot, as the winner of this weekend’s game is the odds-on favorite to win the conference. 

Ohio State has not forgotten its Big Ten Championship Game loss to the Spartans last December. I doubt Urban Meyer wants to be photographed somberly eating Papa John’s pizza again.

The Buckeyes thrashed Illinois as a tune-up for this weekend’s game. J.T. Barrett has guided the Buckeyes back into contention. But, as everyone knows, the Spartans are no slouches with their fifth-ranked defense and pro-style offense led by Connor Cook. 

This game is also noteworthy because it pits Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman against Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, both of whom are looking more and more likely to lead their own programs sooner rather than later. 

Nov. 8: No. 10 Notre Dame at No. 9 Arizona State

It’s put up or shut up for the Irish. They feel they aren’t getting respect from the College Football Playoff committee because of their schedule. Well, this matchup is time for them to make a case they deserve a playoff spot. This will be only the fourth time these teams meet and the first time since 1982. 

Nov. 15: No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 5 Alabama

Oh boy. Another SEC West meeting with not only playoff implications on the line, but also the SEC West title. If the Bulldogs win out, they’ll be playing in Atlanta. If Alabama wins, it is in first and will have much more on the line during the Iron Bowl against Auburn, a game that is already a big deal.  

Bulldogs’ head coach Dan Mullen name is popping up in the coaching carousel. He has his Bulldogs riding high, but the former Florida offensive coordinator might start hearing his phone ring with offers from the Gators and Michigan for their expected-to-be vacant head coaching jobs. 

Both Alabama coordinators could potentially have new homes in 2015. Kirby Smart — Nick Saban’s right-hand man — has consistently led strong defenses, but his comfy salary may make him balk at head coaching opportunities. But everyone knows Lane Kiffin, the current offensive coordinator, will be itching to lead another program. His stock is rising as the Crimson Tide boast an impressive offense.

Nov. 29: Illinois at Northwestern

No, this isn’t a joke. Depending on how the Illini play their next three games, this game could be Tim Beckman’s last, or it could serve as bowl preparation. I know many alumni would prefer the former, but with Wes Lunt due to return, the Illini still have a chance to achieve bowl eligibility and cool down Beckman’s hot seat. 

Even Pat Fitzgerald’s seat might be sizzling. The Wildcats are 3-5 after missing the postseason last year and now rumors are swirling that Michigan is looking to tap Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips for the same position in Ann Arbor. If Philips goes, Fitzgerald, coach since 2006, may lose his strongest supporter. 

So, buckle up everyone. Here’s to the craziest month of the college football season.

Erik is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @e_prada.