Michigan at Michigan State Blake Corum

It has been difficult to cover college football this year. Mostly because college football has so frequently not been the main subject on the beat. Realignment, court battles, scandals du jour -- hazing, sexual harassment, Connor Freakin' Stalions.

And that's just in the Big Ten.

College football the game remains an underdog in the daily sports news stream, but it's attempting an upset as the season winds down. Tradition dictates it be a November to remember. This is the month those games just mean more. In the name of Gary Danielson, let's hope so.

But as No. 3 Michigan arrives at No. 11 Penn State, there is something else to consider: a clash of Stalions and studs. The Wolverines -- those on the field -- are the studs given their on-field excellence.

The nationwide chatter reflects the fundamental ridiculousness of the Michigan scandal. It didn't have to be this way. Everybody does it? Well, apparently not to the degree being alleged at Michigan.

Can't we just play football? Not exactly when Michigan's results are tainted in some folks' minds.

But we should all agree: Whether Michigan cheated should not be the main debate entering Saturday's showdown at Penn State. The Wolverines are good. It would be nice to have a rationale debate about their strength of schedule and position in the College Football Playoff Rankings.

That's going to be tough. Whether Stalions and/or coach Jim Harbaugh put their thumbs on the scale should matter less than this being Harbaugh's best team in nine years at Michigan. It probably won't. That's the tragedy of this entire mess.

And it's why the Wolverines enter Saturday's game as a focal point of ire beyond Happy Valley.

"If someone thinks we're the villain, I'm fine being the villain," Michigan offensive lineman Zak Zinter said this week. "Sometimes, the villain wins and takes down the superhero. If that's going to be the case, let's be the villain and let's take them down, so I'm fine being the villain if that's how the media and everyone else sees it outside the building." 

The problem, Zak, is sorting out the villains and superheroes. There is a football game to be played. A Penn State win could damage Michigan's Big Ten/CFP chances significantly. It could also create the possibility of a mind-bending three-way tie in the Big Ten East.

That tie would eventually be broken. The scandal surrounding it won't go away.

Please, just make it a November to remember for all the right reasons -- starting with football.

Week 11 storylines

Don't know if anyone else noticed ... but if this were 2024, teams from the SEC and Big Ten would hold seven of the top 10 spots in the CFP Rankings this week. The Big Ten alone would have four of the top six spots counting No. 5 Washington and No. 6 Oregon. Did someone say something about parity?

No. 2 Georgia may pick up the equivalent of a highly coveted free agent. Injured All-American tight end Brock Bowers could play in Saturday's showdown with No. 9 Ole Miss. Bowers has missed the last two games with a high-ankle sprain. Just when you thought the Bulldogs were vulnerable (not), they get back their Heisman Trophy candidate pass catcher for the stretch run.

How we treat this any different than the Missouri game is a question. The Tigers were 0-17 all-time against No. 1; Ole Miss is 0-14. A Georgia win should get the Dawgs, already No. 1 in the AP Top 25, to No. 1 in next week's CFP Rankings. An Ole Miss win would make Lane Kiffin the king of Twitter. Wait, that's already happened.

Miami-Florida State used to be big. We say this will all due respect of one of the great rivalries in sports. But this rivalry was so good before both teams were in the ACC that ABC moved the game to Labor Day night in 2004 to celebrate the newly expanded league. It was the ACC's signature game and stood as such for years. No so much anymore. No. 4 Florida State is a two-touchdown favorite to stay undefeated. Miami is still trying to figure things out. The Mario Cristobal rebuild will enter Year 3 looking to the future. The Hurricanes are No. 12 in 247Sports' recruiting rankings for 2024. Ten of Cristobal's 25 commits are four-star prospects.

There is a reckoning (possibly) coming at No. 7 Texaswhich travels to TCU. Basically, will both Arch Manning and Maalik Murphy stay with the team for 2024? Quinn Ewers returns this week, but has Murphy distinguished himself enough to have a leg up on Manning next season? The intent was for Manning to basically redshirt in 2023 and have the job sitting there for him in 2024 when Ewers leaves. But if Murphy makes enough of an impression to create a competition for '24, does Manning stay or -- heresy! -- go somewhere he can play right away? And if the job is basically guaranteed to Manning after he didn't take a snap in 2023, does Murphy bolt? The transfer portal is a strange, mysterious place.

There is an entire network devoted to the SEC and, one could argue, Alabama specifically. Before we discuss No. 8 Alabama (at Kentucky) getting to the CFP, we first have to have a discussion about Texas. The Longhorns' Sept. 9 win at the Crimson Tide remains arguably the most significant of the season. If they both win their conferences and finish with the same record (12-1), doesn't Texas have to be ranked ahead of Alabama because of that monster win?

Speaking of Bama: While you weren't paying attention, the Crimson Tide got really good. They can clinch the SEC West with a win Saturday still three weeks removed from the SEC Championship Game. How did it happen? Jalen Milroe stopped turning the ball over and started running confidently with the defense stepping up. Statistically, this Nick Saban's worst defense in a full season (not counting 2020) year since 2014. It doesn't look like it now. Saturday will be a good day to clinch. Kentucky quarterback Devin Leary has been underwhelming, the Wildcats has won twice in 41 meetings and the Tide are peaking. Get out the champagne. 

The post-Alex Grinch era for USC begins on the road with No. 6 Oregon standing as a 14.5-point favorite. If that spread holds, it would be the largest the Trojans have faced since 2011. That year, they were 15-point underdogs before Kiffin led bowl-banned USC to a 38-35 upset in Autzen Stadium. Afterward, Kiffin sat casually on an equipment cart outside the locker room and proclaimed, "Nick Saban owes me a 'thank you' card." The result knocked Oregon -- No. 4 in the BCS, one spot behind Bama -- down significantly. You may recall Saban won his second national championship at Alabama that year. Only twice has USC been more than a 13-point underdog since 1999.

No. 13 Tennessee still has a slight chance left in the SEC East. Mostly, the trip to No. 14 Missouri (3:30 p.m. ET on CBS) means a New Year's Six berth remains possible for the winner.

One of the biggest head-scratching decisions of the season has definition. This fine piece from 247Sports' Brandon Marcello concludes Sean Lewis' demotion as Colorado's offensive coordinator was "laughable." Deion Sanders tries to break a three-game losing streak at home against No. 21 Arizona.

Quick kicks

Those Wildcats are one of only three FBS teams to beat three ranked opponents this season. The others: Alabama and Texas … is Dave Aranda in trouble at Baylor? Since winning the Big 12 two years ago and finishing 12-2, the Bears are 9-16 overall, 3-10 in their last 13 games and only 1-6 at home this season …  one of the jaw-dropping realities of Texas A&M (hosting Mississippi State) at the moment: The Aggies haven't beaten a ranked team on the road since 2014 … No. 18 Utah is seeking its second road win against a top-10 opponent (No. 5 Washington) since 1961