With the playoffs still two months out, which October NCAAF games are most important?

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Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams leads the USC Marching Band after USC defeat UCLA 48-45 in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams leads the USC Marching Band after USC defeat UCLA 48-45 in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

In college football, you just don’t have to win, you have to win impressively enough to get votes in both polls and eventually to qualify for the playoffs.

There are at least six teams and probably more who have legitimate chances of getting to football’s “Final 4’’ this season after good starts in September. What happens the next month will shorten that number.

Here are five key games in October for the college football world.

Before kickoff, check Action Network for the latest odds.

Oct. 7 Oklahoma at Texas: This was a great game back in the day when Darrell Royal coached Texas and Chuck Fairbanks and Barry Switzer coached Oklahoma. The rivalry hasn’t died but the magnitude of the game has. Until this year. Both the Longhorns and Sooners got off to 4-0 starts with Texas wig a win over Alabama in the process. The winner of this becomes the Big 12 favorite and could punch a ticket to the Final 4.

Oct. 14 Oregon at Washington: The Ducks showed what they were all about when the embarrassed Colorado and Coach Deion Sanders in week four. Here, they take on Washington in a key Pac-12 battle. Six teams in the conference were ranked in the top 20 as the month started with both of these in the top 10. 

Oct. 14 Southern Cal at Notre Dame: One of the best non-conference rivalries in college football has eve greater meaning this season and also features two of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Southern Cal’s Caleb Williams and Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman. The Fighting Irish lost a last-second heartbreaker to Ohio State to take some of the luster off this one, but the Irish would like nothing better than to put a dent in the Trojan’s national title hopes. 

Oct. 21 Penn St. at Ohio St.: The Big 10 figures to be a three-team race between these two and Michigan and the winer likely gets a seat at the Final 4 table. The winner of this will still have to face off against the Wolverines, but the loser will be in trouble as far as the playoffs go. Expect a great defensive battle in this one.  

Oct. 21 Duke at Florida St.: The Seminoles are back. Florida State established itself as a national power with an opening-night win over LSU and then beat Clemson at Clemson to take over the top spot in the ACC. Duke, however, might be the ‘Noles toughest remaining foe. The Blue Devils handled Clemson a lot easier than Florida State did and the under the radar Durham team will be looking for another road upset in this one.