College football’s biggest November storylines, by conference

first_imgMORE: LSU in envious Playoff position after win over AuburnSEC: Will LSU and Alabama both get in?We have the stage for a regular-season “Game of the Century” on Nov. 9 between undefeated LSU and Alabama — the first of its kind since the two teams met in a 9-6 fistfight in 2011. With LSU’s Joe Burrow — and hopefully Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa — the best-case scenario for both teams is to live up to the game of the year billing in a shootout where both quarterbacks shine. The winner goes on to win the SEC championship. The loser has the best 11-1 record in the country and snags the final Playoff spot. Don’t think it can happen? The BCS found a way to squeeze Oklahoma State out in 2011 to let the Crimson Tide and Tigers play in a second rock fight. Alabama got in without winning its division again in 2017. The Tide won the national championship in both seasons. There’s no reason to suggest it can’t happen again, with some help.Group of 5: App State or SMU? Take your pickAppalachian State and SMU are the lone unbeaten teams among the Group of 5, and either one would generate an intriguing storyline with an unbeaten season. The Mountaineers, of course, made the climb from FCS powerhouse to Sun Belt champion, and this would be their biggest stage since beating Michigan at The Big House since 2007. Could App State pull the same trick in a New Year’s Day 6 bowl against an SEC powerhouse? SMU has a tougher road in the American Athletic Conference and would have the inside track with an unbeaten season. The Mustangs — the only program in FBS history to be given the “Death Penalty” — would be back on that stage for the first time since the “Pony Express.” Sonny Dykes might get another shot in the Power 5 as a result. This would be a redemption story worth following. MORE: SN Week 10 college football rankingsDon’t just assume the chalk will hold throughout November; Oklahoma’s shocking 48-41 loss to Kansas State on Saturday proved that anything can happen.With that, looking at the biggest storyline for each of the Power 5 conferences — and Group of 5 — heading into November.ACC: Will Clemson avoid disaster?Imagine being the defending national champion — one that happens to be on a 23-game win streak — and still being held to an undefeated-or-else-standard with the rest of the FBS. That is the predicament for Clemson, and that’s mostly a byproduct of a conference that can’t cobble together a worthy challenger out of the ACC Coastal. The Tigers must mow through Wofford, N.C. State, Wake Forest and South Carolina — which pulled an upset against Georgia — before the ACC championship against what could be a three-, four- or five-loss Coastal champion. Clemson has no choice but to run that winning streak up to 28 if it wants to be guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma’s loss certainly helped. Speaking of the Big 12. …Big 12: Can Baylor (yes, Baylor) carry the banner?Oklahoma’s 48-41 loss to Kansas State was devastating for the conference’s Playoff hopes. Even if the Sooners were to run the table from here on out, would that be enough to make the committee forget it was once down 48-23 to the Wildcats? It’s not an easy question to answer. Preseason darling Texas has three losses, so the possibility of the Sooners and Longhorns having a rematch in the Big 12 championship game doesn’t have as much shine as last season. That leaves Baylor as the lone unbeaten team in the conference, and the Bears face the Sooners and Longhorns in the final month of the season. If Baylor was able to sweep those two and win the Big 12 championship, then would the committee be willing to turn away an unbeaten Power 5 conference team? Remember, the Bears finished No. 5 in 2014 with one loss.MORE: Week 10 College Football Playoff pictureBig Ten: Will Ohio State close the deal?The Buckeyes have a strong case to the No. 1 team in the country right now. Ohio State is the only team with a point differential better than 300 after outscoring its opponents 386-63. They have three viable Heisman candidates among Justin Fields, J.K. Dobbins and Chase Young, and Ryan Day has yet to lose a game as head coach. The Buckeyes also have two huge games to keep that focus with Penn State and Michigan in the final two weeks of the season. Urban Meyer was 13-1 against those teams, and those will be the big-money games for Day. Ohio State has been left out of the Playoff each of the last two seasons with one loss. This team knows that, and there are no indications it will place itself in a similar scenario. If the Buckeyes finish 13-0, then there is a decent chance they will be the No.1 seed in the final College Football Playoff rankings.Pac-12: What’s the fallout from Oregon-USC?The biggest game remaining on the Pac-12 schedule is Oregon at USC on Saturday. The Ducks remain the conference’s best bet to claw back into the Playoff argument, and the regular-season matchup against a reeling USC is their best remaining game. Oregon needs to win that one, and by a lot, before running the table and beating Utah in the Pac-12 championship game. As for USC: Could Clay Helton beat Oregon and Utah to take the conference’s Playoff hopes with him if the Trojans show him the door? It would prove the national narrative on the conference remains a talking point for another season. October is in the books, and there are five November weeks left in the college football season. Those five weeks will shape the course of the conference championship and College Football Playoff hunts, and the anticipation is building toward the first unveiling of Playoff rankings on Nov. 5.That said, each Power 5 conference faces at least one question that, for better or worse, will be answered heading into the final leg of the season.last_img read more

3 days in Nashville — with your mom

first_imgNASHVILLE, Tenn. | I’ve always wanted to have a mini-reunion in Nashville with my college girlfriends.I imagined hanging out at honky-tonk bars like the famous Tootsie’s Orchard Lounge, listening to country music and meandering along Music Row. Instead, I found myself in Tennessee’s capital city with my 90-year-old mom and my sister.Was it a drag? Far from it. The three nights we spent here turned out to be lots of fun as we experienced the different personalities of this Southern city, from its eclectic foodie culture to its rich history. My mom is very mobile and has the spunk of a 65-year-old. Still, I took plenty of precautions, did some pre-planning and focused on a few major sites. We needed to pace ourselves — and leave time for naps and coffee breaks. FILE – This April 13, 2009, file photo, shows the lobby of the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) FILE – This Jan. 7, 2015, file photo, shows the exterior of The Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson, in Nashville, Tenn. Many of Jackson’s belongings have been meticulously preserved, including original furnishings, wallpaper, clothing, swords and even a carriage. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) FILE – In this April 10, 2014, file photo, people look at exhibits at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) FILE – In this May 1, 2013, file photo, people visit the the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) This Sept. 14, 2016 photo provided by Anne D’Innocenzio shows Donna Burke, left, Associated Press writer Anne D’Innocenzio, center, and her mother Marie D’Innocenzio, standing for a photo outside The Standard at The Smith House in Nashville, Tenn. (Anne D’Innocenzio via AP) FILE – In this April 13, 2009, file photo, people walk by the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) FILE – In this June 8, 2015, file photo, pedestrians pass by the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) We stayed at a hotel close to some key attractions but away from noisy downtown bars. And we tried to avoid noisy restaurants as my mom is hearing-impaired. We also found a friendly cabdriver who took us from place to place. Better to have my mom use her energy visiting tourist spots rather than tiring herself out getting around. We also chose fall for a visit rather than summer so we didn’t have to deal with sweltering heat. And we went during the week, not a weekend, to avoid bachelorette parties — which have become a huge trend in Nashville — and other celebrations.Here are some highlights.LODGINGI wanted to stay within walking distance to places like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the historic Ryman Auditorium. I also wanted a hotel with lots of amenities for my mom. So I booked a room at The Hermitage, a five-star, century-old hotel in downtown Nashville. Our September rate was a good one: two queen beds, $349, and we split it three ways. The Hermitage staff was extremely gracious, went out of their way to book dinner reservations and even got us great seats at the Grand Ole Opry.FOODI wanted us to try different types of restaurants. Our first meal in Nashville was lunch at Puckett’s, a few blocks from our hotel. It had a quaint general-store feel and offered tasty traditional Southern food like pulled pork and macaroni and cheese — and it was cheap, $40 for the three of us. But the highlight of our culinary adventures was The Standard at The Smith House, a townhouse built in the 1840s. The restaurant serves more upscale Southern fare — I had blackened sea bass with mashed potatoes and caramelized corn. And we shared an order of grits.MUSICYou can find music in Nashville anywhere, anytime. But I didn’t want to tire out my mom. So we focused on getting tickets to an evening concert at the Grand Ole Opry, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. It was delightful, featuring a lineup of performers like Montgomery Gentry and Old Dominion. But make sure to arrange for a cab or a car service to pick you up after if you are not driving. The line for a cab is long. For the winter season beginning Nov. 1, Opry concerts are held at the Ryman Auditorium, which some fans think is an even better venue.HISTORYFrom country music to the Civil War, Nashville has a lot of history. But we had to be selective. A must-see: the Country Music Hall of Fame, which features a vast collection of video clips, instruments and costumes from stars across the decades. From Roy Rogers, who started his career as an old-timey yodeling cowboy, to Taylor Swift, a Nashville darling before she became a pop megastar, the museum takes you from its folk roots to its contemporary glitz.Another hot attraction: the backstage tour of the Ryman Auditorium, nicknamed “the mother church of country music” because of its origins as a church and as the original location for the Grand Ole Opry radio broadcast and show. We visited dressing rooms dedicated to stars like Minnie Pearl and spent time in the wooden pews.Then there’s the Hermitage plantation, a 25-minute drive from downtown. President Andrew Jackson owned the property from 1804 until his death there in 1845. Carve out a half day as you’ll need time to tour the stunning main house and walk the grounds. A horse-and-wagon ride allowed my mom to actually see all of the grounds without walking too far.On our final day, we visited the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library, which features videos, photographs and various displays of highlights of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.Of course, it would have been great to visit the historic Belle Meade plantation too, and honky-tonk bars like Tootsie’s. But I’m saving that for another trip. I want to go with my girlfriends, but my mom wants to go back too.Follow Anne D’Innocenzio read more