The first month of college football brought the unexpected. Preseason College Football Playoff favorites have suffered shocking losses and new contenders have surfaced to the top. A wild September has created many questions for the rest of the college football season with October just around the corner.
Here are six October questions that will alter the college football season.
Will September's surprise teams keep up the pace?
A wild September has a few surprise teams entering October in a position to shake things up.
Wake Forest is at the top of the ACC entering October. Predicted to finish fifth at ACC media day this summer, the Demon Deacons have a great chance to keep their undefeated season going through October. Wake Forest plays Louisville, Syracuse, Army, and Duke in what are all winnable games and could very well be 8-0 entering November.
Baylor is at the top of the Big 12 after taking down an Iowa State team ranked in the top 10 earlier this season. In October, the Bears will play two currently ranked opponents, Oklahoma State and BYU, in addition to competitive teams in West Virginia and Texas. With such a schedule, Baylor can place itself in the national conversation with a few wins.
Elsewhere, Maryland is undefeated entering October. The Terrapins will play Iowa and Ohio State during the first two weekends of the month, respectively. October will show if Maryland can compete at the top of the Big Ten.
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Will anyone in the SEC challenge Alabama or Georgia?
If this is the year that an SEC team competes with Alabama or Georgia, then October will show it. The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs enter October as the top two ranked teams in the nation, respectively, and will get multiple chances to prove that they are deserving of such a status.
Alabama opens the month against a surging Ole Miss team led by dynamic QB Matt Corral on October 2. Following that game, the Crimson Tide will visit College Station to take on Texas A&M on October 9.
Georgia opens the month on October 2 hosting Arkansas, a team that has surged into the top 10. Later in the month, the Bulldogs will visit Auburn on October 9 and Florida on October 30. In total, Georgia plays three currently ranked opponents.
Alabama and Georgia have the chance to send a statement to the rest of the conference by exiting October undefeated. However, if there is a challenger to their dominance in the SEC, it should emerge during October.
Is this the year Penn State takes the next step?
It's been five years since Penn State last won the Big Ten and had a legitimate shot at competing in the College Football Playoff. In 2021, Penn State will enter October ranked fourth in the AP Top 25. Although the AP rankings aren't a reflection of future College Football Playoff rankings, the undefeated Nittany Lions are squarely in a position to make some noise.
However, Penn State has a gauntlet of an October schedule that features road games against currently ranked opponents — Iowa on October 9 and Ohio State on October 30. The Nittany Lions have lost five consecutive regular-season games to teams ranked in the top 15. If Penn State wants to take the next step as a College Football Playoff contender, it will have to take the next step and come away from October unscathed.
Will the ACC miss the College Football Playoff for the first time?
In the seven-year history of the College Football Playoff, a two-loss team has yet to be selected. Also in those seven years, the ACC Champion has been selected as a College Football Playoff participant. October could alter these trends.
The ACC currently has just two undefeated teams remaining in Wake Forest and Boston College. Meanwhile, preseason ACC favorite Clemson enters October with two losses this season, one in conference play.
Clemson and Boston College will meet on October 2; a loss for either hurts the ACC's Playoff hopes. Boston College follows their trip to Death Valley with a home contest against North Carolina State, a team newly-ranked entering October.
The ACC has depth in 2021 as multiple teams can vie for the conference crown. However, when it comes to competing for a national title, October is the month that will make or break the ACC.
Who becomes the Playoff party crasher?
The College Football Playoff has only featured 11 different teams out of 28 potential opportunities. 2021 may be the year that a new team breaks through.
Cincinnati will enter October ranked seventh in the country. The Bearcats will open the month with a top-10 battle against Notre Dame. A win for Cincinnati puts the college football world on notice that it is one of the nation's best teams.
BYU enters October looking to be the second independent team to make the College Football Playoff in its history. The Cougars already have three Pac-12 wins under their belt and will get the chance to add one more in October. BYU also faces Mountain West power Boise State during the month along with current Big 12 leader Baylor. A 9-0 BYU team in November could alter playoff hopes for many across the country.
What contender gets scared on Halloween weekend 2021?
October 30 will mark Week 9 of college football, falling right before Halloween. A holiday built around fears and frights, Halloween weekend may put a scare in some of the nation's best teams and their playoff hopes.
Four games feature two currently ranked teams on October 30, including Georgia at Florida, Ole Miss at Auburn, Michigan at Michigan State, and Penn State at Ohio State. Of these four games, five teams are undefeated entering October, setting the stage for an enticing weekend.
Two teams currently ranked in the top 10 also face difficult tests as Iowa will go on the road to battle rival Wisconsin and Notre Dame will host one of the country's top quarterbacks in North Carolina's Sam Howell.
Halloween weekend is shaping up to be one of the biggest in college football this year. With the first edition of the 2021 College Football Playoff rankings releasing the following week, some of the top teams will be put to the test and try to avoid a scare to end the month.