For college football, Thanksgiving means it’s rivalry week. With multiple ranked matchups over the next two days, rivalry week should provide some more clarity to the College Football Playoff before Championship Saturday next weekend.
*All rankings from the College Football Playoff
#3 Michigan at #2 Ohio State, noon, ABC
The game with the most playoff implications of the weekend is in Columbus as Michigan goes to Ohio State. If Michigan wins the game, they will represent the Big Ten East in the conference championship game. If Ohio State wins they will wait on the results of the Michigan State-Penn State game to learn their fate. Under that circumstance, a Penn State win would send the Nittany Lions to Indianapolis. This is the second matchup between Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh at the two schools, after Ohio State won a 42-13 beat down at the Big House last year. Last week, Ohio State avoided the upset at Michigan State, winning 17-16. Michigan also avoided an upset with a 20-10 win vs Indiana.
Michigan had to bring in a new QB as Wilton Speight was injured in their loss at Iowa. John O’Korn had a rough day in the start, completing 7 of 16 passes for only 59 yards. The Wolverines relied on RB De’Veon Smith in the running game as he had a season high 158 yards to go with a pair of scores. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett also struggled last weekend, held under 100 yards passing for just the second time of the year despite 105 yards rushing. Buckeye RB Mike Weber also enjoyed first 100 yard game since Week 4. The winner of the matchup will likely be in the CFP as Michigan will have the opportunity to play for the Big 10 title with a win. Ohio State could play for the title with a win, but at worst they would be the nation’s highest ranked one-loss team heading into the last week.
#5 Washington at #23 Washington State, Friday at 3:30pm, FOX
The “Apple Cup” this year decides who represents the Pac-12 North in the conference’s championship game. The last time either of the two won the conference was when Washington State shared the crown with Southern California in 2002. The Cougars’ New Year’s Six bowl hopes took a hit last week in Colorado while Washington rebounded from their first loss with a 44-18 win against Arizona State. A fourth straight win for Washington in the rivalry would keep them on track for the playoff.
Washington QB Jake Browning has struggled lately after a solid start. The Huskies QB only had a pair of interceptions until their first loss against Southern Cal. He has thrown two interceptions in each of the last two games. Look for the Huskies to feed RB Myles Gaskin after he put up his fifth 100-yard rushing game last week. They also were given a blueprint by Colorado in stopping Cougar QB Luke Falk. The Buffalo defense held the Cougars to their lowest point total on the season with just 24 points. Entering the matchup as the nation’s leader in completion percentage, Falk was only 26 of 53. He also committed two turnovers for the first time since Oct. 15th against UCLA. With both teams 7-1 in conference play, one half of the Pac-12 title game will be decided on Friday night, the other on Saturday.
#13 Auburn at #1 Alabama, 3:30pm, CBS
Two weeks ago, the 81st meeting of the “Iron Bowl” was setting up to be another SEC West Championship game. That was until an Auburn loss at Georgia crowned Alabama the division champions. Both teams defeated FCS opponents last week in preparation for the game. Alabama has won two in a row over Auburn, winning 29-13 on the road last year. With the defeat at Georgia, if Auburn loses at Alabama, that would make it the third year straight with losses to both of their hated rivals, Georgia and Alabama.
Alabama will take on Florida in the SEC Championship game next week but a defeat to Auburn would put a massive black eye on any championship won after. It will be Alabama’s seventh home game; so far the Tide have given up only 36 points in the previous 6. Alabama has not given up a touchdown since Texas A&M took a 14-13 second half lead in Tuscaloosa during the eighth game of the year. Meanwhile, Auburn has a decision to make a quarterback: Sean White has been dealing with an injury that caused him to miss the first half against Vanderbilt earlier this month. Before the injury, White had Auburn’s offense performing much better. He threw for only 27 yards against Georgia before Jeremy Johnson got the start for the Tigers last week. A big boost for Auburn will be the return of RB Kamryn Pettway. The Tiger RB is expected to make his first start since pulling up on a long run against Vanderbilt. His return will be huge, because if Auburn can’t establish the run, it could be a long afternoon in Tuscaloosa.
#22 Utah at #9 Colorado, 7:30pm, FOX
After knocking off Washington State last week, Colorado looks to wrap up the Pac-12 South with a win over Utah. Moving up to #9 in the rankings, Colorado has a slight chance at making a playoff appearance. The Pac-12 conference will be rooting for the Buffs and Washington; otherwise, the conference championship game could be Washington State against Southern California, both of which are three-loss teams. Utah lost their third game in a home upset to 4-7 Oregon. A touchdown pass with two seconds left doomed the Utes to a 30-28 defeat, knocking them out of the race in the South. Had they avoided the upset, a win over Colorado, coupled with a win over Southern Cal earlier in the year, would have won them the division.
Colorado has ridden a five-game win streak into the playoff conversation. With the best scoring defense in the Pac-12 and a backfield tandem of QB Sefo Liufau and RB Phillip Lindsay, the Buffs will look to control the clock. In the win against Washington State last week, the Buffs won the possession battle by eight minutes as both Liufau and Lindsay ran for over one hundred yards. A win over Utah would allow them to play for their first Pac-12 title and first conference championship since winning the Big 12 in 2001. A loss by Colorado sends Southern California to the Pac-12 title game. The Trojans play Notre Dame this week after finishing Pac-12 play at 7-2. Colorado is 7-1 with a loss to the Trojans.
Other Games To Watch
- NC State at North Carolina, noon, ESPN (UNC clinches berth to ACC title game with win AND Virginia Tech loss)
- #16 Nebraska at Iowa, 3:30, ABC (Nebraska clinches berth to Big 10 title game with Win AND Wisconsin loss)
- Virginia at Virginia Tech, noon, ESPN2 (Virginia Tech clinches ACC title game berth with win OR UNC loss)
- Michigan State at #7 Penn State, 3:30, ESPN (Penn State clinches berth to Big 10 title game with win AND Michigan loss)
- Minnesota at #6 Wisconsin, 3:30, Big Ten Network (Wisconsin clinches berth to Big Ten title game with win OR Nebraska loss. Minnesota win AND Iowa win creates four-way tie in Big 10 West. Wisconsin would win division through tiebreaker)
- #15 Florida at #14 Florida State, 8pm, ABC