In a week lacking in competitive matchups, only one team (West Virginia) fell from the top 25, and the muddy playoff picture is just as unclear. That will change this week.
Ole Miss-Mississippi State, Navy-Houston, USF-UCF, Alabama-Auburn, Washington State-Washington, Arizona-Arizona State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Ohio State-Michigan, Boise State-Fresno State, West Virginia-Oklahoma, Clemson-South Carolina, Texas A&M-LSU, and Notre Dame-Stanford provide plenty of reasons to turn on the TV this Thanksgiving weekend.
With four rivalry games (the Iron Bowl, The Game, Palmetto Bowl, and Apple Cup) feature a trip by a team with a playoff shot to its competitive rival. In the case of the Iron Bowl, that rival also is in the playoff discussion. Though the SEC West and PAC 12 North are the only Power 5 divisions still to be decided, this weekend provides plenty of intrigue.
Receiving Consideration: South Carolina (8-3), Troy (8-2), Iowa State (7-4), West Virginia (7-4), Wake Forest (7-4), Texas A&M (7-4), San Diego State (9-2), NC State (7-4), Toledo (9-2), and Arizona (7-4)
25. South Florida 9-1 [Last Week: NR, Defeated Tulsa 27-20]—The biggest game between Florida teams this year? Not the Gators v. Seminoles, it’s the battle of Central v. South. Charlie Strong’s team can make a statement with this game.
24. Virginia Tech 8-3 [Last Week: #24, Defeated Pitt 20-14]—After the Cavaliers made it interesting against Miami, could the Hokies have a tough end-of-season contest? Perhaps, but I’m guessing Justin Fuente’s crew will find a way to win.
23. Michigan 8-3 [Last Week: #21, Lost to Wisconsin 24-10]—With a disappointing season for the Wolverines winding down, the Big 10 powers that be will be united in rooting against Michigan as they face Ohio State. Should UM win, the conference would be in great risk of missing the playoff.
22. Boise State 9-2 [Last Week: #23, Defeated Air Force 44-19]—The Broncos have now won 7 straight but can’t afford to overlook a trip to Fresno this week.
21. Oklahoma State 8-3 [Last Week #16, Lost to Kansas State 45-20] —In a week with few top losses, the Cowboys stand out for the wrong reasons. Their Big 12 title hopes vanished with the loss.
20. Stanford 8-3 [Last Week: #20, Defeated Washington 30-22]—A narrow handling of rival Cal sets up an exciting last week for Stanford. With Notre Dame on the horizon, Stanford fans will also become huge Washington fans in the hopes of reaching the PAC 12 title.
19. Northwestern 8-3 [Last Week: #22, Defeated Minnesota 39-0]—After starting off 2-3, the Wildcats are one of the nation’s hottest teams. They should easily handle Illinois this week, and I would not want to see this team in a bowl game.
18. Mississippi State 8-3 [Last Week: #19, Defeated Arkansas 28-21] — It’s highly likely that the Bulldogs just gave the killer blow to Bret Bielema’s tenure at Arkansas. The victory perhaps also sealed Dan Mullen’s status as one of the nation’s most sought after coaches.
17. Washington State 9-2 [Last Week: #18, BYE]— Some deft scheduling gave the Cougars a week off before a significant contest against Washington.
16. LSU 8-3 [Last Week: #17, Defeated Tennessee 30-10]—The Bayou Bengals had no problem against the SEC East program that is about as low as a program can go. A win over Texas A&M to conclude the season would really give Ed O and company something to hang their hat on.
15. Washington 9-2 [Last Week: #15, Defeated Utah 33-30]—In a down year for the Utes, Washington only managed to squeak by. Though not as big as it looked earlier this year, the Washington-Washington State matchup will be one to watch.
14. USC 10-2 [Last Week: #14, Defeated UCLA 28-23]—USC concluded its regular season with another W over UCLA in what has become a very lopsided series. The Trojans are 14-4 since 2000.
13. Penn State 9-2 [Last Week: #12, Defeated Nebraska 56-42]— Saquon Barkley finally put up Heisman-esque numbers as Penn State won a shootout against Nebraska.
12. TCU 9-2 [Last Week: #13, Defeated Texas Tech 27-3]—TCU is now one win- a foregone conclusion- over Baylor from being Texas champions. Then, one win would make them Big 12 champs with a very outside shot at the playoff.
11. Memphis 9-1 [Last Week: #11, Defeated SMU 66-45]— In a shootout, Memphis beat a very solid SMU team. East Carolina is a tune-up ahead of the AAC title game.
10. Notre Dame 9-2 [Last Week: #10, Defeated Navy 24-17]—While Notre Dame is almost certainly out of the playoff picture, the Fighting Irish managed to scrap their way to a slim victory over Navy ahead of the contest against Stanford.
9. Ohio State 9-2 [Last Week: #9, Defeated Illinois 52-14]—Michigan last beat Ohio State in 2011, and this does not look like the Wolverines team to do it. The Buckeyes are not out of the playoff picture yet.
8. UCF 10-0 [Last Week: #8, Defeated Temple 45-19]—With Scott Frost likely Nebraska-bound, UCF fans should enjoy this romp through the American while they can. A big matchup against USF provides intrigue this week.
7. Auburn 9-2 [Last Week: #7, Defeated Louisiana Monroe 42-14]— The Tigers overcame a sluggish start to put away the Warhawks. Auburn needs mistake-free football to beat the Tide.
6. Georgia 10-1 [Last Week: #6, Defeated Kentucky 42-13]— The Dawgs put an embarrassing loss at Auburn behind them. It is tough to imagine Kirby Smart’s team falling to Georgia Tech, the last contest before a matchup either against the coach’s former squad or a rematch with the Tigers.
5. Clemson 10-1 [Last Week: #5, Defeated Citadel 61-3]—The strange loss to Syracuse will not keep the Tigers from the playoff. However, Clemson should never overlook a trip to Columbia, and Miami will be a very difficult foe for the conference title. One thing to consider: could the Committee put a two-loss Auburn team ahead of a two-loss Clemson team?
4. Wisconsin 11-0 [Last Week: #4, Defeated Michigan 24-10]—Regardless of current rankings, Wisconsin has a spot in the playoff if they keep winning. The Badgers should get a win in Minnesota, but Ohio State in the conference title will be a challenge.
3. Oklahoma 10-1 [Last Week: #3, Defeated Kansas 41-3]— Oklahoma still has West Virginia and the Big 12 title game, but they sit in a very strong position heading into the final week of the regular season.
2. Miami 10-0 [Last Week: #2, Defeated Virginia 44-28]—The Hurricanes gave their fans a scare early against the Cavaliers, but they bounced back to preserve a top 49 spot. Only a trip to Pittsburgh and a big game against Clemson stand in the way of Mark Richt returning his alma mater to national prominence.
1. Alabama 11-0 [Last Week: #1, Defeated Mercer 56-0]—As usual, the Tide took care of business against lowly Mercer in a tune-up ahead of a big Iron Bowl.