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CFB Playoff Scenarios: How Week 7 will impact playoff race

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Every Thursday during the season, we'll take a look at the big game(s) during the upcoming weekend that will have the biggest impact on the playoff chase.

Last week was "Armageddon Saturday" in the SEC West. Because of the results last week, this Saturday's best division game should have a huge bearing on the College Football Playoff.

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Auburn travels to Mississippi State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) in the weekend's best game, and both teams are 5-0 overall and 2-0 in SEC play. Auburn has a healthy advantage in the series (61-24-1) and has won five of the past six between the teams. But three of the past four meetings have come down to the final drive; last season, Auburn won 24-20 on an 11-yard TD pass with 10 seconds left -- one of numerous narrow escapes for the Tigers on their way to the BCS national championship game.

The contest features the two best quarterbacks in the SEC in Auburn's Nick Marshall and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, who has zoomed into the Heisman discussion. Prescott is averaging 335.6 yards of total offense per game and has accounted for 19 touchdowns. Marshall, who has more skill-position help than Prescott, particularly at wide receiver, is averaging 229.4 yards and has accounted for 12 TDs.

Statistically, Auburn has the far superior defense overall (the Tigers are allowing about 120 fewer yards per game than the Bulldogs). But Mississippi State has been excellent against the run (just 98.2 yards per game, and only two rushing TDs allowed), and Auburn would much rather run than throw.

Mississippi State's secondary has shown some vulnerability, and that should please Marshall (and coach Gus Malzahn). Wide receivers D'haquille "Duke" Williams, Sammie Coates and Quan Bray are big-play threats, and their size and speed could hurt the Bulldogs.

If Auburn wins

The implications: This is the first of four huge road games for the Tigers, who also must face Mississippi, Georgia and archrival Alabama on the road. Auburn already has played four home games and has just three more contests this season at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Thus, to win the SEC West -- and remain in contention for a playoff spot -- Auburn is going to have to do yeoman work on the road. (As it turns out, road games against the two Mississippi schools are much tougher than originally thought. In addition, it was thought to be a big benefit that games against South Carolina and Texas A&M are at home. Chances are, Tigers coaches gladly would play those on the road if they could get the Mississippi schools to visit.) With this type of road schedule, a one-loss Auburn team almost certainly would catch the eye of the selection committee. The season is far from over if Auburn were to lose, given what is left on the schedule. In that scenario, though, there no longer would be any margin for error.

If Mississippi State wins

The implications: This is the last game in what was thought to be a season-shaping three-game stretch for the Bulldogs, who have beaten LSU (road) and Texas A&M (home) in their past two games. After this, it basically becomes a two-game season for the Bulldogs, with road games against Alabama (Nov. 15) and archrival Mississippi (Nov. 29). Thus, a victory in this one means Mississippi State almost certainly would be in the top three of the polls at least until mid-November. The Bulldogs never have finished higher than ninth in a season-ending poll (that ranking came in 1940). As with Auburn, a loss is not a season-ender; given the remaining road games, Mississippi State still would be a strong playoff candidate if it won out following a loss in this one.

Other games with playoff implications

» TCU at Baylor: Both are unbeaten and the winner becomes the team to beat in the Big 12. This is the 110th meeting (the series is tied 51-51-7) between these former Southwest Conference rivals, and get this: This is the first time they've met when both have been ranked. Baylor is outscoring its opponents 94-7 in the first quarter and 63-3 in the second quarter this season. TCU has outscored foes 100-31 in the first half.

» Mississippi at Texas A&M: Mississippi is coming off a home win over Alabama, while A&M comes in having lost on the road to Mississippi State last week. Good news for the unbeaten Rebels: This looks to be the toughest remaining road game. A&M, meanwhile, must win to have any shot at winning the SEC West. And winning the SEC West means you have a legit shot at getting a playoff berth. A&M needs to hit some big plays in the passing game, but the Rebels have allowed just one TD pass this season.

» Oregon at UCLA: Each team has one loss and should be in desperation mode as each tries to stay on at least the periphery of the national title race and in the thick of the Pac-12 chase. Big-time quarterbacks will be on view in UCLA's Brett Hundley and Oregon's Marcus Mariota. Oregon has won five in a row in the series, but just one of those contests (in 2009) was played at UCLA.

» Middle Tennessee State at Marshall: This is important because Marshall (5-0) is unbeaten and must remain so to have any shot at the non-Power Five leagues' "automatic bid" into the playoff-affiliated bowls. This looks to be the toughest remaining game for the Thundering Herd, which needs to win out and have East Carolina -- which is the frontrunner for the non-Power Five bid right now -- lose at least once more.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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