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College Football Playoff scenarios: Week 12's impact on race


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.

Four of the top five teams in the College Football Playoff selection committee's top five are in action Saturday, with two playing each other and another playing its biggest conference rival. (The other is playing a conference game that essentially equates to a bye week.)

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Here's a close look at the two biggest games; all rankings are the selection committee's.

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No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 5 Alabama

The implications for Alabama: A loss removes Alabama from the playoff equation; a victory makes the Tide -- for now, at least -- the most likely SEC team to make the playoff. No, this is not a vintage Alabama team. But it doesn't have to be: If Alabama wins this and wins out, it will be in the playoff. There is one tough game left after this, and it, too, is in Tuscaloosa: a game against Auburn on Nov. 29. Now, let's say Alabama beats Mississippi State but then loses at home to Auburn. Things gets convoluted again, and we'll use the Mississippi State portion of this piece to explain.

The implications for Mississippi State: This is the first of two massive road games for the Bulldogs, who play No. 10 Mississippi on Nov. 29. A victory would keep Mississippi State unbeaten and make the Bulldogs the only SEC team with fewer than two losses; a win also would help them take a giant step toward nailing down a playoff spot. If Mississippi State can win in Tuscaloosa, a strong case can be made that even if the Bulldogs lose to Ole Miss, they would wrap up a spot in the playoff with a win in the SEC championship game. A loss, though, muddles the picture, especially assuming that FSU wins out and that the Big 12 and Pac-12 champs have one loss apiece. As pointed out above, if Alabama wins out, it is in the playoff. And in that scenario, it is going to be extremely difficult for the SEC to get a second team -- even a one-loss Mississippi State team -- in the four-team field unless FSU and/or the Big 12 and/or the Pac-12 champ loses somewhere along the way. Now, if Alabama were to win this contest but lose to Auburn, things change immensely -- and Mississippi State would be back in the picture in that scenario if it beats Ole Miss, and then wins the SEC championship game. Still, beating the Tide would be the preferred path to the playoff for the Bulldogs.

No. 3 Florida State at Miami

The implications for Florida State: A loss and FSU basically is out of the playoff hunt. There's no other ACC team in the top 18, meaning there are no more chances for a marquee win (and FSU doesn't own any wins over anybody in the top 17). And not that this necessarily would be a marquee win, either, as Miami has lost three times. Still, a win and FSU remains in the top four -- and alive in its quest to repeat as national champs. Anything other than a playoff appearance for this talented team will mean this season has been a disappointment.

Other games with playoff implications

» No. 4 TCU at Kansas: One-loss TCU is the highest-ranked Big 12 team in the committee's poll. All the other one-loss teams are hoping the Horned Frogs lose. If they do lose during the regular season, though, it won't be to the woeful Jayhawks.

» No. 8 Ohio State at Minnesota: The one-loss Buckeyes are the Big Ten's only real playoff hope; still, they need some help to move up. Will they get it? Minnesota's upset hopes depend on TB David Cobb and the rushing attack being able to control the ball and the clock. Ohio State is 42-7 all-time against the Golden Gophers and have lost to Minnesota once since 1981.

» No. 6 Arizona State at Oregon State: It's a safe assumption that if one-loss Arizona State wins out (that would include a win over North Division champ Oregon in the Pac-12 title game), the Sun Devils would be in the playoff. Oregon State has lost four in a row and the Beavers' defense has disappeared. Arizona State should put up big numbers.

» No. 16 Nebraska at No. 20 Wisconsin: This, frankly, is more important in the Big Ten West Division title race than it is in the playoff race. The one-loss Huskers have a ton of ground to make up. While they have just the one loss, they're also just 16th in the selection committee poll. They obviously have to win out and get a ton of help to become a legit playoff contender. (Miami beating Florida State would help, as the Huskers beat the Hurricanes in Lincoln in September.) Two-loss Wisconsin is out of the playoff hunt but definitely in the hunt for the West Division title.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.



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