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College Football Playoff scenarios: Week 14's impact on race

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Associated Press
Much is on the line in Iron Bowl for Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Alabama's Nick Saban.

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.

Each of the top seven teams in the College Football Playoff selection committee's top 25 are in action, and five are involved in a rivalry game.

And as everyone knows, there's nothing quite like ruining your archrival's season.


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Here's a closer look at the seven games featuring the teams realistically alive for a playoff spot; all rankings are the selection committee's.

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Auburn at No. 1 Alabama

The implications: Worth noting is that the Iron Bowl winner has played for the national title in each of the past five seasons and won it four times. If Alabama gets past Auburn, the SEC championship game awaits next week against either Georgia (ranked ninth this week) or Missouri (ranked 17th). Alabama is a playoff lock if it wins out; the question is the seeding. If the Tide wins each of its next two games, it seems extremely likely it would be seeded first. The flipside: A loss in either game knocks them out of the playoff picture, and a loss to Auburn is more likely than a loss in the league title game.

Oregon State at No. 2 Oregon

The implications: Oregon is in the playoff if it wins out; as with Alabama, the seeding is the question. And unless they are seeded No. 4, the Ducks almost certainly will be playing a playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl. First, though, they have to beat their archrival in the Civil War, then win next week's Pac-12 championship game against Arizona. Beating Oregon State and the Wildcats would keep Oregon in the top three. A loss to either means no playoff spot.

Florida at No. 3 Florida State

The implications: Florida shocked Georgia in early November and will be looking to pull another shocker in the final game for coach Will Muschamp, who already has announced he is stepping down. FSU has won 27 in a row and is the only unbeaten team in a Power Five conference, but the Seminoles still rank just third. FSU meets Georgia Tech in next week's ACC title game. As with Alabama and Oregon, Florida State knows that it is in the playoff if it wins out. Its seeding is the question. A loss means no playoff berth. And no playoff berth means this will have been a disappointing season.


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No. 4 Mississippi State at Mississippi

The implications: The Egg Bowl has lost some luster, with the Rebels having dropped three of their past four games, including a 30-0 whitewashing last week at Arkansas. In terms of impressing the committee, Mississippi State certainly would rather be playing a 9-2 Mississippi team than one that is 8-3. Regardless, Mississippi State's playoff hopes hinge on beating its archrival. And even a win might not be enough. Trust us: Every Mississippi State fan will be sitting around a TV on Thanksgiving night hoping like heck Texas somehow can beat TCU to remove the Horned Frogs from the playoff equation. And the Bulldogs also wouldn't mind losses by Baylor and Ohio State.

No. 5 TCU at Texas, on Thursday

The implications: TCU was tied for the Big 12 lead with Baylor (who beat the Horned Frogs) and Kansas State (who lost to the Horned Frogs) before beating Texas on Thursday night. TCU's final game doesn't provide much of an opportunity for an impressive win: they face Iowa State, which is the worst team in the league. Obviously, winning out is a must for TCU. Just as obvious, it would seem, is that the wins aren't really going to impress anyone. Style points, then, likely are a concern for coach Gary Patterson. One potential positive: TCU owns a 23-point non-conference win over Minnesota, which is looking more impressive by the week. If the Golden Gophers can beat Wisconsin and get to the Big Ten title game, TCU would be mighty happy.


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Michigan at No. 6 Ohio State

The implications: As if the annual bloodletting that is Michigan-Ohio State isn't enough, the Buckeyes still have a shot at a playoff berth. What that means is that what likely will be Brady Hoke's final game as Wolverines coach could get ugly. Ohio State already has clinched the Big Ten East Division title and will be in the league title game next week against either Minnesota, which is ranked 18th this week and already has lost to the Buckeyes, or Wisconsin, which is 14th. The Buckeyes would prefer to play the Badgers for the potential push it would offer in the rankings. As with TCU, style points could matter with the Buckeyes, who didn't earn any in their victory over three-win Indiana last week. It also would help Ohio State's cause if Virginia Tech -- which handed the Buckeyes their only loss, in September -- beats Virginia on Saturday and becomes bowl-eligible. The loss to Virginia Tech will look even worse if the Hokies don't qualify for a bowl.


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No. 7 Baylor vs. Texas Tech, in Arlington, Texas

The implications: Baylor is tied for the Big 12 lead with TCU and Kansas State. Baylor beat TCU in a head-to-head matchup, but the Bears' non-conference schedule was made up of flotsam and jetsam and they lost to a five-loss West Virginia team. Baylor plays host to K-State next week. First, though, the Bears must get past Texas Tech, which should not be difficult. Texas Tech's defense is rancid, and Baylor should move the ball with ease. That would set up a huge game next week vs. K-State. And Baylor also wouldn't mind if Texas somehow were to surprise TCU and remove the Horned Frogs from the playoff mix. At the least, Baylor wouldn't mind Texas keeping it close: The Bears won by 21 at Texas in October, and comparing scores will be interesting.

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

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