The first College Football Playoff selection committee top 25 has 17 one-loss teams. Two are in the top four -- and they play each other Saturday.
There are six weeks left in the season, and while a lot of things are going to happen in those six weeks, it's best for the one-loss teams to play as if they have zero margin for error. It's possible a two-loss team could make it into the four-team playoff field, but is it probable? That's why the "there's zero margin for error" maxim should apply.
Some historical perspective: In the 16 seasons of the BCS, nine teams total finished a regular season in the top four with two losses; three of those occurrences came in 2007, when two-loss LSU won the title. And in the past six seasons, there were zero two-loss teams.
Here's a closer look at the key games involving one-loss teams this weekend.
No. 3. Auburn (6-1) at No. 4. Ole Miss (7-1)
The implications: This clash of SEC West rivals is the best game of the weekend, and each team has more hurdles after this one. Auburn already has lost at Mississippi State and still has road games against Georgia and Alabama, too. Mississippi, which beat Alabama on Oct. 4, finishes the regular season at home against Mississippi State. Mississippi fell last week at LSU, which means that in a seven-day stretch, the Rebels could go from dreaming of a spot in the national title game to all of a sudden thinking about a potential appearance in the Citrus Bowl.
Stanford at No. 5. Oregon (7-1)
The implications: Stanford already has lost three games and is in full-fledged spoiler mode. The Cardinal has won two in a row over the Ducks, and the defense is good enough to make it three in a row. But there will be a lot of pressure on that defense, and not just because it is facing the potent Ducks: Stanford's offense is mediocre, and the Cardinal has scored 34 total points in its three losses. Stanford's physical nature has bothered Oregon the past two seasons. The Ducks will have another physical game next week at Utah, but close out with eminently winnable games against Colorado and archrival Oregon State. Thus, the next two Saturdays should determine Oregon's playoff viability.
No. 7 TCU (6-1) at West Virginia
The implications: These are two of the three Big 12 teams with one conference loss (Baylor is the other, to WVU), and that trio is chasing Kansas State, which is unbeaten in league play. Thus, while WVU doesn't have a shot at the playoff, it is in the running for the Big 12 title. The Mountaineers play host to K-State on Nov. 20, and while they might not win the league, they will have a big say in who does. TCU, meanwhile, plays host to K-State next week, then closes out the regular season with Kansas, Texas and Iowa State. If TCU gets through the next two weeks unscathed, it's going to finish 11-1 and be in prime position to land a playoff berth.
No. 12 Arizona (6-1) at UCLA
The implications: Preseason conventional wisdom was that this would be a mere speed bump in UCLA's quest for the Pac-12 South title and a possible playoff berth. Instead, thanks to a win at Oregon, it's Arizona that's the South Division's best hope for a playoff spot, while the two-loss Bruins are scrambling for some kind of foothold before the season spirals away from them. Arizona has three tough games after this: Washington, at Utah and Arizona State. The Wildcats' offense is good enough to win the division title. The defense? That's a stretch. This should feature a lot of points. To stay in the playoff hunt, Arizona probably needs to score in the 40s to beat the Bruins.
17. Utah (6-1) at No. 14 Arizona State (6-1)
The implications: This is the second-best game of the weekend, and also features one-loss teams in the hunt for a division title (the Pac-12 South) and a potential playoff berth. But these teams have some work to do when it comes to impressing the selection committee. Arizona State lost to UCLA, while Utah beat UCLA (and USC) but blew a fourth-quarter lead and fell to Washington State, which is the worst loss among the one-loss teams. on the road in the regular-season finale. Utah, meanwhile, has Oregon next week and also still must face Stanford and Arizona. Thus, while each of these teams is further down the pecking order than most other one-loss teams, there are chances for wins that certainly would impress the committee.
Other one-loss teams in action
Oklahoma State at No. 9 Kansas State (6-1)
The implications: Next week is a huge game for K-State, when it visits TCU (as noted earlier, that game could be even bigger for TCU). That is one of three big road games left for the Wildcats, who also have to travel to West Virginia (Nov. 30) and Baylor (Dec. 6). K-State is the most physical team in the Big 12, and its defense might be the best in the league, too. But the remaining schedule works against K-State.
Navy vs. No. 10 Notre Dame (6-1) in Landover, Md.
The implications: Forgive the Irish if they're looking ahead to next week's showdown at Arizona State, which is their toughest remaining game. There also are visits from Louisville and Northwestern and a trip to USC, so the finishing stretch is tough for the Irish. Next week's game, though, should be the one that determines if the Irish have a legitimate shot at a playoff berth.
Florida vs. No. 11 Georgia (6-1) in Jacksonville
The implications: The Bulldogs' loss came to South Carolina, which is one of the worst losses for any one-loss team in the title hunt. The best win is over a two-loss Clemson team. The toughest remaining game on the schedule is a visit from Auburn on Nov. 15. Georgia is in the driver's seat in the SEC East, and it could end up playing for the SEC title with only two top-25 wins on its resume.
Kansas at No. 13 Baylor (6-1)
The implications: This has blowout potential and should be over early. The Bears have two tough games left: at Oklahoma next week and the season finale at home against Kansas State. Baylor's most recent outing was its Oct. 18 loss at West Virginia. What should worry the Bears is that the trip to WVU was the only road opponent thus far with a pulse -- and Baylor lost.
Purdue at No. 15 Nebraska (7-1)
The implications: The main storyline in this one is whether Huskers TB Ameer Abdullah gets his fifth 200-yard game of the season. The lesser storyline is this is the final easy game for the Huskers, who close with Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. The only home game in that stretch is against the Golden Gophers. Nebraska's hope for a playoff berth rests on winning the Big Ten West, beating Michigan State in the league championship game and having a bunch of teams in the Pac-12 and SEC finish with two losses.
The other one-loss teams in the top 25 are No. 6 Alabama, No. 8 Michigan State, No. 16 Ohio State, No. 23 East Carolina and No. 24 Duke. ECU and Duke have no shot at a playoff berth, and Alabama, Michigan State and Ohio State are off this weekend.