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.
There are just three weeks left in the regular season, but don't expect this weekend to be all that memorable because there quite simply aren't that many big games.
Actually, the only way in which it could be memorable is if somebody pulls an improbable upset.
Six of the top seven teams in the College Football Playoff selection committee's top 25 are in action (No. 5 TCU is off this weekend), and none is playing an FBS team with a winning record.
Here's a closer look at the six games featuring the teams still alive for a playoff spot; all rankings are the selection committee's.
Western Carolina at No. 1 Alabama
The implications: The Tide is not losing to Western Carolina, an FCS program that has won a total of 26 games in the past 10 seasons. That will set up another huge Iron Bowl on Nov. 29, when Auburn will be out to spoil its archrival's season with an upset win -- and in Tuscaloosa. Worth noting: 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, and it's likely (though not a given) that a ranked team will win the SEC East. Alabama also knows that if it wins out, it will be in the playoff; the question is the seeding. In short, if the Tide is No. 1 next week after beating a middling FCS team, they will remain No. 1 if they win out. And even if they fall to No. 2 (or even No. 3) next week, beating Auburn and a ranked SEC East champ could get them back to No. 1.
Colorado at No. 2 Oregon
The implications: Barring a collapse -- a complete and utter and monumental collapse -- Oregon is going to roll over the Buffs, whose defense is rancid. Oregon also should roll over archrival Oregon State in the annual "Civil War" game on Nov. 29. While beating the Buffs and Beavers won't really impress anyone, there still is one chance left for a "good" win. The Ducks already have clinched a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and the Pac-12 South winner seems a lock to be in the selection committee's top 15. 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 semifinal game at the Rose Bowl.
Boston College at No. 3 Florida State
The implications: FSU finishes out the regular season with back-to-back home games against one-dimensional offenses (Boston College this week and Florida next week). The Seminoles already have locked down a spot in the ACC Championship Game, where Duke or Georgia Tech would be the opponent. There's a chance that neither would be ranked (though it's likely that if the opponent is Duke, the Blue Devils would be ranked between 20th and 25th). That means FSU, which has won 26 in a row and is the lone unbeaten from a major conference, doesn't really have a shot at a marquee win the rest of the way. And there's also a chance that an unbeaten FSU team won't have any wins over teams in the selection committee's top 25 when the final rankings are released Dec. 7. Still, FSU is in if it wins out -- and it will have a case to be the No. 1 seed.
Vanderbilt at No. 4 Mississippi State
The implications: Mississippi State really struggled last week in a loss to Alabama but remained in the top four. Obviously, the Bulldogs must win their next two to remain in the playoff hunt. Beating Vandy should be no problem. But "style points" very well could matter, so it would seem important for the Bulldogs to look good doing so. Next week's game is against two-loss Mississippi, which is eighth in this week's top 25 and has a tough contest Saturday against Arkansas. As much as it might pain Mississippi State fans, they need to pull for Ole Miss to beat the Hogs: A win over a top-10 team in the regular-season finale would be a big boost to Mississippi State's playoff candidacy.
Indiana at No. 6 Ohio State
The implications: The Buckeyes steadily have improved since falling at home to Virginia Tech in September (the Hokies have lost five times), and they finish the regular season against Indiana and Michigan. Ohio State should win both -- and easily, at that -- but given the competition level, it's worth it to wonder if wins over those teams will elicit anything other than a shrug. What would help Ohio State is beating Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game -- but the Badgers still have work to do to get there. The Buckeyes have wins over two teams currently in the selection committee's top 25, Michigan State and Minnesota. But the Golden Gophers are 25th and could fall out this week, when they play Nebraska. That's why the Buckeyes would like to play Wisconsin, which is 16th this week, in the conference title game; if the Badgers are in the title game, chances are they will be ranked at least 16th. Ohio State's non-conference schedule wasn't much: In addition to losing to Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes beat Navy, Cincinnati and Kent State. Still, three of those teams appear bowl-bound (all but Kent State), so the non-conference schedule isn't as weak as it looked a few weeks ago. But can the Buckeyes get past TCU and Mississippi State if those two teams win out? Style points could be a big deal for the Buckeyes.
Oklahoma State vs. No. 7 Baylor 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 garbage and they lost to a four-loss West Virginia team. Frankly, this game shouldn't be tough, which would set up a huge game Dec. 6 with K-State. Thing is, Baylor already is two spots behind TCU; would beating Oklahoma State (which lost by 33 to TCU) and K-State (which lost by 21 to TCU) enable the Bears to jump past the Horned Frogs? That is one of the more intriguing storylines to follow in the next two weeks. As with Mississippi State and Ohio State, style points could matter.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.