Week 13 puts two conferences front and center: The Big Ten and the Pac-12. Those are the two conferences with the most playoff scenarios and the most to clean up over Thanksgiving weekend.
Not a bad way to end the season before conference championship week, huh?
Both divisional titles are up for grabs in those two conferences, leading to a variety of possibilities. Do we get Michigan-Wisconsin in the Big Ten title, or Penn State-Nebraska? Will it be Colorado-Washington in the Pac-12 championship, or Washington State-USC?
There’s a lot to figure out and heavy implications in a number of games. Here are the top five matchups that will impact the College Football Playoff race.
No. 22 Utah at No. 9 Colorado
5. Utah can’t win the Pac-12 South, but it can prevent Colorado — the most unforeseen college football story of the year — from doing so. If the Buffaloes win, they move on to the Pac-12 Championship Game to face either Washington State, which it already beat 38-24 in Week 12, or Washington. If they lose, USC goes. Colorado’s playoff hopes have been hampered by the lack of a staple win, but if it wins out and things fall the right way elsewhere, the conversation could shift.
Minnesota at No. 6 Wisconsin
4. The Big Ten West is also up for grabs. If the Badgers win, they go to Indianapolis. Lose and Nebraska goes provided it beats Iowa. (Wisconsin gets the tiebreaker in a four-way tie.) The committee loves Wisconsin despite the fact it has just one win over a team that is currently ranked (Nebraska). It would seem as though the Week 1 win over LSU continues to carry a lot of weight even though the Tigers are 6-4. The Big Ten playoff chatter has centered around the East division, but Wisconsin is waiting right outside the top four and would surely crack it if it wins out.
Michigan State at No. 7 Penn State
3. Penn State needs to beat Michigan State and pray for an Ohio State win (more on that below) to make the Big Ten Championship. It’s still a little hard to believe the Nittany Lions are in this position, but that midseason win over the Buckeyes has carried a ton of weight. We may need to get used to the idea of this team in the playoff soon if the right dominoes fall. But first, it needs to take care of business. While Michigan State has had a disappointing year, it gave Ohio State everything it could handle in Week 12.
No. 5 Washington at No. 23 Washington St.
2. This is the most important Apple Cup in years. It’s a winner-take-all battle for the Pac-12 North crown, a rivalry’s dream scenario. This game is especially crucial for Washington, which needs to win out to have a chance at the final four. The selection committee has cited the Huskies’ strength of schedule as an issue, so the margin for error is non-existant moving forward.
No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State
1. This is the game for the weekend. Not just because of its storied history laced with national relevance … not just because if Michigan wins it’s one step closer to the playoff … but because of Ohio State. The Buckeyes are No. 2 and represent the best possibility of a non-champion (and non-division winner, for that matter) making the playoff. What happens if Ohio State and Penn State win on Saturday? The next couple of weeks become extremely interesting.
Five more games to keep an eye on: No. 13 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama, South Carolina at No. 4 Clemson, No. 15 Florida at No. 14 Florida State, No. 16 Nebraska at Iowa, Notre Dame at No. 12 USC
Source: CBS Sports