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Week 13 games with the most impact on the College Football Playoff

November 24,2017 17:20

The easy top choice this week, the Iron Bowl winner earns a date with Georgia in the SEC championship game. The loser? Well, if it's Alabama, the Crimson Tide will hope their 11-1 record and program reputation mean more to the committee than the ...



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USA TODAY Sports' George Schroeder, Paul Myerberg and FOX Sports host Joel Klatt preview the three biggest games this weekend. USA TODAY Sports

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Everything we’ve heard from the College Football Playoff committee thus far is, to quote the Bard, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. That will change in a little more than a week, of course, when the powers that be reveal the only rankings that matter.
In Week 13, the final full slate of the regular season, teams will try to put one more positive data point in their columns or in some cases earn the right to play again on conference championship weekend. Nearly all the contenders will be facing a long-time rival, but even so there are some with more potential than others to cause havoc. Here are Saturday’s top five impact games.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 6 Auburn
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The easy top choice this week, the Iron Bowl winner earns a date with Georgia in the SEC championship game. The loser? Well, if it’s Alabama, the Crimson Tide will hope their 11-1 record and program reputation mean more to the committee than the résumés of enough other candidates to warrant inclusion. If it’s Auburn, the Tigers will await their bowl destination.
After nine weeks of appearing all but invincible, the Crimson Tide’s injury-riddled defense showed signs of cracking a couple of weeks ago at Mississippi State. The Tigers have the strength up front to take advantage and create holes for RB Kerryon Johnson. The good news for Alabama is S Minkah Fitzpatrick, the one guy the unit can’t do without, should be ready after sitting out the Mercer tuneup with a hamstring issue. He’ll be vital not only in run support but in the coverage as Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham looks for favorite WR Ryan Davis. Tide QB Jalen Hurts continues to make plays when needed, with a lot of help from WR Calvin Ridley. But the power game is still Alabama’s preferred method of moving the ball, and Auburn LBs Deshaun Davis and Darrell Williams will do their best to contain Tide RB Damien Harris and make Hurts seek alternate targets.
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No. 3 Clemson at South Carolina
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Win or lose, the Tigers will face Miami (Fla.) in a week for the ACC title. But a stumble against the Gamecocks would irreparably damage their Playoff case, even if they can bounce back against the Hurricanes. Clemson’s one loss at Syracuse hasn’t aged well (the Orange have fallen below .500), and a setback to South Carolina would put them behind other twice-beaten contenders, the Auburn win notwithstanding.
The Gamecocks don’t have the most prolific offense, but QB Jake Bentley has solid targets such as WR Bryan Edwards and TE Hayden Hurst to lengthen possessions if he has time to find them. Clemson DEs Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant want to make sure he doesn’t. The Tigers’ offense has bogged down at times as well, but for the most part QB Kelly Bryant has made the necessary plays by land or by air. Having explosive freshman RB Travis Etienne has also helped, but Gamecocks LB Skai Moore will undoubtedly be keeping tabs on him.

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SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports' Paul Myerberg breaks down the hottest college football headlines for Week 13. USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia at No. 5 Oklahoma
Saturday, 3:45 p.m. ET. ESPN
Win or lose, the Sooners will meet TCU for the Big 12 crown in a week. But a loss to the Mountaineers probably would eliminate the conference champion from the mix, whichever team prevails in the rematch.
Neither team’s regular QB will be in the lineup to start the game, but that situation will be temporary for the Sooners. How long Baker Mayfield will sit following last week’s sideline outburst at Kansas remains to be seen. Kyler Murray will be at the controls to begin the game, and if his drives can produce points it would go a long way toward removing any tension. The Mountaineers weren’t nearly as fortunate as Will Grier’s finger injury sustained last week against Texas will keep him sidelined. It will be up to Chris Chugunov to try and keep WVU in what figures to be a high-scoring affair. Any ground support RB Justin Crawford can provide would help.
No. 8 Ohio State at Michigan
Saturday, noon ET, Fox
Like Auburn, the Buckeyes hope this is the year that a two-loss team makes the select quartet for the first time. Also like Auburn, they will in all likelihood get the chance to bolster their argument against an unbeaten opponent assuming Wisconsin holds up its end by beating Minnesota. Michigan is not a factor in any such postseason plans, but if the Wolverines can’t play for a championship, denying their most fierce rival the opportunity to do so would put a silver lining on an otherwise disappointing season.
Unfortunately for Michigan, QB Brandon Peters, who brought life to a stagnant offense since taking the reins, is questionable after being knocked out of the Wisconsin loss a week ago. John O’Korn has experience, but a lot of it hasn’t been good. S Damon Webb and the Buckeyes secondary will be waiting to pounce on arrant throws. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett, who is nearing the end of an up-and-down career, could use a strong performance heading into next week’s tilt with the Badgers. His more immediate concern, however, will be Wolverines’ LB Devin Bush, a Butkus Award finalist who nearly always finds his way to the ball.
No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 20 Stanford
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Being a conference champ is, by rule and by precedent, not a requirement for inclusion in the playoff. The Fighting Irish naturally don’t have that option as independents. But if they can get to 10-2 with this victory and multiple winners of power leagues have two or more losses themselves, they’ll at least still be discussed in the committee room. If nothing else, Notre Dame probably can count on a major bowl berth with a win. Whether Stanford will be playing for the Pac-12 title next week is out of the Cardinal’s hands. But they’d nevertheless like to enhance their own New Year’s Six bowl chances.
While RB Bryce Love remains the centerpiece of the Stanford offense, leading the nation in rushing average at 172.3 yards a game, the emergence of sophomore QB K.J. Costello has aided the Cardinal cause as well. They’ll want to borrow a page from the Navy playbook and mount time-consuming drives to keep Notre Dame’s one-two punch of QB Brandon Wimbush and RB Josh Adams off the field. Wimbush, however, might be without his primary target as WR Equanimeous St. Brown is in concussion protocol.
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