Another college football season, sadly, is coming to an end. Thanksgiving weekend will mark the final regular-season games for more than three quarters of the 128 programs in FBS, with just 30 teams playing in the first weekend of December and then the Army-Navy game the following weekend.
But for the selection committee, the fun is just getting started. This is the time the 12 members must hunker down and determine which four teams are worthy of inclusion in the second annual playoff. As things stand right now, up to a dozen teams are still in the hunt, with all five power conferences and also independent Notre Dame in the mix.
And then there’s the intrigue in the Group of Five, with Navy poised to claim the the automatic New Year’s Six bowl berth if it can win three more – and also hold things up for many bowl matchups because of its rivalry game against Army.
The other best rivalries in college football take center stage this week, and several of them should interest the committee, as will a few others out of all these on national TV:
(Rankings by selection committee)
Game of the Week
3. Oklahoma at 11. Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
On the line at Bedlam is far more than bragging rights for this intrastate rivalry, which has taken on much greater intensity in recent years. A playoff berth is at stake here.
With Oklahoma bumped up to No. 3 by the committee this week, there is a possibility that it can clinch a playoff spot by winning and thus clinching the Big 12 title. With a tiebreaker in place for this season, the Cowboys cannot win the conference unless Baylor loses one of its final games against TCU and Texas.
This much we do know: While the committee might not think much of the Big 12, it holds the Sooners in pretty high regard. If Oklahoma loses this game, the playoff door might slam shut in the Big 12’s face for a second consecutive season.
Other games the committee will be watching
4. Iowa at Nebraska, 3:30 p.m. ET (Friday), ABC
7. Baylor at 19. TCU, 7:30 p.m. ET (Friday), ESPN
8. Ohio State at 10. Michigan, noon ET, ABC
Penn State at 5. Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
22. UCLA at USC, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2
6. Notre Dame at 9. Stanford, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX
The much-anticipated showdown between Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines and Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes got derailed a bit because of Ohio State’s upset loss to Michigan State last week. But the winner of this game can still go on to win the Big Ten – and a playoff spot – should the Spartans stumble in the later game against Penn State.
So the rivalry game with the most on the line is the L.A. city championship between USC and UCLA, with the winner clinching the Pac-12 South title and a rematch with Stanford in the conference title game. Neither team has a chance to make the playoff, but they can still earn a Rose Bowl berth – as good a “consolation prize” as there is – by avenging an earlier defeat against the Cardinal.
But Stanford has a higher aim than the Rose Bowl. By beating Notre Dame and then winning the Pac-12, it still has a shot at making the playoff, depending on how things shake out in the Big 12, or even the ACC, should Clemson suffer an unlikely loss against either South Carolina or North Carolina in its final two games.
Also keep an eye on …
15. Navy at Houston, noon ET, ABC
Connecticut at 25. Temple, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Houston’s loss last week took a bit of sheen off its matchup against Navy, but it’s still a winner-take-all game in the American Athletic West. The winner of the game most likely will take on Temple, as long as the Owls take care of business against UConn at home.
The Group of Five’s automatic NY6 berth is just about guaranteed to this year’s AAC winner, unless Temple is upset and surrenders the AAC East to South Florida, which then goes on to beat the Navy-Houston winner. In that scenario, Toledo is in position to swipe the NY6 berth if it wins the MAC championship.
Maryland at Rutgers, noon ET, BTN
When Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany invited these two schools to join his conference three years ago, the only thing he had in mind was eyeballs – as in the television sets in the New York and Washington, D.C. markets that would come into the Big Ten’s media inventory.
He probably won’t want too many eyeballs focused on this particular game, however, a manufactured Big Ten “rivalry” as opposed to the six other legitimate ones playing out this weekend. The two teams are combined 1-13 in conference play with one team under an interim coach (Maryland) and the other one possibly under a lame-duck one (Rutgers).
Well, at least the Terps are good at basketball (No. 2 in the AP Poll), so there’s that …
Last week’s Despicable Meet: SEC 5 (2 in OT), Cupcakes 1.