Thanksgiving is nearly here, and with it comes Rivalry Week. This week’s rankings provide a blueprint for what every team needs to happen in matchups such as Auburn-Alabama, USF-UCF, and Notre Dame-Stanford. High-powered matchups that could change the Playoff picture. New Year’s Six hopes on the line. This is Rivalry Week.
The top seven are unchanged in a drama-less week of blowouts. Alabama faces a crucial game in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. If the Tide win, they’re probably in even if Alabama loses to Georgia. And a loss? That forces the committee to think, and we can’t have that.
The Hurricanes won’t face a quality opponent until the ACC Championship against Clemson. Even if Miami loses to Pittsburgh, the ‘Canes would get into the top four with an ACC Championship Game victory. On the other hand, if Miami beats Pitt and loses to Clemson, would they get in ahead of Ohio State, Wisconsin, or a second SEC team?
The Sooners will face West Virginia with a Big 12 Championship spot already locked up. Oklahoma will probably face TCU, and can’t afford to lose.
A tricky game against now-ranked South Carolina affords Clemson no room for error looking ahead to the ACC Championship against Miami.
The Tigers will have a chance to win the SEC West for the first time since the Kick Six against #1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Nick Marshall and Cam Newton are the last two quarterbacks to beat Alabama. Can Jarrett Stidham add his name to the list?
The Badgers are looking ahead to a must-win Big Ten Championship against Ohio State, but Minnesota is always tricky for Wisconsin to deal with. The Badgers still need to win out.
The Bulldogs will be in the top four if they win out. Georgia will have beaten Alabama or Auburn, Clemson or Miami will have lost, and either Alabama will have lost the Iron Bowl or Auburn would have three losses. However, Georgia Tech and its triple-option offense has won two of the last three against Georgia.
8. Ohio State
That Team Up North comes down to attempt to ruin the Buckeyes’ Playoff hopes. Ohio State must win out and receive some help to make it in as the two-loss B1G champion.
9. Notre Dame
An underwhelming performance against Navy causes Notre Dame to fall a spot, but the Irish can assure themselves of a New Year’s Six Bowl with a win over Stanford. Pending chaos, Clemson could meet Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. What a matchup that would be!
An easy matchup against 10-loss(!) Baylor should pose no problems for the Horned Frogs. TCU is win-and-in to the Big 12 Championship vs. Oklahoma.
The Golden Knights won’t make the Playoff unless historic chaos ensues, but UCF has the chance to cement a NY6 bowl and a top 10 ranking if they beat USF and Memphis to win the American Athletic.
In their infinite wisdom, the Trojans waited until this week to schedule their bye. USC won’t know who they face in the Pac-12 Championship until after the Apple Cup. Excellent use of your bye.
With Stanford’s win, the Huskies can’t win the Pac-12 North, but Washington could lock up a NY6 spot with a win in the Apple Cup.
After a blowout of a solid SMU team, Memphis awaits the winner of USF-UCF in the AAC title game. The third Tigers in the rankings will need to beat three-win East Carolina first, though.
15. Washington State
If the Cougars win the Apple Cup, Wazzou will head to the Pac-12 Championship against USC to play for a crack at a New Year’s Six bowl. If the Cougars lose, Stanford wins the North.
16. Penn State
The Lions are tenth in the CFP committee’s rankings, meaning Penn State is win-and-in for a New Year’s Six bowl. Just beat Maryland!
17. Michigan State
Head-to-head is only used as a tiebreaker if two or more teams’ resumes are comparable. MSU lacks quality wins outside of Penn State and now-unranked Michigan, and is a long shot for a New Year’s Six bowl. If the Spartans beat Rutgers, Michigan State is headed to the Citrus Bowl.
The Cardinal are playing #9 Notre Dame, but Stanford’s focus is the Apple Cup. A Washington win sends Stanford to the Pac-12 Championship, but a Wazzou win eliminates Stanford.
19. Mississippi State
All three of the Bulldogs’ losses are to top 10 teams. Ole Miss will attempt to change that in the Thanksgiving Egg Bowl, but MSU needs a win.
20. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys’ slim hopes of a Big 12 Championship appearance vanished with a shootout loss to Kansas State. Even if TCU loses to ten-loss Baylor, Oklahoma State would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker. If Iowa State and/or Texas and/or West Virginia wins in that scenario, the Cowboys would lose out due to losing to the next-best team, Kansas State. Iowa State has the head-to-head tiebreaker over TCU.
What feels like the tenth Tigers in these rankings, LSU will attempt to further their cause for a decent quality bowl game in Ed Orgeron’s first full season. Texas A&M is always an issue on Rivalry Week, so it’s not a given.
Someone needs to get a Northwestern vs. Harvard rivalry established, because that would be funny. It would be a good game—in basketball.
The third of four Group of 5 teams in the rankings, USF has to beat UCF and Memphis to earn a New Year’s Six spot. On the other hand, Boise State might be picked ahead of the Bulls even if this unlikely scenario takes place.
24. South Carolina
Facing a game against Clemson, South Carolina might be in the rankings for this week, but don’t expect them to be in next week’s top 25.
25. Boise State
A three-point loss to Washington State is nothing to scoff at, but a blowout loss to Virginia has kept the Broncos out of the rankings until now. Running the table in the Mountain West buoys them.
New Year’s Six Projections
- Based on my picks for important games, here is who I think will be in the top six bowls come New Year’s.
- This blueprint will change drastically after Rivalry Week.
- Please note that every Power 5 champion and the highest ranked Group of 5 champion are guaranteed NY6 spots.
- The last three are decided based on geographical location while avoiding rematches.
- The predicted higher-ranked team is listed first.
CFP semifinal: Miami vs. Alabama
CFP semifinal: Oklahoma vs. Auburn
Orange: Clemson vs. Ohio State
Cotton: Notre Dame vs. TCU
Fiesta: USC vs. Wisconsin
Peach: UCF vs. Georgia