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12 November Games that Will Shape the College Football Playoff

Nick Marshall

Nick Marshall

The first College Football Playoff rankings are here, and now we have an idea of what the selection committee will value in the final month of the season.

We also have an idea of what the teams out of the top four right now might have to do to get in. For the SEC contenders, the answer is simple: Just keep winning.

For teams like Notre Dame and Ohio State, who were perhaps ranked lower than expected, not only to they have to win the major games on their schedule, they may have to look great doing it.

The playoff has made the season more interesting for several teams, and every game will be important. Some, though, will be more critical than others.

Nov. 1 

Auburn at Ole Miss

The selection committee’s first rankings with Auburn at No. 3 and Ole Miss at No. 4 give this matchup a little more juice. Both teams have one loss to a top-five team, but Ole Miss’ situation seems a little more dire. The Rebels are facing injury issues, but more concerning Bo Wallace and his playcaller don’t appear to be on the same page.

Nov. 8

Oregon at Utah

Whether or not Utah defeats Arizona State this week for at least a share of the Pac-12 South lead, Salt Lake City will be a tough trip for the Ducks. Oregon travels to the spot where Stanford saw its national title hopes evaporate with a loss in Salt Lake City a year ago. The Ducks will face a challenging road trip only a week after a critical game against Stanford’s physical defense. 

Notre Dame at Arizona State

The No. 10 Irish and the No. 14 Sun Devils are on the fringes of the playoff picture after the committee’s first set of rankings. Notre Dame’s best statement this season is a close loss in Tallahassee while Arizona State needs to atone for a 62-27 home loss to UCLA. A critical game for two dark horses.

Ohio State at Michigan State

The Big Ten’s playoff hopes appeared to be awfully dim on Sept. 6 when Michigan State lost to Oregon on the road and Ohio State lost at home to Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes’ loss to the Hokies is more embarrassing, but this game is a must-win for both. Not to mention — this is a division game in the Big Ten East.

Kansas State at TCU

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Surprise. Surprise. The two Big 12 teams in purple were top 10 teams in the first playoff rankings. TCU has to get through a road trip to West Virginia and Kansas State has to beat Oklahoma State at home before this matchup. If both survive, this may be an elimination game. A bit of an irony: TCU became a contender thanks to an up-tempo spread and will have to beat a stifling ball control team to continue the ride.

Baylor at Oklahoma

The preseason Big 12 favorites have their playoff hopes hanging by a thread. A loss here probably ends the playoff and league hopes for either.

Nov. 13 (Thursday)

East Carolina at Cincinnati

This game won’t factor into the national semifinals, but East Carolina is the only Group of 5 team in the first playoff rankings. Winning the American and being the top ranked team from outside of the major conferences guarantees East Carolina a major bowl bid. The road trip against Cincinnati will be the last major barrier until ECU faces UCF at home on Dec. 4.

Nov. 15

Mississippi State at Alabama

Alabama started at No. 6 in the playoff rankings but no team has a more direct path to improve its stock thanks to remaining games against No. 1 (Mississippi State) and No. 3 (Auburn).

Auburn at Georgia

Hey, the SEC East makes an appearance in a playoff discussion. This is with good reason. Georgia’s lone loss is to South Carolina on the road by 3, and the Bulldogs have been able to absorb the absence of Todd Gurley. Provided Georgia can get through two more games without him (Florida and Kentucky), Georgia and Gurley can make a playoff statement against rival Auburn.

Nebraska at Wisconsin

One-loss Nebraska might be a playoff sleeper, but the Cornhuskers have no wins over ranked teams. The Cornhuskers need to beat Wisconsin and Iowa on the road and a Big Ten title to sniff the top four.

Nov. 29

Auburn at Alabama

Not that a rematch of the Kick Six and the Iron Bowl needed any extra juice, but the game could end up deciding the SEC West and a playoff spot by the time the two teams meet.

Mississippi State at Ole Miss

Like the Iron Bowl, the Egg Bowl has the potential to be a matchup with SEC West and playoff implications. As it stands now, it’s the No. 1 vs. No. 4 game in the semifinals. And there’s recent history here as an Ole Miss turnover meltdown contributed to a Mississippi State win to set the momentum for this season.