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5 Biggest Games in Week 12 with College Football Playoff Rankings Implications

5 Biggest Games in Week 12 with College Football Playoff Rankings Implications

5 Biggest Games in Week 12 with College Football Playoff Rankings Implications

The latest set of College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday night and there were no major surprises to speak of. The top 10 (Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana State, Washington State, West Virginia and Ohio State) remains unchanged but there were some new teams added to the mix. Utah checked in at No. 19, Big Ten West champion Northwestern drew No. 22, while Utah State, Cincinnati and Boise State rounded out the top 25.

With the regular season winding down, the potential for upsets gets even bigger. Many teams within the CFP’s top 15 this week have games that will have little to no effect on next week’s rankings. But there are some games on this week’s docket that could not only alter the rankings, but also play a role in deciding some conference championships as well. Here’s a deeper look at those particular games.

No. 3 Notre Dame (9-0) vs No. 12 Syracuse (8-2, 5-2 ACC) in Yankee Stadium

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 2:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -9.5

The Fighting Irish take this year’s addition of their annual “Shamrock Series” to Yankee Stadium where they will take on red-hot Syracuse. The Orange have won four straight while scoring 40, 51, 41 and 54 points in that span. Senior quarterback Eric Dungey could be making a late Heisman Trophy push with 2,193 passing yards, 690 rushing yards, 26 total touchdowns. He’s the engine that makes this offense go and Syracuse keeps opposing defense on their toes with their many option packages, screen plays and misdirection runs.

Notre Dame needs to account for Dungey at all times otherwise it’ll be a long day in Bronx. The Irish are expected to get Ian Book back under center after he missed last week’s win against Florida State with a rib injury. A win for the Orange will certainly dash Notre Dame’s championship hopes, but it also could move them into the CFP’s top 10.

No. 8 Washington State (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) vs. Arizona (5-5, 4-3)

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 10:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Spread: Washington -18

There is plenty at stake for the Cougars in this Pac-12 crossover home game. Not only are they looking to improve their CFP standing, but their conference title hopes are on the line as well. While the Wildcats have had their struggles at times this year, they are 3-0 vs the Pac-12 North. And with the Washington Huskies trailing their archrivals by just one game in the standings, they’ll be rooting for Arizona to knock off their Apple Cup foes in order to keep their own championship aspirations alive.

This is a must-win for Washington State to maintain its division lead headed into next week's showdown on Black Friday. A victory also gives the Cougars a chance to move into the top five depending on what happens with the teams above them.

No. 9 West Virginia (8-1, 6-1 Big 12) at Oklahoma State (5-5, 2-5)

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET

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TV: ABC

Spread: West Virginia -5

The Cowboys were a two-point conversion away from upsetting Oklahoma on the road last week. While they failed, knowing how close they came gives them plenty of motivation to defend their home field against the Mountaineers, who are tied with the Sooners atop the Big 12 standings. West Virginia will lean on the arm of senior quarterback Will Grier to lead the Big 12’s No. 2 scoring offense to a fourth straight victory while the Cowboys are still aching to play spoiler.

No. 15 Texas (7-3, 5-2 Big 12) vs. No. 16 Iowa State (6-3, 5-2)

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. ET

TV: Longhorn Network

Spread: Texas -3

Here’s another game with Big 12 title consequences. Both the Longhorns and Cyclones are tied for second in the Big 12 behind West Virginia and Oklahoma. Texas has gone 2-2 in its last four games but have scored a combined 140 points during that stretch. Iowa State on the other hand is in the midst of a five-game winning streak that includes a victory over the Mountaineers.

It's pretty simple: the loser of this game will be eliminated from Big 12 championship contention. A loss by either West Virginia or Oklahoma (if not both) will no doubt be welcomed, but both teams need to focus on the business at hand instead of worrying about what else takes place in the conference this weekend.

No. 11 UCF (9-0, 6-0 AAC) vs. No. 24 Cincinnati (9-1, 5-1)

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. ET

TV: ABC

Spread: UCF -7

The Knights once again find themselves in a situation where they feel disrespected. Maintaining the nation's longest winning streak (22 games) hasn't been enough to crack the top 10 of the playoff rankings. But Saturday night, UCF has its chance in the national spotlight against the surprising Bearcats. Depending on what happens in the three games already mentioned (plus others), the Knights could very well move up a spot or more in next week's ranking with a win over Cincinnati.

Getting into the playoff itself may still be a tall task, but a second straight New Year's Six berth is well within reach. The Bearcats, however, have their eyes on a division title of their own and need to upset the Knights to get closer to said goal. Plus they would love to be the team that derails UCF’s season and ends their lengthy winning streak.

— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.