Week 12 of college football was uneventful, and the College Football Playoff committee’s new rankings reflect that:
Alabama topped the rankings once again, followed by Miami, Clemson, and Oklahoma, with Wisconsin, Auburn, and Georgia on the outside looking in. The only change from last week among the top-12 teams is that Miami (10–0) jumped ahead of Clemson (10–1) into the no. 2 slot. The Badgers played in Week 12’s only battle between ranked teams, and they knocked off no. 24 Michigan 24–10. The only other ranked teams to lose on Saturday were no. 13 Oklahoma State, which fell to Kansas State 45–40, and no. 19 NC State, which lost 30–24 to Wake Forest.
While last weekend’s slate didn’t reveal much about which teams will compete for the national championship in January, this Saturday will. It’s Rivalry Week, and boy are there some bangers: the Iron Bowl, the Game, and the Apple Cup all take place this weekend, with division titles and possible playoff berths hinging on the outcomes.
№6 Auburn hosts top-ranked Alabama with a trip to the SEC championship game on the line. The last time these teams met when both were ranked in the top six … well, you remember what happened. Alabama enters the game as the SEC’s lone undefeated team, and even with a loss in the Iron Bowl, it’s possible the Crimson Tide could find themselves in the College Football Playoff. For Auburn, a win over Alabama would give the Tigers a rematch against no. 7 Georgia in the conference championship, with the winner almost certainly earning a playoff bid. When the two teams met earlier this season, Auburn trounced then–no. 1 Georgia 40–17.
As dominant as Alabama has been recently, the Tide looked vulnerable last week against a Mississippi State team that limited its own mistakes and successfully attacked Bama’s depleted linebacker corps. Auburn’s defense has the ability to contain Jalen Hurts and Damien Harris; the questions lie on offense, where the Tigers need to pressure Alabama up the middle and use Kerryon Johnson to bulldoze through the Tide’s vaunted defensive line. Nick Saban teams aren’t wont to make mistakes in big games, but Auburn has the talent to make things interesting.
Elsewhere, Ohio State travels to Ann Arbor, where the Wolverines look to play spoiler. The no. 9 Buckeyes still have an outside shot of making the playoff, but would need to take care of Michigan and then Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. After their loss to Wisconsin, Michigan’s New Year’s Six aspirations are dead, but that doesn’t mean Jim Harbaugh won’t still try to influence who ends up playing in the new year.
№11 USC (10–2) has the week off after beating UCLA last weekend, but the Trojans will spend their energy pulling for no. 13 Washington State to top no. 17 Washington in the Apple Cup. With a win, Wazzu would clinch the Pac-12 North title, and thanks to their early-season success, the Cougars might enter the Pac-12 championship game with just enough prestige that a win over them would push USC into contention.
№15 UCF, the highest-ranked Group of Five team, will take on in-state rivals USF and could lock up the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six slot with a win, while a loss would hand the ticket off to Memphis, who lost to the Knights earlier this year. Other playoff hopefuls like no. 4 Oklahoma and no. 3 Clemson may not play marquee games this week, but West Virginia and no. 24 South Carolina are still having strong seasons, and are more than capable of causing some late-season chaos.
As it stands, there are still a handful of teams alive on the edge of the College Football Playoff field. The season might be coming to an end, but there’s still plenty of time for chaos before it’s over. So put down that drumstick, push aside that bowl of stuffing, and forget your familial Thanksgiving obligations. Rivalry Week is the real national holiday, and you’re not going to want to miss a second of it.