Top Games To Decide Who Plays In College Football Playoff

    Yeah, every game matters in the fall, one of the real trappings of college football. But, naturally, some pairings are more influential than others, particularly when the topic is the College Football Playoff.

    August 4, 2015

    every game matters in the fall, one of the real trappings of college football.
    But, naturally, some pairings are more influential than others, particularly
    when the topic is the College Football Playoff.          

    No more than a dozen or two of the FBS’ 128 members have a legitimate chance of
    copping one of the four playoff berths that’ll be handed out in early December.
    The following 15 regular season matchups warrant extra scrutiny, both for their
    entertainment value and for the impact they’ll have on the race to this year’s semifinal
    games on New Year’s Eve.    
    15.  UCLA at USC,
    Nov. 28 
    This crosstown rivalry
    always matters, but even more so of late. It’s been a long time since both
    programs were nationally relevant, so the battle for the Victory Bell will be
    for a lot more than just local bragging rights. The South Division could hinge
    on the outcome, and the best athletes in Southern California will certainly be
    paying close attention. The Bruins have won three straight in the series by
    double-digits, but a Trojan win could provide a catapult into the following
    week’s Pac-12 title game and ultimately one of the four playoff berths.

    14.  Alabama vs. Wisconsin, Sept. 5 
    It’ll be discovery time for the Tide and Badgers when they kick off the season
    in primetime in Arlington, Tex. Bama is a perennial title contender, but there
    are a fair amount of question marks on the 2015 team, especially under center.
    If this team is slow to adjust to roster changes, it could be vulnerable in
    Week 1. The Badgers and new head coach Paul Chryst will be looking to
    capitalize. With a reverberating upset, Wisconsin would join Ohio State and
    Michigan State to give the Big Ten its third candidate in the playoff chase. 

    13.  Oklahoma at Baylor,
    Nov. 14 
    Last season’s meeting between the Sooners and the Bears was supposed to have widespread
    implications. Baylor held up its end of the bargain. Oklahoma did not. It’ll
    again be up to the Sooners to the determine the national significance of this
    game. The Bears might be undefeated by mid-November. If OU has no more than one
    loss at this stage, it could make for a quasi-playoff elimination matchup in
    Waco. Big 12 favorite TCU will face both teams in the subsequent two weeks,
    making for high drama in the conference in the month of November. 

    12. Florida State at
    , Nov. 7
    Will the ACC be left out of the playoff picture? The annual showdown between
    the league’s premier teams will provide plenty of answers. The Tigers squandered a lead in last year’s meeting,
    despite the suspension of Seminole QB Jameis Winston. However, that was also
    before the seal was fully broken on Clemson QB Deshaun Watson. This November’s
    matchup will be a referendum on who did a better job of retooling during the
    offseason. The Noles want to get back to the playoff, but they must first get
    past Clemson and capture a fourth straight Atlantic Division.

    11.  Auburn at LSU,
    Sept. 19 
    The SEC West will be its usual free-for-all, with all six teams poised to have
    a say in who ultimately represents the division in Atlanta on Dec. 5. The
    annual battle of the Tigers is the first of many enormous games that’ll begin
    to separate the playoff contenders from the Outback Bowl contenders. Auburn hasn’t
    won in Baton Rouge this century, so it’ll need a huge effort from QB Jeremy
    Johnson and his skill players against another blue-chip LSU D. New Auburn
    defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will do whatever is needed to rattle the
    shaky LSU quarterbacks. 

    10.  TCU at Oklahoma,
    Nov. 21 
    One Saturday after Oklahoma travels to Waco, the Sooners will host TCU as the
    Big 12’s late-season round-robin tournament goes into high gear. With deference
    to Oklahoma State and Kansas State, there are three primary threats to wear the
    league crown in 2015, and two of them will be in Norman on the third weekend of
    November. By this point, it’ll be known whether the Sooners’ offensive overhaul
    has worked. And if so, the duel between the Air Raid and Trevone Boykin’s
    Horned Frogs could result in more uncontested scoring than an NBA All-Star

    9.  USC at Notre Dame,
    Oct. 17
    It’s been a while since the Trojans and the Irish were national threats at the
    same time, so their annual tilt takes on far more meaning than just the usual intersectional
    rivalry. For Notre Dame, which has the roster to travel far this season, a
    visit from Troy is one of a number of unique landmines on the schedule. USC
    thumped the Irish, 49-14, in the Coliseum last November, and will have a
    decided edge in quarterback experience. While Malik Zaire is making his debut
    as the starter, Trojan Cody Kessler has been in charge for two years.        

    8.  Georgia at Auburn,
    Nov. 14 
    The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry will also be one of the SEC’s most pivotal
    crossover games of 2015. Both schools have high ceilings and dreams of using a
    conference title as a launching pad into the playoffs. But a loss at this stage
    of the season could derail the drive toward Atlanta and a spot in the league
    championship game. Can Georgia keep up with Auburn high-powered offense? Can
    the Tigers match the Dawgs’ defensive athleticism? Ought to be a good one on
    the Plains, with a lot riding on the outcome.   

    7.  LSU at Alabama,
    Nov. 7 
    The Tide and the Tigers will always be a big deal for reasons extending from
    recruiting and NFL scouting to the SEC West and playoff hunts. Few, if any,
    perennial matchups can be counted on to move so many distinct needles, year-in
    and year-out, the way Bama-LSU does. And storylines are never lacking when Nick
    Saban and Les Miles are in the same zip code. As usual, points will come at a
    premium, particularly in a year when neither team is set at quarterback.
    Derrick Henry vs. Leonard Fournette, though, could be the best running back
    duel of 2015. 

    6.  USC at Oregon,
    Nov. 21 
    After missing one another the last two years, the most recognized teams from
    the Pac-12’s North and South Divisions will renew acquaintances in Eugene. The
    last time these two met in 2012, the Trojans were still caught in the thick
    brush of the NCAA. But the dynamic has changed since then. USC has a new coach
    and renewed hope now that crushing sanctions are growing smaller in the rear
    view mirror. And it hopes to recapture the league supremacy now enjoyed by the
    Ducks. When Troy fell, it was Oregon who largely filled the league void. 

    5.  Alabama at Georgia,
    Oct. 3
    It’s about time. In a quirky twist of scheduling fate, Bama and Georgia, two of
    the SEC’s most storied football programs, have not met in the regular season
    since 2008. But, alas, that ends on the first Saturday in October, with the
    Crimson Tide making an appearance Between the Hedges. There’ll be a lot of
    similarities here. Veteran coach. Talented defense. Elite running backs. And a
    glaring question mark behind center, as the Tide and the Dawgs both attempt to
    replace underrated fifth-year senior quarterbacks.       

    4.  Oregon at Michigan
    , Sept. 12 
    The home-and-home series between the Ducks and the Spartans concludes this
    September in East Lansing. Oregon hosted—and won—a year ago, with Marcus
    Mariota making his first of many Heisman statements by engineering a dramatic
    second-half comeback. But Mariota is now a Tennessee Titan and Autzen Stadium
    will have no bearing on the outcome this time around. If the Ducks are still
    playoff timber, despite breaking in a new quarterback, they’ll have to prove it
    versus Mark Dantonio’s physical D … on the road.        

    3.  Alabama at
    , Nov. 28 
    To Alabamians, it’s the Iron Bowl. To the rest of the country, it could viewed
    as a playoff elimination game. The Tide and the Tigers will begin the season
    ranked. And, pending what transpires in the first three months, both could very
    well be competing for the SEC West title by Thanksgiving weekend. Bama got
    revenge last year for the 2013 miracle at Jordan-Hare Stadium, winning 55-44.
    But this year’s game is back on the Plains, and the Auburn D figures to be
    improved now that Will Muschamp is in charge.      

    2.  Michigan State
    at Ohio State
    , Nov. 21 
    Ohio State at Michigan a week later probably draws higher ratings, what with
    Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer squaring off for the first time. But the Spartans
    and Buckeyes have far greater potential to impact the national title race. The
    Michigan State shakes out right now as the defending champ’s toughest test of
    2015. And in all likelihood, the winner of this showdown punches its ticket to
    Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game two weeks later. The Michigan
    State D has plenty to prove after whiffing in last season’s three biggest

    1.  Baylor at TCU,
    Nov. 27 
    Is it humanly possible to top last year’s frenetic Bear rally that ended in a
    one-for-the-ages, 61-58 victory? Yup. The stakes might actually be higher this
    time around, because the expectations are soaring for both schools. And the
    drama and offensive track meet are essentially prepackaged into this game.
    Since the Big 12 doesn’t have a league championship game, this matchup could
    serve as the de facto title tilt on the penultimate weekend of the regular
    season. The Horned Frogs will be hungry for revenge after last season’s
    implosion in Waco cost them a perfect mark and a playoff berth. 


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