The College Football Playoff picture became a little more clear after Saturday’s action. A group of teams control their own destiny to make the top four while four other teams picked up their second loss of the season to likely end any national title hopes. After the dust cleared in Week 11, there appears to be many great situational opportunities to pick games in Week 12. Here are some early thoughts on games before any lines are released:
Contenders (Teams that have a shot at the Playoff)
Mississippi State at Alabama: Mississippi State has had this game circled since they beat Auburn almost a month ago. It will likely decide the SEC West winner after Alabama survived at LSU. Alabama is a much better team at home this season especially on offense. Don’t be surprised if Alabama is a touchdown favorite against the No. 1 team because they are a more talented team and they have to win. The Bulldogs might be able to lose this game and still make the Playoff if they beat Ole Miss at the end of the season.
Florida State at Miami: There were rumors earlier this week that Miami would be a favorite in this game. I highly doubt that will happen but the Hurricanes have definitely gained some respect over the last month. They dominated Cincinnati, Virginia Tech and North Carolina but those three teams haven’t impressed anyone this season. Florida State has been overrated for most of the year but I think they should be at least a field goal favorite on Saturday. Keep in mind that Miami doesn’t have much of a home field advantage and Florida State fans will travel well to this game.
TCU at Kansas: The Horned Frogs got past the difficult part on their conference schedule with only one loss. A trip to Texas on Thanksgiving night looks like the only test left this season. It will be interesting to see if the Playoff Committee ranked TCU higher than a one-loss Mississippi State. I think they would.
Arizona State at Oregon State: The Sun Devils have won five straight games and are coming off big home wins against Utah and Notre Dame. Their trip to Oregon State could be a hangover situation but it’s hard to trust the struggling Beavers to cover a spread.
Oregon vs Bye: Oregon is three games away from making the Playoff. College football fans would love to see an Arizona State-Oregon Pac-12 title.
Playoff dreams crushed in Week 11
Auburn at Georgia: Auburn may have been looking ahead to Georgia but their loss to Texas A&M was shocking and maybe one of the biggest upsets on the season. It’s hard to see the Tigers being motivated after suffering a crushing defeat. Georgia might not be playing for a Playoff spot but a trip to the SEC Championship up for grabs, and the Bulldogs will be looking for revenge against Auburn after what happened last season.
Michigan State at Maryland: The Spartans had a chance to make a statement on Saturday night and their defense was exposed. Now they travel to unfamiliar territory at Maryland with nothing to play for. If Michigan State is a touchdown favorite, I would strongly recommend taking the Terrapins.
Northwestern at Notre Dame: Arizona State made Everett Golson pay for early mistakes and Notre Dame’s playoff chances were crushed in the desert. It will be interesting to see how they respond at home against Northwestern. It looks like a good spot to pick against the Irish but Northwestern has been in a free fall since their early season conference wins at Penn State and against Wisconsin.
Kansas State vs Bye: It was fun while it last for Bill Snyder’s team. They have this weekend off before going to West Virginia on a Thursday night in Week 13.
Hangover games (teams that were involved in important Week 11 games)
Ohio State at Minnesota: Ohio State might think they have a shot at the Playoff but they would need a lot of help. Their win in East Lansing was impressive and the Buckeyes showed why they will be the Big Ten favorite in 2015. Ohio State goes on the road again to play 7-2 Minnesota. The Gophers played their best game of the season in Week 11 by beating Iowa 51-14. However, Minnesota struggled against Northwestern and Purdue in October wins. A week later they lost to Illinois before a bye. Passing on this game might be the best decision but make sure to check the weather as it could get nasty this time of year.
LSU at Arkansas: Before knowing the line, I really like Arkansas in this situation. The Razorbacks have to win a conference game, right? This would seem like a good week to do it. Arkansas is back at home off a byes week and host LSU, who were part of a very hard fought war against Alabama. Now a young LSU team has to do some traveling and it will be hard to duplicate the maximum effort they displayed on defense.
Utah at Stanford: Utah lost to Oregon 51-27 but the score should’ve been much closer. A 14-point swing in Oregon’s favor after a boneheaded play by Utah changed the entire game in Salt Lake City. After a loss like that, it feels that the Utes are in a bad spot when they travel to Stanford who are coming off a bye.
Missouri at Texas A&M: Texas A&M’s roller coast season continued when the upset Auburn. Will they carry that momentum on Saturday or will they have a letdown game? This is definitely not one of the best games on the week but will be interesting to see where the line ends up.