With nine zero- or one-loss teams ahead of them in the CFP rankings, Michigan State and Ohio State — both of which have two losses — need a whole lot of help to work their way back into the picture (no two-loss team ever has made the playoff). The loser of Saturday’s game can officially forget about it, while the winner can maintain at least a semblance of hope while also positioning itself well for a spot in the Big Ten championship game. The Buckeyes are coming off one of the most head-scratching blowout losses by an allegedly powerful team in recent memory, a 55-24 loss to Iowa in which Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett threw four interceptions and the team’s defense gave up five passing touchdowns, which is one-third of its total for the season. Now the Buckeyes will have to figure out Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke, who has thrown for 845 yards and six touchdowns over his past two games. . . .
A day full of strong-on-paper matchups continues with Georgia-Auburn. The Bulldogs already have clinched the Southeastern Conference’s East Division, which is hardly a surprise: The division has been so bad of late that someone always seems to have clinched it by early November. What’s most interesting for the top-ranked Bulldogs is that they’re doing it with quarterback Jake Fromm, who is looking to become the first true freshman to lead a modern-era team to the national title since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway in 1985. Being able to hand off the ball to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel certainly has eased his learning curve. The running backs have combined to average 185.1 rushing yards per game and 18 touchdowns on the ground. Auburn’s rush defense has been fairly stout this season, but the Tigers would have to beat Georgia on Saturday, defeat Alabama on Nov. 25 and then knock off Georgia again in the SEC title game to have any chance of getting into the playoff as a two-loss team. Stranger things have happened, I guess. . . .
Prime time on the East Coast brings two meaningful games featuring zero- or one-loss playoff hopefuls. Miami and Notre Dame are meeting as top 10 teams for the first time since those memorable 1980s battles, but they’ve taken somewhat different courses to get there. The Hurricanes are unbeaten but hardly looked dominant until last weekend’s 18-point win over Virginia Tech. They won the four games that proceeded that victory by a combined 18 points over teams (Florida State, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and North Carolina) that have compiled a 12-22 record. The Fighting Irish, meanwhile, have won seven straight by an average of nearly 25 points, their only loss coming by a point to top-ranked Georgia. . . .
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and TCU Coach Gary Patterson have something of a history, which gives the Sooners-Horned Frogs matchup Saturday an added subplot beyond the whole playoff-elimination thing (both have one loss). Mayfield has said that he wanted to play for TCU out of high school but that Patterson “hung me out to dry right before signing day.” Mayfield settled on Texas Tech before transferring to Oklahoma, and, in 2014, Patterson accused Mayfield of stealing the Frogs’ signals (Mayfield wasn’t playing during his transfer year). He later had further harsh words about Mayfield and his father, whom he described as “arrogant” during the recruiting process. Got all that?
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