Thanksgiving is an amazing day for football, though the professional variety rules the day. Aside from watching the Cowboys and/or Lions while enjoying family dinners, the best part about Thanksgiving for college football fans is knowing that the best regular-season weekend in college football starts the next day. Between Friday and Saturday, rivalry week is here, along with all the Playoff implications that come with it. Fans of every Playoff contender know that plenty of other games will affect their team’s chances of making the Playoff. So, here is what every team with Playoff hopes needs to root for this weekend.
College Football Rooting Interests: Week 13
Clemson — Clemson’s resume has taken some serious hits over the past few weeks. The Tigers lost to Pitt, Louisville suddenly no longer looks like one of the best wins in the country, and Auburn and Troy both picked up losses that make those wins look worse. Clemson probably cannot survive another loss and still make the Playoff. Clemson just needs to win out. But if Clemson wants to survive a second loss and still make the Playoff, having Nebraska (or a three-loss Wisconsin) win the Big Ten will be key. Therefore, Clemson fans should root for Penn State, Ohio State, and Minnesota this weekend. Then, if the Big Ten West champion wins the Big Ten Championship Game, Ohio State will be the only Playoff team from the Big Ten. There is a slight chance that Clemson’s resume wouldn’t be better than Michigan’s in that case, though. In short, Clemson really doesn’t want to lose a second game.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State — Both of these teams are really in the same boat. Each has a lack of quality wins. Oklahoma has the better losses, but Oklahoma State might be able to petition the committee to ignore its loss to Central Michigan. Either way, though, the Bedlam winner needs West Virginia to still stay ranked, so make sure to pull for the Mountaineers over Iowa State. Also, there needs to be chaos around the country. Washington needs to lose the Pac-12. The above Big Ten scenario mentioned by Clemson needs to play out (though, again, it’s hard to see why either of these two at 10-2 would have a better resume than 10-2 Michigan or 10-2 Ohio State). Clemson losing its last two games would take the Tigers out of the picture, but that’s just bordering on ridiculous to hope for.
Michigan — The Wolverines need to at least beat Ohio State this weekend. Once that happens, they may be able to survive a second loss. Win out and the Wolverines are in. Lose one game, though, and it’s tough. The Wolverines do have a better resume than Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, but the committee might not want a team that lost two games after October. Still, 10-2 or 11-2 Michigan would be ahead of 10-2 or 11-2 Washington and might be ahead of 11-2 Clemson also. And if Colorado wins the Pac-12 at 11-2, Michigan would have an excellent argument to get in over Colorado, especially if it picks up that fourth Top 10 win at Ohio State. If Michigan loses a game, its Playoff hopes are in trouble, but some chaos could let the Wolverines back in.
Ohio State — The Buckeyes really should be a Playoff lock with a win over Michigan. In fact, it might be worth rooting for Penn State this weekend to avoid having to play that extra game against Wisconsin. Also, root for Alabama to lose the Iron Bowl. If Ohio State wins this week and Alabama loses, the Buckeyes will be the consensus No. 1 team in the country. There is no way that the committee can leave out a consensus No. 1 team, even if the danger really is minimal now. If Ohio State loses, rooting for chaos scenarios can help, but the Buckeyes will be in serious trouble for the Playoff at 10-2, even with chaos. For starters, Penn State losing would be an absolute must — even if the Buckeyes do have better wins, head-to-head and the same record would probably start to tilt things in Penn State’s favor.
Penn State — Penn State needs Ohio State to win this weekend. A 10-2 Penn State with only one good win won’t make the Playoff. If Penn State doesn’t get to play Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, this conversation is a non-starter. If Penn State can win the Big Ten, though, it needs a Playoff spot open — that means that there can be no Playoff team from the Pac-12. So Washington needs to lose this week. Colorado losing to Utah would also help, but that leaves a tiny risk that the committee could choose to ignore September and take a red-hot USC team. The best scenario is Washington State winning the Pac-12. On top of that, Penn State needs Florida to lose one of its last two games, because a 10-2 Florida will get to the Playoff before 11-2 Penn State, as will Alabama.
Wisconsin — The Badgers are in pretty good position. If they win two more games, all they need is another Washington loss and they will be in, regardless of who they face in the Big Ten Championship Game. The entire city of Madison will be keeping its eyes on the Apple Cup and rooting hard for Washington State. If Michigan wins The Game, then Wisconsin will be a lock if it beats the Wolverines in the Big Ten Championship Game, but Michigan will be much tougher to beat than Penn State, so rooting for Michigan is a double-edged sword. Washington losing one of its last two games is the much easier path. If Washington wins, then Clemson losing a game would make for an interesting debate, but one that Wisconsin has a decent chance of coming out of ahead. Still, Washington losing is the best path, so that should be the attention.
Alabama — Alabama has no rooting interests. Win one of its last two, and the Tide are in the Playoff. Maybe they’d rather face Michigan in the semifinals because of Michigan’s style of play, but it’s really hard to root for who comes in at No. 4.
Florida — If Florida wins its last two games, it will be very hard to keep the Gators out of the Playoff. Florida wants Alabama to lose the Iron Bowl so that the Gators can jump the Tide with a win next week. That should be enough for the Playoff, but having Washington or Clemson lose would be an added benefit. Still, Florida winning its last two games is a huge long shot in its own right.
Colorado — As I show in this week’s Bubble Watch, Colorado’s resume is a lot stronger than people might think. Two more wins would make it even stronger. The fact is, though, that even at 11-2 Colorado would still be fifth in line for the Playoff. Michigan winning the Big Ten would make everything easier for Colorado, because Michigan is the only two-loss Big Ten non-champion who would have an excellent case over Colorado — the Wolverines would have a better collection of wins and a head-to-head win. Then, the Buffaloes would be the No. 4 team in the country, though it would be a fascinating debate between them and the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State winner. Clemson dropping another game would also help Colorado. What Colorado needs first, though, is to see Washington win the Apple Cup. Beating a Top 5 Washington team on Championship weekend would carry far more weight than beating a Top 15-20 Washington State would — especially if the Buffaloes need to jump Oklahoma.
Washington — The Huskies have no real rooting interests. Win two more games, make the Playoff. Lose one of them, don’t get in. It’s that simple.