How Week 11’s top-25 games are changing the New Year’s picture


This wasn’t expected to be the biggest weekend on the college football calendar — quite far from it — but with just a few Saturdays left, it promised to narrow the picture further.

Below, we’re keeping track of each top-25 game’s impact, both before and after final scores, mostly paying attention to CFP committee business, not highlights and stuff.

Remember the things the committee has mostly demonstrated it rewards: wins over final top-25 teams, wins over bowl teams, road wins, dominant wins, weirdly excusable losses, being Alabama, and not being a mid-major. It does not care what your opponent’s ranking was at kickoff.

All times ET. All days Saturday, unless noted. Final scores in bold.

Games in which the winning team should have a high-quality victory by season’s end or games that could define a Power 5 division race. Or: really meaningful upsets.

  • No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 16 Mississippi State: An 8-4 MSU would likely count as a ranked win for the Tide, not that they particularly need those.
  • No. 2 Clemson at No. 17 Boston College: A road win over a team with a really good shot at finishing in the top 20 would further fend off complaints about Clemson’s schedule. Clemson’s schedule will end up fine.
  • No. 10 Ohio State vs. No. 18 Michigan State: Either the Buckeyes are out of the Playoff well before Selection Sunday for the first time ever or we continue marching toward OSU-Michigan as an eliminator. Getting an elite team to finally play up to expectations while traveling to East Lansing, a place designed to make elite teams not play up to expectations, sounds like a challenge.
  • No. 21 Iowa vs. Northwestern: Probably a surprise include in this group, but a team on course to play in the Big Ten Championship is a 10-point underdog against the Hawkeyes. The Big Ten West race could set up for a really interesting finish with an Iowa win here.

Games in which the winner should have something to show for it, such as at least a win over a decent bowl team.

  • No. 3 Notre Dame vs. Florida State: I include this here not because FSU is good (it’s probably not bowling anyway), but because the committee would think highly of the Irish for performing well minus starting QB Ian Book, who’s reportedly out with injury. The committee has publicly cited injury considerations several times in the past.
  • No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 24 Auburn
  • No. 6 Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State
  • No. 8 Washington State at Colorado
  • No. 11 Kentucky at Tennessee: UK can still sneak into a NY6 bid.
  • Wake Forest 27, No. 14 NC State 23: Down goes one of the ACC Atlantic’s 17,000 New Year’s Six contenders. Clemson’s suddenly shiny resume (in terms of top-20 wins) loses some shine.
  • No. 15 Florida vs. South Carolina: Same as Kentucky for Florida, maybe? But with help needed.
  • No. 19 Texas at Texas Tech: Only really matters if WVU starts losing.
  • No. 20 Penn State vs. Wisconsin: Unlikely to have significant postseason effects beyond the Big Ten Championship, which the Badgers could still get into.
  • No. 22 Iowa State vs. Baylor: Well, a ranked team is playing a somewhat likely bowl team.

Since the committee’s showed for years that non-power teams have a REALLY long path to the Playoff, let’s have a separate section for the race to be the top-ranked mid-major champ.

  • No. 12 UCF vs. Navy: Basically nothing to gain, but the undefeated Knights probably only need to win out in order to make the NY6 again anyway.
  • No. 23 Fresno State at Boise State: However, Fresno would be able to make up a lot of ground with a road win over a 7-2 Boise that likely has some name-brand value.
  • Buffalo 48, Kent State 14: The 9-1 Bulls probably don’t have a real shot and didn’t gain a ton from this win, but it’s hard to rule them out until we know for certain, since the rankings only go to 25. If we enter conference title weekend with two one-loss teams in the Mountain West title game, then Buffalo’s definitely out, for example.
  • Cincinnati vs. USF: A one-loss AAC champ would have a good argument for the NY6, and Cincy has a legit shot, with a game at UCF next week.
  • UAB vs. Southern Miss: UAB is an awesome story, but a C-USA title is almost certainly the ceiling.
  • Utah State vs. San Jose State: Nothing to gain for USU here. Blow out a terrible team and keep moving toward Fresno.

The committee tries not to care much about your wins over teams that finish with bad records, though you can get some credit for winning on the road or really laying it to folks. So for the ranked teams here: just don’t lose!

  • No. 4 Michigan at Rutgers
  • No. 7 LSU at Arkansas
  • No. 9 West Virginia vs. TCU
  • No. 13 Syracuse vs. Louisville

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