How do you make some of college football’s top rivalry games even more fun? Simple. Add in some late-season Playoff implications.
The final week of regular season play is stacked with historic rivalries, in-state clashes and ranked matchups that will cause plenty of shake-ups ahead of conference title game week.
So in between helping yourself to leftover turkey and stuffing, be thankful for these top games to watch in Week 12:
No. 6 Washington at No. 22 Washington State | GameCenter
Friday at 3:30 p.m. ETThe winner of the Pac-12 North will be decided in Friday’s battle for the Apple Cup.
That’s a phrase that hasn’t been uttered too often in advance of this annual Evergreen State matchup. Friday will mark just the sixth time that the two teams will meet with a top 25 ranking next to each of their names.
Just last year, Washington overpowered Washington State in a 45-10 blowout. But don’t expect that this year with a much-improved Cougars team putting it together on both sides of the ball.
Washington State dropped its first conference game of the season this past week in a battle with a top 10 team in Colorado. That ended a seven-game winning streak in which Luke Falk and Gabe Marks has led an expectedly explosive offense while the defense held opponents to 21 points or less five times.
Despite this success, the Cougars will enter as underdogs against a Huskies team that remains right in the thick of the Playoff race. Jake Browning and Co. rebounded from a loss against a hot USC team with a dominating performance against Arizona State in Week 11.
With No. 2 Ohio State facing No. 3 Michigan this week, it’s inevitable that a top four spot will open up this week. Two spots out of one of those coveted bracket positions, a win on the road against a formidable conference rival would surely help Washington’s case for the spot.
No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State | GameCenter
Saturday at noon ETSpeaking of that Ohio State-Michigan faceoff, the Buckeyes and Wolverines will battle it out as top three opponents for only the second time in their illustrious history.
The bad blood is of course prevalent – Ohio State has crossed out every “M” on campus in preparation for Michigan’s trip to Columbus – but the added Playoff ramifications make this an even juicier matchup.
The Big Ten doesn’t solely rest on this Week 12 finale – Michigan can clinch it with a win while Ohio State would need some help to surpass Penn State in the East. But more importantly, keeping a spot in that top four in the CFP rankings is on both of their minds.
Mike Weber has been doing it all as only the third freshman in Buckeyes history to rush for more than 1,000 yards. But how will he and Curtis Samuel fare against Michigan’s top 10 run defense? Meanwhile, who will be under center for the Wolverines come Saturday with the consistent Wilton Speight still nursing his shoulder injury?
Michigan survived last week against Indiana with back-up John O’Korn at quarterback but Ohio State is a whole different animal.
There are plenty of questions heading into this Big Ten heavyweight match, but one certainty is that this has the potential to be the game of the year.
No. 13 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama | GameCenter
Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ETDon’t think for a second that just because the Tide wrapped up the SEC crown already that there will be less intensity in this year’s Iron Bowl.
At 11-0, it’s hard to imagine anyone slowing down Alabama this season in its quest for a second-straight national title. But never count out either side in the battle for bragging rights in the state of Alabama. Just look at the ending of the 2013 Iron Bowl for reference:
There’s still a lot on the line in this game too. An upset would lift Auburn to nine wins and set it up nicely for a bigger bowl game opportunity. For Alabama, a loss at this point wouldn’t likely drop it out of the Playoff’s top four; but it would leave an opening for that No. 1 seed.
Not like these two teams need any extra motivation when clashing against each other.
No. 15 Florida at No. 14 Florida State | GameCenter
Saturday at 8 p.m. ETFlorida’s defensive line showed in two minutes why the Gators are a dangerous team heading into the SEC championship next week.
While their offense has had some problems, its defense is elite and can match up against any backfield. In last week’s 16-10 win over LSU, the Gators front line kept Derrius Guice out of the end zone on four straight carries to get the game-winning goal-line stop.
Florida’s impressive unit will be tested once again in Week 12 against Dalvin Cook and the Seminoles offense. Cook ran rampant for 225 yards and four touchdowns last week against Syracuse.
MORE: All-Week 12 team
Cook has had a standout year although he’s flown slightly under the radar for his standards. But if he can pull off another big game and lead an upset over the SEC East champs, he can land right back into the later Heisman conversations.
While Florida holds the edge in the all-time head-to-head series, Florida State has captured five of the last six annual matchups. We’ll see if that trend is reversed this year in Tallahassee.
No. 22 Utah at No. 9 Colorado | GameCenter
Colorado is a legitimate threat out of the Pac-12 and can punch a ticket to the title game with a win over Utah. Buffs quarterback Sefo Liufau is coming off season-highs in passing and rushing yards against Washington State and will look for further improvement against a Utes team ranked 50th in total defense. Meanwhile, Utah is coming off a disappointing loss to Oregon where the Ducks scored the game-winning touchdown as time expired.
Notre Dame at No. 12 USC / GameCenter
On paper, this game seems like it’ll be rather lopsided in the Trojans’ favor. But as in any rivalry game, you can throw records and numbers aside. USC is one of the hottest teams in the nation and is coming off back-to-back wins over then-No. 4 Washington and bitter rival UCLA. The Trojans are creeping closer and closer to a top 10 spot in the CFP rankings and have a possible Rose Bowl trip in their future. Meanwhile, Notre Dame stands at 4-7 after another bad loss to Virginia Tech where its lead disappeared down the stretch. But the Irish would like nothing more than to stop USC’s momentum to finish the year on a high note.