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SALT LAKE CITY — Last week was marked by upsets and the committee really shook things up for the playoff picture. The season goes on, and with each week brings more opportunity for upsets. Teams in contention for a conference championship feel like they have a chance to make it to the playoffs. Here are some matchups that could change things with bowl season so close.
No. 22 Washington State Cougars (8-2) at No. 10 Colorado Buffaloes (8-2)
While the Pac-12 will be fought to the bitter end with both of these teams playing Washington and Utah next week respectively, this matchup doesn’t lose any of its potency. If either of these teams have the slightest prayer of going to the playoffs they need to win out, no exceptions. Colorado is the highest ranked two-loss Pac-12 team and the Buffaloes look like they have the second best chance to represent the Pac-12 in the playoffs, right behind Washington. The Buffaloes will look to defend their turf, but the Cougars have won eight straight and arguably have the best quarterback in the conference.
Indiana Hoosiers (5-5) at No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (9-1)
Under normal circumstances, this isn’t a matchup worth noting. Michigan is extremely favored, as it should be, but this game won’t be a cake walk for the Wolverines. Quarterback Wilton Speight went down last game, an ugly loss to Iowa, and one report says that Speight broke his collarbone and is out for the season. Assuming he doesn’t play, that will make things tough on Michigan.
Indiana isn’t the best team, but the Hoosiers have done a pretty good job at keeping pace with the powerhouse teams in the Big Ten. Last week Indiana led a lot of the game against then-ranked No. 10 Penn State and only lost on a few late scores. Michigan is still a talented team, but without its quarterback this matchup may make UM fans sweat.
San Diego State Aztecs (9-1) at Wyoming Cowboys (7-3)
This won’t affect the playoffs but it will affect a New Year’s Six bowl. The highest ranked Group of 5 conference champion gets the invite, and Boise State is hanging on over Western Michigan. However since it needs to be a conference champion, the Broncos need Wyoming to drop a second game. Wyoming is desperately hanging onto a tiebreaker over Boise State, after UNLV stunned the Cowboys last week, giving Wyoming and Boise State the same conference record.
San Diego has only one loss and is ranked in the AP and coaches polls, even if not in the college football playoff rankings. Beating Wyoming and then Boise State in the conference championship would put SDSU in a good position to make a New Year’s Six bowl as well. This game may not have playoff implications, but it has huge bowl game implications.
No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners (8-2) at No. 14 West Virginia Mountaineers (8-1)
Any Big 12 team doesn't have great odds to make the playoffs, but if someone has a shot, it’s one of these two teams. Oklahoma seems to have the best chance, with its two losses coming early in the year and Baker Mayfield quietly playing great football. The margin for error for either of these teams is nonexistent. This will be a hard fought bloodbath because the winner still has a prayer of going to the playoffs, while the loser will be eliminated.
Virginia Tech Hokies (7-3) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-6)
Notre Dame has had a bad season, but how bad could it be? They’re Notre Dame after all, its quarterback DeShone Kizer is considered a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft, so it can’t be that bad. Well, it’s been that bad for the Fighting Irish, and now they find themselves backed up against the wall with no more losses to give if they want to be bowl eligible. The good news for them is they’ve won two of their last three, that loss being by one point against a 7-2 Navy team.
The Hokies aren’t going to let the Fighting Irish get that win easily. After losing to Georgia Tech last week, Virginia Tech is now neck and neck with North Carolina, both holding a 5-2 record in the conference. Virginia Tech holds the tiebreaker over North Carolina. However, North Carolina is heavily favored to win its last two games of the season, against Citadel, a FCS team, and a five-loss NC State team. Virginia Tech cannot allow itself to lose any more games, and Notre Dame cannot allow itself to lose any more games.
Other matchups to watch: Ole Miss Rebels (5-5) at Vanderbilt Commodores (4-6), Arizona State (5-5) at No. 6 Washington (9-1), No. 23 Florida Gators (7-2) at No. 16 LSU (6-3), No. 11 Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-2) at TCU Horned Frogs (5-4)