The College Football Playoff committee has spoken. The players are ready to answer on the biggest day of the college football season.
When the games begin at noon on Saturday, the top four playoff teams are Clemson, LSU, Ohio State and Alabama. In the AP Top 25, the top four are Ohio State, Baylor, Clemson and LSU.
Agree or not, it all changes by the end of the day, and it’s conceivable that six of the AP’s top eight teams can lose. One will, when No. 4 LSU (8-0) visits No. 7 Alabama (7-1). No. 2 Baylor is safe: The Bears beat Kansas State 31-24 on Thursday night.
So away we go with what’s worth watching:
A loss at Pitt (6-2) and No. 8 Notre Dame (7-1), fifth in the CFP rankings, is all but out of the national title picture. The Panthers are coming off a loss to North Carolina, while the Fighting Irish topped Temple with a TD in the final minutes. The Irish have a 6-4 edge in the last 10 meetings, but nine of the matchups have been decided by eight points or less. (ABC, noon).
Happy hour begins early, with No. 17 Florida State (7-1) at No. 3 Clemson (8-0) in an ACC showdown (ABC, 3:30 p.m.), and No. 5 TCU (8-0) at No. 12 Oklahoma State (8-0) in a Big 12 showdown (Fox, 3:30 p.m.). The losers are likely eliminated from playoff contention.
It’s not often the Seminoles are underdogs, and if running back Dalvin Cook’s ankle is good, then who knows what happens in Death Valley? Florida State has won the last four meetings. A key matchup is ACC total offense leader DeShaun Watson against the ‘Noles secondary.
Oklahoma State is home underdog and must find a way to slow down Heisman contender Trevone Boykin, who averages 431.4 yards in total offense — second in the nation. OSU features defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who creates all sorts of havoc and has at least one sack in every game. Count the loser out of the national title chase.
Intriguing matchup of one team (No. 6 Michigan State, 8-0) with a win on a final-play miracle and another (Nebraska, 3-6) with a Hail Mary loss as well as several other mind-boggling final-minute defeats. (ESPN, 7 p.m.).
The Spartans have won 12 straight Big Ten road games, but the Huskers are dangerous despite so many losses under new coach Mike Riley (last week was their most embarrassing, 55-45 to Purdue). Nebraska is one of the worst teams against the pass, while Michigan State QB Connor Cook is one of the most efficient passers in the country and has 17 TDs. Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. returns from a foot injury. Could this one go down to the final play?
DINNER IS SERVED
The main course: No. 4 LSU and Heisman Trophy favorite Leonard Fournette visit No. 7 Alabama (CBS, 8 p.m.), and Minnesota visits No. 1 Ohio State, which suspended starter J.T. Barrett and will go with more-than-capable Cardale Jones (ABC, 8 p.m.).
A second loss, and figure Alabama is out of the title chase. LSU is the lone unbeaten in the powerful SEC, so the Tigers control their own destiny. The key here is can the front seven of the Crimson Tide control Fournette? This is the seventh time since 2005 that both teams enter the game ranked in the top 10.
The Buckeyes are favored by 23 points, but the Golden Gophers (4-4) could pose problems. Last week, in their first game under interim coach Travis Claeys, they lost by just three points to No. 16 Michigan. Jones faces an experienced secondary ranked in the top 20 in passing yards allowed. Then again, running back Ezekiel Elliott averages 141.3 yards per game, and just may carry the load.