Auburn edges Miss. State

Auburn stops No. 16 Mississippi State at the goal line to preserve wild 41-34 victory.

File-This Sept. 30, 2017, file photo shows Auburn defensive back Carlton Davis (6) breaking up a pass intended for Mississippi State wide receiver Jesse Jackson (86) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Auburn, Ala. Davis was selected to the AP All-America team announced Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
File-This Sept. 30, 2017, file photo shows Auburn defensive back Carlton Davis (6) breaking up a pass intended for Mississippi State wide receiver Jesse Jackson (86) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Auburn, Ala. Davis was selected to the AP All-America team announced Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
File-This Sept. 30, 2017, file photo shows Auburn defensive back Carlton Davis (6) breaking up a pass intended for Mississippi State wide receiver Jesse Jackson (86) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Auburn, Ala. Davis was selected to the AP All-America team announced Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
<p><a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/09/oklahoma-baker-mayfield-heisman-trophy-winner" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide</a> on Saturday, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which player will hoist the trophy next season. There would be some obvious frontrunners if some NFL decisions go a certain way, but all of those players returning feels highly unlikely. Chances are next season will start without many established stars, which means the field will feel wide open.</p><p>Here are a few of the players who could find their way into the race—starting with the ones who would have the best chance if they stayed in college one more season…</p><h3>If they come back</h3><p><strong>Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville</strong></p><p>Jackson could be a very high draft pick if he leaves for the NFL, but if he decides to return to Louisville, he could wind up in New York in December for a third consecutive year. He told reporters this past weekend that he’ll make his NFL decision after the TaxSlayer Bowl against Mississippi State. The guess is that he’ll go to the NFL. The view of Jackson as a pro is split, but I’m of the opinion that he’ll be an effective quarterback at the next level if he’s selected by the correct team. But if he does decide to return to college, he’ll put up video game numbers again.</p><p><strong>Sam Darnold, QB, USC</strong></p><p>Darnold is probably a first-round pick if he leaves now, but he also doesn’t seem in that big of a hurry to leave USC. Because he redshirted, he has two more seasons of eligibility. If it looks as if Darnold might be doomed to become a Cleveland Brown, one more season as a USC Trojan might be a much more attractive option.</p><p><strong>Bryce Love, RB, Stanford</strong></p><p>Given the lack of longevity at the position, tailbacks probably should leave as soon as possible and make as much money as possible. Love has some ambitious post-football goals, but he can earn a good salary while he chases them. He may follow in the footsteps of current Stanford medical student Owen Marecic, who was a two-way star at Stanford and played in the NFL before pursuing medicine. It’s tantalizing to think about what kind of numbers Love could put up if he stayed healthy for a full senior season, but it would be tough to pass up the opportunity in front of him.</p><p><strong>Will Grier, QB, West Virginia</strong></p><p>Grier’s college career was interrupted by a suspension for a positive test in an NCAA drug screen while at Florida. His breakout season as a redshirt junior was interrupted by a broken finger on his throwing hand. Should Grier and frequent touchdown collaborator David Sills V return for one more season in Morgantown, they could put up some absurd numbers in a wide-open—in every sense of the phrase—Big 12.</p><h3>Probably coming back</h3><p><strong>Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn</strong></p><p>It took about half the season for Stidham to get truly comfortable in Auburn’s offense and for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to get comfortable with what Stidham can do in the offense. The first Georgia game and the Iron Bowl were great examples of what Stidham can do in an Auburn offense populated by healthy backs. (There wasn’t much he could do about the injuries to Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin in the second Georgia game.) Now imagine how good Stidham could be with another offseason in the offense.</p><p><strong>Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State</strong></p><p>With Saquon Barkley probably headed to the NFL—and possibly getting picked in the top three—McSorley will have to carry more of the load in Penn State’s offense. That should be fine for a guy who plays in a similar fashion to the quarterback who just won the Heisman. The promotion of quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne to offensive coordinator following Joe Moorhead’s departure for Mississippi State should allow for continuity that should only help McSorley.</p><h3>No choice but to come back</h3><p><strong>Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona</strong></p><p>Tate’s October was statistically comparable to Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel’s Heisman seasons, but his production tailed off in November. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez now has a chance to completely build the offense around Tate. That’s great for Tate’s Heisman chances, but terrible for opposing defensive coordinators.</p><p><strong>Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin</strong></p><p>Taylor got bottled up by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game (15 carries for 41 yards), but he still averaged 6.8 yards a carry for his true freshman season. He plays at Wisconsin, so he’ll always run behind a quality line. If he stays healthy, he can only get better.</p><p><strong>McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF</strong></p><p>It’s a shame players don’t have the same freedom of movement as coaches, because Milton (357.7 yards of total offense a game in 2017) would light up the Big Ten if he could follow former Knights coach Scott Frost to Nebraska and play immediately. A Group of Five player has far less chance to win the Heisman, but at least Milton is a known commodity after the season he has had. If new UCF coach Josh Heupel can keep the Knights’ offense humming, Milton might have a chance.</p><p><strong>Ed Oliver, DT, Houston</strong></p><p>This is not an obligatory mention of a defensive player, nor is it an obligatory mention of a Group of Five player. Oliver might be the nation’s best player next season. This year’s Outland Trophy winner could find himself fighting another defensive tackle—340-pound Clemson gap-stuffer Dexter Lawrence—for the top spot in the 2019 NFL draft.</p><p><strong>Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon</strong></p><p>The numbers for Oregon’s offense with and without Herbert were jarring. With a healthy Herbert starting, Oregon went 6–1 and averaged 52 points. Without him, the Ducks were 1–4 and averaged 15 points. If the Ducks can keep him upright for a season, watch out.?</p><h3>If he’s healthy</h3><p><strong>Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State</strong></p><p>Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in the Bulldogs’ Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, so it’s unclear when he’ll be fully healthy again. But if he can get back to 100% in time for the season, the 6&#39;5&quot;, 235-pounder could have a lot of fun in Moorhead’s offense.</p><h3>Taking on bigger roles and ready to blow up</h3><p><strong>Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State</strong></p><p>Haskins replaced an injured J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes trailing against Michigan, and he helped his team to a comeback win. He’ll have to beat out Tate Martell—who redshirted this season—to win the starting job, but Haskins could preside over an offense that will threaten opponents vertically and on the ground.</p><p><strong>D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia</strong></p><p>Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are leaving, but don’t expect Georgia to abandon the run—especially as some of its more highly recruited offensive linemen come of age. Many of the carries left behind by Chubb and Michel will go to Swift, who averaged 8.2 yards a carry but only 5.6 carries a game this season. Swift also led all of Georgia’s backs in receptions with 15, so expect the Bulldogs to find ways to get him the ball.</p><p><strong>Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson</strong></p><p>This freshman from Louisiana showed up in the summer and became Clemson’s best back. After averaging 7.2 yards a carry splitting time with Tavien Feaster, Etienne should be even better following his first full offseason with the Tigers.</p><h3>A Random Ranking</h3><p><em>Star Wars: The Last Jedi</em> gets a wide release on Friday, so it’s time to rank some Jedi. We ranked the top 10 Star Wars villains in April. Now the good guys get their turn. Just as with the villain rankings, these characters must appear in at least one movie. (Sorry, Ahsoka Tano fans. But the good news is <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/794945/Star-Wars-news-Rosario-Dawson-Ahsoka-Tano-jedi-Anakin-Rebels-Han-Solo-Good-Morning-America" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen</a>.)</p><p><strong>1. Yoda<br>2. Obi-Wan Kenobi<br>3. Luke Skywalker<br>4. Anakin Skywalker*<br>5. Rey (I’m assuming)<br>6. Finn (I’m hoping)<br>7. Mace Windu<br>8. Qui-Gon Jinn<br>9. Kit Fisto<br>10. <a href="http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Yarael_Poof" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Yarael Poof" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Yarael Poof</a></strong></p><p>* <em>Yes, he slaughtered an awful lot of the Jedi order. But he also killed Emperor Palpatine (as Darth Vader). He may have been the only one powerful enough at the time to pull that off.</em></p><h3>Three and Out</h3><p><strong>1. Congratulations to Army</strong>, which claimed its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 1996 <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/09/army-navy-football-game-missed-field-goal-result-highlights" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia</a>. The Black Knights, who went 2–10 in 2015 and broke a 14-year losing streak against the Midshipmen in ’16, were the top service academy team this season. They’re now 9–3 and will finish their season Dec. 23 against San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl.</p><p><strong>2. Most of the players on Oregon’s roster signed a petition—penned by offensive lineman George Moore—in support of promoting offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal</strong> to head coach to replace Willie Taggart, who left for Florida State. And those players were thrilled when they got their wish last week.</p><p>One of Cristobal’s former Miami teammates was thrilled with the choice as well.</p><p><strong>3. Remember Daniel Faalele,</strong> <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/03/07/daniel-faalele-img-academy-recruiting" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the 6&#39;9&quot;, 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the 6&#39;9&quot;, 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter</a>? He has now played his first full season of organized football (at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.), and he has chosen a college. On Saturday, Faalele and IMG Academy teammate Curtis Dunlap decided to row the boat for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota.</p><p>Your reactions to this were predictable but still hilarious…</p><h3>For Your Ears</h3><p>My former <em>Tampa Tribune</em> co-worker Brett McMurphy—who also has worked at some other places—joined the podcast to discuss the lessons learned from the coaching carousel as well as life after an ESPN layoff.</p><h3>What’s Eating Andy?</h3><p>Our Richard Deitsch explains <a href="https://www.si.com/tech-media/2017/12/10/college-footballs-declining-ratings-2017-media-circus" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season</a>.</p><h3>What’s Andy Eating?</h3><p>During a break from interviewing the college football movers and shakers who descended upon New York last week for the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame dinner, I had planned to visit the Hell’s Kitchen location of The Meatball Shop. Then something jumped off my Google Maps app. Not far from The Meatball Shop—a mini-chain with multiple New York City locations that you should absolutely try the next time you’re in the area—was something called BarBacon. This demanded further examination. So I walked down 54th Street, hung a right on Ninth Avenue and stepped inside.</p><p>The menu was exactly what you’d expect from a place called BarBacon. With the exception of the beer, nearly everything had bacon in it or on it. Was it schticky? Absolutely. Was it delicious? Damn straight it was.</p><p>The obvious starting point is the beer and bacon flight appetizer. Four five-ounce servings of different craft beers accompany eight sizzling strips of bacon. The spicy jalapeño bacon and the sweet maple bacon were the best, but there really is no such thing as bad thick-cut bacon. The beer selection was excellent, but the better libation is a barrel-aged Manhattan featuring bacon-infused whiskey. The hint of smokiness from the bacon pairs nicely with the sweetness imparted by the aging process. Plus, if you’ve chosen a place called BarBacon, you’re not the type for half-measures anyway. Your drink also should include bacon.</p><p>With pure bacon already digesting, it was time to select a bacon-accented entree. I considered the Lamb Bacon Reuben and the Kentucky Fried Bacon Burger, but my inner five-year-old ultimately settled on the bacon grilled cheese. This one mixed bacon with melted gruyere and fontina on semolina, fennel and golden raisin bread. (The raisins sounded out-of-place, but the sweetness they offered was welcome.) Next to the sandwich was a bowl of tomato soup. The sandwich dunked wonderfully, and the bacon blended beautifully with the two highly meltable cheeses.</p><p>The Brussels sprouts came glazed with honey and Greek yogurt and featured giant chunks of bacon swimming between the sprouts. The Bacon Industrial Complex has now fully co-opted the vegetable that served as the butt of so many sitcom jokes, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Meanwhile, the “pork wings” didn’t include any bacon, but they were tasty mini-shanks drizzled in sriracha barbecue sauce. One of our party had the bacon and lobster mac and cheese. The bacon elevated a classic steakhouse side to full entree status, because bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion.</p><p>Our nation’s love affair with bacon might have gone a little too far—even for me. There’s bacon mayonnaise*, bacon air fresheners, bacon toothpaste and bacon lube. But I have no issue with building a bar around bacon as long as the schtick doesn’t overwhelm the meat.</p><p>*<em>Like I said, bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion. Some things, like mayo, are simply too awful for even bacon to help.</em></p><p>BarBacon would fail if the entire concept was “HEY, LOOK AT ALL THIS BACON.” Instead, it’s “Here are some carefully crafted dishes that happen to include bacon.” That makes all the difference.</p>
The 2018 Heisman Race: Examining 15 Early Frontrunners

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide on Saturday, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which player will hoist the trophy next season. There would be some obvious frontrunners if some NFL decisions go a certain way, but all of those players returning feels highly unlikely. Chances are next season will start without many established stars, which means the field will feel wide open.

Here are a few of the players who could find their way into the race—starting with the ones who would have the best chance if they stayed in college one more season…

If they come back

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Jackson could be a very high draft pick if he leaves for the NFL, but if he decides to return to Louisville, he could wind up in New York in December for a third consecutive year. He told reporters this past weekend that he’ll make his NFL decision after the TaxSlayer Bowl against Mississippi State. The guess is that he’ll go to the NFL. The view of Jackson as a pro is split, but I’m of the opinion that he’ll be an effective quarterback at the next level if he’s selected by the correct team. But if he does decide to return to college, he’ll put up video game numbers again.

Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Darnold is probably a first-round pick if he leaves now, but he also doesn’t seem in that big of a hurry to leave USC. Because he redshirted, he has two more seasons of eligibility. If it looks as if Darnold might be doomed to become a Cleveland Brown, one more season as a USC Trojan might be a much more attractive option.

Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Given the lack of longevity at the position, tailbacks probably should leave as soon as possible and make as much money as possible. Love has some ambitious post-football goals, but he can earn a good salary while he chases them. He may follow in the footsteps of current Stanford medical student Owen Marecic, who was a two-way star at Stanford and played in the NFL before pursuing medicine. It’s tantalizing to think about what kind of numbers Love could put up if he stayed healthy for a full senior season, but it would be tough to pass up the opportunity in front of him.

Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

Grier’s college career was interrupted by a suspension for a positive test in an NCAA drug screen while at Florida. His breakout season as a redshirt junior was interrupted by a broken finger on his throwing hand. Should Grier and frequent touchdown collaborator David Sills V return for one more season in Morgantown, they could put up some absurd numbers in a wide-open—in every sense of the phrase—Big 12.

Probably coming back

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

It took about half the season for Stidham to get truly comfortable in Auburn’s offense and for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to get comfortable with what Stidham can do in the offense. The first Georgia game and the Iron Bowl were great examples of what Stidham can do in an Auburn offense populated by healthy backs. (There wasn’t much he could do about the injuries to Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin in the second Georgia game.) Now imagine how good Stidham could be with another offseason in the offense.

Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State

With Saquon Barkley probably headed to the NFL—and possibly getting picked in the top three—McSorley will have to carry more of the load in Penn State’s offense. That should be fine for a guy who plays in a similar fashion to the quarterback who just won the Heisman. The promotion of quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne to offensive coordinator following Joe Moorhead’s departure for Mississippi State should allow for continuity that should only help McSorley.

No choice but to come back

Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona

Tate’s October was statistically comparable to Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel’s Heisman seasons, but his production tailed off in November. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez now has a chance to completely build the offense around Tate. That’s great for Tate’s Heisman chances, but terrible for opposing defensive coordinators.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Taylor got bottled up by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game (15 carries for 41 yards), but he still averaged 6.8 yards a carry for his true freshman season. He plays at Wisconsin, so he’ll always run behind a quality line. If he stays healthy, he can only get better.

McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF

It’s a shame players don’t have the same freedom of movement as coaches, because Milton (357.7 yards of total offense a game in 2017) would light up the Big Ten if he could follow former Knights coach Scott Frost to Nebraska and play immediately. A Group of Five player has far less chance to win the Heisman, but at least Milton is a known commodity after the season he has had. If new UCF coach Josh Heupel can keep the Knights’ offense humming, Milton might have a chance.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

This is not an obligatory mention of a defensive player, nor is it an obligatory mention of a Group of Five player. Oliver might be the nation’s best player next season. This year’s Outland Trophy winner could find himself fighting another defensive tackle—340-pound Clemson gap-stuffer Dexter Lawrence—for the top spot in the 2019 NFL draft.

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

The numbers for Oregon’s offense with and without Herbert were jarring. With a healthy Herbert starting, Oregon went 6–1 and averaged 52 points. Without him, the Ducks were 1–4 and averaged 15 points. If the Ducks can keep him upright for a season, watch out.?

If he’s healthy

Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State

Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in the Bulldogs’ Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, so it’s unclear when he’ll be fully healthy again. But if he can get back to 100% in time for the season, the 6'5", 235-pounder could have a lot of fun in Moorhead’s offense.

Taking on bigger roles and ready to blow up

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Haskins replaced an injured J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes trailing against Michigan, and he helped his team to a comeback win. He’ll have to beat out Tate Martell—who redshirted this season—to win the starting job, but Haskins could preside over an offense that will threaten opponents vertically and on the ground.

D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are leaving, but don’t expect Georgia to abandon the run—especially as some of its more highly recruited offensive linemen come of age. Many of the carries left behind by Chubb and Michel will go to Swift, who averaged 8.2 yards a carry but only 5.6 carries a game this season. Swift also led all of Georgia’s backs in receptions with 15, so expect the Bulldogs to find ways to get him the ball.

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

This freshman from Louisiana showed up in the summer and became Clemson’s best back. After averaging 7.2 yards a carry splitting time with Tavien Feaster, Etienne should be even better following his first full offseason with the Tigers.

A Random Ranking

Star Wars: The Last Jedi gets a wide release on Friday, so it’s time to rank some Jedi. We ranked the top 10 Star Wars villains in April. Now the good guys get their turn. Just as with the villain rankings, these characters must appear in at least one movie. (Sorry, Ahsoka Tano fans. But the good news is Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen.)

1. Yoda
2. Obi-Wan Kenobi
3. Luke Skywalker
4. Anakin Skywalker*
5. Rey (I’m assuming)
6. Finn (I’m hoping)
7. Mace Windu
8. Qui-Gon Jinn
9. Kit Fisto
10. Yarael Poof

* Yes, he slaughtered an awful lot of the Jedi order. But he also killed Emperor Palpatine (as Darth Vader). He may have been the only one powerful enough at the time to pull that off.

Three and Out

1. Congratulations to Army, which claimed its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 1996 after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia. The Black Knights, who went 2–10 in 2015 and broke a 14-year losing streak against the Midshipmen in ’16, were the top service academy team this season. They’re now 9–3 and will finish their season Dec. 23 against San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl.

2. Most of the players on Oregon’s roster signed a petition—penned by offensive lineman George Moore—in support of promoting offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal to head coach to replace Willie Taggart, who left for Florida State. And those players were thrilled when they got their wish last week.

One of Cristobal’s former Miami teammates was thrilled with the choice as well.

3. Remember Daniel Faalele, the 6'9", 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter? He has now played his first full season of organized football (at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.), and he has chosen a college. On Saturday, Faalele and IMG Academy teammate Curtis Dunlap decided to row the boat for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota.

Your reactions to this were predictable but still hilarious…

For Your Ears

My former Tampa Tribune co-worker Brett McMurphy—who also has worked at some other places—joined the podcast to discuss the lessons learned from the coaching carousel as well as life after an ESPN layoff.

What’s Eating Andy?

Our Richard Deitsch explains why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season.

What’s Andy Eating?

During a break from interviewing the college football movers and shakers who descended upon New York last week for the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame dinner, I had planned to visit the Hell’s Kitchen location of The Meatball Shop. Then something jumped off my Google Maps app. Not far from The Meatball Shop—a mini-chain with multiple New York City locations that you should absolutely try the next time you’re in the area—was something called BarBacon. This demanded further examination. So I walked down 54th Street, hung a right on Ninth Avenue and stepped inside.

The menu was exactly what you’d expect from a place called BarBacon. With the exception of the beer, nearly everything had bacon in it or on it. Was it schticky? Absolutely. Was it delicious? Damn straight it was.

The obvious starting point is the beer and bacon flight appetizer. Four five-ounce servings of different craft beers accompany eight sizzling strips of bacon. The spicy jalapeño bacon and the sweet maple bacon were the best, but there really is no such thing as bad thick-cut bacon. The beer selection was excellent, but the better libation is a barrel-aged Manhattan featuring bacon-infused whiskey. The hint of smokiness from the bacon pairs nicely with the sweetness imparted by the aging process. Plus, if you’ve chosen a place called BarBacon, you’re not the type for half-measures anyway. Your drink also should include bacon.

With pure bacon already digesting, it was time to select a bacon-accented entree. I considered the Lamb Bacon Reuben and the Kentucky Fried Bacon Burger, but my inner five-year-old ultimately settled on the bacon grilled cheese. This one mixed bacon with melted gruyere and fontina on semolina, fennel and golden raisin bread. (The raisins sounded out-of-place, but the sweetness they offered was welcome.) Next to the sandwich was a bowl of tomato soup. The sandwich dunked wonderfully, and the bacon blended beautifully with the two highly meltable cheeses.

The Brussels sprouts came glazed with honey and Greek yogurt and featured giant chunks of bacon swimming between the sprouts. The Bacon Industrial Complex has now fully co-opted the vegetable that served as the butt of so many sitcom jokes, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Meanwhile, the “pork wings” didn’t include any bacon, but they were tasty mini-shanks drizzled in sriracha barbecue sauce. One of our party had the bacon and lobster mac and cheese. The bacon elevated a classic steakhouse side to full entree status, because bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion.

Our nation’s love affair with bacon might have gone a little too far—even for me. There’s bacon mayonnaise*, bacon air fresheners, bacon toothpaste and bacon lube. But I have no issue with building a bar around bacon as long as the schtick doesn’t overwhelm the meat.

*Like I said, bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion. Some things, like mayo, are simply too awful for even bacon to help.

BarBacon would fail if the entire concept was “HEY, LOOK AT ALL THIS BACON.” Instead, it’s “Here are some carefully crafted dishes that happen to include bacon.” That makes all the difference.

<p><a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/09/oklahoma-baker-mayfield-heisman-trophy-winner" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide</a> on Saturday, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which player will hoist the trophy next season. There would be some obvious frontrunners if some NFL decisions go a certain way, but all of those players returning feels highly unlikely. Chances are next season will start without many established stars, which means the field will feel wide open.</p><p>Here are a few of the players who could find their way into the race—starting with the ones who would have the best chance if they stayed in college one more season…</p><h3>If they come back</h3><p><strong>Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville</strong></p><p>Jackson could be a very high draft pick if he leaves for the NFL, but if he decides to return to Louisville, he could wind up in New York in December for a third consecutive year. He told reporters this past weekend that he’ll make his NFL decision after the TaxSlayer Bowl against Mississippi State. The guess is that he’ll go to the NFL. The view of Jackson as a pro is split, but I’m of the opinion that he’ll be an effective quarterback at the next level if he’s selected by the correct team. But if he does decide to return to college, he’ll put up video game numbers again.</p><p><strong>Sam Darnold, QB, USC</strong></p><p>Darnold is probably a first-round pick if he leaves now, but he also doesn’t seem in that big of a hurry to leave USC. Because he redshirted, he has two more seasons of eligibility. If it looks as if Darnold might be doomed to become a Cleveland Brown, one more season as a USC Trojan might be a much more attractive option.</p><p><strong>Bryce Love, RB, Stanford</strong></p><p>Given the lack of longevity at the position, tailbacks probably should leave as soon as possible and make as much money as possible. Love has some ambitious post-football goals, but he can earn a good salary while he chases them. He may follow in the footsteps of current Stanford medical student Owen Marecic, who was a two-way star at Stanford and played in the NFL before pursuing medicine. It’s tantalizing to think about what kind of numbers Love could put up if he stayed healthy for a full senior season, but it would be tough to pass up the opportunity in front of him.</p><p><strong>Will Grier, QB, West Virginia</strong></p><p>Grier’s college career was interrupted by a suspension for a positive test in an NCAA drug screen while at Florida. His breakout season as a redshirt junior was interrupted by a broken finger on his throwing hand. Should Grier and frequent touchdown collaborator David Sills V return for one more season in Morgantown, they could put up some absurd numbers in a wide-open—in every sense of the phrase—Big 12.</p><h3>Probably coming back</h3><p><strong>Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn</strong></p><p>It took about half the season for Stidham to get truly comfortable in Auburn’s offense and for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to get comfortable with what Stidham can do in the offense. The first Georgia game and the Iron Bowl were great examples of what Stidham can do in an Auburn offense populated by healthy backs. (There wasn’t much he could do about the injuries to Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin in the second Georgia game.) Now imagine how good Stidham could be with another offseason in the offense.</p><p><strong>Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State</strong></p><p>With Saquon Barkley probably headed to the NFL—and possibly getting picked in the top three—McSorley will have to carry more of the load in Penn State’s offense. That should be fine for a guy who plays in a similar fashion to the quarterback who just won the Heisman. The promotion of quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne to offensive coordinator following Joe Moorhead’s departure for Mississippi State should allow for continuity that should only help McSorley.</p><h3>No choice but to come back</h3><p><strong>Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona</strong></p><p>Tate’s October was statistically comparable to Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel’s Heisman seasons, but his production tailed off in November. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez now has a chance to completely build the offense around Tate. That’s great for Tate’s Heisman chances, but terrible for opposing defensive coordinators.</p><p><strong>Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin</strong></p><p>Taylor got bottled up by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game (15 carries for 41 yards), but he still averaged 6.8 yards a carry for his true freshman season. He plays at Wisconsin, so he’ll always run behind a quality line. If he stays healthy, he can only get better.</p><p><strong>McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF</strong></p><p>It’s a shame players don’t have the same freedom of movement as coaches, because Milton (357.7 yards of total offense a game in 2017) would light up the Big Ten if he could follow former Knights coach Scott Frost to Nebraska and play immediately. A Group of Five player has far less chance to win the Heisman, but at least Milton is a known commodity after the season he has had. If new UCF coach Josh Heupel can keep the Knights’ offense humming, Milton might have a chance.</p><p><strong>Ed Oliver, DT, Houston</strong></p><p>This is not an obligatory mention of a defensive player, nor is it an obligatory mention of a Group of Five player. Oliver might be the nation’s best player next season. This year’s Outland Trophy winner could find himself fighting another defensive tackle—340-pound Clemson gap-stuffer Dexter Lawrence—for the top spot in the 2019 NFL draft.</p><p><strong>Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon</strong></p><p>The numbers for Oregon’s offense with and without Herbert were jarring. With a healthy Herbert starting, Oregon went 6–1 and averaged 52 points. Without him, the Ducks were 1–4 and averaged 15 points. If the Ducks can keep him upright for a season, watch out.?</p><h3>If he’s healthy</h3><p><strong>Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State</strong></p><p>Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in the Bulldogs’ Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, so it’s unclear when he’ll be fully healthy again. But if he can get back to 100% in time for the season, the 6&#39;5&quot;, 235-pounder could have a lot of fun in Moorhead’s offense.</p><h3>Taking on bigger roles and ready to blow up</h3><p><strong>Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State</strong></p><p>Haskins replaced an injured J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes trailing against Michigan, and he helped his team to a comeback win. He’ll have to beat out Tate Martell—who redshirted this season—to win the starting job, but Haskins could preside over an offense that will threaten opponents vertically and on the ground.</p><p><strong>D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia</strong></p><p>Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are leaving, but don’t expect Georgia to abandon the run—especially as some of its more highly recruited offensive linemen come of age. Many of the carries left behind by Chubb and Michel will go to Swift, who averaged 8.2 yards a carry but only 5.6 carries a game this season. Swift also led all of Georgia’s backs in receptions with 15, so expect the Bulldogs to find ways to get him the ball.</p><p><strong>Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson</strong></p><p>This freshman from Louisiana showed up in the summer and became Clemson’s best back. After averaging 7.2 yards a carry splitting time with Tavien Feaster, Etienne should be even better following his first full offseason with the Tigers.</p><h3>A Random Ranking</h3><p><em>Star Wars: The Last Jedi</em> gets a wide release on Friday, so it’s time to rank some Jedi. We ranked the top 10 Star Wars villains in April. Now the good guys get their turn. Just as with the villain rankings, these characters must appear in at least one movie. (Sorry, Ahsoka Tano fans. But the good news is <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/794945/Star-Wars-news-Rosario-Dawson-Ahsoka-Tano-jedi-Anakin-Rebels-Han-Solo-Good-Morning-America" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen</a>.)</p><p><strong>1. Yoda<br>2. Obi-Wan Kenobi<br>3. Luke Skywalker<br>4. Anakin Skywalker*<br>5. Rey (I’m assuming)<br>6. Finn (I’m hoping)<br>7. Mace Windu<br>8. Qui-Gon Jinn<br>9. Kit Fisto<br>10. <a href="http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Yarael_Poof" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Yarael Poof" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Yarael Poof</a></strong></p><p>* <em>Yes, he slaughtered an awful lot of the Jedi order. But he also killed Emperor Palpatine (as Darth Vader). He may have been the only one powerful enough at the time to pull that off.</em></p><h3>Three and Out</h3><p><strong>1. Congratulations to Army</strong>, which claimed its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 1996 <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/09/army-navy-football-game-missed-field-goal-result-highlights" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia</a>. The Black Knights, who went 2–10 in 2015 and broke a 14-year losing streak against the Midshipmen in ’16, were the top service academy team this season. They’re now 9–3 and will finish their season Dec. 23 against San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl.</p><p><strong>2. Most of the players on Oregon’s roster signed a petition—penned by offensive lineman George Moore—in support of promoting offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal</strong> to head coach to replace Willie Taggart, who left for Florida State. And those players were thrilled when they got their wish last week.</p><p>One of Cristobal’s former Miami teammates was thrilled with the choice as well.</p><p><strong>3. Remember Daniel Faalele,</strong> <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/03/07/daniel-faalele-img-academy-recruiting" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the 6&#39;9&quot;, 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the 6&#39;9&quot;, 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter</a>? He has now played his first full season of organized football (at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.), and he has chosen a college. On Saturday, Faalele and IMG Academy teammate Curtis Dunlap decided to row the boat for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota.</p><p>Your reactions to this were predictable but still hilarious…</p><h3>For Your Ears</h3><p>My former <em>Tampa Tribune</em> co-worker Brett McMurphy—who also has worked at some other places—joined the podcast to discuss the lessons learned from the coaching carousel as well as life after an ESPN layoff.</p><h3>What’s Eating Andy?</h3><p>Our Richard Deitsch explains <a href="https://www.si.com/tech-media/2017/12/10/college-footballs-declining-ratings-2017-media-circus" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season</a>.</p><h3>What’s Andy Eating?</h3><p>During a break from interviewing the college football movers and shakers who descended upon New York last week for the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame dinner, I had planned to visit the Hell’s Kitchen location of The Meatball Shop. Then something jumped off my Google Maps app. Not far from The Meatball Shop—a mini-chain with multiple New York City locations that you should absolutely try the next time you’re in the area—was something called BarBacon. This demanded further examination. So I walked down 54th Street, hung a right on Ninth Avenue and stepped inside.</p><p>The menu was exactly what you’d expect from a place called BarBacon. With the exception of the beer, nearly everything had bacon in it or on it. Was it schticky? Absolutely. Was it delicious? Damn straight it was.</p><p>The obvious starting point is the beer and bacon flight appetizer. Four five-ounce servings of different craft beers accompany eight sizzling strips of bacon. The spicy jalapeño bacon and the sweet maple bacon were the best, but there really is no such thing as bad thick-cut bacon. The beer selection was excellent, but the better libation is a barrel-aged Manhattan featuring bacon-infused whiskey. The hint of smokiness from the bacon pairs nicely with the sweetness imparted by the aging process. Plus, if you’ve chosen a place called BarBacon, you’re not the type for half-measures anyway. Your drink also should include bacon.</p><p>With pure bacon already digesting, it was time to select a bacon-accented entree. I considered the Lamb Bacon Reuben and the Kentucky Fried Bacon Burger, but my inner five-year-old ultimately settled on the bacon grilled cheese. This one mixed bacon with melted gruyere and fontina on semolina, fennel and golden raisin bread. (The raisins sounded out-of-place, but the sweetness they offered was welcome.) Next to the sandwich was a bowl of tomato soup. The sandwich dunked wonderfully, and the bacon blended beautifully with the two highly meltable cheeses.</p><p>The Brussels sprouts came glazed with honey and Greek yogurt and featured giant chunks of bacon swimming between the sprouts. The Bacon Industrial Complex has now fully co-opted the vegetable that served as the butt of so many sitcom jokes, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Meanwhile, the “pork wings” didn’t include any bacon, but they were tasty mini-shanks drizzled in sriracha barbecue sauce. One of our party had the bacon and lobster mac and cheese. The bacon elevated a classic steakhouse side to full entree status, because bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion.</p><p>Our nation’s love affair with bacon might have gone a little too far—even for me. There’s bacon mayonnaise*, bacon air fresheners, bacon toothpaste and bacon lube. But I have no issue with building a bar around bacon as long as the schtick doesn’t overwhelm the meat.</p><p>*<em>Like I said, bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion. Some things, like mayo, are simply too awful for even bacon to help.</em></p><p>BarBacon would fail if the entire concept was “HEY, LOOK AT ALL THIS BACON.” Instead, it’s “Here are some carefully crafted dishes that happen to include bacon.” That makes all the difference.</p>
The 2018 Heisman Race: Examining 15 Early Frontrunners

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide on Saturday, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which player will hoist the trophy next season. There would be some obvious frontrunners if some NFL decisions go a certain way, but all of those players returning feels highly unlikely. Chances are next season will start without many established stars, which means the field will feel wide open.

Here are a few of the players who could find their way into the race—starting with the ones who would have the best chance if they stayed in college one more season…

If they come back

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Jackson could be a very high draft pick if he leaves for the NFL, but if he decides to return to Louisville, he could wind up in New York in December for a third consecutive year. He told reporters this past weekend that he’ll make his NFL decision after the TaxSlayer Bowl against Mississippi State. The guess is that he’ll go to the NFL. The view of Jackson as a pro is split, but I’m of the opinion that he’ll be an effective quarterback at the next level if he’s selected by the correct team. But if he does decide to return to college, he’ll put up video game numbers again.

Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Darnold is probably a first-round pick if he leaves now, but he also doesn’t seem in that big of a hurry to leave USC. Because he redshirted, he has two more seasons of eligibility. If it looks as if Darnold might be doomed to become a Cleveland Brown, one more season as a USC Trojan might be a much more attractive option.

Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Given the lack of longevity at the position, tailbacks probably should leave as soon as possible and make as much money as possible. Love has some ambitious post-football goals, but he can earn a good salary while he chases them. He may follow in the footsteps of current Stanford medical student Owen Marecic, who was a two-way star at Stanford and played in the NFL before pursuing medicine. It’s tantalizing to think about what kind of numbers Love could put up if he stayed healthy for a full senior season, but it would be tough to pass up the opportunity in front of him.

Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

Grier’s college career was interrupted by a suspension for a positive test in an NCAA drug screen while at Florida. His breakout season as a redshirt junior was interrupted by a broken finger on his throwing hand. Should Grier and frequent touchdown collaborator David Sills V return for one more season in Morgantown, they could put up some absurd numbers in a wide-open—in every sense of the phrase—Big 12.

Probably coming back

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

It took about half the season for Stidham to get truly comfortable in Auburn’s offense and for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to get comfortable with what Stidham can do in the offense. The first Georgia game and the Iron Bowl were great examples of what Stidham can do in an Auburn offense populated by healthy backs. (There wasn’t much he could do about the injuries to Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin in the second Georgia game.) Now imagine how good Stidham could be with another offseason in the offense.

Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State

With Saquon Barkley probably headed to the NFL—and possibly getting picked in the top three—McSorley will have to carry more of the load in Penn State’s offense. That should be fine for a guy who plays in a similar fashion to the quarterback who just won the Heisman. The promotion of quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne to offensive coordinator following Joe Moorhead’s departure for Mississippi State should allow for continuity that should only help McSorley.

No choice but to come back

Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona

Tate’s October was statistically comparable to Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel’s Heisman seasons, but his production tailed off in November. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez now has a chance to completely build the offense around Tate. That’s great for Tate’s Heisman chances, but terrible for opposing defensive coordinators.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Taylor got bottled up by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game (15 carries for 41 yards), but he still averaged 6.8 yards a carry for his true freshman season. He plays at Wisconsin, so he’ll always run behind a quality line. If he stays healthy, he can only get better.

McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF

It’s a shame players don’t have the same freedom of movement as coaches, because Milton (357.7 yards of total offense a game in 2017) would light up the Big Ten if he could follow former Knights coach Scott Frost to Nebraska and play immediately. A Group of Five player has far less chance to win the Heisman, but at least Milton is a known commodity after the season he has had. If new UCF coach Josh Heupel can keep the Knights’ offense humming, Milton might have a chance.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

This is not an obligatory mention of a defensive player, nor is it an obligatory mention of a Group of Five player. Oliver might be the nation’s best player next season. This year’s Outland Trophy winner could find himself fighting another defensive tackle—340-pound Clemson gap-stuffer Dexter Lawrence—for the top spot in the 2019 NFL draft.

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

The numbers for Oregon’s offense with and without Herbert were jarring. With a healthy Herbert starting, Oregon went 6–1 and averaged 52 points. Without him, the Ducks were 1–4 and averaged 15 points. If the Ducks can keep him upright for a season, watch out.?

If he’s healthy

Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State

Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in the Bulldogs’ Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, so it’s unclear when he’ll be fully healthy again. But if he can get back to 100% in time for the season, the 6'5", 235-pounder could have a lot of fun in Moorhead’s offense.

Taking on bigger roles and ready to blow up

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Haskins replaced an injured J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes trailing against Michigan, and he helped his team to a comeback win. He’ll have to beat out Tate Martell—who redshirted this season—to win the starting job, but Haskins could preside over an offense that will threaten opponents vertically and on the ground.

D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are leaving, but don’t expect Georgia to abandon the run—especially as some of its more highly recruited offensive linemen come of age. Many of the carries left behind by Chubb and Michel will go to Swift, who averaged 8.2 yards a carry but only 5.6 carries a game this season. Swift also led all of Georgia’s backs in receptions with 15, so expect the Bulldogs to find ways to get him the ball.

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

This freshman from Louisiana showed up in the summer and became Clemson’s best back. After averaging 7.2 yards a carry splitting time with Tavien Feaster, Etienne should be even better following his first full offseason with the Tigers.

A Random Ranking

Star Wars: The Last Jedi gets a wide release on Friday, so it’s time to rank some Jedi. We ranked the top 10 Star Wars villains in April. Now the good guys get their turn. Just as with the villain rankings, these characters must appear in at least one movie. (Sorry, Ahsoka Tano fans. But the good news is Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen.)

1. Yoda
2. Obi-Wan Kenobi
3. Luke Skywalker
4. Anakin Skywalker*
5. Rey (I’m assuming)
6. Finn (I’m hoping)
7. Mace Windu
8. Qui-Gon Jinn
9. Kit Fisto
10. Yarael Poof

* Yes, he slaughtered an awful lot of the Jedi order. But he also killed Emperor Palpatine (as Darth Vader). He may have been the only one powerful enough at the time to pull that off.

Three and Out

1. Congratulations to Army, which claimed its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 1996 after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia. The Black Knights, who went 2–10 in 2015 and broke a 14-year losing streak against the Midshipmen in ’16, were the top service academy team this season. They’re now 9–3 and will finish their season Dec. 23 against San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl.

2. Most of the players on Oregon’s roster signed a petition—penned by offensive lineman George Moore—in support of promoting offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal to head coach to replace Willie Taggart, who left for Florida State. And those players were thrilled when they got their wish last week.

One of Cristobal’s former Miami teammates was thrilled with the choice as well.

3. Remember Daniel Faalele, the 6'9", 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter? He has now played his first full season of organized football (at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.), and he has chosen a college. On Saturday, Faalele and IMG Academy teammate Curtis Dunlap decided to row the boat for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota.

Your reactions to this were predictable but still hilarious…

For Your Ears

My former Tampa Tribune co-worker Brett McMurphy—who also has worked at some other places—joined the podcast to discuss the lessons learned from the coaching carousel as well as life after an ESPN layoff.

What’s Eating Andy?

Our Richard Deitsch explains why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season.

What’s Andy Eating?

During a break from interviewing the college football movers and shakers who descended upon New York last week for the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame dinner, I had planned to visit the Hell’s Kitchen location of The Meatball Shop. Then something jumped off my Google Maps app. Not far from The Meatball Shop—a mini-chain with multiple New York City locations that you should absolutely try the next time you’re in the area—was something called BarBacon. This demanded further examination. So I walked down 54th Street, hung a right on Ninth Avenue and stepped inside.

The menu was exactly what you’d expect from a place called BarBacon. With the exception of the beer, nearly everything had bacon in it or on it. Was it schticky? Absolutely. Was it delicious? Damn straight it was.

The obvious starting point is the beer and bacon flight appetizer. Four five-ounce servings of different craft beers accompany eight sizzling strips of bacon. The spicy jalapeño bacon and the sweet maple bacon were the best, but there really is no such thing as bad thick-cut bacon. The beer selection was excellent, but the better libation is a barrel-aged Manhattan featuring bacon-infused whiskey. The hint of smokiness from the bacon pairs nicely with the sweetness imparted by the aging process. Plus, if you’ve chosen a place called BarBacon, you’re not the type for half-measures anyway. Your drink also should include bacon.

With pure bacon already digesting, it was time to select a bacon-accented entree. I considered the Lamb Bacon Reuben and the Kentucky Fried Bacon Burger, but my inner five-year-old ultimately settled on the bacon grilled cheese. This one mixed bacon with melted gruyere and fontina on semolina, fennel and golden raisin bread. (The raisins sounded out-of-place, but the sweetness they offered was welcome.) Next to the sandwich was a bowl of tomato soup. The sandwich dunked wonderfully, and the bacon blended beautifully with the two highly meltable cheeses.

The Brussels sprouts came glazed with honey and Greek yogurt and featured giant chunks of bacon swimming between the sprouts. The Bacon Industrial Complex has now fully co-opted the vegetable that served as the butt of so many sitcom jokes, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Meanwhile, the “pork wings” didn’t include any bacon, but they were tasty mini-shanks drizzled in sriracha barbecue sauce. One of our party had the bacon and lobster mac and cheese. The bacon elevated a classic steakhouse side to full entree status, because bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion.

Our nation’s love affair with bacon might have gone a little too far—even for me. There’s bacon mayonnaise*, bacon air fresheners, bacon toothpaste and bacon lube. But I have no issue with building a bar around bacon as long as the schtick doesn’t overwhelm the meat.

*Like I said, bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion. Some things, like mayo, are simply too awful for even bacon to help.

BarBacon would fail if the entire concept was “HEY, LOOK AT ALL THIS BACON.” Instead, it’s “Here are some carefully crafted dishes that happen to include bacon.” That makes all the difference.

<p><a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/09/oklahoma-baker-mayfield-heisman-trophy-winner" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide</a> on Saturday, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which player will hoist the trophy next season. There would be some obvious frontrunners if some NFL decisions go a certain way, but all of those players returning feels highly unlikely. Chances are next season will start without many established stars, which means the field will feel wide open.</p><p>Here are a few of the players who could find their way into the race—starting with the ones who would have the best chance if they stayed in college one more season…</p><h3>If they come back</h3><p><strong>Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville</strong></p><p>Jackson could be a very high draft pick if he leaves for the NFL, but if he decides to return to Louisville, he could wind up in New York in December for a third consecutive year. He told reporters this past weekend that he’ll make his NFL decision after the TaxSlayer Bowl against Mississippi State. The guess is that he’ll go to the NFL. The view of Jackson as a pro is split, but I’m of the opinion that he’ll be an effective quarterback at the next level if he’s selected by the correct team. But if he does decide to return to college, he’ll put up video game numbers again.</p><p><strong>Sam Darnold, QB, USC</strong></p><p>Darnold is probably a first-round pick if he leaves now, but he also doesn’t seem in that big of a hurry to leave USC. Because he redshirted, he has two more seasons of eligibility. If it looks as if Darnold might be doomed to become a Cleveland Brown, one more season as a USC Trojan might be a much more attractive option.</p><p><strong>Bryce Love, RB, Stanford</strong></p><p>Given the lack of longevity at the position, tailbacks probably should leave as soon as possible and make as much money as possible. Love has some ambitious post-football goals, but he can earn a good salary while he chases them. He may follow in the footsteps of current Stanford medical student Owen Marecic, who was a two-way star at Stanford and played in the NFL before pursuing medicine. It’s tantalizing to think about what kind of numbers Love could put up if he stayed healthy for a full senior season, but it would be tough to pass up the opportunity in front of him.</p><p><strong>Will Grier, QB, West Virginia</strong></p><p>Grier’s college career was interrupted by a suspension for a positive test in an NCAA drug screen while at Florida. His breakout season as a redshirt junior was interrupted by a broken finger on his throwing hand. Should Grier and frequent touchdown collaborator David Sills V return for one more season in Morgantown, they could put up some absurd numbers in a wide-open—in every sense of the phrase—Big 12.</p><h3>Probably coming back</h3><p><strong>Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn</strong></p><p>It took about half the season for Stidham to get truly comfortable in Auburn’s offense and for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to get comfortable with what Stidham can do in the offense. The first Georgia game and the Iron Bowl were great examples of what Stidham can do in an Auburn offense populated by healthy backs. (There wasn’t much he could do about the injuries to Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin in the second Georgia game.) Now imagine how good Stidham could be with another offseason in the offense.</p><p><strong>Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State</strong></p><p>With Saquon Barkley probably headed to the NFL—and possibly getting picked in the top three—McSorley will have to carry more of the load in Penn State’s offense. That should be fine for a guy who plays in a similar fashion to the quarterback who just won the Heisman. The promotion of quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne to offensive coordinator following Joe Moorhead’s departure for Mississippi State should allow for continuity that should only help McSorley.</p><h3>No choice but to come back</h3><p><strong>Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona</strong></p><p>Tate’s October was statistically comparable to Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel’s Heisman seasons, but his production tailed off in November. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez now has a chance to completely build the offense around Tate. That’s great for Tate’s Heisman chances, but terrible for opposing defensive coordinators.</p><p><strong>Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin</strong></p><p>Taylor got bottled up by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game (15 carries for 41 yards), but he still averaged 6.8 yards a carry for his true freshman season. He plays at Wisconsin, so he’ll always run behind a quality line. If he stays healthy, he can only get better.</p><p><strong>McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF</strong></p><p>It’s a shame players don’t have the same freedom of movement as coaches, because Milton (357.7 yards of total offense a game in 2017) would light up the Big Ten if he could follow former Knights coach Scott Frost to Nebraska and play immediately. A Group of Five player has far less chance to win the Heisman, but at least Milton is a known commodity after the season he has had. If new UCF coach Josh Heupel can keep the Knights’ offense humming, Milton might have a chance.</p><p><strong>Ed Oliver, DT, Houston</strong></p><p>This is not an obligatory mention of a defensive player, nor is it an obligatory mention of a Group of Five player. Oliver might be the nation’s best player next season. This year’s Outland Trophy winner could find himself fighting another defensive tackle—340-pound Clemson gap-stuffer Dexter Lawrence—for the top spot in the 2019 NFL draft.</p><p><strong>Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon</strong></p><p>The numbers for Oregon’s offense with and without Herbert were jarring. With a healthy Herbert starting, Oregon went 6–1 and averaged 52 points. Without him, the Ducks were 1–4 and averaged 15 points. If the Ducks can keep him upright for a season, watch out.?</p><h3>If he’s healthy</h3><p><strong>Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State</strong></p><p>Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in the Bulldogs’ Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, so it’s unclear when he’ll be fully healthy again. But if he can get back to 100% in time for the season, the 6&#39;5&quot;, 235-pounder could have a lot of fun in Moorhead’s offense.</p><h3>Taking on bigger roles and ready to blow up</h3><p><strong>Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State</strong></p><p>Haskins replaced an injured J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes trailing against Michigan, and he helped his team to a comeback win. He’ll have to beat out Tate Martell—who redshirted this season—to win the starting job, but Haskins could preside over an offense that will threaten opponents vertically and on the ground.</p><p><strong>D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia</strong></p><p>Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are leaving, but don’t expect Georgia to abandon the run—especially as some of its more highly recruited offensive linemen come of age. Many of the carries left behind by Chubb and Michel will go to Swift, who averaged 8.2 yards a carry but only 5.6 carries a game this season. Swift also led all of Georgia’s backs in receptions with 15, so expect the Bulldogs to find ways to get him the ball.</p><p><strong>Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson</strong></p><p>This freshman from Louisiana showed up in the summer and became Clemson’s best back. After averaging 7.2 yards a carry splitting time with Tavien Feaster, Etienne should be even better following his first full offseason with the Tigers.</p><h3>A Random Ranking</h3><p><em>Star Wars: The Last Jedi</em> gets a wide release on Friday, so it’s time to rank some Jedi. We ranked the top 10 Star Wars villains in April. Now the good guys get their turn. Just as with the villain rankings, these characters must appear in at least one movie. (Sorry, Ahsoka Tano fans. But the good news is <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/794945/Star-Wars-news-Rosario-Dawson-Ahsoka-Tano-jedi-Anakin-Rebels-Han-Solo-Good-Morning-America" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen</a>.)</p><p><strong>1. Yoda<br>2. Obi-Wan Kenobi<br>3. Luke Skywalker<br>4. Anakin Skywalker*<br>5. Rey (I’m assuming)<br>6. Finn (I’m hoping)<br>7. Mace Windu<br>8. Qui-Gon Jinn<br>9. Kit Fisto<br>10. <a href="http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Yarael_Poof" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Yarael Poof" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Yarael Poof</a></strong></p><p>* <em>Yes, he slaughtered an awful lot of the Jedi order. But he also killed Emperor Palpatine (as Darth Vader). He may have been the only one powerful enough at the time to pull that off.</em></p><h3>Three and Out</h3><p><strong>1. Congratulations to Army</strong>, which claimed its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 1996 <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/09/army-navy-football-game-missed-field-goal-result-highlights" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia</a>. The Black Knights, who went 2–10 in 2015 and broke a 14-year losing streak against the Midshipmen in ’16, were the top service academy team this season. They’re now 9–3 and will finish their season Dec. 23 against San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl.</p><p><strong>2. Most of the players on Oregon’s roster signed a petition—penned by offensive lineman George Moore—in support of promoting offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal</strong> to head coach to replace Willie Taggart, who left for Florida State. And those players were thrilled when they got their wish last week.</p><p>One of Cristobal’s former Miami teammates was thrilled with the choice as well.</p><p><strong>3. Remember Daniel Faalele,</strong> <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/03/07/daniel-faalele-img-academy-recruiting" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the 6&#39;9&quot;, 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the 6&#39;9&quot;, 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter</a>? He has now played his first full season of organized football (at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.), and he has chosen a college. On Saturday, Faalele and IMG Academy teammate Curtis Dunlap decided to row the boat for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota.</p><p>Your reactions to this were predictable but still hilarious…</p><h3>For Your Ears</h3><p>My former <em>Tampa Tribune</em> co-worker Brett McMurphy—who also has worked at some other places—joined the podcast to discuss the lessons learned from the coaching carousel as well as life after an ESPN layoff.</p><h3>What’s Eating Andy?</h3><p>Our Richard Deitsch explains <a href="https://www.si.com/tech-media/2017/12/10/college-footballs-declining-ratings-2017-media-circus" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season</a>.</p><h3>What’s Andy Eating?</h3><p>During a break from interviewing the college football movers and shakers who descended upon New York last week for the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame dinner, I had planned to visit the Hell’s Kitchen location of The Meatball Shop. Then something jumped off my Google Maps app. Not far from The Meatball Shop—a mini-chain with multiple New York City locations that you should absolutely try the next time you’re in the area—was something called BarBacon. This demanded further examination. So I walked down 54th Street, hung a right on Ninth Avenue and stepped inside.</p><p>The menu was exactly what you’d expect from a place called BarBacon. With the exception of the beer, nearly everything had bacon in it or on it. Was it schticky? Absolutely. Was it delicious? Damn straight it was.</p><p>The obvious starting point is the beer and bacon flight appetizer. Four five-ounce servings of different craft beers accompany eight sizzling strips of bacon. The spicy jalapeño bacon and the sweet maple bacon were the best, but there really is no such thing as bad thick-cut bacon. The beer selection was excellent, but the better libation is a barrel-aged Manhattan featuring bacon-infused whiskey. The hint of smokiness from the bacon pairs nicely with the sweetness imparted by the aging process. Plus, if you’ve chosen a place called BarBacon, you’re not the type for half-measures anyway. Your drink also should include bacon.</p><p>With pure bacon already digesting, it was time to select a bacon-accented entree. I considered the Lamb Bacon Reuben and the Kentucky Fried Bacon Burger, but my inner five-year-old ultimately settled on the bacon grilled cheese. This one mixed bacon with melted gruyere and fontina on semolina, fennel and golden raisin bread. (The raisins sounded out-of-place, but the sweetness they offered was welcome.) Next to the sandwich was a bowl of tomato soup. The sandwich dunked wonderfully, and the bacon blended beautifully with the two highly meltable cheeses.</p><p>The Brussels sprouts came glazed with honey and Greek yogurt and featured giant chunks of bacon swimming between the sprouts. The Bacon Industrial Complex has now fully co-opted the vegetable that served as the butt of so many sitcom jokes, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Meanwhile, the “pork wings” didn’t include any bacon, but they were tasty mini-shanks drizzled in sriracha barbecue sauce. One of our party had the bacon and lobster mac and cheese. The bacon elevated a classic steakhouse side to full entree status, because bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion.</p><p>Our nation’s love affair with bacon might have gone a little too far—even for me. There’s bacon mayonnaise*, bacon air fresheners, bacon toothpaste and bacon lube. But I have no issue with building a bar around bacon as long as the schtick doesn’t overwhelm the meat.</p><p>*<em>Like I said, bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion. Some things, like mayo, are simply too awful for even bacon to help.</em></p><p>BarBacon would fail if the entire concept was “HEY, LOOK AT ALL THIS BACON.” Instead, it’s “Here are some carefully crafted dishes that happen to include bacon.” That makes all the difference.</p>
The 2018 Heisman Race: Examining 15 Early Frontrunners

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide on Saturday, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which player will hoist the trophy next season. There would be some obvious frontrunners if some NFL decisions go a certain way, but all of those players returning feels highly unlikely. Chances are next season will start without many established stars, which means the field will feel wide open.

Here are a few of the players who could find their way into the race—starting with the ones who would have the best chance if they stayed in college one more season…

If they come back

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Jackson could be a very high draft pick if he leaves for the NFL, but if he decides to return to Louisville, he could wind up in New York in December for a third consecutive year. He told reporters this past weekend that he’ll make his NFL decision after the TaxSlayer Bowl against Mississippi State. The guess is that he’ll go to the NFL. The view of Jackson as a pro is split, but I’m of the opinion that he’ll be an effective quarterback at the next level if he’s selected by the correct team. But if he does decide to return to college, he’ll put up video game numbers again.

Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Darnold is probably a first-round pick if he leaves now, but he also doesn’t seem in that big of a hurry to leave USC. Because he redshirted, he has two more seasons of eligibility. If it looks as if Darnold might be doomed to become a Cleveland Brown, one more season as a USC Trojan might be a much more attractive option.

Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Given the lack of longevity at the position, tailbacks probably should leave as soon as possible and make as much money as possible. Love has some ambitious post-football goals, but he can earn a good salary while he chases them. He may follow in the footsteps of current Stanford medical student Owen Marecic, who was a two-way star at Stanford and played in the NFL before pursuing medicine. It’s tantalizing to think about what kind of numbers Love could put up if he stayed healthy for a full senior season, but it would be tough to pass up the opportunity in front of him.

Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

Grier’s college career was interrupted by a suspension for a positive test in an NCAA drug screen while at Florida. His breakout season as a redshirt junior was interrupted by a broken finger on his throwing hand. Should Grier and frequent touchdown collaborator David Sills V return for one more season in Morgantown, they could put up some absurd numbers in a wide-open—in every sense of the phrase—Big 12.

Probably coming back

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

It took about half the season for Stidham to get truly comfortable in Auburn’s offense and for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to get comfortable with what Stidham can do in the offense. The first Georgia game and the Iron Bowl were great examples of what Stidham can do in an Auburn offense populated by healthy backs. (There wasn’t much he could do about the injuries to Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin in the second Georgia game.) Now imagine how good Stidham could be with another offseason in the offense.

Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State

With Saquon Barkley probably headed to the NFL—and possibly getting picked in the top three—McSorley will have to carry more of the load in Penn State’s offense. That should be fine for a guy who plays in a similar fashion to the quarterback who just won the Heisman. The promotion of quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne to offensive coordinator following Joe Moorhead’s departure for Mississippi State should allow for continuity that should only help McSorley.

No choice but to come back

Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona

Tate’s October was statistically comparable to Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel’s Heisman seasons, but his production tailed off in November. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez now has a chance to completely build the offense around Tate. That’s great for Tate’s Heisman chances, but terrible for opposing defensive coordinators.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Taylor got bottled up by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game (15 carries for 41 yards), but he still averaged 6.8 yards a carry for his true freshman season. He plays at Wisconsin, so he’ll always run behind a quality line. If he stays healthy, he can only get better.

McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF

It’s a shame players don’t have the same freedom of movement as coaches, because Milton (357.7 yards of total offense a game in 2017) would light up the Big Ten if he could follow former Knights coach Scott Frost to Nebraska and play immediately. A Group of Five player has far less chance to win the Heisman, but at least Milton is a known commodity after the season he has had. If new UCF coach Josh Heupel can keep the Knights’ offense humming, Milton might have a chance.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

This is not an obligatory mention of a defensive player, nor is it an obligatory mention of a Group of Five player. Oliver might be the nation’s best player next season. This year’s Outland Trophy winner could find himself fighting another defensive tackle—340-pound Clemson gap-stuffer Dexter Lawrence—for the top spot in the 2019 NFL draft.

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

The numbers for Oregon’s offense with and without Herbert were jarring. With a healthy Herbert starting, Oregon went 6–1 and averaged 52 points. Without him, the Ducks were 1–4 and averaged 15 points. If the Ducks can keep him upright for a season, watch out.?

If he’s healthy

Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State

Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in the Bulldogs’ Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, so it’s unclear when he’ll be fully healthy again. But if he can get back to 100% in time for the season, the 6'5", 235-pounder could have a lot of fun in Moorhead’s offense.

Taking on bigger roles and ready to blow up

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Haskins replaced an injured J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes trailing against Michigan, and he helped his team to a comeback win. He’ll have to beat out Tate Martell—who redshirted this season—to win the starting job, but Haskins could preside over an offense that will threaten opponents vertically and on the ground.

D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are leaving, but don’t expect Georgia to abandon the run—especially as some of its more highly recruited offensive linemen come of age. Many of the carries left behind by Chubb and Michel will go to Swift, who averaged 8.2 yards a carry but only 5.6 carries a game this season. Swift also led all of Georgia’s backs in receptions with 15, so expect the Bulldogs to find ways to get him the ball.

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

This freshman from Louisiana showed up in the summer and became Clemson’s best back. After averaging 7.2 yards a carry splitting time with Tavien Feaster, Etienne should be even better following his first full offseason with the Tigers.

A Random Ranking

Star Wars: The Last Jedi gets a wide release on Friday, so it’s time to rank some Jedi. We ranked the top 10 Star Wars villains in April. Now the good guys get their turn. Just as with the villain rankings, these characters must appear in at least one movie. (Sorry, Ahsoka Tano fans. But the good news is Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen.)

1. Yoda
2. Obi-Wan Kenobi
3. Luke Skywalker
4. Anakin Skywalker*
5. Rey (I’m assuming)
6. Finn (I’m hoping)
7. Mace Windu
8. Qui-Gon Jinn
9. Kit Fisto
10. Yarael Poof

* Yes, he slaughtered an awful lot of the Jedi order. But he also killed Emperor Palpatine (as Darth Vader). He may have been the only one powerful enough at the time to pull that off.

Three and Out

1. Congratulations to Army, which claimed its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 1996 after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia. The Black Knights, who went 2–10 in 2015 and broke a 14-year losing streak against the Midshipmen in ’16, were the top service academy team this season. They’re now 9–3 and will finish their season Dec. 23 against San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl.

2. Most of the players on Oregon’s roster signed a petition—penned by offensive lineman George Moore—in support of promoting offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal to head coach to replace Willie Taggart, who left for Florida State. And those players were thrilled when they got their wish last week.

One of Cristobal’s former Miami teammates was thrilled with the choice as well.

3. Remember Daniel Faalele, the 6'9", 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter? He has now played his first full season of organized football (at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.), and he has chosen a college. On Saturday, Faalele and IMG Academy teammate Curtis Dunlap decided to row the boat for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota.

Your reactions to this were predictable but still hilarious…

For Your Ears

My former Tampa Tribune co-worker Brett McMurphy—who also has worked at some other places—joined the podcast to discuss the lessons learned from the coaching carousel as well as life after an ESPN layoff.

What’s Eating Andy?

Our Richard Deitsch explains why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season.

What’s Andy Eating?

During a break from interviewing the college football movers and shakers who descended upon New York last week for the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame dinner, I had planned to visit the Hell’s Kitchen location of The Meatball Shop. Then something jumped off my Google Maps app. Not far from The Meatball Shop—a mini-chain with multiple New York City locations that you should absolutely try the next time you’re in the area—was something called BarBacon. This demanded further examination. So I walked down 54th Street, hung a right on Ninth Avenue and stepped inside.

The menu was exactly what you’d expect from a place called BarBacon. With the exception of the beer, nearly everything had bacon in it or on it. Was it schticky? Absolutely. Was it delicious? Damn straight it was.

The obvious starting point is the beer and bacon flight appetizer. Four five-ounce servings of different craft beers accompany eight sizzling strips of bacon. The spicy jalapeño bacon and the sweet maple bacon were the best, but there really is no such thing as bad thick-cut bacon. The beer selection was excellent, but the better libation is a barrel-aged Manhattan featuring bacon-infused whiskey. The hint of smokiness from the bacon pairs nicely with the sweetness imparted by the aging process. Plus, if you’ve chosen a place called BarBacon, you’re not the type for half-measures anyway. Your drink also should include bacon.

With pure bacon already digesting, it was time to select a bacon-accented entree. I considered the Lamb Bacon Reuben and the Kentucky Fried Bacon Burger, but my inner five-year-old ultimately settled on the bacon grilled cheese. This one mixed bacon with melted gruyere and fontina on semolina, fennel and golden raisin bread. (The raisins sounded out-of-place, but the sweetness they offered was welcome.) Next to the sandwich was a bowl of tomato soup. The sandwich dunked wonderfully, and the bacon blended beautifully with the two highly meltable cheeses.

The Brussels sprouts came glazed with honey and Greek yogurt and featured giant chunks of bacon swimming between the sprouts. The Bacon Industrial Complex has now fully co-opted the vegetable that served as the butt of so many sitcom jokes, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Meanwhile, the “pork wings” didn’t include any bacon, but they were tasty mini-shanks drizzled in sriracha barbecue sauce. One of our party had the bacon and lobster mac and cheese. The bacon elevated a classic steakhouse side to full entree status, because bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion.

Our nation’s love affair with bacon might have gone a little too far—even for me. There’s bacon mayonnaise*, bacon air fresheners, bacon toothpaste and bacon lube. But I have no issue with building a bar around bacon as long as the schtick doesn’t overwhelm the meat.

*Like I said, bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion. Some things, like mayo, are simply too awful for even bacon to help.

BarBacon would fail if the entire concept was “HEY, LOOK AT ALL THIS BACON.” Instead, it’s “Here are some carefully crafted dishes that happen to include bacon.” That makes all the difference.

<p><a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/09/oklahoma-baker-mayfield-heisman-trophy-winner" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide</a> on Saturday, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which player will hoist the trophy next season. There would be some obvious frontrunners if some NFL decisions go a certain way, but all of those players returning feels highly unlikely. Chances are next season will start without many established stars, which means the field will feel wide open.</p><p>Here are a few of the players who could find their way into the race—starting with the ones who would have the best chance if they stayed in college one more season…</p><h3>If they come back</h3><p><strong>Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville</strong></p><p>Jackson could be a very high draft pick if he leaves for the NFL, but if he decides to return to Louisville, he could wind up in New York in December for a third consecutive year. He told reporters this past weekend that he’ll make his NFL decision after the TaxSlayer Bowl against Mississippi State. The guess is that he’ll go to the NFL. The view of Jackson as a pro is split, but I’m of the opinion that he’ll be an effective quarterback at the next level if he’s selected by the correct team. But if he does decide to return to college, he’ll put up video game numbers again.</p><p><strong>Sam Darnold, QB, USC</strong></p><p>Darnold is probably a first-round pick if he leaves now, but he also doesn’t seem in that big of a hurry to leave USC. Because he redshirted, he has two more seasons of eligibility. If it looks as if Darnold might be doomed to become a Cleveland Brown, one more season as a USC Trojan might be a much more attractive option.</p><p><strong>Bryce Love, RB, Stanford</strong></p><p>Given the lack of longevity at the position, tailbacks probably should leave as soon as possible and make as much money as possible. Love has some ambitious post-football goals, but he can earn a good salary while he chases them. He may follow in the footsteps of current Stanford medical student Owen Marecic, who was a two-way star at Stanford and played in the NFL before pursuing medicine. It’s tantalizing to think about what kind of numbers Love could put up if he stayed healthy for a full senior season, but it would be tough to pass up the opportunity in front of him.</p><p><strong>Will Grier, QB, West Virginia</strong></p><p>Grier’s college career was interrupted by a suspension for a positive test in an NCAA drug screen while at Florida. His breakout season as a redshirt junior was interrupted by a broken finger on his throwing hand. Should Grier and frequent touchdown collaborator David Sills V return for one more season in Morgantown, they could put up some absurd numbers in a wide-open—in every sense of the phrase—Big 12.</p><h3>Probably coming back</h3><p><strong>Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn</strong></p><p>It took about half the season for Stidham to get truly comfortable in Auburn’s offense and for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to get comfortable with what Stidham can do in the offense. The first Georgia game and the Iron Bowl were great examples of what Stidham can do in an Auburn offense populated by healthy backs. (There wasn’t much he could do about the injuries to Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin in the second Georgia game.) Now imagine how good Stidham could be with another offseason in the offense.</p><p><strong>Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State</strong></p><p>With Saquon Barkley probably headed to the NFL—and possibly getting picked in the top three—McSorley will have to carry more of the load in Penn State’s offense. That should be fine for a guy who plays in a similar fashion to the quarterback who just won the Heisman. The promotion of quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne to offensive coordinator following Joe Moorhead’s departure for Mississippi State should allow for continuity that should only help McSorley.</p><h3>No choice but to come back</h3><p><strong>Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona</strong></p><p>Tate’s October was statistically comparable to Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel’s Heisman seasons, but his production tailed off in November. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez now has a chance to completely build the offense around Tate. That’s great for Tate’s Heisman chances, but terrible for opposing defensive coordinators.</p><p><strong>Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin</strong></p><p>Taylor got bottled up by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game (15 carries for 41 yards), but he still averaged 6.8 yards a carry for his true freshman season. He plays at Wisconsin, so he’ll always run behind a quality line. If he stays healthy, he can only get better.</p><p><strong>McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF</strong></p><p>It’s a shame players don’t have the same freedom of movement as coaches, because Milton (357.7 yards of total offense a game in 2017) would light up the Big Ten if he could follow former Knights coach Scott Frost to Nebraska and play immediately. A Group of Five player has far less chance to win the Heisman, but at least Milton is a known commodity after the season he has had. If new UCF coach Josh Heupel can keep the Knights’ offense humming, Milton might have a chance.</p><p><strong>Ed Oliver, DT, Houston</strong></p><p>This is not an obligatory mention of a defensive player, nor is it an obligatory mention of a Group of Five player. Oliver might be the nation’s best player next season. This year’s Outland Trophy winner could find himself fighting another defensive tackle—340-pound Clemson gap-stuffer Dexter Lawrence—for the top spot in the 2019 NFL draft.</p><p><strong>Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon</strong></p><p>The numbers for Oregon’s offense with and without Herbert were jarring. With a healthy Herbert starting, Oregon went 6–1 and averaged 52 points. Without him, the Ducks were 1–4 and averaged 15 points. If the Ducks can keep him upright for a season, watch out.?</p><h3>If he’s healthy</h3><p><strong>Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State</strong></p><p>Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in the Bulldogs’ Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, so it’s unclear when he’ll be fully healthy again. But if he can get back to 100% in time for the season, the 6&#39;5&quot;, 235-pounder could have a lot of fun in Moorhead’s offense.</p><h3>Taking on bigger roles and ready to blow up</h3><p><strong>Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State</strong></p><p>Haskins replaced an injured J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes trailing against Michigan, and he helped his team to a comeback win. He’ll have to beat out Tate Martell—who redshirted this season—to win the starting job, but Haskins could preside over an offense that will threaten opponents vertically and on the ground.</p><p><strong>D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia</strong></p><p>Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are leaving, but don’t expect Georgia to abandon the run—especially as some of its more highly recruited offensive linemen come of age. Many of the carries left behind by Chubb and Michel will go to Swift, who averaged 8.2 yards a carry but only 5.6 carries a game this season. Swift also led all of Georgia’s backs in receptions with 15, so expect the Bulldogs to find ways to get him the ball.</p><p><strong>Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson</strong></p><p>This freshman from Louisiana showed up in the summer and became Clemson’s best back. After averaging 7.2 yards a carry splitting time with Tavien Feaster, Etienne should be even better following his first full offseason with the Tigers.</p><h3>A Random Ranking</h3><p><em>Star Wars: The Last Jedi</em> gets a wide release on Friday, so it’s time to rank some Jedi. We ranked the top 10 Star Wars villains in April. Now the good guys get their turn. Just as with the villain rankings, these characters must appear in at least one movie. (Sorry, Ahsoka Tano fans. But the good news is <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/794945/Star-Wars-news-Rosario-Dawson-Ahsoka-Tano-jedi-Anakin-Rebels-Han-Solo-Good-Morning-America" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen</a>.)</p><p><strong>1. Yoda<br>2. Obi-Wan Kenobi<br>3. Luke Skywalker<br>4. Anakin Skywalker*<br>5. Rey (I’m assuming)<br>6. Finn (I’m hoping)<br>7. Mace Windu<br>8. Qui-Gon Jinn<br>9. Kit Fisto<br>10. <a href="http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Yarael_Poof" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Yarael Poof" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Yarael Poof</a></strong></p><p>* <em>Yes, he slaughtered an awful lot of the Jedi order. But he also killed Emperor Palpatine (as Darth Vader). He may have been the only one powerful enough at the time to pull that off.</em></p><h3>Three and Out</h3><p><strong>1. Congratulations to Army</strong>, which claimed its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 1996 <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/09/army-navy-football-game-missed-field-goal-result-highlights" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia</a>. The Black Knights, who went 2–10 in 2015 and broke a 14-year losing streak against the Midshipmen in ’16, were the top service academy team this season. They’re now 9–3 and will finish their season Dec. 23 against San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl.</p><p><strong>2. Most of the players on Oregon’s roster signed a petition—penned by offensive lineman George Moore—in support of promoting offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal</strong> to head coach to replace Willie Taggart, who left for Florida State. And those players were thrilled when they got their wish last week.</p><p>One of Cristobal’s former Miami teammates was thrilled with the choice as well.</p><p><strong>3. Remember Daniel Faalele,</strong> <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/03/07/daniel-faalele-img-academy-recruiting" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the 6&#39;9&quot;, 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the 6&#39;9&quot;, 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter</a>? He has now played his first full season of organized football (at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.), and he has chosen a college. On Saturday, Faalele and IMG Academy teammate Curtis Dunlap decided to row the boat for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota.</p><p>Your reactions to this were predictable but still hilarious…</p><h3>For Your Ears</h3><p>My former <em>Tampa Tribune</em> co-worker Brett McMurphy—who also has worked at some other places—joined the podcast to discuss the lessons learned from the coaching carousel as well as life after an ESPN layoff.</p><h3>What’s Eating Andy?</h3><p>Our Richard Deitsch explains <a href="https://www.si.com/tech-media/2017/12/10/college-footballs-declining-ratings-2017-media-circus" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season</a>.</p><h3>What’s Andy Eating?</h3><p>During a break from interviewing the college football movers and shakers who descended upon New York last week for the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame dinner, I had planned to visit the Hell’s Kitchen location of The Meatball Shop. Then something jumped off my Google Maps app. Not far from The Meatball Shop—a mini-chain with multiple New York City locations that you should absolutely try the next time you’re in the area—was something called BarBacon. This demanded further examination. So I walked down 54th Street, hung a right on Ninth Avenue and stepped inside.</p><p>The menu was exactly what you’d expect from a place called BarBacon. With the exception of the beer, nearly everything had bacon in it or on it. Was it schticky? Absolutely. Was it delicious? Damn straight it was.</p><p>The obvious starting point is the beer and bacon flight appetizer. Four five-ounce servings of different craft beers accompany eight sizzling strips of bacon. The spicy jalapeño bacon and the sweet maple bacon were the best, but there really is no such thing as bad thick-cut bacon. The beer selection was excellent, but the better libation is a barrel-aged Manhattan featuring bacon-infused whiskey. The hint of smokiness from the bacon pairs nicely with the sweetness imparted by the aging process. Plus, if you’ve chosen a place called BarBacon, you’re not the type for half-measures anyway. Your drink also should include bacon.</p><p>With pure bacon already digesting, it was time to select a bacon-accented entree. I considered the Lamb Bacon Reuben and the Kentucky Fried Bacon Burger, but my inner five-year-old ultimately settled on the bacon grilled cheese. This one mixed bacon with melted gruyere and fontina on semolina, fennel and golden raisin bread. (The raisins sounded out-of-place, but the sweetness they offered was welcome.) Next to the sandwich was a bowl of tomato soup. The sandwich dunked wonderfully, and the bacon blended beautifully with the two highly meltable cheeses.</p><p>The Brussels sprouts came glazed with honey and Greek yogurt and featured giant chunks of bacon swimming between the sprouts. The Bacon Industrial Complex has now fully co-opted the vegetable that served as the butt of so many sitcom jokes, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Meanwhile, the “pork wings” didn’t include any bacon, but they were tasty mini-shanks drizzled in sriracha barbecue sauce. One of our party had the bacon and lobster mac and cheese. The bacon elevated a classic steakhouse side to full entree status, because bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion.</p><p>Our nation’s love affair with bacon might have gone a little too far—even for me. There’s bacon mayonnaise*, bacon air fresheners, bacon toothpaste and bacon lube. But I have no issue with building a bar around bacon as long as the schtick doesn’t overwhelm the meat.</p><p>*<em>Like I said, bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion. Some things, like mayo, are simply too awful for even bacon to help.</em></p><p>BarBacon would fail if the entire concept was “HEY, LOOK AT ALL THIS BACON.” Instead, it’s “Here are some carefully crafted dishes that happen to include bacon.” That makes all the difference.</p>
The 2018 Heisman Race: Examining 15 Early Frontrunners

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide on Saturday, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which player will hoist the trophy next season. There would be some obvious frontrunners if some NFL decisions go a certain way, but all of those players returning feels highly unlikely. Chances are next season will start without many established stars, which means the field will feel wide open.

Here are a few of the players who could find their way into the race—starting with the ones who would have the best chance if they stayed in college one more season…

If they come back

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Jackson could be a very high draft pick if he leaves for the NFL, but if he decides to return to Louisville, he could wind up in New York in December for a third consecutive year. He told reporters this past weekend that he’ll make his NFL decision after the TaxSlayer Bowl against Mississippi State. The guess is that he’ll go to the NFL. The view of Jackson as a pro is split, but I’m of the opinion that he’ll be an effective quarterback at the next level if he’s selected by the correct team. But if he does decide to return to college, he’ll put up video game numbers again.

Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Darnold is probably a first-round pick if he leaves now, but he also doesn’t seem in that big of a hurry to leave USC. Because he redshirted, he has two more seasons of eligibility. If it looks as if Darnold might be doomed to become a Cleveland Brown, one more season as a USC Trojan might be a much more attractive option.

Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Given the lack of longevity at the position, tailbacks probably should leave as soon as possible and make as much money as possible. Love has some ambitious post-football goals, but he can earn a good salary while he chases them. He may follow in the footsteps of current Stanford medical student Owen Marecic, who was a two-way star at Stanford and played in the NFL before pursuing medicine. It’s tantalizing to think about what kind of numbers Love could put up if he stayed healthy for a full senior season, but it would be tough to pass up the opportunity in front of him.

Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

Grier’s college career was interrupted by a suspension for a positive test in an NCAA drug screen while at Florida. His breakout season as a redshirt junior was interrupted by a broken finger on his throwing hand. Should Grier and frequent touchdown collaborator David Sills V return for one more season in Morgantown, they could put up some absurd numbers in a wide-open—in every sense of the phrase—Big 12.

Probably coming back

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

It took about half the season for Stidham to get truly comfortable in Auburn’s offense and for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to get comfortable with what Stidham can do in the offense. The first Georgia game and the Iron Bowl were great examples of what Stidham can do in an Auburn offense populated by healthy backs. (There wasn’t much he could do about the injuries to Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin in the second Georgia game.) Now imagine how good Stidham could be with another offseason in the offense.

Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State

With Saquon Barkley probably headed to the NFL—and possibly getting picked in the top three—McSorley will have to carry more of the load in Penn State’s offense. That should be fine for a guy who plays in a similar fashion to the quarterback who just won the Heisman. The promotion of quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne to offensive coordinator following Joe Moorhead’s departure for Mississippi State should allow for continuity that should only help McSorley.

No choice but to come back

Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona

Tate’s October was statistically comparable to Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel’s Heisman seasons, but his production tailed off in November. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez now has a chance to completely build the offense around Tate. That’s great for Tate’s Heisman chances, but terrible for opposing defensive coordinators.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Taylor got bottled up by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game (15 carries for 41 yards), but he still averaged 6.8 yards a carry for his true freshman season. He plays at Wisconsin, so he’ll always run behind a quality line. If he stays healthy, he can only get better.

McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF

It’s a shame players don’t have the same freedom of movement as coaches, because Milton (357.7 yards of total offense a game in 2017) would light up the Big Ten if he could follow former Knights coach Scott Frost to Nebraska and play immediately. A Group of Five player has far less chance to win the Heisman, but at least Milton is a known commodity after the season he has had. If new UCF coach Josh Heupel can keep the Knights’ offense humming, Milton might have a chance.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

This is not an obligatory mention of a defensive player, nor is it an obligatory mention of a Group of Five player. Oliver might be the nation’s best player next season. This year’s Outland Trophy winner could find himself fighting another defensive tackle—340-pound Clemson gap-stuffer Dexter Lawrence—for the top spot in the 2019 NFL draft.

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

The numbers for Oregon’s offense with and without Herbert were jarring. With a healthy Herbert starting, Oregon went 6–1 and averaged 52 points. Without him, the Ducks were 1–4 and averaged 15 points. If the Ducks can keep him upright for a season, watch out.?

If he’s healthy

Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State

Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in the Bulldogs’ Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, so it’s unclear when he’ll be fully healthy again. But if he can get back to 100% in time for the season, the 6'5", 235-pounder could have a lot of fun in Moorhead’s offense.

Taking on bigger roles and ready to blow up

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Haskins replaced an injured J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes trailing against Michigan, and he helped his team to a comeback win. He’ll have to beat out Tate Martell—who redshirted this season—to win the starting job, but Haskins could preside over an offense that will threaten opponents vertically and on the ground.

D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are leaving, but don’t expect Georgia to abandon the run—especially as some of its more highly recruited offensive linemen come of age. Many of the carries left behind by Chubb and Michel will go to Swift, who averaged 8.2 yards a carry but only 5.6 carries a game this season. Swift also led all of Georgia’s backs in receptions with 15, so expect the Bulldogs to find ways to get him the ball.

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

This freshman from Louisiana showed up in the summer and became Clemson’s best back. After averaging 7.2 yards a carry splitting time with Tavien Feaster, Etienne should be even better following his first full offseason with the Tigers.

A Random Ranking

Star Wars: The Last Jedi gets a wide release on Friday, so it’s time to rank some Jedi. We ranked the top 10 Star Wars villains in April. Now the good guys get their turn. Just as with the villain rankings, these characters must appear in at least one movie. (Sorry, Ahsoka Tano fans. But the good news is Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen.)

1. Yoda
2. Obi-Wan Kenobi
3. Luke Skywalker
4. Anakin Skywalker*
5. Rey (I’m assuming)
6. Finn (I’m hoping)
7. Mace Windu
8. Qui-Gon Jinn
9. Kit Fisto
10. Yarael Poof

* Yes, he slaughtered an awful lot of the Jedi order. But he also killed Emperor Palpatine (as Darth Vader). He may have been the only one powerful enough at the time to pull that off.

Three and Out

1. Congratulations to Army, which claimed its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 1996 after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia. The Black Knights, who went 2–10 in 2015 and broke a 14-year losing streak against the Midshipmen in ’16, were the top service academy team this season. They’re now 9–3 and will finish their season Dec. 23 against San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl.

2. Most of the players on Oregon’s roster signed a petition—penned by offensive lineman George Moore—in support of promoting offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal to head coach to replace Willie Taggart, who left for Florida State. And those players were thrilled when they got their wish last week.

One of Cristobal’s former Miami teammates was thrilled with the choice as well.

3. Remember Daniel Faalele, the 6'9", 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter? He has now played his first full season of organized football (at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.), and he has chosen a college. On Saturday, Faalele and IMG Academy teammate Curtis Dunlap decided to row the boat for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota.

Your reactions to this were predictable but still hilarious…

For Your Ears

My former Tampa Tribune co-worker Brett McMurphy—who also has worked at some other places—joined the podcast to discuss the lessons learned from the coaching carousel as well as life after an ESPN layoff.

What’s Eating Andy?

Our Richard Deitsch explains why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season.

What’s Andy Eating?

During a break from interviewing the college football movers and shakers who descended upon New York last week for the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame dinner, I had planned to visit the Hell’s Kitchen location of The Meatball Shop. Then something jumped off my Google Maps app. Not far from The Meatball Shop—a mini-chain with multiple New York City locations that you should absolutely try the next time you’re in the area—was something called BarBacon. This demanded further examination. So I walked down 54th Street, hung a right on Ninth Avenue and stepped inside.

The menu was exactly what you’d expect from a place called BarBacon. With the exception of the beer, nearly everything had bacon in it or on it. Was it schticky? Absolutely. Was it delicious? Damn straight it was.

The obvious starting point is the beer and bacon flight appetizer. Four five-ounce servings of different craft beers accompany eight sizzling strips of bacon. The spicy jalapeño bacon and the sweet maple bacon were the best, but there really is no such thing as bad thick-cut bacon. The beer selection was excellent, but the better libation is a barrel-aged Manhattan featuring bacon-infused whiskey. The hint of smokiness from the bacon pairs nicely with the sweetness imparted by the aging process. Plus, if you’ve chosen a place called BarBacon, you’re not the type for half-measures anyway. Your drink also should include bacon.

With pure bacon already digesting, it was time to select a bacon-accented entree. I considered the Lamb Bacon Reuben and the Kentucky Fried Bacon Burger, but my inner five-year-old ultimately settled on the bacon grilled cheese. This one mixed bacon with melted gruyere and fontina on semolina, fennel and golden raisin bread. (The raisins sounded out-of-place, but the sweetness they offered was welcome.) Next to the sandwich was a bowl of tomato soup. The sandwich dunked wonderfully, and the bacon blended beautifully with the two highly meltable cheeses.

The Brussels sprouts came glazed with honey and Greek yogurt and featured giant chunks of bacon swimming between the sprouts. The Bacon Industrial Complex has now fully co-opted the vegetable that served as the butt of so many sitcom jokes, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Meanwhile, the “pork wings” didn’t include any bacon, but they were tasty mini-shanks drizzled in sriracha barbecue sauce. One of our party had the bacon and lobster mac and cheese. The bacon elevated a classic steakhouse side to full entree status, because bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion.

Our nation’s love affair with bacon might have gone a little too far—even for me. There’s bacon mayonnaise*, bacon air fresheners, bacon toothpaste and bacon lube. But I have no issue with building a bar around bacon as long as the schtick doesn’t overwhelm the meat.

*Like I said, bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion. Some things, like mayo, are simply too awful for even bacon to help.

BarBacon would fail if the entire concept was “HEY, LOOK AT ALL THIS BACON.” Instead, it’s “Here are some carefully crafted dishes that happen to include bacon.” That makes all the difference.

<p><a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/09/oklahoma-baker-mayfield-heisman-trophy-winner" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide</a> on Saturday, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which player will hoist the trophy next season. There would be some obvious frontrunners if some NFL decisions go a certain way, but all of those players returning feels highly unlikely. Chances are next season will start without many established stars, which means the field will feel wide open.</p><p>Here are a few of the players who could find their way into the race—starting with the ones who would have the best chance if they stayed in college one more season…</p><h3>If they come back</h3><p><strong>Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville</strong></p><p>Jackson could be a very high draft pick if he leaves for the NFL, but if he decides to return to Louisville, he could wind up in New York in December for a third consecutive year. He told reporters this past weekend that he’ll make his NFL decision after the TaxSlayer Bowl against Mississippi State. The guess is that he’ll go to the NFL. The view of Jackson as a pro is split, but I’m of the opinion that he’ll be an effective quarterback at the next level if he’s selected by the correct team. But if he does decide to return to college, he’ll put up video game numbers again.</p><p><strong>Sam Darnold, QB, USC</strong></p><p>Darnold is probably a first-round pick if he leaves now, but he also doesn’t seem in that big of a hurry to leave USC. Because he redshirted, he has two more seasons of eligibility. If it looks as if Darnold might be doomed to become a Cleveland Brown, one more season as a USC Trojan might be a much more attractive option.</p><p><strong>Bryce Love, RB, Stanford</strong></p><p>Given the lack of longevity at the position, tailbacks probably should leave as soon as possible and make as much money as possible. Love has some ambitious post-football goals, but he can earn a good salary while he chases them. He may follow in the footsteps of current Stanford medical student Owen Marecic, who was a two-way star at Stanford and played in the NFL before pursuing medicine. It’s tantalizing to think about what kind of numbers Love could put up if he stayed healthy for a full senior season, but it would be tough to pass up the opportunity in front of him.</p><p><strong>Will Grier, QB, West Virginia</strong></p><p>Grier’s college career was interrupted by a suspension for a positive test in an NCAA drug screen while at Florida. His breakout season as a redshirt junior was interrupted by a broken finger on his throwing hand. Should Grier and frequent touchdown collaborator David Sills V return for one more season in Morgantown, they could put up some absurd numbers in a wide-open—in every sense of the phrase—Big 12.</p><h3>Probably coming back</h3><p><strong>Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn</strong></p><p>It took about half the season for Stidham to get truly comfortable in Auburn’s offense and for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to get comfortable with what Stidham can do in the offense. The first Georgia game and the Iron Bowl were great examples of what Stidham can do in an Auburn offense populated by healthy backs. (There wasn’t much he could do about the injuries to Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin in the second Georgia game.) Now imagine how good Stidham could be with another offseason in the offense.</p><p><strong>Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State</strong></p><p>With Saquon Barkley probably headed to the NFL—and possibly getting picked in the top three—McSorley will have to carry more of the load in Penn State’s offense. That should be fine for a guy who plays in a similar fashion to the quarterback who just won the Heisman. The promotion of quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne to offensive coordinator following Joe Moorhead’s departure for Mississippi State should allow for continuity that should only help McSorley.</p><h3>No choice but to come back</h3><p><strong>Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona</strong></p><p>Tate’s October was statistically comparable to Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel’s Heisman seasons, but his production tailed off in November. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez now has a chance to completely build the offense around Tate. That’s great for Tate’s Heisman chances, but terrible for opposing defensive coordinators.</p><p><strong>Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin</strong></p><p>Taylor got bottled up by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game (15 carries for 41 yards), but he still averaged 6.8 yards a carry for his true freshman season. He plays at Wisconsin, so he’ll always run behind a quality line. If he stays healthy, he can only get better.</p><p><strong>McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF</strong></p><p>It’s a shame players don’t have the same freedom of movement as coaches, because Milton (357.7 yards of total offense a game in 2017) would light up the Big Ten if he could follow former Knights coach Scott Frost to Nebraska and play immediately. A Group of Five player has far less chance to win the Heisman, but at least Milton is a known commodity after the season he has had. If new UCF coach Josh Heupel can keep the Knights’ offense humming, Milton might have a chance.</p><p><strong>Ed Oliver, DT, Houston</strong></p><p>This is not an obligatory mention of a defensive player, nor is it an obligatory mention of a Group of Five player. Oliver might be the nation’s best player next season. This year’s Outland Trophy winner could find himself fighting another defensive tackle—340-pound Clemson gap-stuffer Dexter Lawrence—for the top spot in the 2019 NFL draft.</p><p><strong>Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon</strong></p><p>The numbers for Oregon’s offense with and without Herbert were jarring. With a healthy Herbert starting, Oregon went 6–1 and averaged 52 points. Without him, the Ducks were 1–4 and averaged 15 points. If the Ducks can keep him upright for a season, watch out.?</p><h3>If he’s healthy</h3><p><strong>Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State</strong></p><p>Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in the Bulldogs’ Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, so it’s unclear when he’ll be fully healthy again. But if he can get back to 100% in time for the season, the 6&#39;5&quot;, 235-pounder could have a lot of fun in Moorhead’s offense.</p><h3>Taking on bigger roles and ready to blow up</h3><p><strong>Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State</strong></p><p>Haskins replaced an injured J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes trailing against Michigan, and he helped his team to a comeback win. He’ll have to beat out Tate Martell—who redshirted this season—to win the starting job, but Haskins could preside over an offense that will threaten opponents vertically and on the ground.</p><p><strong>D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia</strong></p><p>Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are leaving, but don’t expect Georgia to abandon the run—especially as some of its more highly recruited offensive linemen come of age. Many of the carries left behind by Chubb and Michel will go to Swift, who averaged 8.2 yards a carry but only 5.6 carries a game this season. Swift also led all of Georgia’s backs in receptions with 15, so expect the Bulldogs to find ways to get him the ball.</p><p><strong>Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson</strong></p><p>This freshman from Louisiana showed up in the summer and became Clemson’s best back. After averaging 7.2 yards a carry splitting time with Tavien Feaster, Etienne should be even better following his first full offseason with the Tigers.</p><h3>A Random Ranking</h3><p><em>Star Wars: The Last Jedi</em> gets a wide release on Friday, so it’s time to rank some Jedi. We ranked the top 10 Star Wars villains in April. Now the good guys get their turn. Just as with the villain rankings, these characters must appear in at least one movie. (Sorry, Ahsoka Tano fans. But the good news is <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/794945/Star-Wars-news-Rosario-Dawson-Ahsoka-Tano-jedi-Anakin-Rebels-Han-Solo-Good-Morning-America" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen</a>.)</p><p><strong>1. Yoda<br>2. Obi-Wan Kenobi<br>3. Luke Skywalker<br>4. Anakin Skywalker*<br>5. Rey (I’m assuming)<br>6. Finn (I’m hoping)<br>7. Mace Windu<br>8. Qui-Gon Jinn<br>9. Kit Fisto<br>10. <a href="http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Yarael_Poof" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Yarael Poof" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Yarael Poof</a></strong></p><p>* <em>Yes, he slaughtered an awful lot of the Jedi order. But he also killed Emperor Palpatine (as Darth Vader). He may have been the only one powerful enough at the time to pull that off.</em></p><h3>Three and Out</h3><p><strong>1. Congratulations to Army</strong>, which claimed its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 1996 <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/09/army-navy-football-game-missed-field-goal-result-highlights" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia</a>. The Black Knights, who went 2–10 in 2015 and broke a 14-year losing streak against the Midshipmen in ’16, were the top service academy team this season. They’re now 9–3 and will finish their season Dec. 23 against San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl.</p><p><strong>2. Most of the players on Oregon’s roster signed a petition—penned by offensive lineman George Moore—in support of promoting offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal</strong> to head coach to replace Willie Taggart, who left for Florida State. And those players were thrilled when they got their wish last week.</p><p>One of Cristobal’s former Miami teammates was thrilled with the choice as well.</p><p><strong>3. Remember Daniel Faalele,</strong> <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/03/07/daniel-faalele-img-academy-recruiting" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the 6&#39;9&quot;, 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the 6&#39;9&quot;, 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter</a>? He has now played his first full season of organized football (at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.), and he has chosen a college. On Saturday, Faalele and IMG Academy teammate Curtis Dunlap decided to row the boat for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota.</p><p>Your reactions to this were predictable but still hilarious…</p><h3>For Your Ears</h3><p>My former <em>Tampa Tribune</em> co-worker Brett McMurphy—who also has worked at some other places—joined the podcast to discuss the lessons learned from the coaching carousel as well as life after an ESPN layoff.</p><h3>What’s Eating Andy?</h3><p>Our Richard Deitsch explains <a href="https://www.si.com/tech-media/2017/12/10/college-footballs-declining-ratings-2017-media-circus" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season</a>.</p><h3>What’s Andy Eating?</h3><p>During a break from interviewing the college football movers and shakers who descended upon New York last week for the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame dinner, I had planned to visit the Hell’s Kitchen location of The Meatball Shop. Then something jumped off my Google Maps app. Not far from The Meatball Shop—a mini-chain with multiple New York City locations that you should absolutely try the next time you’re in the area—was something called BarBacon. This demanded further examination. So I walked down 54th Street, hung a right on Ninth Avenue and stepped inside.</p><p>The menu was exactly what you’d expect from a place called BarBacon. With the exception of the beer, nearly everything had bacon in it or on it. Was it schticky? Absolutely. Was it delicious? Damn straight it was.</p><p>The obvious starting point is the beer and bacon flight appetizer. Four five-ounce servings of different craft beers accompany eight sizzling strips of bacon. The spicy jalapeño bacon and the sweet maple bacon were the best, but there really is no such thing as bad thick-cut bacon. The beer selection was excellent, but the better libation is a barrel-aged Manhattan featuring bacon-infused whiskey. The hint of smokiness from the bacon pairs nicely with the sweetness imparted by the aging process. Plus, if you’ve chosen a place called BarBacon, you’re not the type for half-measures anyway. Your drink also should include bacon.</p><p>With pure bacon already digesting, it was time to select a bacon-accented entree. I considered the Lamb Bacon Reuben and the Kentucky Fried Bacon Burger, but my inner five-year-old ultimately settled on the bacon grilled cheese. This one mixed bacon with melted gruyere and fontina on semolina, fennel and golden raisin bread. (The raisins sounded out-of-place, but the sweetness they offered was welcome.) Next to the sandwich was a bowl of tomato soup. The sandwich dunked wonderfully, and the bacon blended beautifully with the two highly meltable cheeses.</p><p>The Brussels sprouts came glazed with honey and Greek yogurt and featured giant chunks of bacon swimming between the sprouts. The Bacon Industrial Complex has now fully co-opted the vegetable that served as the butt of so many sitcom jokes, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Meanwhile, the “pork wings” didn’t include any bacon, but they were tasty mini-shanks drizzled in sriracha barbecue sauce. One of our party had the bacon and lobster mac and cheese. The bacon elevated a classic steakhouse side to full entree status, because bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion.</p><p>Our nation’s love affair with bacon might have gone a little too far—even for me. There’s bacon mayonnaise*, bacon air fresheners, bacon toothpaste and bacon lube. But I have no issue with building a bar around bacon as long as the schtick doesn’t overwhelm the meat.</p><p>*<em>Like I said, bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion. Some things, like mayo, are simply too awful for even bacon to help.</em></p><p>BarBacon would fail if the entire concept was “HEY, LOOK AT ALL THIS BACON.” Instead, it’s “Here are some carefully crafted dishes that happen to include bacon.” That makes all the difference.</p>
The 2018 Heisman Race: Examining 15 Early Frontrunners

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide on Saturday, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which player will hoist the trophy next season. There would be some obvious frontrunners if some NFL decisions go a certain way, but all of those players returning feels highly unlikely. Chances are next season will start without many established stars, which means the field will feel wide open.

Here are a few of the players who could find their way into the race—starting with the ones who would have the best chance if they stayed in college one more season…

If they come back

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Jackson could be a very high draft pick if he leaves for the NFL, but if he decides to return to Louisville, he could wind up in New York in December for a third consecutive year. He told reporters this past weekend that he’ll make his NFL decision after the TaxSlayer Bowl against Mississippi State. The guess is that he’ll go to the NFL. The view of Jackson as a pro is split, but I’m of the opinion that he’ll be an effective quarterback at the next level if he’s selected by the correct team. But if he does decide to return to college, he’ll put up video game numbers again.

Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Darnold is probably a first-round pick if he leaves now, but he also doesn’t seem in that big of a hurry to leave USC. Because he redshirted, he has two more seasons of eligibility. If it looks as if Darnold might be doomed to become a Cleveland Brown, one more season as a USC Trojan might be a much more attractive option.

Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Given the lack of longevity at the position, tailbacks probably should leave as soon as possible and make as much money as possible. Love has some ambitious post-football goals, but he can earn a good salary while he chases them. He may follow in the footsteps of current Stanford medical student Owen Marecic, who was a two-way star at Stanford and played in the NFL before pursuing medicine. It’s tantalizing to think about what kind of numbers Love could put up if he stayed healthy for a full senior season, but it would be tough to pass up the opportunity in front of him.

Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

Grier’s college career was interrupted by a suspension for a positive test in an NCAA drug screen while at Florida. His breakout season as a redshirt junior was interrupted by a broken finger on his throwing hand. Should Grier and frequent touchdown collaborator David Sills V return for one more season in Morgantown, they could put up some absurd numbers in a wide-open—in every sense of the phrase—Big 12.

Probably coming back

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

It took about half the season for Stidham to get truly comfortable in Auburn’s offense and for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to get comfortable with what Stidham can do in the offense. The first Georgia game and the Iron Bowl were great examples of what Stidham can do in an Auburn offense populated by healthy backs. (There wasn’t much he could do about the injuries to Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin in the second Georgia game.) Now imagine how good Stidham could be with another offseason in the offense.

Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State

With Saquon Barkley probably headed to the NFL—and possibly getting picked in the top three—McSorley will have to carry more of the load in Penn State’s offense. That should be fine for a guy who plays in a similar fashion to the quarterback who just won the Heisman. The promotion of quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne to offensive coordinator following Joe Moorhead’s departure for Mississippi State should allow for continuity that should only help McSorley.

No choice but to come back

Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona

Tate’s October was statistically comparable to Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel’s Heisman seasons, but his production tailed off in November. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez now has a chance to completely build the offense around Tate. That’s great for Tate’s Heisman chances, but terrible for opposing defensive coordinators.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Taylor got bottled up by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game (15 carries for 41 yards), but he still averaged 6.8 yards a carry for his true freshman season. He plays at Wisconsin, so he’ll always run behind a quality line. If he stays healthy, he can only get better.

McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF

It’s a shame players don’t have the same freedom of movement as coaches, because Milton (357.7 yards of total offense a game in 2017) would light up the Big Ten if he could follow former Knights coach Scott Frost to Nebraska and play immediately. A Group of Five player has far less chance to win the Heisman, but at least Milton is a known commodity after the season he has had. If new UCF coach Josh Heupel can keep the Knights’ offense humming, Milton might have a chance.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

This is not an obligatory mention of a defensive player, nor is it an obligatory mention of a Group of Five player. Oliver might be the nation’s best player next season. This year’s Outland Trophy winner could find himself fighting another defensive tackle—340-pound Clemson gap-stuffer Dexter Lawrence—for the top spot in the 2019 NFL draft.

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

The numbers for Oregon’s offense with and without Herbert were jarring. With a healthy Herbert starting, Oregon went 6–1 and averaged 52 points. Without him, the Ducks were 1–4 and averaged 15 points. If the Ducks can keep him upright for a season, watch out.?

If he’s healthy

Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State

Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle in the Bulldogs’ Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, so it’s unclear when he’ll be fully healthy again. But if he can get back to 100% in time for the season, the 6'5", 235-pounder could have a lot of fun in Moorhead’s offense.

Taking on bigger roles and ready to blow up

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Haskins replaced an injured J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes trailing against Michigan, and he helped his team to a comeback win. He’ll have to beat out Tate Martell—who redshirted this season—to win the starting job, but Haskins could preside over an offense that will threaten opponents vertically and on the ground.

D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are leaving, but don’t expect Georgia to abandon the run—especially as some of its more highly recruited offensive linemen come of age. Many of the carries left behind by Chubb and Michel will go to Swift, who averaged 8.2 yards a carry but only 5.6 carries a game this season. Swift also led all of Georgia’s backs in receptions with 15, so expect the Bulldogs to find ways to get him the ball.

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

This freshman from Louisiana showed up in the summer and became Clemson’s best back. After averaging 7.2 yards a carry splitting time with Tavien Feaster, Etienne should be even better following his first full offseason with the Tigers.

A Random Ranking

Star Wars: The Last Jedi gets a wide release on Friday, so it’s time to rank some Jedi. We ranked the top 10 Star Wars villains in April. Now the good guys get their turn. Just as with the villain rankings, these characters must appear in at least one movie. (Sorry, Ahsoka Tano fans. But the good news is Rosario Dawson wants to play that character on the big screen.)

1. Yoda
2. Obi-Wan Kenobi
3. Luke Skywalker
4. Anakin Skywalker*
5. Rey (I’m assuming)
6. Finn (I’m hoping)
7. Mace Windu
8. Qui-Gon Jinn
9. Kit Fisto
10. Yarael Poof

* Yes, he slaughtered an awful lot of the Jedi order. But he also killed Emperor Palpatine (as Darth Vader). He may have been the only one powerful enough at the time to pull that off.

Three and Out

1. Congratulations to Army, which claimed its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 1996 after a 14–13 win against Navy in snowy Philadelphia. The Black Knights, who went 2–10 in 2015 and broke a 14-year losing streak against the Midshipmen in ’16, were the top service academy team this season. They’re now 9–3 and will finish their season Dec. 23 against San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl.

2. Most of the players on Oregon’s roster signed a petition—penned by offensive lineman George Moore—in support of promoting offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal to head coach to replace Willie Taggart, who left for Florida State. And those players were thrilled when they got their wish last week.

One of Cristobal’s former Miami teammates was thrilled with the choice as well.

3. Remember Daniel Faalele, the 6'9", 396-pound Australian offensive lineman I wrote about last winter? He has now played his first full season of organized football (at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.), and he has chosen a college. On Saturday, Faalele and IMG Academy teammate Curtis Dunlap decided to row the boat for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota.

Your reactions to this were predictable but still hilarious…

For Your Ears

My former Tampa Tribune co-worker Brett McMurphy—who also has worked at some other places—joined the podcast to discuss the lessons learned from the coaching carousel as well as life after an ESPN layoff.

What’s Eating Andy?

Our Richard Deitsch explains why most of the networks that broadcast college football saw a decline in ratings this season.

What’s Andy Eating?

During a break from interviewing the college football movers and shakers who descended upon New York last week for the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame dinner, I had planned to visit the Hell’s Kitchen location of The Meatball Shop. Then something jumped off my Google Maps app. Not far from The Meatball Shop—a mini-chain with multiple New York City locations that you should absolutely try the next time you’re in the area—was something called BarBacon. This demanded further examination. So I walked down 54th Street, hung a right on Ninth Avenue and stepped inside.

The menu was exactly what you’d expect from a place called BarBacon. With the exception of the beer, nearly everything had bacon in it or on it. Was it schticky? Absolutely. Was it delicious? Damn straight it was.

The obvious starting point is the beer and bacon flight appetizer. Four five-ounce servings of different craft beers accompany eight sizzling strips of bacon. The spicy jalapeño bacon and the sweet maple bacon were the best, but there really is no such thing as bad thick-cut bacon. The beer selection was excellent, but the better libation is a barrel-aged Manhattan featuring bacon-infused whiskey. The hint of smokiness from the bacon pairs nicely with the sweetness imparted by the aging process. Plus, if you’ve chosen a place called BarBacon, you’re not the type for half-measures anyway. Your drink also should include bacon.

With pure bacon already digesting, it was time to select a bacon-accented entree. I considered the Lamb Bacon Reuben and the Kentucky Fried Bacon Burger, but my inner five-year-old ultimately settled on the bacon grilled cheese. This one mixed bacon with melted gruyere and fontina on semolina, fennel and golden raisin bread. (The raisins sounded out-of-place, but the sweetness they offered was welcome.) Next to the sandwich was a bowl of tomato soup. The sandwich dunked wonderfully, and the bacon blended beautifully with the two highly meltable cheeses.

The Brussels sprouts came glazed with honey and Greek yogurt and featured giant chunks of bacon swimming between the sprouts. The Bacon Industrial Complex has now fully co-opted the vegetable that served as the butt of so many sitcom jokes, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Meanwhile, the “pork wings” didn’t include any bacon, but they were tasty mini-shanks drizzled in sriracha barbecue sauce. One of our party had the bacon and lobster mac and cheese. The bacon elevated a classic steakhouse side to full entree status, because bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion.

Our nation’s love affair with bacon might have gone a little too far—even for me. There’s bacon mayonnaise*, bacon air fresheners, bacon toothpaste and bacon lube. But I have no issue with building a bar around bacon as long as the schtick doesn’t overwhelm the meat.

*Like I said, bacon gives almost everything an instant promotion. Some things, like mayo, are simply too awful for even bacon to help.

BarBacon would fail if the entire concept was “HEY, LOOK AT ALL THIS BACON.” Instead, it’s “Here are some carefully crafted dishes that happen to include bacon.” That makes all the difference.

<p>The networks that own the rights to the bowl slate arrange everything so that if you wanted to, you could take in a significant chunk of all 40 games of the FBS postseason, a three-week-long binge to close out a satisfying season. But if we’re being realistic, things come up. Holiday traditions get in the way of the Holiday Bowl. The cheapest flights home happen to overlap with the first three quarters of the Boca Raton Bowl (this specific scenario hits particularly close to home). Sacrifices must be made, and accordingly, priorities must be set.</p><p>To help you make those tough choices, we’re counting down 2017’s 37 bowl games outside the College Football Playoff, from the least watchable matchups to the can’t-miss events. The criteria used to sift through the clutter, in no particular order: the potential for offensive fireworks, any intriguing contrast in schematic styles, the presence of a superstar player or future first-round draft pick, the prestige of the bowl game and/or venue itself, the TV time slot and the quality of the teams involved.</p><p>If you weren’t already planning to watch the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the national title game, these rankings aren’t for you, so for the sake of suspense at the top of the list we’ve left out the three games with national title implications. (But for the record, Georgia-Oklahoma just barely edges out Alabama-Clemson as the postseason’s most entertaining bowl due to the unique matchup and offensive contrast.)</p><h3>37. Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Florida State</h3><p>After Jimbo Fisher’s messy exit, the Seminoles might be regretting the lengths they went to just to get to six wins and extend their record bowl streak to 36 years, rescheduling a game against Louisiana-Monroe that was cancelled by Hurricane Irma to avoid a 5–6 finish. Now they’ll travel to Shreveport for a matchup with a decidedly middle-tier Conference USA foe in the middle of a weekday afternoon two days after Christmas.</p><h3>36. Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State</h3><p>These aren’t quite the same high-flying Hilltoppers we’ve seen in years past: Western Kentucky only topped 40 points twice all season, in part because senior quarterback Mike White was sacked a stunning 38 times. At least the Panthers will want to be in Orlando, making the program’s second bowl appearance ever.</p><h3>35. Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Boston College</h3><p>Boston College’s stretch-run offensive explosion (36 points per game in the second half of the regular season) still feels too good to be true, and a meeting with the Hawkeyes—traditionally a stylistic kindred spirit—inside a baseball stadium should remind the Eagles of the first-to-14-points thrillers from whence they came.</p><h3>34. Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. Florida International</h3><p>Another baseball stadium bowl venue, and this one (Tropicana Field) is barely accepted as a suitable place to play baseball. When Bad Boy Mowers famously signed on for the St. Petersburg Bowl’s flashy rebrand, it had to have been hoping for a little better luck than this. This game should at least shine some light on Butch Davis’s impressive one-year turnaround at FIU, which has been completely overshadowed by Lane Kiffin’s impressive one-year turnaround at FAU.</p><h3>33. Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State</h3><p>Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill bought $10,000 worth of tickets to incentivize students to make the trip to Montgomery—the Blue Raiders were sent to Hawaii and the Bahamas the last two postseasons, but their lackluster 6–6 finish kept them a little closer to home. Keep an eye on Red Wolves sack master Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, and make sure you watch the postgame press conference to see if head coach Blake Anderson sends any more digs Arkansas’s way.</p><h3>32. Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. SMU</h3><p>This might be your last chance to see Courtland Sutton in an SMU uniform: The 6&#39;4&quot; junior receiver has the NFL’s attention after a few eye-popping campaigns within head coach Chad Morris’s breakneck-fast offense. But Morris couldn’t make it to this game before being hired by Arkansas.</p><h3>31. Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs. Utah State</h3><p>This year’s Just Happy to Be Here winner in a landslide is New Mexico State, which last went to a bowl in 1960. Emotions were high after the Aggies clinched their sixth win on Saturday, so expect an atypically charged atmosphere in Tucson.</p><h3>30. Sun Bowl: NC State vs. Arizona State</h3><p>The Sun Devils’ final game before the official start of <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/04/best-moments-herm-edwards-arizona-state-introductory-press-conference" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the Herm Edwards era" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the Herm Edwards era</a> comes against an NC State team that has beaten just three teams that finished with winning records this year. The Wolfpack faithful thought this season might end somewhere a little closer to the beach than El Paso, but they have several young receivers to be excited about. Sophomores Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers and do-everything weapon Jaylen Samuels could rip off some big plays against Arizona State’s suspect defense.</p><h3>29. Military Bowl: Virginia vs. Navy</h3><p>Given the recent heights Navy has reached, this counts as a down year, but the Midshipmen should pose an interesting challenge for the Cavaliers, whose only win in their final six games came over another triple-option team, Georgia Tech.</p><h3>28. Quick Lane Bowl: Duke vs. Northern Illinois</h3><p>Northern Illinois is 0–4 in bowl games under Rod Carey; Duke got its first postseason win in half a century two years ago at the Pinstripe Bowl. Nobody will be in their element. On a fast track at Ford Field, look out for Blue Devils leading receiver T.J. Rahming, whose one touchdown this season belies his quick-twitch athleticism.</p><h3>27. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan v. Wyoming</h3><p>NFL draft darling Josh Allen hurt his throwing shoulder in mid-November but is expected to be good to go by the time Wyoming gets to Boise. If the Cowboys’ free-slinging quarterback can’t play, drop this matchup down 10 slots.</p><h3>26. Belk Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&#38;M</h3><p>The Aggies are playing out the string in between Kevin Sumlin and Jimbo Fisher, while Greg Dortch, the star of Wake Forest’s upstart passing attack with nine catches this year, was lost for the season with an abdominal injury. His absence won’t stop Demon Deacons QB John Wolford from chucking it around the yard in his final game, but there may not be enough on the line for this to devolve into a back-and-forth shootout.</p><h3>25. Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Northwestern</h3><p>One Wildcats team is a lot hotter than the other: Northwestern has won seven straight, while Kentucky has lost three of four. Both teams would prefer to do most of their work on the ground, which may limit the scoring potential but should wrap up with plenty of time for fans to switch gears before the No. 1 game on this list (stay tuned).</p><h3>24. Orange Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Miami</h3><p>It’s the Turnover Chain vs. the nation’s top defense by yards allowed per game, which could mean a long night for quarterbacks Malik Rosier and Alex Hornibrook. The losers of Saturday’s two primetime Power 5 conference championship games square off in Miami’s home stadium with considerably lower stakes than they had hoped for, taking the edge off the lowest New Year’s Six matchup on our rankings. You’ll be able to tell how much juice the Hurricanes’ breakout season has left by whether Miami fans are out-attended by the well-traveled Badger faithful.</p><h3>23. New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State</h3><p>A game can only drop so far in these rankings if it features a receiver with a very real chance at going for 200-plus yards, and Colorado State senior Michael Gallup is just that kind of player—he did it twice in the regular season.</p><h3>22. Hawai’i Bowl: Fresno State vs. Houston</h3><p>Ed Oliver’s disruptive dominance in the middle of the line is the gift that keeps on giving for those who have stuck with Houston games even after Tom Herman jumped to Texas. After playing Washington and Alabama in back-to-back weeks in December, Jeff Tedford’s Fresno State team has earned itself a Christmas Eve in Hawaii.</p><h3>21. Cactus Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA</h3><p>This figures to be Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen’s final collegiate game before the NFL comes calling. Scouts will be watching Kansas State junior corner D.J. Reed closely, as well. There’s some sneaky shootout potential here, as the Wildcats spent half the season scoring at will and the other half searching for stability at quarterback. Will freshman Skylar Thompson’s tenure as the starter outlast Bill Snyder’s coaching career?</p><h3>20. Holiday Bowl: Washington State vs. Michigan State</h3><p>On paper, it seems like these two teams might present a refreshing contrast of styles and strengths, but Cougars QB Luke Falk was terrible in last year’s bowl game and the Spartans are unlikely to get the benefit of bad weather in San Diego, so neither team seems set up to play its best. Plus, after this matchup was announced, the Spartans and their fans promptly made it known they’d rather be in Tampa for the Outback Bowl.</p><h3>19. Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs. Ohio</h3><p>UAB deserves a trip to the Bahamas to cap its first season back after the miraculous resurrection of its football program, and although Ohio played its way out of a shot at the MAC title with a puzzling late-season loss to Akron, the Blazers get a quality opponent to measure themselves against.</p><h3>18. Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon</h3><p>This was higher before Oregon head coach Willie Taggart bolted for Florida State, but it should still provide a decent glimpse at what the Ducks might look like next year with a healthy Justin Herbert at the helm of the offense. The Mountain West champs suffered two embarrassing losses to Power 5 opponents (one in triple-overtime, one by a wider margin than the Broncos had allowed at home in over a decade) and should have a little something extra to prove.</p><h3>17. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah vs. West Virginia</h3><p>The Utes may be 6–6, but they kept the Pac-12’s four best teams all within a possession. The Mountaineers may be 7–5, but they put a scare into almost everyone except Oklahoma. This game has the Boxing Day afternoon window all to itself, and there should be enough offensive fireworks here not to spoil it.</p><h3>16. Camping World Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State</h3><p>The Cowboys are one of the most fun teams in the country to watch when their offense is clicking, but that fun can burn out quickly if it becomes apparent the opponent has no chance of scoring with them. Virginia Tech’s last game was a 10–0 slog of a win over Virginia. This was a risky yet undeniably intriguing pairing.</p><h3>15. New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. North Texas</h3><p>The first game of the FBS bowl slate pits the Sun Belt champs against the Conference USA runners-up in the Superdome. Will Troy’s Neal Brown or North Texas’s Seth Littrell get the call to coach a Power 5 program first? And will Trojans running back Jordan Chunn, who put up 190 yards on LSU’s defense, return to form once he crosses back over the Louisiana state line?</p><h3>14. Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic</h3><p>With a prime-time national audience to himself, Lane Kiffin is going to try to get everyone’s attention one way or another. The clearest path to that goal seems like it will be dropping 60 on the Zips, who can’t hang with FAU’s lethal offense. Owls running back Devin Singletary is 204 rushing yards away from 2,000 on the season, and Akron is 99th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game (197.2). Just keep an eye on it.</p><h3>13. Citrus Bowl: Notre Dame vs. LSU</h3><p>It’s a New Year’s Day bowl, sure, but one between two teams everybody seems to have pretty much figured out by this point. If Josh Adams and Derrius Guice don’t get going (or skip the game altogether) against two solid run defenses, this could turn into a slog.</p><h3>12. Alamo Bowl: Stanford vs. TCU</h3><p>The mysteries of bowl season: Why do the Pac-12’s two top games outside the New Year’s Six kick off at the same time (9 p.m. ET) on the same day (Dec. 28) on different channels (FS1 for the Holiday Bowl, ESPN for the Alamo)? If the conference is making you choose between two top teams, choose the Cardinal as Bryce Love tries to burn Gary Patterson’s defense.</p><h3>11. Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. Army</h3><p>With the No. 1 (Army) and No. 12 (SDSU) rushing offenses in the country on hand, this one might get wrapped up in under three hours. The stars of those ground games are both seniors trying to go out in style: Black Knights quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (1,472 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Aztecs running back Rashaad Penny (2,027 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns) have toiled in relative obscurity for too long.</p><h3>10. Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona vs. Purdue</h3><p>Two of the season’s great underdog stories meet in Santa Clara, as electrifying quarterback Khalil Tate and Arizona take on coach Jeff Brohm’s turnaround-in-progress at Purdue. Tate is a house call waiting to happen every time he touches the ball, and the Boilermakers have no shortage of offensive tricks up their sleeve.</p><h3>9. TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville vs. Mississippi State</h3><p>We were robbed of a dual-threat QB duel between Lamar Jackson and Nick Fitzgerald when Fitzgerald suffered a season-ending injury in the Egg Bowl, and then we were robbed of the Todd Grantham Bowl between the fiery defensive coordinator’s past and present employer when Grantham followed Dan Mullen to Florida. It’s a testament to Jackson’s entertainment value that this remains a top-10 game. Enjoy him at his peak while you still can.</p><h3>8. Fiesta Bowl: Washington vs. Penn State</h3><p>Saquon Barkley has committed to playing in this game before hopping to the draft, and NFL executives everywhere will be wincing at each hit he takes from Washington’s punishing defense. Under-the-radar matchup to watch: Penn State’s 21st-ranked punt coverage team (just 73 return yards allowed all year) against Dante Pettis, the all-time leader with nine career punt return TDs, including four this season.</p><h3>7. Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. South Florida</h3><p>Points ... points everywhere. This game might take five hours, and nobody will care. Head coaches Kliff Kingsbury and Charlie Strong are more than acquainted with each other from Strong’s time at Texas, as well.</p><h3>6. Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Toledo</h3><p>Just as was the case in the New Orleans Bowl above, both head coaches are on the way up. Scott Satterfield ushered Appalachian State into FBS play, and Jason Candle’s Rockets just wrapped up a dominant MAC campaign. Make some time for two of the most underrated teams in the Group of Five.</p><h3>5. Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Missouri</h3><p>Missouri started out the season 1–5 and then won six straight, scoring a ton of points and unleashing the full potential of quarterback Drew Lock in the process. A handful of Texas defenders are already skipping this game to prepare for the NFL, so Longhorns QB Sam Ehlinger should be asked to cut it loose in response. The result should be consequence-free offensive football.</p><h3>4. Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina</h3><p>It’s been five long years since The Hit. The game itself is worth watching to see whether Gamecocks QB Jake Bentley can find a way through the Wolverines’ stout defense after South Carolina fired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, but we’re all just looking for excuses to watch The Hit again, and the telecast is sure to oblige.</p><h3>3. Peach Bowl: UCF vs. Auburn</h3><p>UCF coach Scott Frost’s decision to come back from his new job at Nebraska to coach the bowl game has raised the intrigue of this one considerably. As the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six rep, the Knights were destined to draw a top-10 team in a no-win situation, and that certainly applies to Auburn, which may still be emotionally deflated (if not still physically depleted) from its SEC title game loss. A win here would put UCF’s perfect season near the very top of college football’s pact two decades of underdog stories.</p><h3>2. Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. Memphis</h3><p>It seems like these teams were involved in a disproportionate number of the season’s most exciting games: Iowa State with its upset of Oklahoma and last-second losses to Oklahoma State and Iowa, Memphis with its shootout win over UCLA and double-overtime loss to UCF. Both programs also recently locked in their rising coaches with new deals, meaning no one will be caught looking towards 2018. And Iowa State’s Allen Lazard and Memphis’s Anthony Miller are two of the best receivers in the country, full stop.</p><h3>1. Cotton Bowl: USC vs. Ohio State</h3><p>Who will respond better to the committee’s controversial playoff snub? The Buckeyes would like nothing more than to finish ahead of Alabama in the final rankings, while USC just wrapped a whisper-quiet 11-win season without hardly any of the fanfare that normally hijacks Trojans runs. Sam Darnold and J.T. Barrett are set up to wage an imperfect yet enthralling quarterback duel, and both teams are loaded at the skill positions. Clear your Friday night now for Dec. 29—given the deep lineup over the next three weeks, rescheduling any plans last-minute won’t be easy.</p>
Bowl Entertainment Rankings: From Can't-Miss Matchups to Uninspiring Undercards

The networks that own the rights to the bowl slate arrange everything so that if you wanted to, you could take in a significant chunk of all 40 games of the FBS postseason, a three-week-long binge to close out a satisfying season. But if we’re being realistic, things come up. Holiday traditions get in the way of the Holiday Bowl. The cheapest flights home happen to overlap with the first three quarters of the Boca Raton Bowl (this specific scenario hits particularly close to home). Sacrifices must be made, and accordingly, priorities must be set.

To help you make those tough choices, we’re counting down 2017’s 37 bowl games outside the College Football Playoff, from the least watchable matchups to the can’t-miss events. The criteria used to sift through the clutter, in no particular order: the potential for offensive fireworks, any intriguing contrast in schematic styles, the presence of a superstar player or future first-round draft pick, the prestige of the bowl game and/or venue itself, the TV time slot and the quality of the teams involved.

If you weren’t already planning to watch the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the national title game, these rankings aren’t for you, so for the sake of suspense at the top of the list we’ve left out the three games with national title implications. (But for the record, Georgia-Oklahoma just barely edges out Alabama-Clemson as the postseason’s most entertaining bowl due to the unique matchup and offensive contrast.)

37. Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Florida State

After Jimbo Fisher’s messy exit, the Seminoles might be regretting the lengths they went to just to get to six wins and extend their record bowl streak to 36 years, rescheduling a game against Louisiana-Monroe that was cancelled by Hurricane Irma to avoid a 5–6 finish. Now they’ll travel to Shreveport for a matchup with a decidedly middle-tier Conference USA foe in the middle of a weekday afternoon two days after Christmas.

36. Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State

These aren’t quite the same high-flying Hilltoppers we’ve seen in years past: Western Kentucky only topped 40 points twice all season, in part because senior quarterback Mike White was sacked a stunning 38 times. At least the Panthers will want to be in Orlando, making the program’s second bowl appearance ever.

35. Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Boston College

Boston College’s stretch-run offensive explosion (36 points per game in the second half of the regular season) still feels too good to be true, and a meeting with the Hawkeyes—traditionally a stylistic kindred spirit—inside a baseball stadium should remind the Eagles of the first-to-14-points thrillers from whence they came.

34. Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. Florida International

Another baseball stadium bowl venue, and this one (Tropicana Field) is barely accepted as a suitable place to play baseball. When Bad Boy Mowers famously signed on for the St. Petersburg Bowl’s flashy rebrand, it had to have been hoping for a little better luck than this. This game should at least shine some light on Butch Davis’s impressive one-year turnaround at FIU, which has been completely overshadowed by Lane Kiffin’s impressive one-year turnaround at FAU.

33. Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State

Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill bought $10,000 worth of tickets to incentivize students to make the trip to Montgomery—the Blue Raiders were sent to Hawaii and the Bahamas the last two postseasons, but their lackluster 6–6 finish kept them a little closer to home. Keep an eye on Red Wolves sack master Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, and make sure you watch the postgame press conference to see if head coach Blake Anderson sends any more digs Arkansas’s way.

32. Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. SMU

This might be your last chance to see Courtland Sutton in an SMU uniform: The 6'4" junior receiver has the NFL’s attention after a few eye-popping campaigns within head coach Chad Morris’s breakneck-fast offense. But Morris couldn’t make it to this game before being hired by Arkansas.

31. Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs. Utah State

This year’s Just Happy to Be Here winner in a landslide is New Mexico State, which last went to a bowl in 1960. Emotions were high after the Aggies clinched their sixth win on Saturday, so expect an atypically charged atmosphere in Tucson.

30. Sun Bowl: NC State vs. Arizona State

The Sun Devils’ final game before the official start of the Herm Edwards era comes against an NC State team that has beaten just three teams that finished with winning records this year. The Wolfpack faithful thought this season might end somewhere a little closer to the beach than El Paso, but they have several young receivers to be excited about. Sophomores Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers and do-everything weapon Jaylen Samuels could rip off some big plays against Arizona State’s suspect defense.

29. Military Bowl: Virginia vs. Navy

Given the recent heights Navy has reached, this counts as a down year, but the Midshipmen should pose an interesting challenge for the Cavaliers, whose only win in their final six games came over another triple-option team, Georgia Tech.

28. Quick Lane Bowl: Duke vs. Northern Illinois

Northern Illinois is 0–4 in bowl games under Rod Carey; Duke got its first postseason win in half a century two years ago at the Pinstripe Bowl. Nobody will be in their element. On a fast track at Ford Field, look out for Blue Devils leading receiver T.J. Rahming, whose one touchdown this season belies his quick-twitch athleticism.

27. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan v. Wyoming

NFL draft darling Josh Allen hurt his throwing shoulder in mid-November but is expected to be good to go by the time Wyoming gets to Boise. If the Cowboys’ free-slinging quarterback can’t play, drop this matchup down 10 slots.

26. Belk Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

The Aggies are playing out the string in between Kevin Sumlin and Jimbo Fisher, while Greg Dortch, the star of Wake Forest’s upstart passing attack with nine catches this year, was lost for the season with an abdominal injury. His absence won’t stop Demon Deacons QB John Wolford from chucking it around the yard in his final game, but there may not be enough on the line for this to devolve into a back-and-forth shootout.

25. Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Northwestern

One Wildcats team is a lot hotter than the other: Northwestern has won seven straight, while Kentucky has lost three of four. Both teams would prefer to do most of their work on the ground, which may limit the scoring potential but should wrap up with plenty of time for fans to switch gears before the No. 1 game on this list (stay tuned).

24. Orange Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Miami

It’s the Turnover Chain vs. the nation’s top defense by yards allowed per game, which could mean a long night for quarterbacks Malik Rosier and Alex Hornibrook. The losers of Saturday’s two primetime Power 5 conference championship games square off in Miami’s home stadium with considerably lower stakes than they had hoped for, taking the edge off the lowest New Year’s Six matchup on our rankings. You’ll be able to tell how much juice the Hurricanes’ breakout season has left by whether Miami fans are out-attended by the well-traveled Badger faithful.

23. New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State

A game can only drop so far in these rankings if it features a receiver with a very real chance at going for 200-plus yards, and Colorado State senior Michael Gallup is just that kind of player—he did it twice in the regular season.

22. Hawai’i Bowl: Fresno State vs. Houston

Ed Oliver’s disruptive dominance in the middle of the line is the gift that keeps on giving for those who have stuck with Houston games even after Tom Herman jumped to Texas. After playing Washington and Alabama in back-to-back weeks in December, Jeff Tedford’s Fresno State team has earned itself a Christmas Eve in Hawaii.

21. Cactus Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA

This figures to be Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen’s final collegiate game before the NFL comes calling. Scouts will be watching Kansas State junior corner D.J. Reed closely, as well. There’s some sneaky shootout potential here, as the Wildcats spent half the season scoring at will and the other half searching for stability at quarterback. Will freshman Skylar Thompson’s tenure as the starter outlast Bill Snyder’s coaching career?

20. Holiday Bowl: Washington State vs. Michigan State

On paper, it seems like these two teams might present a refreshing contrast of styles and strengths, but Cougars QB Luke Falk was terrible in last year’s bowl game and the Spartans are unlikely to get the benefit of bad weather in San Diego, so neither team seems set up to play its best. Plus, after this matchup was announced, the Spartans and their fans promptly made it known they’d rather be in Tampa for the Outback Bowl.

19. Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs. Ohio

UAB deserves a trip to the Bahamas to cap its first season back after the miraculous resurrection of its football program, and although Ohio played its way out of a shot at the MAC title with a puzzling late-season loss to Akron, the Blazers get a quality opponent to measure themselves against.

18. Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon

This was higher before Oregon head coach Willie Taggart bolted for Florida State, but it should still provide a decent glimpse at what the Ducks might look like next year with a healthy Justin Herbert at the helm of the offense. The Mountain West champs suffered two embarrassing losses to Power 5 opponents (one in triple-overtime, one by a wider margin than the Broncos had allowed at home in over a decade) and should have a little something extra to prove.

17. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah vs. West Virginia

The Utes may be 6–6, but they kept the Pac-12’s four best teams all within a possession. The Mountaineers may be 7–5, but they put a scare into almost everyone except Oklahoma. This game has the Boxing Day afternoon window all to itself, and there should be enough offensive fireworks here not to spoil it.

16. Camping World Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys are one of the most fun teams in the country to watch when their offense is clicking, but that fun can burn out quickly if it becomes apparent the opponent has no chance of scoring with them. Virginia Tech’s last game was a 10–0 slog of a win over Virginia. This was a risky yet undeniably intriguing pairing.

15. New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. North Texas

The first game of the FBS bowl slate pits the Sun Belt champs against the Conference USA runners-up in the Superdome. Will Troy’s Neal Brown or North Texas’s Seth Littrell get the call to coach a Power 5 program first? And will Trojans running back Jordan Chunn, who put up 190 yards on LSU’s defense, return to form once he crosses back over the Louisiana state line?

14. Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic

With a prime-time national audience to himself, Lane Kiffin is going to try to get everyone’s attention one way or another. The clearest path to that goal seems like it will be dropping 60 on the Zips, who can’t hang with FAU’s lethal offense. Owls running back Devin Singletary is 204 rushing yards away from 2,000 on the season, and Akron is 99th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game (197.2). Just keep an eye on it.

13. Citrus Bowl: Notre Dame vs. LSU

It’s a New Year’s Day bowl, sure, but one between two teams everybody seems to have pretty much figured out by this point. If Josh Adams and Derrius Guice don’t get going (or skip the game altogether) against two solid run defenses, this could turn into a slog.

12. Alamo Bowl: Stanford vs. TCU

The mysteries of bowl season: Why do the Pac-12’s two top games outside the New Year’s Six kick off at the same time (9 p.m. ET) on the same day (Dec. 28) on different channels (FS1 for the Holiday Bowl, ESPN for the Alamo)? If the conference is making you choose between two top teams, choose the Cardinal as Bryce Love tries to burn Gary Patterson’s defense.

11. Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. Army

With the No. 1 (Army) and No. 12 (SDSU) rushing offenses in the country on hand, this one might get wrapped up in under three hours. The stars of those ground games are both seniors trying to go out in style: Black Knights quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (1,472 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Aztecs running back Rashaad Penny (2,027 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns) have toiled in relative obscurity for too long.

10. Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona vs. Purdue

Two of the season’s great underdog stories meet in Santa Clara, as electrifying quarterback Khalil Tate and Arizona take on coach Jeff Brohm’s turnaround-in-progress at Purdue. Tate is a house call waiting to happen every time he touches the ball, and the Boilermakers have no shortage of offensive tricks up their sleeve.

9. TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville vs. Mississippi State

We were robbed of a dual-threat QB duel between Lamar Jackson and Nick Fitzgerald when Fitzgerald suffered a season-ending injury in the Egg Bowl, and then we were robbed of the Todd Grantham Bowl between the fiery defensive coordinator’s past and present employer when Grantham followed Dan Mullen to Florida. It’s a testament to Jackson’s entertainment value that this remains a top-10 game. Enjoy him at his peak while you still can.

8. Fiesta Bowl: Washington vs. Penn State

Saquon Barkley has committed to playing in this game before hopping to the draft, and NFL executives everywhere will be wincing at each hit he takes from Washington’s punishing defense. Under-the-radar matchup to watch: Penn State’s 21st-ranked punt coverage team (just 73 return yards allowed all year) against Dante Pettis, the all-time leader with nine career punt return TDs, including four this season.

7. Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. South Florida

Points ... points everywhere. This game might take five hours, and nobody will care. Head coaches Kliff Kingsbury and Charlie Strong are more than acquainted with each other from Strong’s time at Texas, as well.

6. Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Toledo

Just as was the case in the New Orleans Bowl above, both head coaches are on the way up. Scott Satterfield ushered Appalachian State into FBS play, and Jason Candle’s Rockets just wrapped up a dominant MAC campaign. Make some time for two of the most underrated teams in the Group of Five.

5. Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Missouri

Missouri started out the season 1–5 and then won six straight, scoring a ton of points and unleashing the full potential of quarterback Drew Lock in the process. A handful of Texas defenders are already skipping this game to prepare for the NFL, so Longhorns QB Sam Ehlinger should be asked to cut it loose in response. The result should be consequence-free offensive football.

4. Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina

It’s been five long years since The Hit. The game itself is worth watching to see whether Gamecocks QB Jake Bentley can find a way through the Wolverines’ stout defense after South Carolina fired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, but we’re all just looking for excuses to watch The Hit again, and the telecast is sure to oblige.

3. Peach Bowl: UCF vs. Auburn

UCF coach Scott Frost’s decision to come back from his new job at Nebraska to coach the bowl game has raised the intrigue of this one considerably. As the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six rep, the Knights were destined to draw a top-10 team in a no-win situation, and that certainly applies to Auburn, which may still be emotionally deflated (if not still physically depleted) from its SEC title game loss. A win here would put UCF’s perfect season near the very top of college football’s pact two decades of underdog stories.

2. Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. Memphis

It seems like these teams were involved in a disproportionate number of the season’s most exciting games: Iowa State with its upset of Oklahoma and last-second losses to Oklahoma State and Iowa, Memphis with its shootout win over UCLA and double-overtime loss to UCF. Both programs also recently locked in their rising coaches with new deals, meaning no one will be caught looking towards 2018. And Iowa State’s Allen Lazard and Memphis’s Anthony Miller are two of the best receivers in the country, full stop.

1. Cotton Bowl: USC vs. Ohio State

Who will respond better to the committee’s controversial playoff snub? The Buckeyes would like nothing more than to finish ahead of Alabama in the final rankings, while USC just wrapped a whisper-quiet 11-win season without hardly any of the fanfare that normally hijacks Trojans runs. Sam Darnold and J.T. Barrett are set up to wage an imperfect yet enthralling quarterback duel, and both teams are loaded at the skill positions. Clear your Friday night now for Dec. 29—given the deep lineup over the next three weeks, rescheduling any plans last-minute won’t be easy.

FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2017, file photo, Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) runs downfield during warmups prior to an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, in Starkville, Miss. Ridley was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
Georgia, Auburn split top awards on AP All-SEC football team
FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2017, file photo, Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) runs downfield during warmups prior to an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, in Starkville, Miss. Ridley was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2017, file photo, Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith (71) warms up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, in Auburn, Ala. Smith was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.(AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
Georgia, Auburn split top awards on AP All-SEC football team
FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2017, file photo, Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith (71) warms up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, in Auburn, Ala. Smith was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.(AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
<p>In the season’s final Power Rankings, we’ve added to our usual 25 standouts the additional 53 teams that will be playing in the postseason, because why not? You can never have too many bowl games for some reason. Because 81 teams reached the six-win threshold required for postseason eligibility, you won’t be seeing any 5–7 teams below thanks to a Academic Progress Rate, or Ole Miss (<a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/01/ole-miss-ncaa-sanctions-penalties" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:obviously" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">obviously</a>). Also missing from the festivities are Western Michigan, UTSA and Buffalo, which had enough wins to make to the postseason but were left out on account of there being only 78 spots.</p><p>Now on to the mega-rankings:</p><h3>1. Oklahoma (12–1, 7–1 Big 12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>1<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat TCU 41–17 in Big 12 Championship<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Georgia in Rose Bowl</p><p>The Sooners are the Big 12’s only program to make the playoff in its four years of existence. The defense had been criticized all season, especially after giving up 52 to Oklahoma State and 41 to one-win Baylor. <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/02/oklahoma-tcu-big-12-title-game-playoff" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:That unit came to play against TCU" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">That unit came to play against TCU</a>, giving up 317 total yards in securing Oklahoma’s 11th Big 12 title (no other team has more than three). Baker Mayfield <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/03/heisman-trophy-race-favorite-baker-mayfield-oklahoma" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:should practice his Heisman speech" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">should practice his Heisman speech</a> after throwing for 243 yards and four touchdowns.</p><h3>2. Clemson (12–1, 7–1 ACC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>2<br><strong>This week</strong>: Beat Miami 38–3 in ACC Championship<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Alabama in Sugar Bowl</p><p>Clemson’s third consecutive victory in the ACC title game was never in doubt, as Kelly Bryant had two total touchdowns and passed for 252 yards and the defense held Miami to 214 total yards and had four sacks. On this day, Clemson leaned on Bryant and that defense because the running game didn’t show up at all, averaging less than two yards a carry, although Clemson had four rushing touchdowns from short distance.</p><h3>3. Georgia (12–1, 7–1 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>5<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Auburn 28–7 in SEC Championship<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Oklahoma in Rose Bowl</p><p>Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was correct in his assessment of how Georgia beat his Tigers the second time around: The Bulldogs “flipped the script,” especially in the run game. In the first matchup, Georgia ran for only 46 yards. In this game, Georgia galloped for 238 yards and got an efficient game from quarterback Jake Fromm, who had two touchdowns and 183 yards passing.</p><h3>4. Alabama (11–1, 7–1 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>6<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Clemson in Sugar Bowl</p><h3>5. Ohio State (11­–2, 8–1 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking:</strong> 7<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Wisconsin 27–21 in Big Ten Championship<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. USC in Cotton Bowl</p><p>J.T. Barrett threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns less than a week after undergoing surgery on his right knee. Barrett also ran for a score, but his two turnovers kept Wisconsin in the game and prevented a blowout. Freshman J.K. Dobbins, who was named the game’s MVP, ran for 174 yards, while the talented defense shut down Wisconsin’s running game as the Badgers garnered only 60 yards on 32 carries.</p><h3>6. Wisconsin (12–1, 9–0 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking:</strong> 3<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost 27–21 to Ohio State in Big Ten Championship<br><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Miami in Orange Bowl</p><p>Wisconsin’s formula that had worked all season long was nowhere to found on Saturday as the running game and stout defense failed to carry the Badgers to the Big Ten title. Jonathan Taylor had only 41 yards and Ohio State’s offense repeatedly gashed the slower Badgers for big play after big play. Alex Hornibrook had 229 yards but his untimely turnovers doomed Wisconsin.</p><h3>7. Central Florida (12–0, 8–0 AAC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking</strong>: 8<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Memphis 62–55 (2OT) in AAC Championship<br><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Auburn in Peach Bowl</p><p>In a span of three years, Central Florida went from the cellar of college football to undefeated and playing in a major bowl game. McKenzie Milton threw for 494 yards and five touchdowns and the Knights overcame four turnovers to win their third conference title in the last five seasons. The season was a perfect sendoff for coach Scott Frost, who will coach the bowl game before departing for the Nebraska job.</p><h3>8. USC (11–2, 8–1 Pac–12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking:</strong> 10<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Stanford 31–28 in Pac–12 Championship<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Ohio State in Cotton Bowl</p><p>The Trojans used a 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter to hold off Stanford and bring home their first conference title in almost a decade. Sam Darnold threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns in what could be his final game in college, and Ronald Jones ran for 140 yards and two scores as part of USC’s 501-yard offensive effort. Bryce Love had 125 yards rushing for Stanford on a badly injured ankle, but it was not enough.</p><h3>9. Auburn (10–3, 7–1 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>4<br><strong>This week: </strong> Lost to Auburn 28–7 in SEC Championship<br><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. UCF in Peach Bowl</p><p>After scoring on the opening drive, Auburn’s hopes for a playoff berth and SEC title went down the drain thanks to an avalanche of penalties, special team miscues, two big turnovers and an inability to stop any Georgia running back. Kerryon Johnson came in with a shoulder injury and was ineffective, rushing for 40 yards on 13 carries as Auburn was held to 259 yards, its lowest output since a Week 2 loss at Clemson.</p><h3>10. Penn State (10–2, 7–2 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>11<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Washington in Fiesta Bowl</p><h3>11. Washington (10–2, 7–2 Pac–12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>13<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game: </strong> vs. Penn State in Fiesta Bowl</p><h3>12. TCU (10–3, 7-2 Big 12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking</strong>: 12<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost to Oklahoma 41–17 in Big 12 Championship<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Stanford in Alamo Bowl</p><p>TCU ran into the same problem it did when it faced the Sooners three weeks ago: The defense had no answer for Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma running game. The Horned Frogs also ran into a surprisingly salty Sooners defense, which gave up less than 100 yards and no points in the second half.</p><h3>13. Miami, FL (10–2, 7–1 ACC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>9<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost 38–3 to Clemson in ACC Championship<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Wisconsin in Orange Bowl</p><p>For all of Miami’s magic through the first 10 games this season, it’s now clear that the Hurricanes were not prepared to run with the elites. Miami was outclassed by Clemson and did not help matters by turning the ball over three times. Malik Rosier threw for only 110 yards and was picked off twice as Miami fell behind early and was unable to sustain an offense to get back in the game.</p><h3>14. Stanford (9–4, 7–2 Pac-12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>15<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost to USC 31–28 in Pac-12 Championship<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. TCU in Alamo Bowl</p><p>Bryce Love did everything he could to carry Stanford to the Pac-12 title, rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown on an injured ankle. Will he be close to 100% by the bowl game (if he doesn’t choose to skip it)?</p><h3>15. Notre Dame (9–3)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>16<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. LSU in Citrus Bowl</p><h3>16. Memphis (10–2, 7–1 AAC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>14<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost 62–55 (2OT) to Central Florida in AAC Championship<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Iowa State in Liberty Bowl</p><p>In a game that featured 117 points and almost 1,500 yards, Memphis rallied twice from two-touchdown deficits to push UCF to overtime. Riley Ferguson had 471 yards and four touchdowns and the Tigers rolled up 753 yards of offense. The Tigers were done in by 14 penalties and two costly turnovers, despite holding the ball more than twice the time that Central Florida had it.</p><h3>17. LSU (9-3, 6–2 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>17<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Notre Dame in Citrus Bowl</p><h3>18. Virginia Tech (9–3, 5–3 ACC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>18<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Oklahoma State in Camping World Bowl</p><h3>19. Oklahoma State (9–3, 6–3 Big 12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>19<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Virginia Tech in Camping World Bowl</p><h3>20. Michigan State (9–3, 7–2 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>20<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Washington State in Holiday Bowl</p><h3>21. Northwestern (9–3, 7–2 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>21<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Kentucky in Music City Bowl</p><p>Northwestern might be the biggest surprise in college football. Say what you want about its schedule, but winning nine games is hard no matter who is on the slate. Fans should get one last look at Justin Jackson, who might be the best Power 5 running back you haven’t heard of.</p><h3>22. Washington State (9–3, 6–3 Pac–12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>22<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Michigan State in Holiday Bowl</p><p>It would have been fun to see Mike Leach and his Cougars in a major bowl, but Washington State was blown out in three road games, including the season-ending Apple Cup, which could have gotten them a rematch against USC.</p><h3>23. South Florida (9–2, 6–2 AAC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>23<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Texas Tech in Birmingham Bowl</p><h3>24. Boise State (10–3, 7–1 MWC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking:</strong> —<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Fresno State 17–14 in Mountain West Championship<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Oregon in Las Vegas Bowl</p><p>Boise State came up big in the fourth quarter, driving 90 yards to put the winning score on the board and avenge last week’s loss to Fresno State. Brett Rypien threw for 246 yards and the defense put the clamps on the Bulldogs&#39; offense that shredded them the week before. Boise State has won 10 games for the eighth time in the last 10 years, and won the Mountain West for the second time in the last four.</p><h3>25. Mississippi State (8–4, 4–4 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>24<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Louisville in TaxSlayer Bowl</p><h3><b>Almost Famous</b></h3><h3>26. Fresno State (9–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Houston in Hawaii Bowl</p><h3>27. Louisville (8­–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Mississippi State in TaxSlayer Bowl</p><h3>28. Florida Atlantic (10–3)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Akron in Boca Raton Bowl</p><h3>29. San Diego State (10–2)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Army in Armed Forces Bowl</p><h3>30. Michigan (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. South Carolina in Outback Bowl</p><h3>31. NC State (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs Arizona State in Belk Bowl</p><h3>32. Toledo (11–2)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Appalachian State in Armed Forces Bowl</p><h3>33. Troy (10–2)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. North Texas in New Orleans Bowl</p><h3>34. Army (8–3)</h3><p><strong>Next games: </strong>vs. Navy on Saturday; vs. San Diego State in Armed Forces Bowl</p><h3>35. South Carolina (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Michigan in Outback Bowl</p><h3>36. Iowa State (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Memphis in Liberty Bowl</p><h3>37. Appalachian State (10–2)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Toledo in Armed Forces Bowl</p><h3>38. West Virginia (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Utah in Heart of Dallas Bowl</p><h3>39. Kansas State (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. UCLA in Cactus Bowl</p><p>Remember when Iowa State was on the fringes on a top-10 ranking? The Cyclones closed the season losing four of their last five games. If Louisville had any sort of semblance of a defense, Lamar Jackson’s second Heisman would have been more than a dream. The passengers on the Lane Train get to stay home in Boca Raton for bowl season, and no one—and I mean no one—thought FAU would win 10 games after looking pitiful in the early part of the season.</p><h3><strong>The comeback kids</strong></h3><h3>40. Oregon (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Boise State in Las Vegas Bowl</p><h3>41. Texas A&#38;M (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Wake Forest in Belk Bowl</p><h3>42. SMU (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Louisiana Tech in Frisco Bowl</p><h3>43. Marshall (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl</p><h3>44. Central Michigan (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Wyoming in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl</p><h3>45. Arizona State (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. NC State in Belk Bowl</p><h3>46. Kentucky (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Northwestern in Music City Bowl</p><h3>47. UAB (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Ohio in Bahamas Bowl</p><h3>48. Northern Illinois (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Duke in Quick Lane Bowl</p><h3>49. Missouri (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Texas in Texas Bowl</p><p>Oregon spent a majority of the season without its starting quarterback, Justin Herbert, who broke his collarbone. The Ducks are a different team with him under center and the Las Vegas Bowl is a good opportunity to show what could be coming next year in Eugene. In December 2014, UAB shut down its football program, citing financial difficulties. The Blazers came back in a big way, earning bowl eligibility in their first season back. Keep an eye out for UAB’s Spencer Brown, a dynamic freshman who ran for nearly 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.</p><h3><strong>College football’s Jekyll and Hyde</strong></h3><h3>50. Southern Miss (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Florida State in Independence Bowl</p><h3>51. Iowa (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Boston College in Pinstripe Bowl</p><h3>52. North Texas (9–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. New Orleans Bowl</p><h3>53. Ohio (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. UAB in Bahamas Bowl</p><h3>54. Arizona (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Purdue in Foster Farms Bowl</p><h3>55. Wake Forest (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Texas A&#38;M in Belk Bowl</p><h3>56. Akron (7–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. FAU in Boca Raton Bowl</p><h3>57. Colorado State (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Marshall in New Mexico Bowl</p><h3>58. Navy (6–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Army on Saturday; vs. Virginia in Military Bowl</p><h3>59. Florida International (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Temple in Gasparilla Bowl</p><p>Iowa is the biggest enigma in college football: thrashing Ohio State by 31 points at home, then losing to Purdue in the same stadium two weeks later. On the bright side, the Hawkeyes did beat four teams that made it to bowls this season. North Texas, which lacks much notable football tradition outside of Mean Joe Greene, won nine games under the outstanding leadership of second-year coach Seth Littrell—another season like this and programs that have vacancies next winter will come calling. For those who didn’t stay up late to watch this season of Pac-12 After Dark, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is must-see TV. He is known to break off a long run (or five) during the game and could have a 250-yard game against Purdue’s defense.</p><h3><strong>On the upswing</strong></h3><h3>60. Texas (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Missouri in Texas Bowl</p><h3>61. Arkansas State (7­–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Middle Tennessee in Camellia Bowl</p><h3>62. Boston College (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Iowa in Independence Bowl</p><h3>63. Western Kentucky (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Georgia State in Cure Bowl</p><h3>64. Utah (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. West Virginia in Heart of Dallas Bowl</p><h3>65. Houston (7–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Fresno State in Hawaii Bowl</p><h3>66. Wyoming (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Central Michigan in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl</p><h3>67. UCLA (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Kansas State in Cactus Bowl</p><h3>68. Utah State (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. New Mexico State in Arizona Bowl</p><h3>69. Florida State (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Southern Mississippi in Independence Bowl</p><p>The pixie dust worked about as well as Tom Herman warned us it would this season for Texas, which hung with Oklahoma, USC and Oklahoma State, but somehow lost to Maryland and Texas Tech. Better days are ahead in Austin. UCLA, another team that has talent and failed to capitalized, fell to rock bottom after a thrilling comeback in the opener against Texas A&#38;M. That slide got Jim Mora fired and led to the hiring of Chip Kelly. The Bruins should thrive again under Kelly in a hurry.</p><h3><strong>The worst of the best</strong></h3><h3>70. Purdue (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Arizona in Foster Farms Bowl</p><h3>71. Duke (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Northern Illinois in Quick Lane Bowl</p><h3>72. Louisiana Tech (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. SMU in Frisco Bowl</p><h3>73. Virginia (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Navy in Military Bowl</p><h3>74. Temple (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. FIU in Gasparilla Bowl</p><h3>75. Middle Tennessee State (6­–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Arkansas State in Camellia Bowl</p><h3>76. Texas Tech (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. South Florida in Birmingham Bowl</p><h3>77. Georgia State (6–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Western Kentucky in Cure Bowl</p><p>These teams aren’t necessarily bad (all of them won at least six games), but at times, watching them play was tough on the eyes. Purdue showed remarkable improvement under first-year coach Jeff Brohm, and with a few more years of this, he won’t be at Purdue much longer. Texas Tech amazingly still has a coach after its roller-coaster year. The Red Raiders again could move the ball on offense but got thrashed in just about every game on defense. Look for a plethora of points when they meet South Florida in Birmingham.</p><h3><strong>Because someone had to be last</strong></h3><h3>78. New Mexico State (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Utah State in Arizona Bowl</p><p>Congrats to the Aggies, who are bowl eligible for the first time since the end of the Eisenhower administration. They won their final two games and can finally enjoy some national exposure and long awaited bowl swag.</p>
Bowl Season Power Rankings: All 78 Teams, From Oklahoma to New Mexico State

In the season’s final Power Rankings, we’ve added to our usual 25 standouts the additional 53 teams that will be playing in the postseason, because why not? You can never have too many bowl games for some reason. Because 81 teams reached the six-win threshold required for postseason eligibility, you won’t be seeing any 5–7 teams below thanks to a Academic Progress Rate, or Ole Miss (obviously). Also missing from the festivities are Western Michigan, UTSA and Buffalo, which had enough wins to make to the postseason but were left out on account of there being only 78 spots.

Now on to the mega-rankings:

1. Oklahoma (12–1, 7–1 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat TCU 41–17 in Big 12 Championship
Next game: vs. Georgia in Rose Bowl

The Sooners are the Big 12’s only program to make the playoff in its four years of existence. The defense had been criticized all season, especially after giving up 52 to Oklahoma State and 41 to one-win Baylor. That unit came to play against TCU, giving up 317 total yards in securing Oklahoma’s 11th Big 12 title (no other team has more than three). Baker Mayfield should practice his Heisman speech after throwing for 243 yards and four touchdowns.

2. Clemson (12–1, 7–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat Miami 38–3 in ACC Championship
Next game: vs. Alabama in Sugar Bowl

Clemson’s third consecutive victory in the ACC title game was never in doubt, as Kelly Bryant had two total touchdowns and passed for 252 yards and the defense held Miami to 214 total yards and had four sacks. On this day, Clemson leaned on Bryant and that defense because the running game didn’t show up at all, averaging less than two yards a carry, although Clemson had four rushing touchdowns from short distance.

3. Georgia (12–1, 7–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 5
This week: Beat Auburn 28–7 in SEC Championship
Next game: vs. Oklahoma in Rose Bowl

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was correct in his assessment of how Georgia beat his Tigers the second time around: The Bulldogs “flipped the script,” especially in the run game. In the first matchup, Georgia ran for only 46 yards. In this game, Georgia galloped for 238 yards and got an efficient game from quarterback Jake Fromm, who had two touchdowns and 183 yards passing.

4. Alabama (11–1, 7–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 6
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Clemson in Sugar Bowl

5. Ohio State (11­–2, 8–1 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Wisconsin 27–21 in Big Ten Championship
Next game: vs. USC in Cotton Bowl

J.T. Barrett threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns less than a week after undergoing surgery on his right knee. Barrett also ran for a score, but his two turnovers kept Wisconsin in the game and prevented a blowout. Freshman J.K. Dobbins, who was named the game’s MVP, ran for 174 yards, while the talented defense shut down Wisconsin’s running game as the Badgers garnered only 60 yards on 32 carries.

6. Wisconsin (12–1, 9–0 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Lost 27–21 to Ohio State in Big Ten Championship
Next game: vs. Miami in Orange Bowl

Wisconsin’s formula that had worked all season long was nowhere to found on Saturday as the running game and stout defense failed to carry the Badgers to the Big Ten title. Jonathan Taylor had only 41 yards and Ohio State’s offense repeatedly gashed the slower Badgers for big play after big play. Alex Hornibrook had 229 yards but his untimely turnovers doomed Wisconsin.

7. Central Florida (12–0, 8–0 AAC)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat Memphis 62–55 (2OT) in AAC Championship
Next game: vs. Auburn in Peach Bowl

In a span of three years, Central Florida went from the cellar of college football to undefeated and playing in a major bowl game. McKenzie Milton threw for 494 yards and five touchdowns and the Knights overcame four turnovers to win their third conference title in the last five seasons. The season was a perfect sendoff for coach Scott Frost, who will coach the bowl game before departing for the Nebraska job.

8. USC (11–2, 8–1 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat Stanford 31–28 in Pac–12 Championship
Next game: vs. Ohio State in Cotton Bowl

The Trojans used a 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter to hold off Stanford and bring home their first conference title in almost a decade. Sam Darnold threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns in what could be his final game in college, and Ronald Jones ran for 140 yards and two scores as part of USC’s 501-yard offensive effort. Bryce Love had 125 yards rushing for Stanford on a badly injured ankle, but it was not enough.

9. Auburn (10–3, 7–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 4
This week: Lost to Auburn 28–7 in SEC Championship
Next game: vs. UCF in Peach Bowl

After scoring on the opening drive, Auburn’s hopes for a playoff berth and SEC title went down the drain thanks to an avalanche of penalties, special team miscues, two big turnovers and an inability to stop any Georgia running back. Kerryon Johnson came in with a shoulder injury and was ineffective, rushing for 40 yards on 13 carries as Auburn was held to 259 yards, its lowest output since a Week 2 loss at Clemson.

10. Penn State (10–2, 7–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 11
Last week: Off
Next game: vs. Washington in Fiesta Bowl

11. Washington (10–2, 7–2 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Penn State in Fiesta Bowl

12. TCU (10–3, 7-2 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 12
This week: Lost to Oklahoma 41–17 in Big 12 Championship
Next game: vs. Stanford in Alamo Bowl

TCU ran into the same problem it did when it faced the Sooners three weeks ago: The defense had no answer for Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma running game. The Horned Frogs also ran into a surprisingly salty Sooners defense, which gave up less than 100 yards and no points in the second half.

13. Miami, FL (10–2, 7–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Lost 38–3 to Clemson in ACC Championship
Next game: vs. Wisconsin in Orange Bowl

For all of Miami’s magic through the first 10 games this season, it’s now clear that the Hurricanes were not prepared to run with the elites. Miami was outclassed by Clemson and did not help matters by turning the ball over three times. Malik Rosier threw for only 110 yards and was picked off twice as Miami fell behind early and was unable to sustain an offense to get back in the game.

14. Stanford (9–4, 7–2 Pac-12)

Previous ranking: 15
This week: Lost to USC 31–28 in Pac-12 Championship
Next game: vs. TCU in Alamo Bowl

Bryce Love did everything he could to carry Stanford to the Pac-12 title, rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown on an injured ankle. Will he be close to 100% by the bowl game (if he doesn’t choose to skip it)?

15. Notre Dame (9–3)

Previous ranking: 16
This week: Off
Next game: vs. LSU in Citrus Bowl

16. Memphis (10–2, 7–1 AAC)

Previous ranking: 14
This week: Lost 62–55 (2OT) to Central Florida in AAC Championship
Next game: vs. Iowa State in Liberty Bowl

In a game that featured 117 points and almost 1,500 yards, Memphis rallied twice from two-touchdown deficits to push UCF to overtime. Riley Ferguson had 471 yards and four touchdowns and the Tigers rolled up 753 yards of offense. The Tigers were done in by 14 penalties and two costly turnovers, despite holding the ball more than twice the time that Central Florida had it.

17. LSU (9-3, 6–2 SEC)

Previous ranking: 17
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Notre Dame in Citrus Bowl

18. Virginia Tech (9–3, 5–3 ACC)

Previous ranking: 18
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Oklahoma State in Camping World Bowl

19. Oklahoma State (9–3, 6–3 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 19
Last week: Off
Next game: vs. Virginia Tech in Camping World Bowl

20. Michigan State (9–3, 7–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 20
Last week: Off
Next game: vs. Washington State in Holiday Bowl

21. Northwestern (9–3, 7–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 21
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Kentucky in Music City Bowl

Northwestern might be the biggest surprise in college football. Say what you want about its schedule, but winning nine games is hard no matter who is on the slate. Fans should get one last look at Justin Jackson, who might be the best Power 5 running back you haven’t heard of.

22. Washington State (9–3, 6–3 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 22
Last week: Off
Next game: vs. Michigan State in Holiday Bowl

It would have been fun to see Mike Leach and his Cougars in a major bowl, but Washington State was blown out in three road games, including the season-ending Apple Cup, which could have gotten them a rematch against USC.

23. South Florida (9–2, 6–2 AAC)

Previous ranking: 23
Last week: Off
Next game: vs. Texas Tech in Birmingham Bowl

24. Boise State (10–3, 7–1 MWC)

Previous ranking:
This week: Beat Fresno State 17–14 in Mountain West Championship
Next game: vs. Oregon in Las Vegas Bowl

Boise State came up big in the fourth quarter, driving 90 yards to put the winning score on the board and avenge last week’s loss to Fresno State. Brett Rypien threw for 246 yards and the defense put the clamps on the Bulldogs' offense that shredded them the week before. Boise State has won 10 games for the eighth time in the last 10 years, and won the Mountain West for the second time in the last four.

25. Mississippi State (8–4, 4–4 SEC)

Previous ranking: 24
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Louisville in TaxSlayer Bowl

Almost Famous

26. Fresno State (9–4)

Next game: vs. Houston in Hawaii Bowl

27. Louisville (8­–4)

Next game: vs. Mississippi State in TaxSlayer Bowl

28. Florida Atlantic (10–3)

Next game: vs. Akron in Boca Raton Bowl

29. San Diego State (10–2)

Next game: vs. Army in Armed Forces Bowl

30. Michigan (8–4)

Next game: vs. South Carolina in Outback Bowl

31. NC State (8–4)

Next game: vs Arizona State in Belk Bowl

32. Toledo (11–2)

Next game: vs. Appalachian State in Armed Forces Bowl

33. Troy (10–2)

Next game: vs. North Texas in New Orleans Bowl

34. Army (8–3)

Next games: vs. Navy on Saturday; vs. San Diego State in Armed Forces Bowl

35. South Carolina (8–4)

Next game: vs. Michigan in Outback Bowl

36. Iowa State (7–5)

Next game: vs. Memphis in Liberty Bowl

37. Appalachian State (10–2)

Next game: vs. Toledo in Armed Forces Bowl

38. West Virginia (7–5)

Next game: vs. Utah in Heart of Dallas Bowl

39. Kansas State (7–5)

Next game: vs. UCLA in Cactus Bowl

Remember when Iowa State was on the fringes on a top-10 ranking? The Cyclones closed the season losing four of their last five games. If Louisville had any sort of semblance of a defense, Lamar Jackson’s second Heisman would have been more than a dream. The passengers on the Lane Train get to stay home in Boca Raton for bowl season, and no one—and I mean no one—thought FAU would win 10 games after looking pitiful in the early part of the season.

The comeback kids

40. Oregon (7–5)

Next game: vs. Boise State in Las Vegas Bowl

41. Texas A&M (7–5)

Next game: vs. Wake Forest in Belk Bowl

42. SMU (7–5)

Next game: vs. Louisiana Tech in Frisco Bowl

43. Marshall (7–5)

Next game: vs. Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl

44. Central Michigan (8–4)

Next game: vs. Wyoming in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

45. Arizona State (7–5)

Next game: vs. NC State in Belk Bowl

46. Kentucky (7–5)

Next game: vs. Northwestern in Music City Bowl

47. UAB (8–4)

Next game: vs. Ohio in Bahamas Bowl

48. Northern Illinois (8–4)

Next game: vs. Duke in Quick Lane Bowl

49. Missouri (7–5)

Next game: vs. Texas in Texas Bowl

Oregon spent a majority of the season without its starting quarterback, Justin Herbert, who broke his collarbone. The Ducks are a different team with him under center and the Las Vegas Bowl is a good opportunity to show what could be coming next year in Eugene. In December 2014, UAB shut down its football program, citing financial difficulties. The Blazers came back in a big way, earning bowl eligibility in their first season back. Keep an eye out for UAB’s Spencer Brown, a dynamic freshman who ran for nearly 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

College football’s Jekyll and Hyde

50. Southern Miss (8–4)

Next game: vs. Florida State in Independence Bowl

51. Iowa (7–5)

Next game: vs. Boston College in Pinstripe Bowl

52. North Texas (9–4)

Next game: vs. New Orleans Bowl

53. Ohio (8–4)

Next game: vs. UAB in Bahamas Bowl

54. Arizona (7–5)

Next game: vs. Purdue in Foster Farms Bowl

55. Wake Forest (7–5)

Next game: vs. Texas A&M in Belk Bowl

56. Akron (7–6)

Next game: vs. FAU in Boca Raton Bowl

57. Colorado State (7–5)

Next game: vs. Marshall in New Mexico Bowl

58. Navy (6–5)

Next game: vs. Army on Saturday; vs. Virginia in Military Bowl

59. Florida International (8–4)

Next game: vs. Temple in Gasparilla Bowl

Iowa is the biggest enigma in college football: thrashing Ohio State by 31 points at home, then losing to Purdue in the same stadium two weeks later. On the bright side, the Hawkeyes did beat four teams that made it to bowls this season. North Texas, which lacks much notable football tradition outside of Mean Joe Greene, won nine games under the outstanding leadership of second-year coach Seth Littrell—another season like this and programs that have vacancies next winter will come calling. For those who didn’t stay up late to watch this season of Pac-12 After Dark, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is must-see TV. He is known to break off a long run (or five) during the game and could have a 250-yard game against Purdue’s defense.

On the upswing

60. Texas (6–6)

Next game: vs. Missouri in Texas Bowl

61. Arkansas State (7­–4)

Next game: vs. Middle Tennessee in Camellia Bowl

62. Boston College (7–5)

Next game: vs. Iowa in Independence Bowl

63. Western Kentucky (6–6)

Next game: vs. Georgia State in Cure Bowl

64. Utah (6–6)

Next game: vs. West Virginia in Heart of Dallas Bowl

65. Houston (7–4)

Next game: vs. Fresno State in Hawaii Bowl

66. Wyoming (7–5)

Next game: vs. Central Michigan in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

67. UCLA (6–6)

Next game: vs. Kansas State in Cactus Bowl

68. Utah State (6–6)

Next game: vs. New Mexico State in Arizona Bowl

69. Florida State (6–6)

Next game: vs. Southern Mississippi in Independence Bowl

The pixie dust worked about as well as Tom Herman warned us it would this season for Texas, which hung with Oklahoma, USC and Oklahoma State, but somehow lost to Maryland and Texas Tech. Better days are ahead in Austin. UCLA, another team that has talent and failed to capitalized, fell to rock bottom after a thrilling comeback in the opener against Texas A&M. That slide got Jim Mora fired and led to the hiring of Chip Kelly. The Bruins should thrive again under Kelly in a hurry.

The worst of the best

70. Purdue (6–6)

Next game: vs. Arizona in Foster Farms Bowl

71. Duke (6–6)

Next game: vs. Northern Illinois in Quick Lane Bowl

72. Louisiana Tech (6–6)

Next game: vs. SMU in Frisco Bowl

73. Virginia (6–6)

Next game: vs. Navy in Military Bowl

74. Temple (6–6)

Next game: vs. FIU in Gasparilla Bowl

75. Middle Tennessee State (6­–6)

Next game: vs. Arkansas State in Camellia Bowl

76. Texas Tech (6–6)

Next game: vs. South Florida in Birmingham Bowl

77. Georgia State (6–5)

Next game: vs. Western Kentucky in Cure Bowl

These teams aren’t necessarily bad (all of them won at least six games), but at times, watching them play was tough on the eyes. Purdue showed remarkable improvement under first-year coach Jeff Brohm, and with a few more years of this, he won’t be at Purdue much longer. Texas Tech amazingly still has a coach after its roller-coaster year. The Red Raiders again could move the ball on offense but got thrashed in just about every game on defense. Look for a plethora of points when they meet South Florida in Birmingham.

Because someone had to be last

78. New Mexico State (6–6)

Next game: vs. Utah State in Arizona Bowl

Congrats to the Aggies, who are bowl eligible for the first time since the end of the Eisenhower administration. They won their final two games and can finally enjoy some national exposure and long awaited bowl swag.

FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2017, file photo, Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith (71) warms up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, in Auburn, Ala. Smith was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.(AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2017, file photo, Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith (71) warms up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, in Auburn, Ala. Smith was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.(AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2017, file photo, Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith (71) warms up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, in Auburn, Ala. Smith was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.(AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
<p>One final Saturday. That was all that was left until college football’s one-of-a-kind postseason is set, with unique bowl games around the nation leading up to the fourth edition of the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma, Clemson, Miami, Auburn, Georgia and Wisconsin entered their conference title games knowing they should make the final four with a win, while Ohio State harbored hopes it could still cause havoc and Alabama watched it all nervously from a distance.</p><p>Below, you’ll find our Sunday morning projections for all 39 bowl games leading up to the College Football Playoff national championship in Atlanta on Jan. 8, along with the finalized matchups (in bold). Three teams—UTSA, Buffalo and Western Michigan—reached the six-win threshold but were not selected for a bowl game.</p><h3>2017 Bowl Schedule</h3><h3>Saturday, Dec. 16</h3><p><strong>R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, New Orleans (1 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Sun Belt vs. C-USA</em><br>Prediction: Troy vs. Southern Mississippi<br><strong>Matchup: Troy vs. North Texas</strong></p><p><strong>AutoNation Cure Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (2:30 p.m., CBSSN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. Sun Belt</em><br>Prediction: Louisiana Tech vs. Georgia State<br><strong>Matchup: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State</strong></p><p><strong>Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas (3:30 p.m., ABC)</strong><br><em>?MWC vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Boise State vs. Arizona<br><b>Matchup: Boise State vs. Oregon</b></p><p><strong>Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque (4:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>C-USA vs. MWC</em><br>Prediction: UTSA vs. Utah State<br><strong>Matchup: Marshall vs. Colorado State</strong></p><p><strong>Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, Montgomery, Ala. (8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>MAC vs. Sun Belt</em><br>Prediction: Akron vs. Arkansas State<br><strong>Matchup: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State</strong></p><h3>Tuesday, Dec. 19</h3><p><strong>Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl, Boca Raton, Fla. (7 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. C-USA</em><br>Prediction: SMU vs. Florida Atlantic<br><strong>Matchup: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic</strong></p><h3>Wednesday, Dec. 20</h3><p><strong>Frisco Bowl, Frisco, Texas (8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. C-USA/MAC/MWC/BYU</em><br>Prediction: Houston vs. San Diego State<br><strong>Matchup: SMU vs. Louisiana Tech</strong></p><h3>Thursday, Dec. 21</h3><p><strong>Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, St. Petersburg, Fla. (8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>C-USA vs. AAC</em><br>Prediction: Marshall vs. Temple<br><strong>Matchup: Florida International vs. Temple</strong></p><h3>Friday, Dec. 22</h3><p><strong>Bahamas Bowl, Nassau, Bahamas (12:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>C-USA vs. MAC</em><br><b>Matchup: UAB vs. Ohio</b></p><p><strong>Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise (4 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>MAC vs. MWC</em><br>Prediction: Northern Illinois vs. Colorado State<br><b>Matchup: Central Michigan vs. Wyoming</b></p><h3>Saturday, Dec. 23</h3><p><strong>Birmingham Bowl, Birmingham, Ala. (12 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Memphis vs. Duke<br><strong>Matchup: USF vs. Texas Tech</strong></p><p><strong>Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth, Texas (3:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Army vs. C-USA</em><br>Prediction: <strong>Army</strong> vs. Western Kentucky<br><strong>Matchup: Army vs. San Diego State</strong></p><p><strong>Dollar General Bowl, Mobile, Ala. (7 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>MAC vs. Sun Belt</em><br>Prediction: Toledo vs. Appalachian State<br><strong>Matchup: Toledo vs. Appalachian State</strong></p><h3>Sunday, Dec. 24</h3><p><strong>Hawaii Bowl, Honolulu, (8:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. MWC</em><br>Prediction: Navy vs. Fresno State<br><strong>Matchup: Houston vs. Fresno State</strong></p><h3>Tuesday, Dec. 26</h3><p><strong>Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dallas (1:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Big 12 vs. Big Ten</em><br>Prediction: Texas Tech vs. North Texas<br><strong>Matchup: West Virginia vs. Utah</strong></p><p><strong>Quick Lane Bowl, Detroit (5:15 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Big Ten</em><br>Prediction: Virginia vs. Central Michigan<br><strong>Matchup: Duke vs. Northern Illinois</strong></p><p><strong>Cactus Bowl, Phoenix (9 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Big 12 vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Kansas State vs. Oregon<br><strong>Matchup: Kansas State vs. UCLA</strong></p><h3>Wednesday, Dec. 27</h3><p><strong>Walk-On&#39;s Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La. (1:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Florida International vs. UCLA<br><strong>Matchup: Florida State vs. Southern Miss</strong></p><p><strong>New Era Pinstripe Bowl, New York (5:15 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Big Ten</em><br>Prediction: Virginia Tech vs. Purdue<br><strong>Matchup: Boston College vs. Iowa</strong></p><p><strong>Foster Farms Bowl, Santa Clara, Calif. (8 p.m., FOX)</strong><br><em>Big Ten vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Iowa vs. Washington State<br><strong>Matchup: Purdue vs. Arizona</strong></p><p><strong>Academy Sports? + Outdoors Texas Bowl, Houston (9 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Big 12 vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Texas vs. Utah<br><strong>Matchup: Texas vs. Missouri</strong></p><h3>Thursday, Dec. 28</h3><p><strong>Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, Annapolis, Md. (1:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. AAC</em><br>Prediction: Florida State vs. South Florida<br><strong>Matchup: Virginia vs. Navy</strong></p><p><strong>Camping World Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (5:15 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Big 12</em><br>Prediction: NC State vs. Iowa State<br><strong>Matchup: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State</strong></p><p><strong>Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, 9 p.m. (ESPN)</strong><br><em>Pac-12 vs. Big 12</em><br>Prediction: Stanford vs. Oklahoma State<br><strong>Matchup: Stanford vs. TCU</strong></p><p><strong>San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, San Diego (9 p.m., FS1)</strong><br><em>Big Ten vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Michigan vs. Washington<br><strong>Matchup: Michigan State vs. Washington State</strong></p><h3>Friday, Dec. 29</h3><p><strong>Belk Bowl, Charlotte, N.C. (1 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Wake Forest vs. Kentucky<br><strong>Matchup: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&#38;M</strong></p><p><strong>Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas (2 p.m., CBS)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Boston College vs. Arizona State<br><strong>Matchup: NC State vs. Arizona State</strong></p><p><strong>Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Nashville, Tenn. (4:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>SEC vs. Big Ten or ACC</em><br>Prediction: Texas A&#38;M vs. Northwestern<br><strong>Matchup: Kentucky vs. Northwestern</strong></p><p><strong>Arizona Bowl, Tucson, Ariz. (5:30 p.m., CBSSN)</strong><br><em>Sun Belt vs. MWC</em><br>Prediction: New Mexico State vs. Wyoming<br><strong>Matchup: New Mexico State vs. Utah State</strong></p><h3>Saturday, Dec. 30</h3><p><strong>TaxSlayer Bowl, Jacksonville, Fla. (12 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>SEC vs. Big Ten or ACC</em><br>Prediction: LSU vs. Louisville<br><strong>Matchup: Mississippi State vs. Louisville</strong></p><p><strong>AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn. (12:30 p.m., ABC)</strong><br><em>Big 12 vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: West Virginia vs. Missouri<br><strong>Matchup: Iowa State vs. Memphis</strong></p><h3>Monday, Jan. 1, 2018</h3><p><strong>Outback Bowl, Tampa, Fla. (12 p.m., ESPN2)</strong><br><em>Big Ten vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Michigan State vs. South Carolina<br><strong>Matchup: Michigan vs. South Carolina</strong></p><p><strong>Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (1 p.m., ABC)</strong><br><em>SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten</em><br>Prediction: Mississippi State vs. Notre Dame<br><strong>Matchup: LSU vs. Notre Dame</strong></p><h3>New Year&#39;s Six Bowls</h3><p><strong>Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Arlington, Texas (Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>At-large vs. At-large</em><br>Prediction: Ohio State vs. TCU<br><strong>Matchup: Ohio State vs. USC</strong></p><p><strong>PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz. (Dec. 30, 4 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>At-large vs. At-large</em><br>Prediction: USC vs. Wisconsin<br><strong>Matchup: Penn State vs. Washington</strong></p><p><strong>Capital One Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens, Fla. (Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame</em><br>Prediction: Miami vs. Penn State<br><strong>Matchup: Miami vs. Wisconsin</strong></p><p><strong>Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Atlanta (Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>At-large vs. At-Large</em><br>Prediction: UCF vs. Auburn<br><strong>Matchup: UCF vs. Auburn</strong></p><p><strong>Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, Pasadena, Calif. (Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist</em><br>Prediction: Oklahoma vs. Georgia<br><strong>Matchup: Oklahoma vs. Georgia</strong></p><p><strong>Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans (Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist</em><br>Prediction: Clemson vs. Alabama<br><strong>Matchup: Clemson vs. Alabama</strong></p><p><strong>College Football Playoff National Championship, Atlanta (Jan. 8, 8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>CFP semifinal winner vs. CFP semifinal winner</em></p>
2017 Bowl Projections: How the Full 40-Game Schedule Took Shape

One final Saturday. That was all that was left until college football’s one-of-a-kind postseason is set, with unique bowl games around the nation leading up to the fourth edition of the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma, Clemson, Miami, Auburn, Georgia and Wisconsin entered their conference title games knowing they should make the final four with a win, while Ohio State harbored hopes it could still cause havoc and Alabama watched it all nervously from a distance.

Below, you’ll find our Sunday morning projections for all 39 bowl games leading up to the College Football Playoff national championship in Atlanta on Jan. 8, along with the finalized matchups (in bold). Three teams—UTSA, Buffalo and Western Michigan—reached the six-win threshold but were not selected for a bowl game.

2017 Bowl Schedule

Saturday, Dec. 16

R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, New Orleans (1 p.m., ESPN)
Sun Belt vs. C-USA
Prediction: Troy vs. Southern Mississippi
Matchup: Troy vs. North Texas

AutoNation Cure Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (2:30 p.m., CBSSN)
AAC vs. Sun Belt
Prediction: Louisiana Tech vs. Georgia State
Matchup: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State

Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas (3:30 p.m., ABC)
?MWC vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Boise State vs. Arizona
Matchup: Boise State vs. Oregon

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque (4:30 p.m., ESPN)
C-USA vs. MWC
Prediction: UTSA vs. Utah State
Matchup: Marshall vs. Colorado State

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, Montgomery, Ala. (8 p.m., ESPN)
MAC vs. Sun Belt
Prediction: Akron vs. Arkansas State
Matchup: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State

Tuesday, Dec. 19

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl, Boca Raton, Fla. (7 p.m., ESPN)
AAC vs. C-USA
Prediction: SMU vs. Florida Atlantic
Matchup: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic

Wednesday, Dec. 20

Frisco Bowl, Frisco, Texas (8 p.m., ESPN)
AAC vs. C-USA/MAC/MWC/BYU
Prediction: Houston vs. San Diego State
Matchup: SMU vs. Louisiana Tech

Thursday, Dec. 21

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, St. Petersburg, Fla. (8 p.m., ESPN)
C-USA vs. AAC
Prediction: Marshall vs. Temple
Matchup: Florida International vs. Temple

Friday, Dec. 22

Bahamas Bowl, Nassau, Bahamas (12:30 p.m., ESPN)
C-USA vs. MAC
Matchup: UAB vs. Ohio

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise (4 p.m., ESPN)
MAC vs. MWC
Prediction: Northern Illinois vs. Colorado State
Matchup: Central Michigan vs. Wyoming

Saturday, Dec. 23

Birmingham Bowl, Birmingham, Ala. (12 p.m., ESPN)
AAC vs. SEC
Prediction: Memphis vs. Duke
Matchup: USF vs. Texas Tech

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth, Texas (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Army vs. C-USA
Prediction: Army vs. Western Kentucky
Matchup: Army vs. San Diego State

Dollar General Bowl, Mobile, Ala. (7 p.m., ESPN)
MAC vs. Sun Belt
Prediction: Toledo vs. Appalachian State
Matchup: Toledo vs. Appalachian State

Sunday, Dec. 24

Hawaii Bowl, Honolulu, (8:30 p.m., ESPN)
AAC vs. MWC
Prediction: Navy vs. Fresno State
Matchup: Houston vs. Fresno State

Tuesday, Dec. 26

Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dallas (1:30 p.m., ESPN)
Big 12 vs. Big Ten
Prediction: Texas Tech vs. North Texas
Matchup: West Virginia vs. Utah

Quick Lane Bowl, Detroit (5:15 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big Ten
Prediction: Virginia vs. Central Michigan
Matchup: Duke vs. Northern Illinois

Cactus Bowl, Phoenix (9 p.m., ESPN)
Big 12 vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Kansas State vs. Oregon
Matchup: Kansas State vs. UCLA

Wednesday, Dec. 27

Walk-On's Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La. (1:30 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. SEC
Prediction: Florida International vs. UCLA
Matchup: Florida State vs. Southern Miss

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, New York (5:15 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big Ten
Prediction: Virginia Tech vs. Purdue
Matchup: Boston College vs. Iowa

Foster Farms Bowl, Santa Clara, Calif. (8 p.m., FOX)
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Iowa vs. Washington State
Matchup: Purdue vs. Arizona

Academy Sports? + Outdoors Texas Bowl, Houston (9 p.m., ESPN)
Big 12 vs. SEC
Prediction: Texas vs. Utah
Matchup: Texas vs. Missouri

Thursday, Dec. 28

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, Annapolis, Md. (1:30 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. AAC
Prediction: Florida State vs. South Florida
Matchup: Virginia vs. Navy

Camping World Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (5:15 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big 12
Prediction: NC State vs. Iowa State
Matchup: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State

Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Pac-12 vs. Big 12
Prediction: Stanford vs. Oklahoma State
Matchup: Stanford vs. TCU

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, San Diego (9 p.m., FS1)
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Michigan vs. Washington
Matchup: Michigan State vs. Washington State

Friday, Dec. 29

Belk Bowl, Charlotte, N.C. (1 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. SEC
Prediction: Wake Forest vs. Kentucky
Matchup: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas (2 p.m., CBS)
ACC vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Boston College vs. Arizona State
Matchup: NC State vs. Arizona State

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Nashville, Tenn. (4:30 p.m., ESPN)
SEC vs. Big Ten or ACC
Prediction: Texas A&M vs. Northwestern
Matchup: Kentucky vs. Northwestern

Arizona Bowl, Tucson, Ariz. (5:30 p.m., CBSSN)
Sun Belt vs. MWC
Prediction: New Mexico State vs. Wyoming
Matchup: New Mexico State vs. Utah State

Saturday, Dec. 30

TaxSlayer Bowl, Jacksonville, Fla. (12 p.m., ESPN)
SEC vs. Big Ten or ACC
Prediction: LSU vs. Louisville
Matchup: Mississippi State vs. Louisville

AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn. (12:30 p.m., ABC)
Big 12 vs. SEC
Prediction: West Virginia vs. Missouri
Matchup: Iowa State vs. Memphis

Monday, Jan. 1, 2018

Outback Bowl, Tampa, Fla. (12 p.m., ESPN2)
Big Ten vs. SEC
Prediction: Michigan State vs. South Carolina
Matchup: Michigan vs. South Carolina

Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (1 p.m., ABC)
SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten
Prediction: Mississippi State vs. Notre Dame
Matchup: LSU vs. Notre Dame

New Year's Six Bowls

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Arlington, Texas (Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m., ESPN)
At-large vs. At-large
Prediction: Ohio State vs. TCU
Matchup: Ohio State vs. USC

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz. (Dec. 30, 4 p.m., ESPN)
At-large vs. At-large
Prediction: USC vs. Wisconsin
Matchup: Penn State vs. Washington

Capital One Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens, Fla. (Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame
Prediction: Miami vs. Penn State
Matchup: Miami vs. Wisconsin

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Atlanta (Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m., ESPN)
At-large vs. At-Large
Prediction: UCF vs. Auburn
Matchup: UCF vs. Auburn

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, Pasadena, Calif. (Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ESPN)
CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist
Prediction: Oklahoma vs. Georgia
Matchup: Oklahoma vs. Georgia

Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans (Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m., ESPN)
CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist
Prediction: Clemson vs. Alabama
Matchup: Clemson vs. Alabama

College Football Playoff National Championship, Atlanta (Jan. 8, 8 p.m., ESPN)
CFP semifinal winner vs. CFP semifinal winner

<p>Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama are the final four teams in the College Football Playoff.</p><p>Ohio State&#39;s victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game forced the committee to choose between the two-loss Buckeyes and one-loss Alabama, which lost to Auburn in the final week of the season to miss the SEC Championship Game.</p><p>In the end, the Committee went with Alabama, who did not win their division or conference. It is the first time in the four-year playoff era that two teams from the same conference made the playoff.</p><p>The ACC (Clemson-Miami) and SEC (Auburn-Georgia) essentially served as play-in games for the playoff, and the Tigers and Bulldogs took care of business to book their place in the final four title games. Georgia beat Auburn 28-7, while Clemson beat Miami 38–3.</p><p>The two playoff games are played on New Years Day. No. 2 Oklahoma will face No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl. Top–ranked Clemson will face Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in a rematch of the last two national championship games.</p><p>Ohio State is No. 5 and Wisconsin came in at No. 6.</p><p>The semifinal games will both take place on New Year&#39;s Day, with one at the Rose Bowl and the other at the Mercedes-Benz in New Orleans.</p><p>The winners of the semifinal games will meet in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.</p><p>Here is the rest of the CFP Top 25:</p><p>7. Auburn<br>8. USC<br>9. Penn State<br>10. Miami<br>11. Washington<br>12. UCF<br>13. Stanford<br>14. Notre Dame<br>15. TCU<br>16. Michigan State<br>17. LSU<br>18. Washington State<br>19. Oklahoma State<br>20. Memphis<br>21. Northwestern<br>22. Virginia Tech<br>23. Mississippi State<br>24. NC State<br>25. Boise State</p>
Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama Make College Football Playoff

Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama are the final four teams in the College Football Playoff.

Ohio State's victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game forced the committee to choose between the two-loss Buckeyes and one-loss Alabama, which lost to Auburn in the final week of the season to miss the SEC Championship Game.

In the end, the Committee went with Alabama, who did not win their division or conference. It is the first time in the four-year playoff era that two teams from the same conference made the playoff.

The ACC (Clemson-Miami) and SEC (Auburn-Georgia) essentially served as play-in games for the playoff, and the Tigers and Bulldogs took care of business to book their place in the final four title games. Georgia beat Auburn 28-7, while Clemson beat Miami 38–3.

The two playoff games are played on New Years Day. No. 2 Oklahoma will face No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl. Top–ranked Clemson will face Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in a rematch of the last two national championship games.

Ohio State is No. 5 and Wisconsin came in at No. 6.

The semifinal games will both take place on New Year's Day, with one at the Rose Bowl and the other at the Mercedes-Benz in New Orleans.

The winners of the semifinal games will meet in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Here is the rest of the CFP Top 25:

7. Auburn
8. USC
9. Penn State
10. Miami
11. Washington
12. UCF
13. Stanford
14. Notre Dame
15. TCU
16. Michigan State
17. LSU
18. Washington State
19. Oklahoma State
20. Memphis
21. Northwestern
22. Virginia Tech
23. Mississippi State
24. NC State
25. Boise State

<p>Clemson held on to its No. 1 spot in the <a href="https://collegefootball.ap.org/poll" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:final Associated Press Top 25 college football poll" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">final Associated Press Top 25 college football poll</a> of the regular season.</p><p>Alabama moved up to No. 4, ahead of Ohio State, who won the Big Ten title by beating previous undefeated Wisconsin. </p><p>Oklahoma is No. 2, followed by SEC champion Georgia. The country&#39;s only undefeated team UCF is No. 10. </p><p>Here is the rest of the AP Top 25:</p><p>1. Clemson<br>2. Oklahoma<br>3. Georgia<br>4. Alabama<br>5. Ohio State<br>6. Wisconsin<br>7. Auburn<br>8. USC<br>9. Penn State<br>10. UCF<br>11. Miami (FL)<br>12. Washington<br>13. TCU<br>14. Notre Dame<br>15. Stanford<br>16. LSU<br>17. Oklahoma State<br>18. Michigan State<br>19. Memphis<br>20. Northwestern<br>21. Washington State<br>22. Virginia Tech<br>23. South Florida<br>24. Mississippi State<br>25. Boise State</p>
AP Top 25: Alabama Jumps Ahead of Ohio State

Clemson held on to its No. 1 spot in the final Associated Press Top 25 college football poll of the regular season.

Alabama moved up to No. 4, ahead of Ohio State, who won the Big Ten title by beating previous undefeated Wisconsin.

Oklahoma is No. 2, followed by SEC champion Georgia. The country's only undefeated team UCF is No. 10.

Here is the rest of the AP Top 25:

1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Georgia
4. Alabama
5. Ohio State
6. Wisconsin
7. Auburn
8. USC
9. Penn State
10. UCF
11. Miami (FL)
12. Washington
13. TCU
14. Notre Dame
15. Stanford
16. LSU
17. Oklahoma State
18. Michigan State
19. Memphis
20. Northwestern
21. Washington State
22. Virginia Tech
23. South Florida
24. Mississippi State
25. Boise State

<p>Things got very interesting for the playoff committee, as expected, when Ohio State knocked off a previously undefeated Wisconsin team to win the Big Ten title on Saturday night. it wasn’t a rout like it was a few years ago, and it if was, maybe that would make this a lot easier. It’s not. My top two teams are close to each other but separated from everyone else.</p><p><strong>1. Oklahoma:</strong> <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/02/oklahoma-tcu-big-12-title-game-playoff" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Sooners blew out TCU in the second half" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Sooners blew out TCU in the second half</a> as Baker Mayfield again was superb. Oklahoma now has four terrific wins: at Ohio State (and it wasn’t close), at Oklahoma State and twice against TCU. Plus, their loss was against a pretty good Iowa State team.</p><p><strong>2. Clemson:</strong> Another year, another ACC title for Tigers coach Dabo Swinney, albeit without the great Deshaun Watson this time. <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/03/clemson-miami-acc-football-championship" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Tigers hammered an 11–2 Miami team Saturday night." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Tigers hammered an 11–2 Miami team Saturday night.</a> It wasn’t even close. I was tempted to put the Tigers over Oklahoma but didn’t. Their résumé just isn’t quite as strong. There’s no doubt Clemson has the better defense, but they don’t have Baker Mayfield or an offense on the level of the Sooners. Auburn’s loss to Georgia robs the Tigers of claiming a win over the SEC champions, but their résumé is still pretty impressive. The only blemish is a road loss to a mediocre Syracuse team in which QB Kelly Bryant was lost for the game after a first-half concussion.</p><p>• <strong><a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/02/bowl-projections-playoff-rankings-schedule-matchups" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Final bowl projections for all 39 postseason matchups before the title game" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Final bowl projections for all 39 postseason matchups before the title game</a></strong></p><p><strong>3. Georgia:</strong> Kirby Smart’s team got some revenge, <a href="http://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/02/georgia-auburn-sec-championship-game" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:completely shutting down the Auburn offense" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">completely shutting down the Auburn offense</a> a few weeks after getting blown out on the Plains. Their next-best wins: at Notre Dame and over a pair of 8–4 teams at home: Mississippi State and South Carolina.</p><p><strong>4. Ohio State:</strong> The Buckeyes notched their most impressive win of the season, <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/03/ohio-state-wisconsin-big-ten-football-championship" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:handling what was an undefeated Wisconsin team" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">handling what was an undefeated Wisconsin team</a> in a game that went down to the wire. They did light up a Badgers defense that entered the weekend ranked No. 1 in yards allowed per game with a series of huge plays. Winning a Power 5 conference should weight, as should a string of pretty solid victories beyond Saturday night: Ohio State beat a good Penn State team, destroyed a good Michigan State squad and won at Michigan by double digits. The bad—the 31-point loss at the hands of an unranked Iowa team—was really bad, but the Hawkeyes also took Penn State to the wire and did defeat Iowa State on their way to a 7–5 finish. Oklahoma also whipped the Buckeyes in Columbus, but I still give them the edge over Alabama because the CFP committee says conference titles are important, and despite the additional blowout loss, Ohio State’s three best wins are more impressive than any victory the Tide has.</p><p><strong>5. Alabama:</strong> It didn’t help Bama’s cause that the one team that beat them, archrival Auburn, got blown out by Georgia in the SEC title game, or that their third Top 25 win entering the weekend likely will fall out of the Top 25 after No. 25 Fresno State lost to Boise State in the Mountain West title game. The Tide’s best win is over a pretty good 9–3 LSU team, but there’s just not enough else to hang their hats on. It’s not their fault that a preseason top-five Florida State team had a dud of a season after losing quarterback Deondre Francois in the opener, but they just don’t have enough good wins to boost them past the Power 5 conference champions above them.</p><p><strong>6. Auburn:</strong> The Tigers ran up against a buzz saw in Georgia after winning the Iron Bowl. They have a couple of very good wins in topping the Tide and dominating the first meeting with UGA, but with three losses, they have no shot at the playoff.</p><p><strong>7. Penn State:</strong> The Nittany Lions got their best win by smashing 9–3 Northwestern on the road, 31–7. They also crushed 8–4 Michigan. However, they have two losses and even though they were both on the road to ranked teams and by just a combined four points, they don’t have anything else to springboard them into playoff contention. It’s been a good season in Happy Valley, but merely “good” doesn’t get you into the playoff.</p><p><strong>8. USC:</strong> You can’t say an 11–2 season that ends with a Pac-12 title despite a patchwork O-line is a disappointment. The Trojans’ best work has come against Stanford, who they beat twice. Their lowlight—getting blown out of South Bend by Notre Dame in the middle of the season—was pretty low. Many expected them to go in the tank. They didn’t.</p><p><strong>9. UCF:</strong> <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/02/memphis-central-florida-aac-championship" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:In a wild shootout" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">In a wild shootout</a>, the Knight defeated a solid Memphis team for the second time this season to move to 12–0 and secure the AAC title. They also have a nice win over USF. They don’t have any real headline-grabbing wins, but no one has beaten them either.</p><p><strong>10. Wisconsin:</strong> The Badgers faced their toughest test of the season and came up short against Ohio State. Wisconsin’s defense had allowed more than their nation-leading per game average in total yards by the midpoint of the second quarter. They’re a one-loss team without a lot of weight to their résumé. Their best win is over 9–3 Northwestern to go with a pretty good win over 8-4 Michigan and an easy handling of a 10-win Florida Atlantic team.</p><p><strong>11. Washington:</strong> Their last time out, the Huskies blasted Washington State in the Apple Cup. Their defense looked scary, and their offense, even though it’s very banged up, looked crisp. They have two road losses—one on the road to a mediocre Arizona team, the other against Stanford. They also drilled a pretty good Fresno State team early in the season.</p><p><strong>12. Miami:</strong> The Canes stumbled at Pitt and then got crushed by Clemson in the ACC title game. They just looked outclassed right from the start Saturday night. They have a couple of nice wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame but just ran out of gas.</p>
Week 14's Top 12: Why Oklahoma Deserves No. 1 and Ohio State Deserves a Playoff Shot

Things got very interesting for the playoff committee, as expected, when Ohio State knocked off a previously undefeated Wisconsin team to win the Big Ten title on Saturday night. it wasn’t a rout like it was a few years ago, and it if was, maybe that would make this a lot easier. It’s not. My top two teams are close to each other but separated from everyone else.

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners blew out TCU in the second half as Baker Mayfield again was superb. Oklahoma now has four terrific wins: at Ohio State (and it wasn’t close), at Oklahoma State and twice against TCU. Plus, their loss was against a pretty good Iowa State team.

2. Clemson: Another year, another ACC title for Tigers coach Dabo Swinney, albeit without the great Deshaun Watson this time. The Tigers hammered an 11–2 Miami team Saturday night. It wasn’t even close. I was tempted to put the Tigers over Oklahoma but didn’t. Their résumé just isn’t quite as strong. There’s no doubt Clemson has the better defense, but they don’t have Baker Mayfield or an offense on the level of the Sooners. Auburn’s loss to Georgia robs the Tigers of claiming a win over the SEC champions, but their résumé is still pretty impressive. The only blemish is a road loss to a mediocre Syracuse team in which QB Kelly Bryant was lost for the game after a first-half concussion.

Final bowl projections for all 39 postseason matchups before the title game

3. Georgia: Kirby Smart’s team got some revenge, completely shutting down the Auburn offense a few weeks after getting blown out on the Plains. Their next-best wins: at Notre Dame and over a pair of 8–4 teams at home: Mississippi State and South Carolina.

4. Ohio State: The Buckeyes notched their most impressive win of the season, handling what was an undefeated Wisconsin team in a game that went down to the wire. They did light up a Badgers defense that entered the weekend ranked No. 1 in yards allowed per game with a series of huge plays. Winning a Power 5 conference should weight, as should a string of pretty solid victories beyond Saturday night: Ohio State beat a good Penn State team, destroyed a good Michigan State squad and won at Michigan by double digits. The bad—the 31-point loss at the hands of an unranked Iowa team—was really bad, but the Hawkeyes also took Penn State to the wire and did defeat Iowa State on their way to a 7–5 finish. Oklahoma also whipped the Buckeyes in Columbus, but I still give them the edge over Alabama because the CFP committee says conference titles are important, and despite the additional blowout loss, Ohio State’s three best wins are more impressive than any victory the Tide has.

5. Alabama: It didn’t help Bama’s cause that the one team that beat them, archrival Auburn, got blown out by Georgia in the SEC title game, or that their third Top 25 win entering the weekend likely will fall out of the Top 25 after No. 25 Fresno State lost to Boise State in the Mountain West title game. The Tide’s best win is over a pretty good 9–3 LSU team, but there’s just not enough else to hang their hats on. It’s not their fault that a preseason top-five Florida State team had a dud of a season after losing quarterback Deondre Francois in the opener, but they just don’t have enough good wins to boost them past the Power 5 conference champions above them.

6. Auburn: The Tigers ran up against a buzz saw in Georgia after winning the Iron Bowl. They have a couple of very good wins in topping the Tide and dominating the first meeting with UGA, but with three losses, they have no shot at the playoff.

7. Penn State: The Nittany Lions got their best win by smashing 9–3 Northwestern on the road, 31–7. They also crushed 8–4 Michigan. However, they have two losses and even though they were both on the road to ranked teams and by just a combined four points, they don’t have anything else to springboard them into playoff contention. It’s been a good season in Happy Valley, but merely “good” doesn’t get you into the playoff.

8. USC: You can’t say an 11–2 season that ends with a Pac-12 title despite a patchwork O-line is a disappointment. The Trojans’ best work has come against Stanford, who they beat twice. Their lowlight—getting blown out of South Bend by Notre Dame in the middle of the season—was pretty low. Many expected them to go in the tank. They didn’t.

9. UCF: In a wild shootout, the Knight defeated a solid Memphis team for the second time this season to move to 12–0 and secure the AAC title. They also have a nice win over USF. They don’t have any real headline-grabbing wins, but no one has beaten them either.

10. Wisconsin: The Badgers faced their toughest test of the season and came up short against Ohio State. Wisconsin’s defense had allowed more than their nation-leading per game average in total yards by the midpoint of the second quarter. They’re a one-loss team without a lot of weight to their résumé. Their best win is over 9–3 Northwestern to go with a pretty good win over 8-4 Michigan and an easy handling of a 10-win Florida Atlantic team.

11. Washington: Their last time out, the Huskies blasted Washington State in the Apple Cup. Their defense looked scary, and their offense, even though it’s very banged up, looked crisp. They have two road losses—one on the road to a mediocre Arizona team, the other against Stanford. They also drilled a pretty good Fresno State team early in the season.

12. Miami: The Canes stumbled at Pitt and then got crushed by Clemson in the ACC title game. They just looked outclassed right from the start Saturday night. They have a couple of nice wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame but just ran out of gas.

<p>With the regular season over, it&#39;s time to go bowling.</p><p>The College Football Playoff will begin Jan. 1 with the Rose Bowl and the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The winners of these matchups will meet up in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 8.</p><p>Here&#39;s the complete list of all the bowl games and matchups for this season.</p><h3>Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>North Carolina A&#38;T vs. Grambling State<br><strong>?Location:</strong> Atlanta, Georgia?<br><strong>?Date: </strong>Saturday, Dec. 16<br><strong>Time: </strong>11 a.m. EST</p><h3>R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>Troy vs. North Texas<br><strong>Location: </strong>New Orleans, Louisiana?<br><strong>Date: </strong>Saturday, Dec. 16<br><strong>Time: </strong>1 p.m. EST</p><h3>AutoNation Cure Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State<br><strong>Location: </strong>Orlando, Florida?<br><strong>Date: </strong>Saturday, Dec. 16<br><strong>Time</strong>: 2:30 p.m. EST</p><h3>Las Vegas Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Boise State vs. Oregon<br><strong>Location: </strong>Las Vegas, Nevada?<br><strong>Date: </strong>Saturday, Dec. 16<br><strong>Time: </strong>3:30 p.m. EST</p><h3>Gildan New Mexico Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>Colorado State vs. Marshall?<br><strong>Location: </strong>Albuquerque, New Mexico<br><strong>Date: </strong>Saturday, Dec. 16<br><strong>Time: </strong>3:30 p.m. EST</p><h3>Raycom Media Camelia Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State<br><strong>Location: </strong>Montgomery, Alabama<br><strong>Date: </strong>Saturday, Dec. 16<br><strong>Time: </strong>8 p.m. EST</p><h3>Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>FAU vs. Akron<br>Location: Boca Raton, Florida<br>Date: Tuesday, Dec. 19<br>Time:</p><h3>DXL Frisco Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>Louisiana Tech vs. SMU<br>Location: Frisco, Texas<br>Date: Wednesday, Dec. 20<br>Time: 8 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>FIU vs. Temple<br><strong>Location: </strong>St. Petersburg, Florida<br><strong>Date: </strong>Thursday, Dec. 21<br><strong>Time: </strong>8 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Bahamas Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>Ohio vs. UAB<br>Location: Nassau, Bahamas<br>Date: Friday, Dec. 22<br>Time: 12:30 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Famous Idaho Potato Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>Central Michigan vs. Wyoming<br>Location: Boise, Idaho<br>Date: Friday, Dec. 22<br>Time: 4 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Birmingham Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>Texas Tech vs. USF<br><strong>Location: </strong>Birmingham, Alabama <br><strong>Date: </strong>Saturday, Dec. 23<br><strong>Time: </strong>Noon EST?</p><h3>Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>San Diego State vs. Army<br><strong>Location: </strong>Fort Worth, Texas <br><strong>Date: </strong>Saturday, Dec. 23?<br><strong>Time: </strong>3:30 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Dollar General Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Appalachian State vs. Toledo<br><strong>Location:</strong> Mobile, Alabama<br><strong>Date:</strong> Saturday, Dec. 23?<br><strong>Time:</strong> 7:00 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Hawai&#39;i Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>Houston vs. Fresno State <br><strong>Location: </strong>Honolulu, Hawaii <br><strong>Date: </strong>Sunday, Dec. 24<br><strong>Time: </strong>8:30 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Zaxby&#39;s Heart of Dallas Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>West Virginia vs. Utah<br><strong>Location: </strong>Dallas, Texas <br><strong>Date: </strong>Tuesday, Dec. 26<br><strong>Time: </strong>1:30 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Quick Lane Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>Northern Illinois vs. Duke<br><strong>Location: </strong>Detroit, Michigan <br><strong>Date: </strong>Tuesday, Dec. 26<br><strong>Time: </strong>5:15 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Cactus Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>UCLA vs. Kansas State<br><strong>Location: </strong>Phoenix, Arizona <br><strong>Date: </strong>Tuesday, Dec. 26<br><strong>Time: </strong>9:00 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Walk-On&#39;s Independence Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>Southern Miss vs. Florida State<br><strong>Location: </strong>Shreveport, Louisiana <br><strong>Date: </strong>Wednesday, Dec. 27<br><strong>Time: </strong>1:30 p.m. EST?</p><h3>New Era Pinstripe Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Iowa vs. Boston College<br><strong>Location:</strong> New York, New York<br><strong>Date:</strong> Wednesday, Dec. 27?<br><strong>Time:</strong> 5:15 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Foster Farms Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup: </strong>Purdue vs. Arizona<br><strong>Location: </strong>Santa Clara, California <br><strong>Date: </strong>Wednesday, Dec. 27?<br><strong>Time: </strong>8:30 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl</h3><p>Matchup: Missouri vs. Texas<br>Location: Houston, Texas <br><strong>Date: </strong>Wednesday, Dec. 27?<br><strong>Time: </strong>9:00 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Virginia vs. Navy<br><strong>Location:</strong> Annapolis, Maryland<br><strong>Date:</strong> Thursday, Dec. 28<br><strong>Time:</strong> 1:30 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Camping World Bowl</h3><p>Matchup: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State<br>Location: Orlando, Florida<br>Date: Thursday, Dec. 28<br>Time: 5:15 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Valero Alamo Bowl</h3><p>Matchup: Stanford vs. TCU<br>Location: San Antonio, Texas<br>Date: Thursday, Dec. 28<br>Time: 9:00 p.m. EST?</p><h3>San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl</h3><p>Matchup: Michigan State vs. Washington State<br><strong>Location: </strong>San Diego, California <br><strong>Date: </strong>Thursday, Dec. 28<br><strong>Time: </strong>9:00 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Belk Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Wake Forest vs. Texas A&#38;M<br><strong>Location: </strong>Charlotte, North Carolina<br><strong>Date: </strong>Friday, Dec. 29<br><strong>Time: </strong>1:00 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Hyundai Sun Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Arizona State vs. NC State<br><strong>Location: </strong>El Paso, Texas <br><strong>Date: </strong>Friday, Dec. 29<br><strong>Time: </strong>3:00 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Northwestern vs. Kentucky <br><strong>Location: </strong>Nashville, Tennessee <br><strong>Date: </strong>Friday, Dec. 29<br><strong>Time: </strong>4:30 p.m. EST?</p><h3>NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> New Mexico State vs. Utah State<br><strong>Location: </strong>Tuscon, Arizona <br><strong>Date: </strong>Friday, Dec. 29<br><strong>Time: </strong>5:30 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> USC vs. Ohio State<br><strong>Location:</strong> Arlington, Texas<br><strong>Date:</strong> Friday, Dec. 29<br><strong>Time:</strong> 8:30 p.m. EST?</p><h3>TaxSlayer Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Mississippi State vs. Louisville<br><strong>Location: </strong>Jacksonville, Florida<br><strong>Date: </strong>Saturday, Dec. 30<br><strong>Time: </strong>Noon EST?</p><h3>AutoZone Liberty Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Memphis vs. Iowa State<br><strong>Location: </strong>Memphis, Tennessee<br><strong>Date: </strong>Saturday, Dec. 30<br><strong>Time: </strong>12:30 p.m. EST?</p><h3>PlayStation Fiesta Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Washington vs. Penn State<br><strong>Location:</strong> Glendale, Arizona<br><strong>Date:</strong> Saturday, Dec. 30<br><strong>Time:</strong> 4:00 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Capital One Orange Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Wisconsin vs. Miami<br><strong>Location:</strong> Miami Gardens, Florida<br><strong>Date:</strong> Saturday, Dec. 30<br><strong>Time:</strong> 8:00 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Outback Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> South Carolina vs. Michigan<br><strong>Location:</strong> Tampa, Florida<br><strong>Date:</strong> Monday, Jan. 1<br><strong>Time:</strong> Noon EST?</p><h3>Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Central Florida vs. Auburn<br><strong>Location:</strong> Atlanta, Georgia<br><strong>Date:</strong> Monday, Jan. 1<br><strong>Time:</strong> 12:30 p.m. EST?</p><h3>Citrus Bowl Presented By Overton&#39;s</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> LSU vs. Notre Dame<br><strong>Location:</strong> Orlando, Florida<br><strong>Date:</strong> Monday, Jan. 1<br><strong>Time:</strong> 1:00 p.m. EST?</p><h3>College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Oklahoma vs. Georgia<br><strong>Location:</strong> Pasadena, California<br><strong>Date:</strong> Monday, Jan. 1<br><strong>Time:</strong> 5:00 p.m. EST?</p><h3>College Football Playoff at the Allstate Sugar Bowl</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> Clemson vs. Alabama<br><strong>Location:</strong> New Orleans, Louisiana<br><strong>Date:</strong> Monday, Jan. 1<br><strong>Time:</strong> 8:45 p.m. EST?</p><h3>College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&#38;T</h3><p><strong>Matchup:</strong> TBD<br><strong>Location:</strong> Atlanta, Georgia<br><strong>Date:</strong> Monday, Jan. 8<br><strong>Time:</strong> 8:00 p.m. EST?</p>
College Football Playoff and Bowl Schedule: Complete List of All 40 Bowl Games

With the regular season over, it's time to go bowling.

The College Football Playoff will begin Jan. 1 with the Rose Bowl and the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The winners of these matchups will meet up in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 8.

Here's the complete list of all the bowl games and matchups for this season.

Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

Matchup: North Carolina A&T vs. Grambling State
?Location: Atlanta, Georgia?
?Date: Saturday, Dec. 16
Time: 11 a.m. EST

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Matchup: Troy vs. North Texas
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana?
Date: Saturday, Dec. 16
Time: 1 p.m. EST

AutoNation Cure Bowl

Matchup: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State
Location: Orlando, Florida?
Date: Saturday, Dec. 16
Time: 2:30 p.m. EST

Las Vegas Bowl

Matchup: Boise State vs. Oregon
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada?
Date: Saturday, Dec. 16
Time: 3:30 p.m. EST

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Matchup: Colorado State vs. Marshall?
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Date: Saturday, Dec. 16
Time: 3:30 p.m. EST

Raycom Media Camelia Bowl

Matchup: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State
Location: Montgomery, Alabama
Date: Saturday, Dec. 16
Time: 8 p.m. EST

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl

Matchup: FAU vs. Akron
Location: Boca Raton, Florida
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 19
Time:

DXL Frisco Bowl

Matchup: Louisiana Tech vs. SMU
Location: Frisco, Texas
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 20
Time: 8 p.m. EST?

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

Matchup: FIU vs. Temple
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida
Date: Thursday, Dec. 21
Time: 8 p.m. EST?

Bahamas Bowl

Matchup: Ohio vs. UAB
Location: Nassau, Bahamas
Date: Friday, Dec. 22
Time: 12:30 p.m. EST?

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Matchup: Central Michigan vs. Wyoming
Location: Boise, Idaho
Date: Friday, Dec. 22
Time: 4 p.m. EST?

Birmingham Bowl

Matchup: Texas Tech vs. USF
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Date: Saturday, Dec. 23
Time: Noon EST?

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

Matchup: San Diego State vs. Army
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Date: Saturday, Dec. 23?
Time: 3:30 p.m. EST?

Dollar General Bowl

Matchup: Appalachian State vs. Toledo
Location: Mobile, Alabama
Date: Saturday, Dec. 23?
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST?

Hawai'i Bowl

Matchup: Houston vs. Fresno State
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: Sunday, Dec. 24
Time: 8:30 p.m. EST?

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl

Matchup: West Virginia vs. Utah
Location: Dallas, Texas
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 26
Time: 1:30 p.m. EST?

Quick Lane Bowl

Matchup: Northern Illinois vs. Duke
Location: Detroit, Michigan
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 26
Time: 5:15 p.m. EST?

Cactus Bowl

Matchup: UCLA vs. Kansas State
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 26
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST?

Walk-On's Independence Bowl

Matchup: Southern Miss vs. Florida State
Location: Shreveport, Louisiana
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 27
Time: 1:30 p.m. EST?

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Matchup: Iowa vs. Boston College
Location: New York, New York
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 27?
Time: 5:15 p.m. EST?

Foster Farms Bowl

Matchup: Purdue vs. Arizona
Location: Santa Clara, California
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 27?
Time: 8:30 p.m. EST?

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl

Matchup: Missouri vs. Texas
Location: Houston, Texas
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 27?
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST?

Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman

Matchup: Virginia vs. Navy
Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Date: Thursday, Dec. 28
Time: 1:30 p.m. EST?

Camping World Bowl

Matchup: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State
Location: Orlando, Florida
Date: Thursday, Dec. 28
Time: 5:15 p.m. EST?

Valero Alamo Bowl

Matchup: Stanford vs. TCU
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Date: Thursday, Dec. 28
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST?

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

Matchup: Michigan State vs. Washington State
Location: San Diego, California
Date: Thursday, Dec. 28
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST?

Belk Bowl

Matchup: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Date: Friday, Dec. 29
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST?

Hyundai Sun Bowl

Matchup: Arizona State vs. NC State
Location: El Paso, Texas
Date: Friday, Dec. 29
Time: 3:00 p.m. EST?

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Matchup: Northwestern vs. Kentucky
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Date: Friday, Dec. 29
Time: 4:30 p.m. EST?

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl

Matchup: New Mexico State vs. Utah State
Location: Tuscon, Arizona
Date: Friday, Dec. 29
Time: 5:30 p.m. EST?

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Matchup: USC vs. Ohio State
Location: Arlington, Texas
Date: Friday, Dec. 29
Time: 8:30 p.m. EST?

TaxSlayer Bowl

Matchup: Mississippi State vs. Louisville
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Date: Saturday, Dec. 30
Time: Noon EST?

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Matchup: Memphis vs. Iowa State
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Date: Saturday, Dec. 30
Time: 12:30 p.m. EST?

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

Matchup: Washington vs. Penn State
Location: Glendale, Arizona
Date: Saturday, Dec. 30
Time: 4:00 p.m. EST?

Capital One Orange Bowl

Matchup: Wisconsin vs. Miami
Location: Miami Gardens, Florida
Date: Saturday, Dec. 30
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST?

Outback Bowl

Matchup: South Carolina vs. Michigan
Location: Tampa, Florida
Date: Monday, Jan. 1
Time: Noon EST?

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Matchup: Central Florida vs. Auburn
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Date: Monday, Jan. 1
Time: 12:30 p.m. EST?

Citrus Bowl Presented By Overton's

Matchup: LSU vs. Notre Dame
Location: Orlando, Florida
Date: Monday, Jan. 1
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST?

College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual

Matchup: Oklahoma vs. Georgia
Location: Pasadena, California
Date: Monday, Jan. 1
Time: 5:00 p.m. EST?

College Football Playoff at the Allstate Sugar Bowl

Matchup: Clemson vs. Alabama
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Date: Monday, Jan. 1
Time: 8:45 p.m. EST?

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T

Matchup: TBD
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Date: Monday, Jan. 8
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST?

<p>Championship Saturday began with plenty of potential chaos and a number of possible playoff permutations. In the end, we got <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/28/college-football-playoff-rankings-alabama-ohio-state" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the debate we&#39;ve been expecting" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the debate we&#39;ve been expecting</a> for weeks: Will the selection committee go with idle 11-1, non-conference champion Alabama <em>or</em> 11-2 Big Ten champion Ohio State for its fourth and final playoff spot?</p><p>(OK, fine, we&#39;ll address it. USC finished 11-2 and won the Pac-12, so why isn&#39;t it in the conversation? The Trojans&#39; best wins were beating four-loss Stanford twice. Both the annihilation at the hands of Notre Dame and a loss to Washington State have looked worse and worse as the season&#39;s dragged on. And finally, when you compare overall conference strength the Pac-12 just isn&#39;t as good as the SEC or Big Ten. Sorry, Troy.)</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/02/oklahoma-tcu-big-12-title-game-playoff" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Oklahoma" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Oklahoma</a> and <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/02/georgia-auburn-sec-championship-game" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Georgia&#39;s" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Georgia&#39;s</a> respective wins in the Big 12 and SEC Championship Games mean they&#39;ll likely meet in the 2 vs. 3 matchup at the Rose Bowl. Clemson&#39;s domination of Miami in the ACC title game keeps the Tigers at No. 1 and sends them to the Sugar Bowl. Now the committee must decide who Dabo &#38; Co. will face.</p><p>Was Ohio State&#39;s 27-21 win over previously undefeated Wisconsin impressive enough to jump Alabama for the No. 4 spot? Let&#39;s look at each team&#39;s résumé.</p><p>The Buckeyes have five wins over bowl-eligible teams: Army, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Three of those wins came over teams that will finish in the committee&#39;s final top 25; two, Wisconsin and Penn State, will probably be in the top 10. Their embarrassment at Iowa continues to be a large enough blemish no concealer can fully cover up. Meanwhile, Ohio State&#39;s other loss came to playoff-bound Oklahoma.</p><p>The Crimson Tide took down six bowl teams: LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&#38;M, Colorado State, Fresno State and Florida State. Two—LSU and Mississippi State—will <em>probably</em> finish in the final top 25, but <em>not</em> in the top 10. Bama&#39;s lone misfire was to now three-loss Auburn. Being widely considered the best team in the country for the majority of the season and not having any Iowa-like &quot;what the hell was that?&quot; moment also helps Alabama&#39;s case.</p><p>What makes this even more difficult to figure out is the committee having set slightly similar precedents for each of these types of choices before, and it involved Ohio State each time.</p><p>In 2014, Ohio State walloped Wisconsin, 59-0, in the Big Ten title game to finish 12-1 and ahead of the Big 12&#39;s TCU (11-1) and Baylor (11-1) due to its extra impressive &quot;data point,&quot; as the committee referred to it. The Buckeyes went from No. 5 to No. 4 the final week and went on to win the national title. There are three important distinctions between that Buckeyes team and the 2017 version: their conference title game margin was significantly larger, they only had one loss and only needed to move up one spot as opposed to four spots this time around.</p><p>The 2016 Buckeyes were like the 2017 Tide in that they only lost one game to the team that won their division, didn&#39;t participate in championship Saturday and carried that elite-team status all season. However, there are significant differences. Last year&#39;s Ohio State team played a <a href="https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/schools/ohio-state/2016-schedule.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:much more impressive schedule" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">much more impressive schedule</a> than this year&#39;s Alabama team. Most importantly, those Buckeyes were already in the top four before the final weekend of the regular season, at No. 2. (They would finish No. 3 on Selection Sunday.)</p><p>Neither is the wrong choice, per se, but as we laid out above, neither is necessarily the right choice, either. This should make for some fun politicking by the two parties involved and their fans leading up to Sunday&#39;s noon announcement.</p>
Ohio State or Alabama? Playoff Committee Only Has One Decision Left

Championship Saturday began with plenty of potential chaos and a number of possible playoff permutations. In the end, we got the debate we've been expecting for weeks: Will the selection committee go with idle 11-1, non-conference champion Alabama or 11-2 Big Ten champion Ohio State for its fourth and final playoff spot?

(OK, fine, we'll address it. USC finished 11-2 and won the Pac-12, so why isn't it in the conversation? The Trojans' best wins were beating four-loss Stanford twice. Both the annihilation at the hands of Notre Dame and a loss to Washington State have looked worse and worse as the season's dragged on. And finally, when you compare overall conference strength the Pac-12 just isn't as good as the SEC or Big Ten. Sorry, Troy.)

Oklahoma and Georgia's respective wins in the Big 12 and SEC Championship Games mean they'll likely meet in the 2 vs. 3 matchup at the Rose Bowl. Clemson's domination of Miami in the ACC title game keeps the Tigers at No. 1 and sends them to the Sugar Bowl. Now the committee must decide who Dabo & Co. will face.

Was Ohio State's 27-21 win over previously undefeated Wisconsin impressive enough to jump Alabama for the No. 4 spot? Let's look at each team's résumé.

The Buckeyes have five wins over bowl-eligible teams: Army, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Three of those wins came over teams that will finish in the committee's final top 25; two, Wisconsin and Penn State, will probably be in the top 10. Their embarrassment at Iowa continues to be a large enough blemish no concealer can fully cover up. Meanwhile, Ohio State's other loss came to playoff-bound Oklahoma.

The Crimson Tide took down six bowl teams: LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Colorado State, Fresno State and Florida State. Two—LSU and Mississippi State—will probably finish in the final top 25, but not in the top 10. Bama's lone misfire was to now three-loss Auburn. Being widely considered the best team in the country for the majority of the season and not having any Iowa-like "what the hell was that?" moment also helps Alabama's case.

What makes this even more difficult to figure out is the committee having set slightly similar precedents for each of these types of choices before, and it involved Ohio State each time.

In 2014, Ohio State walloped Wisconsin, 59-0, in the Big Ten title game to finish 12-1 and ahead of the Big 12's TCU (11-1) and Baylor (11-1) due to its extra impressive "data point," as the committee referred to it. The Buckeyes went from No. 5 to No. 4 the final week and went on to win the national title. There are three important distinctions between that Buckeyes team and the 2017 version: their conference title game margin was significantly larger, they only had one loss and only needed to move up one spot as opposed to four spots this time around.

The 2016 Buckeyes were like the 2017 Tide in that they only lost one game to the team that won their division, didn't participate in championship Saturday and carried that elite-team status all season. However, there are significant differences. Last year's Ohio State team played a much more impressive schedule than this year's Alabama team. Most importantly, those Buckeyes were already in the top four before the final weekend of the regular season, at No. 2. (They would finish No. 3 on Selection Sunday.)

Neither is the wrong choice, per se, but as we laid out above, neither is necessarily the right choice, either. This should make for some fun politicking by the two parties involved and their fans leading up to Sunday's noon announcement.

<p>One final Saturday. That’s all that’s left until college football’s one-of-a-kind postseason is set, with unique bowl games around the nation leading up to the fourth edition of the College Football Playoff. First, we have some conference titles to decide. Oklahoma, Clemson, Miami, Auburn, Georgia and Wisconsin entered their final game knowing they should make the final four with a win, while Ohio State harbored hopes it could still cause havoc and Alabama watched it all nervously from a distance.</p><p>Below, you’ll find our projections for all 39 bowl games leading up to the College Football Playoff national championship in Atlanta on Jan. 8. As Saturday’s results go final and any lower-tier bowl matchups are announced, these projections will be updated, and officially confirmed bowl announcements will be bolded (starting with the Bahamas Bowl and half of the Armed Forces Bowl). From there, the College Football Playoff selection show on Sunday at noon ET will sort out the rest.</p><h3>2017 Bowl Schedule</h3><h3>Saturday, Dec. 16</h3><p><strong>R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, New Orleans (1 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Sun Belt vs. C-USA</em><br>Prediction: Troy vs. Southern Mississippi</p><p><strong>AutoNation Cure Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (2:30 p.m., CBSSN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. Sun Belt</em><br>Prediction: Louisiana Tech vs. Georgia State</p><p><strong>Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas (3:30 p.m., ABC)</strong><br><em>?MWC vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Boise State vs. Arizona</p><p><strong>Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque (4:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>C-USA vs. MWC</em><br>Prediction: UTSA vs. Utah State</p><p><strong>Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, Montgomery, Ala. (8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>MAC vs. Sun Belt</em><br>Prediction: Akron vs. Arkansas State</p><h3>Tuesday, Dec. 19</h3><p><strong>Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl, Boca Raton, Fla. (7 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. C-USA</em><br>Prediction: SMU vs. Florida Atlantic</p><h3>Wednesday, Dec. 20</h3><p><strong>Frisco Bowl, Frisco, Texas (8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. C-USA/MAC/MWC/BYU</em><br>Prediction: Houston vs. Western Michigan</p><h3>Thursday, Dec. 21</h3><p><strong>Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, St. Petersburg, Fla. (8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>C-USA vs. AAC</em><br>Prediction: Marshall vs. Temple</p><h3>Friday, Dec. 22</h3><p><strong>Bahamas Bowl, Nassau, Bahamas (12:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>C-USA vs. MAC</em><br><b>Matchup: UAB vs. Ohio</b></p><p><strong>Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise (4 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>MAC vs. MWC</em><br>Prediction: Northern Illinois vs. Colorado State</p><h3>Saturday, Dec. 23</h3><p><strong>Birmingham Bowl, Birmingham, Ala. (12 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Memphis vs. Duke</p><p><strong>Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth, Texas (3:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Army vs. C-USA</em><br>Prediction: <strong>Army</strong> vs. Western Kentucky</p><p><strong>Dollar General Bowl, Mobile, Ala. (7 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>MAC vs. Sun Belt</em><br>Prediction: Toledo vs. Appalachian State</p><h3>Sunday, Dec. 24</h3><p><strong>Hawaii Bowl, Honolulu, (8:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. MWC</em><br>Prediction: Navy vs. San Diego State</p><h3>Tuesday, Dec. 26</h3><p><strong>Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dallas (1:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Big 12 vs. Big Ten</em><br>Prediction: Texas Tech vs. North Texas</p><p><strong>Quick Lane Bowl, Detroit (5:15 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Big Ten</em><br>Prediction: Virginia vs. Central Michigan</p><p><strong>Cactus Bowl, Phoenix (9 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Big 12 vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Kansas State vs. Arizona State</p><h3>Wednesday, Dec. 27</h3><p><strong>Walk-On&#39;s Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La. (1:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Florida International vs. UCLA</p><p><strong>New Era Pinstripe Bowl, New York (5:15 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Big Ten</em><br>Prediction: Virginia Tech vs. Purdue</p><p><strong>Foster Farms Bowl, Santa Clara, Calif. (8 p.m., FOX)</strong><br><em>Big Ten vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Fresno State vs. Washington State</p><p><strong>Texas Bowl, Houston (9 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Big 12 vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Texas vs. Utah</p><h3>Thursday, Dec. 28</h3><p><strong>Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, Annapolis, Md. (1:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. AAC</em><br>Prediction: Florida State vs. South Florida</p><p><strong>Camping World Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (5:15 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Big 12</em><br>Prediction: NC State vs. Iowa State</p><p><strong>Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, 9 p.m. (ESPN)</strong><br><em>Pac-12 vs. Big 12</em><br>Prediction: Stanford vs. Oklahoma State</p><p><strong>San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, San Diego (9 p.m., FS1)</strong><br><em>Big Ten vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Northwestern vs. Washington</p><h3>Friday, Dec. 29</h3><p><strong>Belk Bowl, Charlotte, N.C. (1 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Wake Forest vs. Kentucky</p><p><strong>Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas (2 p.m., CBS)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Boston College vs. Oregon</p><p><strong>Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Nashville, Tenn. (4:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>SEC vs. Big Ten or ACC</em><br>Prediction: Texas A&#38;M vs. Iowa</p><p><strong>Arizona Bowl, Tucson, Ariz. (5:30 p.m., CBSSN)</strong><br><em>Sun Belt vs. MWC</em><br>Prediction: New Mexico State vs. Wyoming</p><h3>Saturday, Dec. 30</h3><p><strong>TaxSlayer Bowl, Jacksonville, Fla. (12 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>SEC vs. Big Ten or ACC</em><br>Prediction: LSU vs. Louisville</p><p><strong>AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn. (12:30 p.m., ABC)</strong><br><em>Big 12 vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: West Virginia vs. Missouri</p><h3>Monday, Jan. 1, 2018</h3><p><strong>Outback Bowl, Tampa, Fla. (12 p.m., ESPN2)</strong><br><em>Big Ten vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Michigan vs. South Carolina</p><p><strong>Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (1 p.m., ABC)</strong><br><em>SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten</em><br>Prediction: Mississippi State vs. Notre DameMichigan State</p><h3>New Year&#39;s Six Bowls</h3><p><strong>Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Arlington, Texas (Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>At-large vs. At-large</em><br>Prediction: Penn State vs. TCU</p><p><strong>PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz. (Dec. 30, 4 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>At-large vs. At-large</em><br>Prediction: USC vs. Wisconsin</p><p><strong>Capital One Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens, Fla. (Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame</em><br>Prediction: Miami vs. Ohio State</p><p><strong>Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Atlanta (Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>At-large vs. At-Large</em><br>Prediction: UCF vs. Auburn</p><p><strong>Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, Pasadena, Calif. (Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist</em><br>Prediction: Oklahoma vs. Georgia</p><p><strong>Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans (Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist</em><br>Prediction: Clemson vs. Alabama</p><p><strong>College Football Playoff National Championship, Atlanta (Jan. 8, 8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>CFP semifinal winner vs. CFP semifinal winner</em></p>
2017 Bowl Projections: Live Updates As the Full 40-Game Schedule Takes Shape

One final Saturday. That’s all that’s left until college football’s one-of-a-kind postseason is set, with unique bowl games around the nation leading up to the fourth edition of the College Football Playoff. First, we have some conference titles to decide. Oklahoma, Clemson, Miami, Auburn, Georgia and Wisconsin entered their final game knowing they should make the final four with a win, while Ohio State harbored hopes it could still cause havoc and Alabama watched it all nervously from a distance.

Below, you’ll find our projections for all 39 bowl games leading up to the College Football Playoff national championship in Atlanta on Jan. 8. As Saturday’s results go final and any lower-tier bowl matchups are announced, these projections will be updated, and officially confirmed bowl announcements will be bolded (starting with the Bahamas Bowl and half of the Armed Forces Bowl). From there, the College Football Playoff selection show on Sunday at noon ET will sort out the rest.

2017 Bowl Schedule

Saturday, Dec. 16

R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, New Orleans (1 p.m., ESPN)
Sun Belt vs. C-USA
Prediction: Troy vs. Southern Mississippi

AutoNation Cure Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (2:30 p.m., CBSSN)
AAC vs. Sun Belt
Prediction: Louisiana Tech vs. Georgia State

Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas (3:30 p.m., ABC)
?MWC vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Boise State vs. Arizona

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque (4:30 p.m., ESPN)
C-USA vs. MWC
Prediction: UTSA vs. Utah State

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, Montgomery, Ala. (8 p.m., ESPN)
MAC vs. Sun Belt
Prediction: Akron vs. Arkansas State

Tuesday, Dec. 19

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl, Boca Raton, Fla. (7 p.m., ESPN)
AAC vs. C-USA
Prediction: SMU vs. Florida Atlantic

Wednesday, Dec. 20

Frisco Bowl, Frisco, Texas (8 p.m., ESPN)
AAC vs. C-USA/MAC/MWC/BYU
Prediction: Houston vs. Western Michigan

Thursday, Dec. 21

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, St. Petersburg, Fla. (8 p.m., ESPN)
C-USA vs. AAC
Prediction: Marshall vs. Temple

Friday, Dec. 22

Bahamas Bowl, Nassau, Bahamas (12:30 p.m., ESPN)
C-USA vs. MAC
Matchup: UAB vs. Ohio

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise (4 p.m., ESPN)
MAC vs. MWC
Prediction: Northern Illinois vs. Colorado State

Saturday, Dec. 23

Birmingham Bowl, Birmingham, Ala. (12 p.m., ESPN)
AAC vs. SEC
Prediction: Memphis vs. Duke

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth, Texas (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Army vs. C-USA
Prediction: Army vs. Western Kentucky

Dollar General Bowl, Mobile, Ala. (7 p.m., ESPN)
MAC vs. Sun Belt
Prediction: Toledo vs. Appalachian State

Sunday, Dec. 24

Hawaii Bowl, Honolulu, (8:30 p.m., ESPN)
AAC vs. MWC
Prediction: Navy vs. San Diego State

Tuesday, Dec. 26

Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dallas (1:30 p.m., ESPN)
Big 12 vs. Big Ten
Prediction: Texas Tech vs. North Texas

Quick Lane Bowl, Detroit (5:15 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big Ten
Prediction: Virginia vs. Central Michigan

Cactus Bowl, Phoenix (9 p.m., ESPN)
Big 12 vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Kansas State vs. Arizona State

Wednesday, Dec. 27

Walk-On's Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La. (1:30 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. SEC
Prediction: Florida International vs. UCLA

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, New York (5:15 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big Ten
Prediction: Virginia Tech vs. Purdue

Foster Farms Bowl, Santa Clara, Calif. (8 p.m., FOX)
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Fresno State vs. Washington State

Texas Bowl, Houston (9 p.m., ESPN)
Big 12 vs. SEC
Prediction: Texas vs. Utah

Thursday, Dec. 28

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, Annapolis, Md. (1:30 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. AAC
Prediction: Florida State vs. South Florida

Camping World Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (5:15 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big 12
Prediction: NC State vs. Iowa State

Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Pac-12 vs. Big 12
Prediction: Stanford vs. Oklahoma State

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, San Diego (9 p.m., FS1)
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Northwestern vs. Washington

Friday, Dec. 29

Belk Bowl, Charlotte, N.C. (1 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. SEC
Prediction: Wake Forest vs. Kentucky

Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas (2 p.m., CBS)
ACC vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Boston College vs. Oregon

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Nashville, Tenn. (4:30 p.m., ESPN)
SEC vs. Big Ten or ACC
Prediction: Texas A&M vs. Iowa

Arizona Bowl, Tucson, Ariz. (5:30 p.m., CBSSN)
Sun Belt vs. MWC
Prediction: New Mexico State vs. Wyoming

Saturday, Dec. 30

TaxSlayer Bowl, Jacksonville, Fla. (12 p.m., ESPN)
SEC vs. Big Ten or ACC
Prediction: LSU vs. Louisville

AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn. (12:30 p.m., ABC)
Big 12 vs. SEC
Prediction: West Virginia vs. Missouri

Monday, Jan. 1, 2018

Outback Bowl, Tampa, Fla. (12 p.m., ESPN2)
Big Ten vs. SEC
Prediction: Michigan vs. South Carolina

Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (1 p.m., ABC)
SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten
Prediction: Mississippi State vs. Notre DameMichigan State

New Year's Six Bowls

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Arlington, Texas (Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m., ESPN)
At-large vs. At-large
Prediction: Penn State vs. TCU

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz. (Dec. 30, 4 p.m., ESPN)
At-large vs. At-large
Prediction: USC vs. Wisconsin

Capital One Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens, Fla. (Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame
Prediction: Miami vs. Ohio State

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Atlanta (Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m., ESPN)
At-large vs. At-Large
Prediction: UCF vs. Auburn

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, Pasadena, Calif. (Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ESPN)
CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist
Prediction: Oklahoma vs. Georgia

Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans (Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m., ESPN)
CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist
Prediction: Clemson vs. Alabama

College Football Playoff National Championship, Atlanta (Jan. 8, 8 p.m., ESPN)
CFP semifinal winner vs. CFP semifinal winner

<p>The competitors in the 2017 College Football Playoff chase can see the finish line. On Friday and Saturday, accomplished teams around the country will compete in conference title games. For the Power 5 leagues, almost all of these contests will have a direct impact on the composition of the national semifinals; in most corners of the Group of Five, spots in less prestigious bowls will be at stake. <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/28/college-football-playoff-rankings-clemson-auburn" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:After revealing its penultimate set of rankings on Tuesday" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">After revealing its penultimate set of rankings on Tuesday</a>, the selection committee will process the results from this weekend and unveil the field of four on Sunday afternoon. Here are six playoff-related questions to consider in the days ahead.</p><h3>1. Which team(s) are definitely getting in?</h3><p>There are two matchups that will effectively function as playoff play-ins: The SEC championship game, between East division winner Georgia and West division winner Auburn, and the ACC championship game, between Atlantic division winner Clemson and Coastal division winner Miami. Whichever two teams emerge from these meetings are going to receive an invitation to the playoff. The selection committee would have a lot of explaining to do for hordes of justifiably irked fans if that’s not the case.</p><p>In the Big Ten title bout, should Wisconsin knock off Ohio State, the Badgers almost definitely would cinch a bid as an undefeated Power 5 champion. The Buckeyes can’t lock up a berth with a win over Wisconsin, but they’d be in a good spot heading into Sunday. The Big 12, which is staging a title game for the first time since 2010, is a win-and-in proposition for Oklahoma, but that wouldn’t hold for TCU, ranked 11th this week, if it upsets the Sooners.</p><h3>2. Alabama’s not actually going to get denied, is it?</h3><p>There are eight teams with realistic hopes of claiming one of the four slots: No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Auburn, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Miami and No. 8 Ohio State. (Sorry, USC, TCU and UCF. It’s almost certainly not happening.) Among those squads, Alabama is the only one that will not play this weekend, after Auburn won the Iron Bowl on Saturday to claim the SEC West and earn a spot in the conference championship game. The Crimson Tide have looked like one of the best teams in the country for much of the season, and the selection committee has recognized it as such by ranking it either No. 1 or No. 2 the four weeks prior to this one.</p><p>Beneath the Crimson Tide’s aura of invincibility and unparalleled track record of success in the CFP era lies a thin CV that hinges on early-November wins over LSU and Mississippi State, ranked 17th and 23rd this week, respectively. Fresno State entered the rankings on Tuesday at No. 25, but the Bulldogs have to play at Boise State again this weekend for the Mountain West title. At the time, Alabama’s 24–7 whipping of Florida State in the teams’ much-hyped season-opener looked like the sort of out-of-league conquest that would carry a lot of weight with the committee, but the Seminoles are still fighting for bowl eligibility. The biggest head-to-head quandary may pit the one-loss Crimson Tide and the two-loss Buckeyes if the latter takes the Big Ten. As selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt noted on Tuesday, the committee sees “very little separation” among the teams ranked No. 5 (Alabama) through No. 8 (Ohio State). Safe to assume either of those fan bases would be totally cool with their favorite programs being left out.</p><h3>3. Which results would make the committee’s life easy?</h3><p>If the following teams win their games this weekend, the committee shouldn’t have that much to argue about: Clemson (ACC), Oklahoma (Big 12), Wisconsin (Big Ten) and Georgia or Auburn (SEC).</p><h3>4. What needs to happen to maximize controversy?</h3><p>Here’s one wild scenario. Start with TCU taking out Oklahoma at AT&#38;T Stadium in the afternoon. Next, let’s say Miami hands Clemson its second loss of the year in Charlotte. And finally, Ohio State hands Wisconsin its first loss of the season in Lucas Oil Stadium, which would put the Buckeyes firmly in the mix for a bid.</p><p>As alluded to above, in this scenario the Hurricanes would have nothing to worry about, nor would the SEC champion. Yet that still leaves half the spots in the field. Both the Sooners and Tigers would have strong cases on account of their robust résumés, but they also would both have two losses. By contrast, Alabama counts only one L, and despite not even winning its own division, has charmed the committee over the years, including this one, with its efficient play on both sides of the ball.</p><p>This could become a fascinating case study in the importance of the so-called “eye test.” Does the manner in which a team wins matter more than who and where those wins came against? If it does, that would benefit the Crimson Tide, whose inclusion despite a flimsy body of work and uninspiring finish to the season would serve as fresh material for conspiracy theorists. To focus on one comparison, Alabama would not have accomplished nearly as much as an Ohio State team that wins the Big Ten, which would own victories over three squads currently ranked in the committee’s top 16 (Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State).</p><h3>5. Which team(s) can afford to lose this weekend?</h3><p>None of the eight realistic playoff contenders mentioned above are assured a spot if they fall this weekend. That includes Wisconsin, the only undefeated team remaining in the Power 5 conferences.</p><p>Two squads, however, won’t necessarily be eliminated if they slip up on Saturday. With a loss to Miami, Clemson would fall to 11–2, but it would still have a lot to recommend it, including three wins against teams currently ranked in the committee’s top 25 (No. 2 Auburn, No. 22 Virginia Tech, and No. 24 NC State), two of which came on the road (the Hokies and Wolfpack); the highest-ranked victory of any team still in the CFP picture, if Auburn beats Georgia; and one of its defeats (at Syracuse on Oct. 13) partially offset by the fact that starting quarterback Kelly Bryant left with an injury before halftime.</p><p>Oklahoma, despite its shaky defense, also should factor into the committee’s deliberations even if it can’t take down TCU for the second time this season. For starters, the Sooners arguably would be a more deserving candidate than the Horned Frogs. Hocutt noted in a teleconference on Tuesday that the committee has been impressed with TCU’s defense, whereas the Oklahoma ranks 73rd nationally in yards allowed per play. And, unlike the Sooners, the Horned Frogs would have a league crown to counterweigh Oklahoma’s non-conference road victory over Ohio State. But that same W could elevate the Sooners over Ohio State if the Buckeyes win the Big Ten. In any case, Oklahoma and Clemson can forestall these potential debates by handling business on the field on Saturday.</p><h3>6. Which team is getting the No. 1 seed?</h3><p>That hasn’t been settled yet, but either Clemson or Auburn, pegged No. 1 and No. 2 in this week’s rankings, would make a lot of sense if they triumph in their league title tilts. Perhaps Oklahoma (No. 3) could have an argument if its defense fares well in a convincing win over TCU.</p>
Six College Football Playoff Questions That Set the Tone for the Final Weekend

The competitors in the 2017 College Football Playoff chase can see the finish line. On Friday and Saturday, accomplished teams around the country will compete in conference title games. For the Power 5 leagues, almost all of these contests will have a direct impact on the composition of the national semifinals; in most corners of the Group of Five, spots in less prestigious bowls will be at stake. After revealing its penultimate set of rankings on Tuesday, the selection committee will process the results from this weekend and unveil the field of four on Sunday afternoon. Here are six playoff-related questions to consider in the days ahead.

1. Which team(s) are definitely getting in?

There are two matchups that will effectively function as playoff play-ins: The SEC championship game, between East division winner Georgia and West division winner Auburn, and the ACC championship game, between Atlantic division winner Clemson and Coastal division winner Miami. Whichever two teams emerge from these meetings are going to receive an invitation to the playoff. The selection committee would have a lot of explaining to do for hordes of justifiably irked fans if that’s not the case.

In the Big Ten title bout, should Wisconsin knock off Ohio State, the Badgers almost definitely would cinch a bid as an undefeated Power 5 champion. The Buckeyes can’t lock up a berth with a win over Wisconsin, but they’d be in a good spot heading into Sunday. The Big 12, which is staging a title game for the first time since 2010, is a win-and-in proposition for Oklahoma, but that wouldn’t hold for TCU, ranked 11th this week, if it upsets the Sooners.

2. Alabama’s not actually going to get denied, is it?

There are eight teams with realistic hopes of claiming one of the four slots: No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Auburn, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Miami and No. 8 Ohio State. (Sorry, USC, TCU and UCF. It’s almost certainly not happening.) Among those squads, Alabama is the only one that will not play this weekend, after Auburn won the Iron Bowl on Saturday to claim the SEC West and earn a spot in the conference championship game. The Crimson Tide have looked like one of the best teams in the country for much of the season, and the selection committee has recognized it as such by ranking it either No. 1 or No. 2 the four weeks prior to this one.

Beneath the Crimson Tide’s aura of invincibility and unparalleled track record of success in the CFP era lies a thin CV that hinges on early-November wins over LSU and Mississippi State, ranked 17th and 23rd this week, respectively. Fresno State entered the rankings on Tuesday at No. 25, but the Bulldogs have to play at Boise State again this weekend for the Mountain West title. At the time, Alabama’s 24–7 whipping of Florida State in the teams’ much-hyped season-opener looked like the sort of out-of-league conquest that would carry a lot of weight with the committee, but the Seminoles are still fighting for bowl eligibility. The biggest head-to-head quandary may pit the one-loss Crimson Tide and the two-loss Buckeyes if the latter takes the Big Ten. As selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt noted on Tuesday, the committee sees “very little separation” among the teams ranked No. 5 (Alabama) through No. 8 (Ohio State). Safe to assume either of those fan bases would be totally cool with their favorite programs being left out.

3. Which results would make the committee’s life easy?

If the following teams win their games this weekend, the committee shouldn’t have that much to argue about: Clemson (ACC), Oklahoma (Big 12), Wisconsin (Big Ten) and Georgia or Auburn (SEC).

4. What needs to happen to maximize controversy?

Here’s one wild scenario. Start with TCU taking out Oklahoma at AT&T Stadium in the afternoon. Next, let’s say Miami hands Clemson its second loss of the year in Charlotte. And finally, Ohio State hands Wisconsin its first loss of the season in Lucas Oil Stadium, which would put the Buckeyes firmly in the mix for a bid.

As alluded to above, in this scenario the Hurricanes would have nothing to worry about, nor would the SEC champion. Yet that still leaves half the spots in the field. Both the Sooners and Tigers would have strong cases on account of their robust résumés, but they also would both have two losses. By contrast, Alabama counts only one L, and despite not even winning its own division, has charmed the committee over the years, including this one, with its efficient play on both sides of the ball.

This could become a fascinating case study in the importance of the so-called “eye test.” Does the manner in which a team wins matter more than who and where those wins came against? If it does, that would benefit the Crimson Tide, whose inclusion despite a flimsy body of work and uninspiring finish to the season would serve as fresh material for conspiracy theorists. To focus on one comparison, Alabama would not have accomplished nearly as much as an Ohio State team that wins the Big Ten, which would own victories over three squads currently ranked in the committee’s top 16 (Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State).

5. Which team(s) can afford to lose this weekend?

None of the eight realistic playoff contenders mentioned above are assured a spot if they fall this weekend. That includes Wisconsin, the only undefeated team remaining in the Power 5 conferences.

Two squads, however, won’t necessarily be eliminated if they slip up on Saturday. With a loss to Miami, Clemson would fall to 11–2, but it would still have a lot to recommend it, including three wins against teams currently ranked in the committee’s top 25 (No. 2 Auburn, No. 22 Virginia Tech, and No. 24 NC State), two of which came on the road (the Hokies and Wolfpack); the highest-ranked victory of any team still in the CFP picture, if Auburn beats Georgia; and one of its defeats (at Syracuse on Oct. 13) partially offset by the fact that starting quarterback Kelly Bryant left with an injury before halftime.

Oklahoma, despite its shaky defense, also should factor into the committee’s deliberations even if it can’t take down TCU for the second time this season. For starters, the Sooners arguably would be a more deserving candidate than the Horned Frogs. Hocutt noted in a teleconference on Tuesday that the committee has been impressed with TCU’s defense, whereas the Oklahoma ranks 73rd nationally in yards allowed per play. And, unlike the Sooners, the Horned Frogs would have a league crown to counterweigh Oklahoma’s non-conference road victory over Ohio State. But that same W could elevate the Sooners over Ohio State if the Buckeyes win the Big Ten. In any case, Oklahoma and Clemson can forestall these potential debates by handling business on the field on Saturday.

6. Which team is getting the No. 1 seed?

That hasn’t been settled yet, but either Clemson or Auburn, pegged No. 1 and No. 2 in this week’s rankings, would make a lot of sense if they triumph in their league title tilts. Perhaps Oklahoma (No. 3) could have an argument if its defense fares well in a convincing win over TCU.

FILE - This Sept. 30, 2017, file photo shows Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith (71) lining up against Mississippi State during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. Auburns offensive line is one of the best in college football, named a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award that goes to the nations best line. Smith is the leader. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
College football picks: Who's going to New Year's Six bowls?
FILE - This Sept. 30, 2017, file photo shows Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith (71) lining up against Mississippi State during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. Auburns offensive line is one of the best in college football, named a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award that goes to the nations best line. Smith is the leader. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
<p>Our <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/28/college-football-playoff-rankings-alabama-ohio-state" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:projected top eight" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">projected top eight</a> for this week consisted of the same eight teams the committee had in its rankings. The difference is the committee put <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/28/clemson-auburn-top-college-football-playoff-rankings-released" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Auburn at No. 2 and Oklahoma at No. 3" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Auburn at No. 2 and Oklahoma at No. 3</a>.</p><p>The new rankings set up the following matchups this weekend:</p><p>ACC Championship — No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 7 Miami<br>SEC Championship — No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 6 Georgia<br>Big 12 Championship — No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 TCU<br>Big Ten Championship — No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Ohio State</p><p>As we explained earlier, the ACC and SEC title games act as play-in games, while Oklahoma and Wisconsin are in win-and-you&#39;re-in situations. Having already addressed the <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/28/college-football-playoff-rankings-alabama-ohio-state" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:big issues we expected to arise from this week&#39;s rankings" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">big issues we expected to arise from this week&#39;s rankings</a>, here are some other things to consider.</p><h3>Can Clemson Stay in the Rankings With a Loss?</h3><p>It&#39;s not out of the question. Let&#39;s say Miami knocks off Clemson in a close thriller for the ACC title, and then Auburn and Oklahoma win their conference championships, but Wisconsin loses. The fourth and final playoff spot would come down to Clemson or Alabama.</p><p>Clemson would finish 11-2 as ACC runner-up with wins over playoff-bound Auburn and bowl teams Louisville, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, NC State, South Carolina and <em>maybe</em> Florida State. The Tigers&#39; losses would&#39;ve come at the hands of playoff-bound Miami and lowly Syracuse.</p><p>The case for Alabama includes an 11-1 record with its only loss against playoff-bound Auburn. The Tide&#39;s wins over bowl-bound teams would include LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&#38;M, Colorado State, Fresno State and <em>maybe</em> Florida State.</p><p>Alabama&#39;s <em>only</em> case for being ahead of Clemson in this situation would be having one less loss, as the Tigers have a <em>much</em> better resume and a win over common opponent Auburn.</p><p>Bama sits at No. 5 this week because when you lose to a good team like Auburn you&#39;re not going to drop a whole lot from the No. 1 spot. Clemson would absolutely benefit from the same circumstances this week.</p><h3>Pecking Order for No. 1</h3><p>If the top four teams win this weekend, they&#39;ll stay in their current spots. If any of them lose, a winning team within the top four would jump into that vacated spot, i.e. Clemson loses and Auburn wins to put Auburn at No. 1. Those scenarios are obvious.</p><p>However, placing Georgia at No. 6 and Miami at No. 7 in all likelihood means the committee would keep the Dawgs ahead of the Canes if we get chaos this weekend. We&#39;re talking the highly unlikely scenario where the entire top four loses and therefore SEC Champion Georgia finishes No. 1.</p><p>Crazy? Sure, but still worth mentioning.</p><p><em>These are the full College Football Playoff rankings heading into championship weekend:</em></p><p>1. Clemson<br>2. Auburn<br>3. Oklahoma<br>4. Wisconsin<br>5. Alabama<br>6. Georgia<br>7. Miami<br>8. Ohio State<br>9. Penn State<br>10. USC<br>11. TCU<br>12. Stanford<br>13. Washington<br>14. UCF<br>15. Notre Dame<br>16. Michigan State<br>17. LSU<br>18. Wazzu<br>19. OK State<br>20. Memphis<br>21. Northwestern<br>22. Virginia Tech<br>23. Mississippi State<br>24. NC State<br>25. Fresno State</p>
Clemson Sitting Pretty in Penultimate College Football Playoff Rankings

Our projected top eight for this week consisted of the same eight teams the committee had in its rankings. The difference is the committee put Auburn at No. 2 and Oklahoma at No. 3.

The new rankings set up the following matchups this weekend:

ACC Championship — No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 7 Miami
SEC Championship — No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 6 Georgia
Big 12 Championship — No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 TCU
Big Ten Championship — No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Ohio State

As we explained earlier, the ACC and SEC title games act as play-in games, while Oklahoma and Wisconsin are in win-and-you're-in situations. Having already addressed the big issues we expected to arise from this week's rankings, here are some other things to consider.

Can Clemson Stay in the Rankings With a Loss?

It's not out of the question. Let's say Miami knocks off Clemson in a close thriller for the ACC title, and then Auburn and Oklahoma win their conference championships, but Wisconsin loses. The fourth and final playoff spot would come down to Clemson or Alabama.

Clemson would finish 11-2 as ACC runner-up with wins over playoff-bound Auburn and bowl teams Louisville, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, NC State, South Carolina and maybe Florida State. The Tigers' losses would've come at the hands of playoff-bound Miami and lowly Syracuse.

The case for Alabama includes an 11-1 record with its only loss against playoff-bound Auburn. The Tide's wins over bowl-bound teams would include LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Colorado State, Fresno State and maybe Florida State.

Alabama's only case for being ahead of Clemson in this situation would be having one less loss, as the Tigers have a much better resume and a win over common opponent Auburn.

Bama sits at No. 5 this week because when you lose to a good team like Auburn you're not going to drop a whole lot from the No. 1 spot. Clemson would absolutely benefit from the same circumstances this week.

Pecking Order for No. 1

If the top four teams win this weekend, they'll stay in their current spots. If any of them lose, a winning team within the top four would jump into that vacated spot, i.e. Clemson loses and Auburn wins to put Auburn at No. 1. Those scenarios are obvious.

However, placing Georgia at No. 6 and Miami at No. 7 in all likelihood means the committee would keep the Dawgs ahead of the Canes if we get chaos this weekend. We're talking the highly unlikely scenario where the entire top four loses and therefore SEC Champion Georgia finishes No. 1.

Crazy? Sure, but still worth mentioning.

These are the full College Football Playoff rankings heading into championship weekend:

1. Clemson
2. Auburn
3. Oklahoma
4. Wisconsin
5. Alabama
6. Georgia
7. Miami
8. Ohio State
9. Penn State
10. USC
11. TCU
12. Stanford
13. Washington
14. UCF
15. Notre Dame
16. Michigan State
17. LSU
18. Wazzu
19. OK State
20. Memphis
21. Northwestern
22. Virginia Tech
23. Mississippi State
24. NC State
25. Fresno State

<p>Rivalry weekend didn&#39;t disappoint giving us days where both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams went down, and the big Thanksgiving weekend has led to a change in the College Football Playoffs Rankings. </p><p>Clemson topped the College Football Rankings after Week 13. No. 2 Auburn, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Wisconsin rounded out the Top 4.</p><p>The first two teams currently out are No. 5 Alabama and No. Georgia. </p><p>Clemson beat South Carolina last weekend to grab the No 1 spot. With an impressive resume, Clemson will get a for-sure spot in the Playoff with a win against Miami. </p><p>Auburn pulled off the big upset this weekend, taking down previously No. 1 Alabama. This is the first time Alabama sits outside the Top 4 of the CFP rankings since Nov. 11, 2014. Auburn will face No. 6 Georgia in the SEC Championship game. </p><p>No. 3 Oklahoma decidedly beat West Virginia 59–31 last weekend even with senior quarterback and Heisman front runner Baker Mayfield not starting after he grabbed his crotch, screaming profanities at Kansas players. All that stands between Oklahoma and a return to the Playoff is the Big 12 Championship game against TCU. </p><p>Previously undefeated Miami lost its first game, 24–14 at Pittsburgh, dropping to No. 7 in the rankings. The Hurricanes face the Tigers in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday, with the winner of this game getting a for-sure spot. ?</p><p>No. 4 Wisconsin moved up after beating Minnesota. While it once appeared that Wisconsin might miss the playoff even if the Badgers went undefeated, the chaos at the top appears to have paved a path for the Badgers to reach the playoff should they win out. The Badgers will get the chance to post another much-needed impressive victory in the Big Ten championship game, which increasingly looks like it will come against No. 8 Ohio State. No. 9 Penn State&#39;s playoff hopes are virtually non-existent, as the Nittany Lions&#39; loss to Ohio State gives the Buckeyes the edge in the Big Ten East.</p><p>The Pac-12 is the most likely Big Five conference to miss the playoff, as the conference&#39;s highest-ranked team is two-loss USC at No. 10. The Trojans have won four straight after they were embarrassed at Notre Dame, but they don&#39;t have many chances to score resume-boosting wins. The Trojans will play No. 12 Stanford in the Pac-12 title game. </p><p>The AAC championship game could well serve as a one-game playoff for the group-of-six conferences&#39; guaranteed bid in a New Years Six bowl. No. 15 Central Florida is is leading the AAC East and is currently the highest ranked non-Power 5 team, while No. 20 Memphis is the second-highest ranked group-of-six team and leads the AAC West. </p><p>The full ranking is as follows:</p><p>1. Clemson (11-1, ACC)?<br>2. Auburn (10-2, SEC)?<br>3. Oklahoma (11-1, Big 12)?<br>4. Wisconsin (12-0, Big Ten)?<br>5. Alabama (11-1, SEC)<br>6. Georgia (11-1, SEC)?<br>7. Miami (10-1, ACC)?<br>8. Ohio State (10-2, Big Ten)?<br>9. Penn State (10-2, Big Ten)?<br>10. USC (10-2, Pac 12)?<br>11. TCU (10-2, Big 12)?<br>12. Stanford (9-3, Pac 12)?<br>13. Washington (10-2, Pac 12)<br>14. UCF ?(11-0, AAC)<br>15. Notre Dame (9-3, Independent)?<br>16. Michigan State (9-3, Big Ten)?<br>17. LSU (9-3, SEC)<br>18. Washington State (9-3, Pac 12)???<br>19. Oklahoma State (9-3, Big 12)?<br>20. Memphis (10-1, AAC) <br>21. Northwestern (9-3, Big Ten)?<br>22. Virginia Tech (9-3, SEC)?<br>23. Mississippi State (8-4, SEC)?<br>24. NC State (8-4, ACC)<br>25. Fresno State (9-3, Mountain West)</p>
Clemson Tops College Football Ranking Ahead of Championship Weekend

Rivalry weekend didn't disappoint giving us days where both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams went down, and the big Thanksgiving weekend has led to a change in the College Football Playoffs Rankings.

Clemson topped the College Football Rankings after Week 13. No. 2 Auburn, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Wisconsin rounded out the Top 4.

The first two teams currently out are No. 5 Alabama and No. Georgia.

Clemson beat South Carolina last weekend to grab the No 1 spot. With an impressive resume, Clemson will get a for-sure spot in the Playoff with a win against Miami.

Auburn pulled off the big upset this weekend, taking down previously No. 1 Alabama. This is the first time Alabama sits outside the Top 4 of the CFP rankings since Nov. 11, 2014. Auburn will face No. 6 Georgia in the SEC Championship game.

No. 3 Oklahoma decidedly beat West Virginia 59–31 last weekend even with senior quarterback and Heisman front runner Baker Mayfield not starting after he grabbed his crotch, screaming profanities at Kansas players. All that stands between Oklahoma and a return to the Playoff is the Big 12 Championship game against TCU.

Previously undefeated Miami lost its first game, 24–14 at Pittsburgh, dropping to No. 7 in the rankings. The Hurricanes face the Tigers in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday, with the winner of this game getting a for-sure spot. ?

No. 4 Wisconsin moved up after beating Minnesota. While it once appeared that Wisconsin might miss the playoff even if the Badgers went undefeated, the chaos at the top appears to have paved a path for the Badgers to reach the playoff should they win out. The Badgers will get the chance to post another much-needed impressive victory in the Big Ten championship game, which increasingly looks like it will come against No. 8 Ohio State. No. 9 Penn State's playoff hopes are virtually non-existent, as the Nittany Lions' loss to Ohio State gives the Buckeyes the edge in the Big Ten East.

The Pac-12 is the most likely Big Five conference to miss the playoff, as the conference's highest-ranked team is two-loss USC at No. 10. The Trojans have won four straight after they were embarrassed at Notre Dame, but they don't have many chances to score resume-boosting wins. The Trojans will play No. 12 Stanford in the Pac-12 title game.

The AAC championship game could well serve as a one-game playoff for the group-of-six conferences' guaranteed bid in a New Years Six bowl. No. 15 Central Florida is is leading the AAC East and is currently the highest ranked non-Power 5 team, while No. 20 Memphis is the second-highest ranked group-of-six team and leads the AAC West.

The full ranking is as follows:

1. Clemson (11-1, ACC)?
2. Auburn (10-2, SEC)?
3. Oklahoma (11-1, Big 12)?
4. Wisconsin (12-0, Big Ten)?
5. Alabama (11-1, SEC)
6. Georgia (11-1, SEC)?
7. Miami (10-1, ACC)?
8. Ohio State (10-2, Big Ten)?
9. Penn State (10-2, Big Ten)?
10. USC (10-2, Pac 12)?
11. TCU (10-2, Big 12)?
12. Stanford (9-3, Pac 12)?
13. Washington (10-2, Pac 12)
14. UCF ?(11-0, AAC)
15. Notre Dame (9-3, Independent)?
16. Michigan State (9-3, Big Ten)?
17. LSU (9-3, SEC)
18. Washington State (9-3, Pac 12)???
19. Oklahoma State (9-3, Big 12)?
20. Memphis (10-1, AAC)
21. Northwestern (9-3, Big Ten)?
22. Virginia Tech (9-3, SEC)?
23. Mississippi State (8-4, SEC)?
24. NC State (8-4, ACC)
25. Fresno State (9-3, Mountain West)

FILE - This Sept. 30, 2017, file photo shows Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith (71) lining up against Mississippi State during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. Auburn’s offensive line is one of the best in college football, named a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award that goes to the nation’s best line. Smith is the leader. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
FILE - This Sept. 30, 2017, file photo shows Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith (71) lining up against Mississippi State during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. Auburn’s offensive line is one of the best in college football, named a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award that goes to the nation’s best line. Smith is the leader. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
FILE - This Sept. 30, 2017, file photo shows Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith (71) lining up against Mississippi State during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Auburn, Ala. Auburn’s offensive line is one of the best in college football, named a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award that goes to the nation’s best line. Smith is the leader. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
<p>Thanksgiving weekend was not kind to teams atop the College Football Playoff rankings. Things began Friday with <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/24/miami-hurricanes-pitt-playoff-acc-title-clemson" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:No. 2 Miami&#39;s loss at Pitt" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">No. 2 Miami&#39;s loss at Pitt</a> and continued Saturday afternoon when <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/25/auburn-alabama-iron-bowl-analysis" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:No. 6 Auburn pulled off the upset of No. 1 Alabama" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">No. 6 Auburn pulled off the upset of No. 1 Alabama</a>.</p><p>Other than No. 8 Notre Dame, which was already out of the playoff mix before its loss to Stanford, the rest of the top 10 held serve, meaning the important part of the committee&#39;s new rankings should look something like this when it is revealed Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.</p><p>1. Clemson: Win and you&#39;re in<br>2. Oklahoma: Win and you&#39;re in<br>3. Auburn: Win and you&#39;re in<br>4. Wisconsin: Win and you&#39;re in<br>5. Alabama: Needs a little help while it watches from home this week<br>6. Georgia: Win and you&#39;re in<br>7. Miami: Win and you&#39;re in<br>8. Ohio State: Needs <em>a lot</em> of help on top of beating Wisconsin this week</p><p>Regardless of how accurate the above projections are, the playoff field will be made up of teams in that group of eight. No one else seems to have a realistic chance. Two-loss Big 12 champion TCU, if it beats Oklahoma this week? Nope. That would just mean Oklahoma and TCU split their season series, and the Horned Frogs’ résumé doesn&#39;t include the type of quality wins fellow two-loss contender Auburn’s does. An 11–2 Pac-12 champion USC? Even less likely. An idle, two-loss Penn State or a 12–0 UCF wouldn’t make a dramatic jump in the final weekend, either.</p><p>With that established, here&#39;s what we&#39;ll be talking about after Tuesday’s reveal.</p><h3>Saturday’s two play-in games</h3><p>Clemson and Miami face off in the ACC title game with a playoff spot on the line, while Georgia and Auburn meet for the SEC crown with the same stakes. The winners of those two games are virtually guaranteed to make up half of this year’s playoff.</p><p>Oklahoma and Wisconsin control their own playoff destiny, but the same can&#39;t be said for their conference championship opponents.</p><h3>The No. 1 debate</h3><p>Will Clemson or Oklahoma take Alabama’s place atop the rankings? The committee can&#39;t go wrong either way.</p><p>Dabo Swinney&#39;s bunch has wins over Auburn, Virginia Tech, NC State and South Carolina, with a really bad loss against Syracuse. Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield &#38; Co. boast victories against Ohio State, Oklahoma State and TCU and a not-as-bad loss to Iowa State.</p><p>This debate has stakes, too. First off, the No. 1 team gets to play in the national semifinal closer to home, which means any East Coast No. 2 team has to haul itself to Pasadena, Calif., to play in the Rose Bowl. Additionally, a few more upsets on Saturday could result in this week&#39;s No. 1 team not falling as far in the final rankings with a loss and possibly sliding into the playoff as a No. 4 seed.</p><p>We&#39;re getting into some very tall weeds that probably won&#39;t have to be whacked, but that&#39;s why we watch this silly sport.</p><h3>Ohio State or Alabama?</h3><p>Here&#39;s how the debate over the fourth and final playoff spot could give the committee a headache.</p><p>With the SEC champ and ACC champ in, let&#39;s say Oklahoma wins the Big 12 to stay in the top four and Ohio State doesn’t just win the Big Ten title but throttles undefeated Wisconsin to do so. Those results leave the final playoff spot as a contest between the Tide and Buckeyes.</p><p>Alabama finishes 11–1 with no conference or division championship and a loss to Auburn as its last data point, but the Tide have wins over bowl teams LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&#38;M, Colorado State, Fresno State and <em>maybe</em> Florida State. Auburn beating Georgia to reach the playoff would boost Bama&#39;s case for a No. 4 spot in this scenario. A Tigers loss in the SEC title game makes things more difficult, but doesn&#39;t automatically knock Alabama out of the running.</p><p>Ohio State would finish as 11–2 Big Ten champions. The Buckeyes&#39; two losses would be against playoff-bound Oklahoma and an embarrassing, inexplicable dud at Iowa, compared with wins over bowl teams Army, Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin.</p><p>Alabama only has one loss and ended up playing a slightly tougher schedule in a better conference. Ohio State would be coming off four straight wins and a highly-valued conference championship, <em>but</em> one of its two losses was an unexpected beatdown at the hands of a lesser team.</p><p>The educated guess here is the committee would go with the Tide, not unlike its choice of the one-loss Buckeyes last season when Penn State beat Wisconsin for the Big Ten title. With conference title hardware on its side this year, Ohio State would be able to make a strong case.</p>
Playoff Rankings Preview: Final Debates as the Field Is Cut to Eight

Thanksgiving weekend was not kind to teams atop the College Football Playoff rankings. Things began Friday with No. 2 Miami's loss at Pitt and continued Saturday afternoon when No. 6 Auburn pulled off the upset of No. 1 Alabama.

Other than No. 8 Notre Dame, which was already out of the playoff mix before its loss to Stanford, the rest of the top 10 held serve, meaning the important part of the committee's new rankings should look something like this when it is revealed Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

1. Clemson: Win and you're in
2. Oklahoma: Win and you're in
3. Auburn: Win and you're in
4. Wisconsin: Win and you're in
5. Alabama: Needs a little help while it watches from home this week
6. Georgia: Win and you're in
7. Miami: Win and you're in
8. Ohio State: Needs a lot of help on top of beating Wisconsin this week

Regardless of how accurate the above projections are, the playoff field will be made up of teams in that group of eight. No one else seems to have a realistic chance. Two-loss Big 12 champion TCU, if it beats Oklahoma this week? Nope. That would just mean Oklahoma and TCU split their season series, and the Horned Frogs’ résumé doesn't include the type of quality wins fellow two-loss contender Auburn’s does. An 11–2 Pac-12 champion USC? Even less likely. An idle, two-loss Penn State or a 12–0 UCF wouldn’t make a dramatic jump in the final weekend, either.

With that established, here's what we'll be talking about after Tuesday’s reveal.

Saturday’s two play-in games

Clemson and Miami face off in the ACC title game with a playoff spot on the line, while Georgia and Auburn meet for the SEC crown with the same stakes. The winners of those two games are virtually guaranteed to make up half of this year’s playoff.

Oklahoma and Wisconsin control their own playoff destiny, but the same can't be said for their conference championship opponents.

The No. 1 debate

Will Clemson or Oklahoma take Alabama’s place atop the rankings? The committee can't go wrong either way.

Dabo Swinney's bunch has wins over Auburn, Virginia Tech, NC State and South Carolina, with a really bad loss against Syracuse. Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield & Co. boast victories against Ohio State, Oklahoma State and TCU and a not-as-bad loss to Iowa State.

This debate has stakes, too. First off, the No. 1 team gets to play in the national semifinal closer to home, which means any East Coast No. 2 team has to haul itself to Pasadena, Calif., to play in the Rose Bowl. Additionally, a few more upsets on Saturday could result in this week's No. 1 team not falling as far in the final rankings with a loss and possibly sliding into the playoff as a No. 4 seed.

We're getting into some very tall weeds that probably won't have to be whacked, but that's why we watch this silly sport.

Ohio State or Alabama?

Here's how the debate over the fourth and final playoff spot could give the committee a headache.

With the SEC champ and ACC champ in, let's say Oklahoma wins the Big 12 to stay in the top four and Ohio State doesn’t just win the Big Ten title but throttles undefeated Wisconsin to do so. Those results leave the final playoff spot as a contest between the Tide and Buckeyes.

Alabama finishes 11–1 with no conference or division championship and a loss to Auburn as its last data point, but the Tide have wins over bowl teams LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Colorado State, Fresno State and maybe Florida State. Auburn beating Georgia to reach the playoff would boost Bama's case for a No. 4 spot in this scenario. A Tigers loss in the SEC title game makes things more difficult, but doesn't automatically knock Alabama out of the running.

Ohio State would finish as 11–2 Big Ten champions. The Buckeyes' two losses would be against playoff-bound Oklahoma and an embarrassing, inexplicable dud at Iowa, compared with wins over bowl teams Army, Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Alabama only has one loss and ended up playing a slightly tougher schedule in a better conference. Ohio State would be coming off four straight wins and a highly-valued conference championship, but one of its two losses was an unexpected beatdown at the hands of a lesser team.

The educated guess here is the committee would go with the Tide, not unlike its choice of the one-loss Buckeyes last season when Penn State beat Wisconsin for the Big Ten title. With conference title hardware on its side this year, Ohio State would be able to make a strong case.

<p>GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The cynics who had been through more than a few introductory press conferences at Florida gathered around Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin on Monday afternoon. Dan Mullen had just spent nearly an hour re-introducing himself in the place where he once served as Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator on two national title teams. Now Mullen was back after nine years at Mississippi State to take over Florida’s football program and—Stricklin hopes—bring it back to the level it reached the last time Mullen had a 352 area code.</p><p>“He didn’t mention he had a dog,” a reporter cracked.</p><p>“He does have a dog,” Stricklin replied. “His name is Heisman.”</p><p>It is important that Mullen omitted this information from his press conference because the last time Florida introduced a head football coach, Jim McElwain mentioned that his dog’s name was Clarabelle. In the same sentence, McElwain claimed he could teach Clarabelle to run his offense. The humans McElwain coached at Florida never ran the offense particularly well, which is one reason Mullen—who has taught Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald to run <em>his</em> offense—was standing at the front of the room with the cameras trained on him.</p><p>Mullen played the hits Monday. He told Tebow-at-Thanksgiving-dinner stories. He challenged Steve Spurrier to a round of golf. He looked at ease in a place he worked for four seasons. And while Mullen didn’t work with Stricklin at Florida, Stricklin, who came last year from Mississippi State, was Mullen’s boss in Starkville. Stricklin, a Mississippi State alum, understands the degree of difficulty at his alma mater. That’s why Mullen’s 69–46 (33–39 SEC) career record doesn’t bother Stricklin. Mullen always had the Bulldogs outpunching their weight class. If a coach can make the Gators outpunch their weight class, he can win national titles.</p><p>Mullen won’t need to waste much time learning the lay of the land. That’s good, because he has a huge job ahead. Florida’s roster needs upgrading, and high-schoolers can now sign letters of intent on Dec. 20. Mullen has to figure out how many of Florida’s current committed players will stick. He needs to decide how many quarterbacks he wants to sign. The Gators have a commitment from Matt Corral of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High, but other schools are sniffing around him. Will Mullen sign Corral and another quarterback? Will another school flip Corral? Are there quarterbacks Mullen tried to recruit at Mississippi State who might be more willing to listen now that he’s at Florida?</p><p>Mullen also has to revamp Florida’s strength program. This might be the most critical area of concern for any new coach, but it’s especially important for Mullen because the Gators’ strength program was in shambles near the end of McElwain’s tenure. Some players were going off campus to work with former Olympic sprinter Tim Montgomery, who certainly knows about speed. But he isn’t employed by the school, and he isn’t working with the football coaches. If multiple players from any of college football’s elite programs were paying for their own training off campus, it would immediately raise red flags about the players’ view of the quality of the in-house program. Mullen is expected to bring strength coach Nick Savage from Mississippi State, and judging by what he told players in his first meeting with them, they may be too tired to leave campus to work with anyone else. “I told them to rest up over the month of December,” Mullen said. “Because when they come back in January, it&#39;s probably going to be something they have never even experienced in their life before.”</p><p>Florida flew a contingent that included Stricklin, his lieutenants and school president Kent Fuchs to New Hampshire on Nov. 19 in attempt to woo former Oregon coach Chip Kelly. The group met with Kelly for several hours. Both sides enjoyed the meeting, but when the administrators got back on the plane, they felt pretty sure Kelly would go another direction. He eventually took the UCLA job. Florida also made inquiries about UCF coach Scott Frost, who likely will be offered the Nebraska job after his regular season ends Saturday. Mullen, whose season ended on Thanksgiving with an Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, was watching football at his house in Starkville on Saturday when his phone rang. It was Stricklin, who was then-AD Greg Byrne’s top lieutenant when Mullen was hired in 2009 and who was Mullen’s boss from 2010–16. Stricklin wanted to know how Mullen felt about the Florida job. Mullen, who also had looked at Tennessee’s job, felt very good. The men resolved to talk again Sunday morning. When Mullen awoke Sunday, he already had a missed call from Stricklin. When he got Stricklin on the phone, the pair began hammering out a deal that would make Mullen’s old boss his new boss.</p><p>Mullen will receive a six-year deal worth $6 million a year. With that salary will come great expectations, but Mullen knows that the expectations at Florida wouldn’t change if he only made a dollar a year. The Gators expect national titles. Mullen learned that quickly when he came to Gainesville with Meyer. Mullen was savaged by the fan base during the 2005 season. The anger reached its peak following a 21–17 loss at LSU in which Florida failed to cross its own 30-yard line on four possessions in the final quarter. The performance drove Meyer to tears and drove Mullen from the field to the press box for future games. But instead of complaining about the expectations, the coaches created a rudimentary scheme that better fit their inherited players’ strengths during their bye week and used that offense to upset Georgia the following week.</p><p>Unlike McElwain, who seemed surprised Florida fans expected him to win the SEC <em>and </em>beat Florida State every year, Mullen walks into the job knowing exactly what everyone wants. He also has years of playing and recruiting against Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the SEC West that have further educated him about the expectations at elite SEC programs. “I discussed with everybody, and I understand it,” he said. “I&#39;ve been a head coach in the Southeastern Conference now for nine years, and I understand the scrutiny that you&#39;re under here and the expectation of a fan base. It&#39;s a lot of places in this league. … To plug the [SEC] network, it just means more. It&#39;s a way of life. It does. It just means more. And people that haven&#39;t been involved might not understand that. But having been an assistant coach in this league for four years and a head coach in this league for nine years, I certainly understand.”</p><p>As good as Kelly was at Oregon, Mullen’s experience as a head coach in the SEC might make him a better fit at Florida. He understands the pressure. He understands how hard he must recruit. Because he’s worked at Florida, Mullen knows the phrase “Florida recruits itself” is a lie. Florida, Florida State, Miami, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Clemson and dozens of other schools scour the Sunshine State for players, and the coach who thinks his school recruits itself is destined for unemployment.</p><p>Mullen also might be less likely than his predecessors to complain about the resources at Florida. He worked there when the Gators didn’t have an indoor practice facility. Heck, they didn’t even have a front door. Meyer helped solicit donations to build a museum section onto Ben Hill Griffin Stadium so recruits could walk through the history of the program instead of going up a back stairwell to get to the coaches’ offices. Mullen, who just left an almost new football operations building behind at Mississippi State, will hear “yes” a lot more than Meyer did because in the past few years, Florida officials have realized they do need to try to compete with their SEC peers instead of hoping the sunshine would do all the selling.</p><p>Mullen will sell. He unearthed gems at Mississippi State. He identified Nick Fitzgerald as a potential star at quarterback <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/07/10/nick-fitzgerald-mississippi-state-sec-media-days" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:before Fitzgerald had even started a game at quarterback for his high school" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">before Fitzgerald had even started a game at quarterback for his high school</a>. Mullen won’t have to dig as deep at Florida, but to win consistently, he’ll have to routinely beat Florida State, Alabama, Auburn and the rest of the heavyweights for players. Too often recently, Florida has found itself beating North Carolina, Arkansas and the like.</p><p>Mullen knows he’ll have to change that. In fact, he already knows everything he’ll have to do. There will be no surprises. All he has to do is compete for the SEC East title every year, the SEC title most years and win a national title or three. If he does that, everyone will be happy. If he doesn’t, they’ll have another one of those press conferences in a few years.</p>
Dan Mullen Arrives at Florida Knowing Exactly What's Expected of Him

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The cynics who had been through more than a few introductory press conferences at Florida gathered around Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin on Monday afternoon. Dan Mullen had just spent nearly an hour re-introducing himself in the place where he once served as Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator on two national title teams. Now Mullen was back after nine years at Mississippi State to take over Florida’s football program and—Stricklin hopes—bring it back to the level it reached the last time Mullen had a 352 area code.

“He didn’t mention he had a dog,” a reporter cracked.

“He does have a dog,” Stricklin replied. “His name is Heisman.”

It is important that Mullen omitted this information from his press conference because the last time Florida introduced a head football coach, Jim McElwain mentioned that his dog’s name was Clarabelle. In the same sentence, McElwain claimed he could teach Clarabelle to run his offense. The humans McElwain coached at Florida never ran the offense particularly well, which is one reason Mullen—who has taught Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald to run his offense—was standing at the front of the room with the cameras trained on him.

Mullen played the hits Monday. He told Tebow-at-Thanksgiving-dinner stories. He challenged Steve Spurrier to a round of golf. He looked at ease in a place he worked for four seasons. And while Mullen didn’t work with Stricklin at Florida, Stricklin, who came last year from Mississippi State, was Mullen’s boss in Starkville. Stricklin, a Mississippi State alum, understands the degree of difficulty at his alma mater. That’s why Mullen’s 69–46 (33–39 SEC) career record doesn’t bother Stricklin. Mullen always had the Bulldogs outpunching their weight class. If a coach can make the Gators outpunch their weight class, he can win national titles.

Mullen won’t need to waste much time learning the lay of the land. That’s good, because he has a huge job ahead. Florida’s roster needs upgrading, and high-schoolers can now sign letters of intent on Dec. 20. Mullen has to figure out how many of Florida’s current committed players will stick. He needs to decide how many quarterbacks he wants to sign. The Gators have a commitment from Matt Corral of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High, but other schools are sniffing around him. Will Mullen sign Corral and another quarterback? Will another school flip Corral? Are there quarterbacks Mullen tried to recruit at Mississippi State who might be more willing to listen now that he’s at Florida?

Mullen also has to revamp Florida’s strength program. This might be the most critical area of concern for any new coach, but it’s especially important for Mullen because the Gators’ strength program was in shambles near the end of McElwain’s tenure. Some players were going off campus to work with former Olympic sprinter Tim Montgomery, who certainly knows about speed. But he isn’t employed by the school, and he isn’t working with the football coaches. If multiple players from any of college football’s elite programs were paying for their own training off campus, it would immediately raise red flags about the players’ view of the quality of the in-house program. Mullen is expected to bring strength coach Nick Savage from Mississippi State, and judging by what he told players in his first meeting with them, they may be too tired to leave campus to work with anyone else. “I told them to rest up over the month of December,” Mullen said. “Because when they come back in January, it's probably going to be something they have never even experienced in their life before.”

Florida flew a contingent that included Stricklin, his lieutenants and school president Kent Fuchs to New Hampshire on Nov. 19 in attempt to woo former Oregon coach Chip Kelly. The group met with Kelly for several hours. Both sides enjoyed the meeting, but when the administrators got back on the plane, they felt pretty sure Kelly would go another direction. He eventually took the UCLA job. Florida also made inquiries about UCF coach Scott Frost, who likely will be offered the Nebraska job after his regular season ends Saturday. Mullen, whose season ended on Thanksgiving with an Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, was watching football at his house in Starkville on Saturday when his phone rang. It was Stricklin, who was then-AD Greg Byrne’s top lieutenant when Mullen was hired in 2009 and who was Mullen’s boss from 2010–16. Stricklin wanted to know how Mullen felt about the Florida job. Mullen, who also had looked at Tennessee’s job, felt very good. The men resolved to talk again Sunday morning. When Mullen awoke Sunday, he already had a missed call from Stricklin. When he got Stricklin on the phone, the pair began hammering out a deal that would make Mullen’s old boss his new boss.

Mullen will receive a six-year deal worth $6 million a year. With that salary will come great expectations, but Mullen knows that the expectations at Florida wouldn’t change if he only made a dollar a year. The Gators expect national titles. Mullen learned that quickly when he came to Gainesville with Meyer. Mullen was savaged by the fan base during the 2005 season. The anger reached its peak following a 21–17 loss at LSU in which Florida failed to cross its own 30-yard line on four possessions in the final quarter. The performance drove Meyer to tears and drove Mullen from the field to the press box for future games. But instead of complaining about the expectations, the coaches created a rudimentary scheme that better fit their inherited players’ strengths during their bye week and used that offense to upset Georgia the following week.

Unlike McElwain, who seemed surprised Florida fans expected him to win the SEC and beat Florida State every year, Mullen walks into the job knowing exactly what everyone wants. He also has years of playing and recruiting against Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the SEC West that have further educated him about the expectations at elite SEC programs. “I discussed with everybody, and I understand it,” he said. “I've been a head coach in the Southeastern Conference now for nine years, and I understand the scrutiny that you're under here and the expectation of a fan base. It's a lot of places in this league. … To plug the [SEC] network, it just means more. It's a way of life. It does. It just means more. And people that haven't been involved might not understand that. But having been an assistant coach in this league for four years and a head coach in this league for nine years, I certainly understand.”

As good as Kelly was at Oregon, Mullen’s experience as a head coach in the SEC might make him a better fit at Florida. He understands the pressure. He understands how hard he must recruit. Because he’s worked at Florida, Mullen knows the phrase “Florida recruits itself” is a lie. Florida, Florida State, Miami, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Clemson and dozens of other schools scour the Sunshine State for players, and the coach who thinks his school recruits itself is destined for unemployment.

Mullen also might be less likely than his predecessors to complain about the resources at Florida. He worked there when the Gators didn’t have an indoor practice facility. Heck, they didn’t even have a front door. Meyer helped solicit donations to build a museum section onto Ben Hill Griffin Stadium so recruits could walk through the history of the program instead of going up a back stairwell to get to the coaches’ offices. Mullen, who just left an almost new football operations building behind at Mississippi State, will hear “yes” a lot more than Meyer did because in the past few years, Florida officials have realized they do need to try to compete with their SEC peers instead of hoping the sunshine would do all the selling.

Mullen will sell. He unearthed gems at Mississippi State. He identified Nick Fitzgerald as a potential star at quarterback before Fitzgerald had even started a game at quarterback for his high school. Mullen won’t have to dig as deep at Florida, but to win consistently, he’ll have to routinely beat Florida State, Alabama, Auburn and the rest of the heavyweights for players. Too often recently, Florida has found itself beating North Carolina, Arkansas and the like.

Mullen knows he’ll have to change that. In fact, he already knows everything he’ll have to do. There will be no surprises. All he has to do is compete for the SEC East title every year, the SEC title most years and win a national title or three. If he does that, everyone will be happy. If he doesn’t, they’ll have another one of those press conferences in a few years.

<p>As the season winds down, there will be a debate on the résumés of the potential playoff teams versus what we actually see with our eyes. The eye test doesn’t mean much if not looked at objectively and the committee has a big task on its hands, especially if another chaotic weekend unfolds over the course of the conference championship games.</p><p>Let’s compare the résumés of the top four teams in this week’s power rankings.</p><p><strong>Clemson</strong><br>Best wins: Auburn, Virginia Tech<br>Bad loss: Syracuse</p><p>Clemson has been stacking quality wins all season, capping things off with a destruction of South Carolina on Saturday. The loss to Syracuse is very bad, and the excuse that quarterback Kelly Bryant played hurt before leaving with a concussion doesn’t cover for it entirely. Still, the Tigers are in great shape to make another appearance in the playoff and become the first repeat champion since Alabama in 2011–12.</p><p><strong>Oklahoma</strong><br>Best wins: Ohio State, TCU, Oklahoma State<br>Bad loss: Iowa State</p><p>The Sooners and their top-ranked offense could put up 45 points on any of these teams, so their defense could be the difference between another disappointing ending and a championship. The sting of the Iowa State loss in October has returned after the Cyclones closed the season by losing three of their last four.</p><p><strong>Wisconsin</strong><br>Best win: Michigan<br>Bad losses: None</p><p>It’s not Wisconsin’s fault that its schedule has been less than stellar. Its play sometimes is hard to look at too, but the Badgers have beaten every team in front of them, so that has to count for something. This point becomes moot if they beat Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.</p><p><strong>Auburn</strong><br>Best wins: Georgia, Alabama<br>Bad losses: None</p><p>The Tigers boast two of the best wins of the season in defeating two teams that were ranked at the top of the playoff rankings at the time they came to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn also has lost to Clemson and LSU, the latter after blowing a 20-point lead on the road. Again, it means nothing if the Tigers beat Georgia again on Saturday.</p><p>Now on to this week’s Power Rankings:</p><h3>1. Oklahoma (10–1, 7–1 Big 12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>2<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat West Virginia, 59–31<br><strong>Next week: </strong>Big 12 championship vs. TCU</p><p>Baker Mayfield came off the bench after not starting the game <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/18/baker-mayfield-curses-grabs-crotch-oklahoma-kansas-video" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:because of his antics last week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">because of his antics last week</a> and threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns, <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/26/heisman-trophy-race-week-13-baker-mayfield-kerryon-johnson" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:all but sealing up the Heisman Trophy in the process" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">all but sealing up the Heisman Trophy in the process</a>. Kyler Murray got the start in place of Mayfield and threw for a touchdown and ran for 80 yards for the Sooners, who scored each time they had the ball in the first half. Oklahoma had 646 yards of offense, its seventh time this season having 600 or more yards in a game.</p><h3>2. Clemson (11–1, 7–1 ACC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>3<br><strong>This week</strong>: Beat South Carolina, 34–10<br><strong>Next week: </strong>ACC championship vs. Miami</p><p>Clemson racked up another quality win on the road, this time dispatching South Carolina. Kelly Bryant had 272 yards passing and two touchdowns—both to Hunter Renfrow—to put the Tigers in line to make a third straight trip to the playoff. Clemson had 469 total yards and held South Carolina to 81 yards rushing and 10 first downs.</p><h3>3. Wisconsin (12–0, 9–0 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>5<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Minnesota, 31–0<br><strong>Next week</strong>: Big Ten championship vs. Ohio State</p><p>Alex Hornibrook threw three touchdown passes and Jonathan Taylor ran for 149 yards as Wisconsin kept its tight grip on Paul Bunyan’s Axe with a dominant performance over Minnesota. The Gophers could only manage 133 yards and eight first downs all day and attempted only nine passes.</p><h3>4. Auburn (10–2, 7–1 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>6<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Alabama, 26–14<br><strong>Next week</strong>: SEC championship vs. Georgia</p><p>Auburn is the nation’s only team to beat two No. 1 teams. Does that mean it’s the nation’s the best team? Absolutely not. There is still a two in the loss column for Auburn, but make no mistake about it: The Tigers dominated an Alabama squad that in previous years routinely took the heart out of teams. Jarrett Stidham had 237 yards passing and the Tigers ran the ball for 168 yards on the nation’s leader in total and scoring defense.</p><h3>5. Georgia (11–1, 7–1 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>7<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Georgia Tech, 38–7<br><strong>Next week:</strong> SEC championship vs. Auburn</p><p>Georgia outrushed Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, and true freshman Jake Fromm threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs now must avenge their loss to Auburn three weeks ago to make the playoff.</p><h3>6. Alabama (11–1, 7–1 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>1<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost to Auburn, 26–14<br><strong>Next week:</strong> Regular season over; bowl game TBA</p><p>Alabama better hope that the committee thinks back to last season, when Ohio State made the playoff despite winning neither its division nor conference. The simple mistakes the Crimson Tide made and the way they were dominated on both sides of the ball at times were jarring rarities. Alabama’s résumé will be under the microscope this week.</p><h3>7. Ohio State (10–2, 8–1 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking:</strong> 8<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Michigan, 31–20<br><strong>Next week: </strong>Big Ten championship vs. Wisconsin</p><p>Dwayne Haskins came off the bench to replace an injured J.T. Barrett and completed six of his seven passes for 94 yards to extend Ohio State’s domination of Michigan. Barrett hurt his knee in the third quarter and did not return, but running back J.K. Dobbins helped pick up the slack with 101 yards and a touchdown. Barrett said after the game he will be good to go against Wisconsin.</p><h3>8. Central Florida (11–0, 8–0 AAC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>10<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat South Florida, 49–42<br><strong>Next week</strong>: AAC championship vs. Memphis</p><p>In a game that packed as much action into the last five minutes as you will see in some full-length games all year, Central Florida inched closer to a New Year’s Six berth with an exciting victory over rival USF. The Knights scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, capped off by a Mike Hughes 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 1:28 left. McKenzie Milton completed 29 of 44 passes for 373 yards with four touchdowns and an interception and also ran for 56 yards and a touchdown.</p><h3>9. Miami (10–1, 7–1 ACC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>4<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost to Pittsburgh, 24–14<br><strong>Next week: </strong>ACC championship vs. Clemson</p><p>Two takeaways and just 232 yards of offense weren’t enough to counter the roll Pitt freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett was on. Also, the hint of desperation to save a perfect season came through when starting quarterback Malik Rosier was benched briefly in the fourth quarter. Miami has one more chance to impress the committee but needs to beat Clemson, probably convincingly, to even have a chance.</p><h3>10. USC (10–2, 8–1 Pac-12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking:</strong> 11<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next week: </strong>Pac-12 championship vs. Stanford</p><p>The Trojans’ week off should bode well for their conference title tilt against Stanford. There is virtually no scenario or realistic possibility where the Trojans could merit playoff consideration, but they’ve closed strong after a shaky start.</p><h3>11. Penn State (10–2, 7–2 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking:</strong> 12<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Beat Maryland, 66–3<br><strong>Next week: </strong>Regular season over; bowl game TBA</p><p>Penn State has to be shaking its head wondering what might have been this season. The Nittany Lions could be in the playoff conversation if they hadn’t blown a big lead to Ohio State and failed to stop the pass the next week against Michigan State. The balance of Penn State’s season makes it more than worthy of a New Year’s Six bowl.</p><h3>12. TCU (10–2, 7–2 Big 12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking</strong>: 13<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Baylor, 45–22<br><strong>Next week:</strong> Big 12 championship vs. Oklahoma</p><p>The Horned Frogs have earned their rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Baylor hung with TCU for a half but could not sustain drives or momentum and turned the ball over at critical times. One thing is for sure: To beat the Sooners, TCU is going to have to run the ball better than it did against Baylor.</p><h3>13. Washington (10–2, 7–2 Pac–12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>14<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Washington State, 41–14<br><strong>Next week: </strong>Regular season over; bowl game TBA</p><p>There is nothing like <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/25/pac-12-washington-stanford-washington-state-usc" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:ruining a rival’s chance at a championship" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">ruining a rival’s chance at a championship</a>. The Apple Cup wasn’t much of a contest, as the Huskies ripped apart Washington State, denying the Cougars a chance to play for the Pac-12 title. Myles Gaskin ran for 192 yards and four touchdowns and needed very little from Jake Browning in the rout. Washington’s defense dominated from the outset, forcing four turnovers and sacking Luke Falk five times.</p><h3>14. Memphis (10–1, 7–1 AAC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>15<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat East Carolina, 70–13<br><strong>Next week:</strong> AAC championship vs. Central Florida</p><p>The Tigers jumped out to a 28–0 first-quarter lead, and all thoughts of Memphis possibly looking ahead to the AAC championship game went out the window early. Riley Ferguson threw for 299 yards on only nine completions and added three touchdown passes in only two quarters of work.</p><h3>15. Stanford (9–3, 7–2 Pac–12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>17<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Notre Dame, 38–20<br><strong>Next week: </strong>Pac-12 championship vs. USC</p><p>Stanford turned a close game into a runaway in the fourth quarter when two Notre Dame turnovers led directly to 14 points. Quarterback K.J. Costello played the game of his life, throwing four touchdowns, and Bryce Love ran for 125 yards on an injured ankle. The Cardinal closed the season winning eight of their final nine games after starting the season 1–2.</p><h3>16. Notre Dame (9–3)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>9<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost to Stanford, 38–20<br><strong>Next week</strong>: Regular season over; bowl game TBA</p><p>Notre Dame’s hopes of making a major bowl took a major hit when the Irish decided to start turning the ball over on the Farm. Josh Adams was held in check, rushing for only 49 yards, and Brandon Wimbush was picked off twice. Losers of two of their final three games, the Irish will likely find their footing near the top of the ACC’s bowl pecking order.</p><h3>17. LSU (9-3, 6–2 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>20<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Texas A&#38;M, 45–21<br><strong>Next week:</strong> Regular season over; bowl game TBA</p><p>Just two months ago, the LSU faithful were calling for Ed Orgeron’s job after a home loss to Troy; on Saturday Orgeron got to send Texas A&#38;M coach Kevin Sumlin off on a sour note. Quarterback Danny Etling passed for 347 yards and three touchdowns for LSU, which outgained A&#38;M 601–282.</p><h3>18. Virginia Tech (9–3, 5–3 ACC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>18<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Virginia, 10–0<br><strong>Next week: </strong>Regular season over; bowl game TBA</p><p>Virginia Tech held Virginia to five yards rushing in locking down a 14th consecutive win in the lopsided in-state series. Deshawn McClease and Steven Peoples each had 71 yards rushing for Virginia Tech, which was held back by the ground game earlier this fall. The Hokies are going bowling for the 25th consecutive year.</p><h3>19. Oklahoma State (9–3, 6–3 Big 12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>21<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Beat Kansas, 58–17<br><strong>Next week: </strong>Regular season over; bowl game TBA</p><p>Mason Rudolph padded his nation-leading passing stats by throwing for 438 yards with two touchdowns and also ran for two scores against Kansas, which has now lost 45 straight on the road. The Cowboys’ November fade effectively removed them from any significant postseason discussion.</p><h3>20. Michigan State (9–3, 7–2 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>22<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Beat Rutgers, 40–7<br><strong>Next week:</strong> Regular season over; bowl game TBA</p><p>Rutgers possessed the ball for a grand total of 12:10 and was held to five first downs and 112 total yards, as the Spartans forced three turnovers in a season-ending rout. Quarterback Brian Lewerke capped an encouraging regular season with 222 yards passing and 56 rushing while accounting for two touchdowns.</p><h3>21. Northwestern (9–3, 7–2 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>25<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Illinois, 42–7<br><strong>Next week:</strong> Regular season over; bowl game TBA</p><p>Justin Jackson eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the fourth straight season, and the Wildcats won their seventh straight game—Northwestern’s longest winning streak in over two decades. The Wildcats rushed for 306 yards against Illinois, who finished the season on a 10-game losing streak.</p><h3>22. Washington State (9–3, 6–3 Pac–12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>16<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Lost to Washington, 41–14<br><strong>Next week:</strong> Regular season over; bowl game TBA</p><p>Washington State was pretty easy to figure out this season: it played great at home and failed to show up consistently on the road, getting blown out in its three losses, all away from Pullman. Luke Falk threw for 369 yards, most of those coming when the game was well in hand. But it was his three interceptions that spelled doom for the Cougars, who lost this rivalry game for the fifth straight season.</p><h3>23. South Florida (9–2, 6–2 AAC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>23<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Lost Central Florida, 49–42<br><strong>Next week:</strong> Regular season over; bowl game TBA</p><p>It certainly wasn’t Quinton Flowers’s fault his team came up short against UCF. Flowers had 503 yards passing, 102 yards rushing and five total touchdowns, but it was the special teams that let the Bulls down at the end, allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown immediately after tying the score with less than two minutes left.</p><h3>24. Mississippi State (8–4, 4–4 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>19<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost to Ole Miss, 31–28<br><strong>Next week: </strong>Regular season over; bowl game TBA</p><p>Freshman Keytaon Thompson came on in relief for injured starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and nearly rallied the Bulldogs back from an 18-point fourth quarter deficit in the Egg Bowl. Thompson had 195 yards passing and 121 yards rushing on 26 carries. The victory for Ole Miss made the Rebels’ season and tainted the Bulldogs’—before Thanksgiving night, all of Mississippi State’s losses had come to the SEC’s elites.</p><h3>25. Fresno State (9–2, 7–0 MWC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>—<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Boise State, 28–17<br><strong>Next week:</strong> Mountain West championship vs. Boise State</p><p>In part one of a two-part series, Fresno State used a stout defensive effort to hold the Broncos to a season-low in points. Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion threw for a season-high 332 yards and two touchdowns. Neither team could establish much on the ground, averaging 3.5 yards per rush.</p><p><strong>Out:</strong> Boise State. <strong>Maybe next week</strong>: Florida Atlantic, San Diego State, Boise State.</p>
Week 14 Power Rankings: Where the Top Contenders Stand Entering Championship Week

As the season winds down, there will be a debate on the résumés of the potential playoff teams versus what we actually see with our eyes. The eye test doesn’t mean much if not looked at objectively and the committee has a big task on its hands, especially if another chaotic weekend unfolds over the course of the conference championship games.

Let’s compare the résumés of the top four teams in this week’s power rankings.

Clemson
Best wins: Auburn, Virginia Tech
Bad loss: Syracuse

Clemson has been stacking quality wins all season, capping things off with a destruction of South Carolina on Saturday. The loss to Syracuse is very bad, and the excuse that quarterback Kelly Bryant played hurt before leaving with a concussion doesn’t cover for it entirely. Still, the Tigers are in great shape to make another appearance in the playoff and become the first repeat champion since Alabama in 2011–12.

Oklahoma
Best wins: Ohio State, TCU, Oklahoma State
Bad loss: Iowa State

The Sooners and their top-ranked offense could put up 45 points on any of these teams, so their defense could be the difference between another disappointing ending and a championship. The sting of the Iowa State loss in October has returned after the Cyclones closed the season by losing three of their last four.

Wisconsin
Best win: Michigan
Bad losses: None

It’s not Wisconsin’s fault that its schedule has been less than stellar. Its play sometimes is hard to look at too, but the Badgers have beaten every team in front of them, so that has to count for something. This point becomes moot if they beat Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.

Auburn
Best wins: Georgia, Alabama
Bad losses: None

The Tigers boast two of the best wins of the season in defeating two teams that were ranked at the top of the playoff rankings at the time they came to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn also has lost to Clemson and LSU, the latter after blowing a 20-point lead on the road. Again, it means nothing if the Tigers beat Georgia again on Saturday.

Now on to this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Oklahoma (10–1, 7–1 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat West Virginia, 59–31
Next week: Big 12 championship vs. TCU

Baker Mayfield came off the bench after not starting the game because of his antics last week and threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns, all but sealing up the Heisman Trophy in the process. Kyler Murray got the start in place of Mayfield and threw for a touchdown and ran for 80 yards for the Sooners, who scored each time they had the ball in the first half. Oklahoma had 646 yards of offense, its seventh time this season having 600 or more yards in a game.

2. Clemson (11–1, 7–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat South Carolina, 34–10
Next week: ACC championship vs. Miami

Clemson racked up another quality win on the road, this time dispatching South Carolina. Kelly Bryant had 272 yards passing and two touchdowns—both to Hunter Renfrow—to put the Tigers in line to make a third straight trip to the playoff. Clemson had 469 total yards and held South Carolina to 81 yards rushing and 10 first downs.

3. Wisconsin (12–0, 9–0 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 5
This week: Beat Minnesota, 31–0
Next week: Big Ten championship vs. Ohio State

Alex Hornibrook threw three touchdown passes and Jonathan Taylor ran for 149 yards as Wisconsin kept its tight grip on Paul Bunyan’s Axe with a dominant performance over Minnesota. The Gophers could only manage 133 yards and eight first downs all day and attempted only nine passes.

4. Auburn (10–2, 7–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 6
This week: Beat Alabama, 26–14
Next week: SEC championship vs. Georgia

Auburn is the nation’s only team to beat two No. 1 teams. Does that mean it’s the nation’s the best team? Absolutely not. There is still a two in the loss column for Auburn, but make no mistake about it: The Tigers dominated an Alabama squad that in previous years routinely took the heart out of teams. Jarrett Stidham had 237 yards passing and the Tigers ran the ball for 168 yards on the nation’s leader in total and scoring defense.

5. Georgia (11–1, 7–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Georgia Tech, 38–7
Next week: SEC championship vs. Auburn

Georgia outrushed Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, and true freshman Jake Fromm threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs now must avenge their loss to Auburn three weeks ago to make the playoff.

6. Alabama (11–1, 7–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Lost to Auburn, 26–14
Next week: Regular season over; bowl game TBA

Alabama better hope that the committee thinks back to last season, when Ohio State made the playoff despite winning neither its division nor conference. The simple mistakes the Crimson Tide made and the way they were dominated on both sides of the ball at times were jarring rarities. Alabama’s résumé will be under the microscope this week.

7. Ohio State (10–2, 8–1 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat Michigan, 31–20
Next week: Big Ten championship vs. Wisconsin

Dwayne Haskins came off the bench to replace an injured J.T. Barrett and completed six of his seven passes for 94 yards to extend Ohio State’s domination of Michigan. Barrett hurt his knee in the third quarter and did not return, but running back J.K. Dobbins helped pick up the slack with 101 yards and a touchdown. Barrett said after the game he will be good to go against Wisconsin.

8. Central Florida (11–0, 8–0 AAC)

Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat South Florida, 49–42
Next week: AAC championship vs. Memphis

In a game that packed as much action into the last five minutes as you will see in some full-length games all year, Central Florida inched closer to a New Year’s Six berth with an exciting victory over rival USF. The Knights scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, capped off by a Mike Hughes 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 1:28 left. McKenzie Milton completed 29 of 44 passes for 373 yards with four touchdowns and an interception and also ran for 56 yards and a touchdown.

9. Miami (10–1, 7–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 4
This week: Lost to Pittsburgh, 24–14
Next week: ACC championship vs. Clemson

Two takeaways and just 232 yards of offense weren’t enough to counter the roll Pitt freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett was on. Also, the hint of desperation to save a perfect season came through when starting quarterback Malik Rosier was benched briefly in the fourth quarter. Miami has one more chance to impress the committee but needs to beat Clemson, probably convincingly, to even have a chance.

10. USC (10–2, 8–1 Pac-12)

Previous ranking: 11
This week: Off
Next week: Pac-12 championship vs. Stanford

The Trojans’ week off should bode well for their conference title tilt against Stanford. There is virtually no scenario or realistic possibility where the Trojans could merit playoff consideration, but they’ve closed strong after a shaky start.

11. Penn State (10–2, 7–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 12
Last week: Beat Maryland, 66–3
Next week: Regular season over; bowl game TBA

Penn State has to be shaking its head wondering what might have been this season. The Nittany Lions could be in the playoff conversation if they hadn’t blown a big lead to Ohio State and failed to stop the pass the next week against Michigan State. The balance of Penn State’s season makes it more than worthy of a New Year’s Six bowl.

12. TCU (10–2, 7–2 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Beat Baylor, 45–22
Next week: Big 12 championship vs. Oklahoma

The Horned Frogs have earned their rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Baylor hung with TCU for a half but could not sustain drives or momentum and turned the ball over at critical times. One thing is for sure: To beat the Sooners, TCU is going to have to run the ball better than it did against Baylor.

13. Washington (10–2, 7–2 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 14
This week: Beat Washington State, 41–14
Next week: Regular season over; bowl game TBA

There is nothing like ruining a rival’s chance at a championship. The Apple Cup wasn’t much of a contest, as the Huskies ripped apart Washington State, denying the Cougars a chance to play for the Pac-12 title. Myles Gaskin ran for 192 yards and four touchdowns and needed very little from Jake Browning in the rout. Washington’s defense dominated from the outset, forcing four turnovers and sacking Luke Falk five times.

14. Memphis (10–1, 7–1 AAC)

Previous ranking: 15
This week: Beat East Carolina, 70–13
Next week: AAC championship vs. Central Florida

The Tigers jumped out to a 28–0 first-quarter lead, and all thoughts of Memphis possibly looking ahead to the AAC championship game went out the window early. Riley Ferguson threw for 299 yards on only nine completions and added three touchdown passes in only two quarters of work.

15. Stanford (9–3, 7–2 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 17
This week: Beat Notre Dame, 38–20
Next week: Pac-12 championship vs. USC

Stanford turned a close game into a runaway in the fourth quarter when two Notre Dame turnovers led directly to 14 points. Quarterback K.J. Costello played the game of his life, throwing four touchdowns, and Bryce Love ran for 125 yards on an injured ankle. The Cardinal closed the season winning eight of their final nine games after starting the season 1–2.

16. Notre Dame (9–3)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Lost to Stanford, 38–20
Next week: Regular season over; bowl game TBA

Notre Dame’s hopes of making a major bowl took a major hit when the Irish decided to start turning the ball over on the Farm. Josh Adams was held in check, rushing for only 49 yards, and Brandon Wimbush was picked off twice. Losers of two of their final three games, the Irish will likely find their footing near the top of the ACC’s bowl pecking order.

17. LSU (9-3, 6–2 SEC)

Previous ranking: 20
This week: Beat Texas A&M, 45–21
Next week: Regular season over; bowl game TBA

Just two months ago, the LSU faithful were calling for Ed Orgeron’s job after a home loss to Troy; on Saturday Orgeron got to send Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin off on a sour note. Quarterback Danny Etling passed for 347 yards and three touchdowns for LSU, which outgained A&M 601–282.

18. Virginia Tech (9–3, 5–3 ACC)

Previous ranking: 18
This week: Beat Virginia, 10–0
Next week: Regular season over; bowl game TBA

Virginia Tech held Virginia to five yards rushing in locking down a 14th consecutive win in the lopsided in-state series. Deshawn McClease and Steven Peoples each had 71 yards rushing for Virginia Tech, which was held back by the ground game earlier this fall. The Hokies are going bowling for the 25th consecutive year.

19. Oklahoma State (9–3, 6–3 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 21
Last week: Beat Kansas, 58–17
Next week: Regular season over; bowl game TBA

Mason Rudolph padded his nation-leading passing stats by throwing for 438 yards with two touchdowns and also ran for two scores against Kansas, which has now lost 45 straight on the road. The Cowboys’ November fade effectively removed them from any significant postseason discussion.

20. Michigan State (9–3, 7–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 22
Last week: Beat Rutgers, 40–7
Next week: Regular season over; bowl game TBA

Rutgers possessed the ball for a grand total of 12:10 and was held to five first downs and 112 total yards, as the Spartans forced three turnovers in a season-ending rout. Quarterback Brian Lewerke capped an encouraging regular season with 222 yards passing and 56 rushing while accounting for two touchdowns.

21. Northwestern (9–3, 7–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 25
This week: Beat Illinois, 42–7
Next week: Regular season over; bowl game TBA

Justin Jackson eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the fourth straight season, and the Wildcats won their seventh straight game—Northwestern’s longest winning streak in over two decades. The Wildcats rushed for 306 yards against Illinois, who finished the season on a 10-game losing streak.

22. Washington State (9–3, 6–3 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 16
Last week: Lost to Washington, 41–14
Next week: Regular season over; bowl game TBA

Washington State was pretty easy to figure out this season: it played great at home and failed to show up consistently on the road, getting blown out in its three losses, all away from Pullman. Luke Falk threw for 369 yards, most of those coming when the game was well in hand. But it was his three interceptions that spelled doom for the Cougars, who lost this rivalry game for the fifth straight season.

23. South Florida (9–2, 6–2 AAC)

Previous ranking: 23
Last week: Lost Central Florida, 49–42
Next week: Regular season over; bowl game TBA

It certainly wasn’t Quinton Flowers’s fault his team came up short against UCF. Flowers had 503 yards passing, 102 yards rushing and five total touchdowns, but it was the special teams that let the Bulls down at the end, allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown immediately after tying the score with less than two minutes left.

24. Mississippi State (8–4, 4–4 SEC)

Previous ranking: 19
This week: Lost to Ole Miss, 31–28
Next week: Regular season over; bowl game TBA

Freshman Keytaon Thompson came on in relief for injured starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and nearly rallied the Bulldogs back from an 18-point fourth quarter deficit in the Egg Bowl. Thompson had 195 yards passing and 121 yards rushing on 26 carries. The victory for Ole Miss made the Rebels’ season and tainted the Bulldogs’—before Thanksgiving night, all of Mississippi State’s losses had come to the SEC’s elites.

25. Fresno State (9–2, 7–0 MWC)

Previous ranking:
This week: Beat Boise State, 28–17
Next week: Mountain West championship vs. Boise State

In part one of a two-part series, Fresno State used a stout defensive effort to hold the Broncos to a season-low in points. Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion threw for a season-high 332 yards and two touchdowns. Neither team could establish much on the ground, averaging 3.5 yards per rush.

Out: Boise State. Maybe next week: Florida Atlantic, San Diego State, Boise State.

<p>After Saturday’s 26–14 loss to Auburn, Alabama is in the rare position of watching and waiting on championship weekend in hopes of sneaking back into the College Football playoff field. The Tide’s simplest path back into the top four seems to be through losses by Wisconsin and Oklahoma in the Big Ten and Big 12 title games—and they likely need their bitter rivals to beat Georgia a second time for the SEC crown. That’s a lot of moving parts for a team used to clearing its New Year’s calendar.</p><p>Below, the latest look at the projected (but far from official—only Army has locked in its postseason plans) matchups for all 39 bowl games leading up to the College Football Playoff national championship in Atlanta on Jan. 8. Because they take into account predicted results for the final week of the season, these projections won’t change when the new playoff rankings come out on Tuesday.</p><h3>2017 Bowl Schedule</h3><h3>Saturday, Dec. 16</h3><p><strong>R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, New Orleans (1 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Sun Belt vs. C-USA</em><br>Prediction: Troy vs. Southern Mississippi</p><p><strong>AutoNation Cure Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (2:30 p.m., CBSSN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. Sun Belt</em><br>Prediction: Middle Tennessee vs. Georgia State</p><p><strong>Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas (3:30 p.m., ABC)</strong><br><em>?MWC vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Boise State vs. Arizona</p><p><strong>Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque (4:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>C-USA vs. MWC</em><br>Prediction: UTSA vs. Utah State</p><p><strong>Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, Montgomery, Ala. (8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>MAC vs. Sun Belt</em><br>Prediction: Akron vs. Arkansas State</p><h3>Tuesday, Dec. 19</h3><p><strong>Boca Raton Bowl, Boca Raton, Fla. (7 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. C-USA</em><br>Prediction: SMU vs. Florida International</p><h3>Wednesday, Dec. 20</h3><p><strong>Frisco Bowl, Frisco, Texas (8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. C-USA/MAC/MWC/BYU</em><br>Prediction: Houston vs. Marshall</p><h3>Thursday, Dec. 21</h3><p><strong>Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, St. Petersburg, Fla. (8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>C-USA vs. AAC</em><br>Prediction: UAB vs. Temple</p><h3>Friday, Dec. 22</h3><p><strong>Bahamas Bowl, Nassau, Bahamas (12:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>C-USA vs. MAC</em><br>Prediction: Florida Atlantic vs. Northern Illinois<br><b>Matchup: UAB vs. Ohio</b></p><p><strong>Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise (4 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>MAC vs. MWC</em><br>Prediction: Ohio vs. Colorado State</p><h3>Saturday, Dec. 23</h3><p><strong>Birmingham Bowl, Birmingham, Ala. (12 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Memphis vs. Duke</p><p><strong>Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth, Texas (3:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Army vs. C-USA</em><br>Prediction: Army vs. Western Kentucky</p><p><strong>Dollar General Bowl, Mobile, Ala. (7 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>MAC vs. Sun Belt</em><br>Prediction: Toledo vs. Appalachian State</p><h3>Sunday, Dec. 24</h3><p><strong>Hawaii Bowl, Honolulu, (8:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>AAC vs. MWC</em><br>Prediction: Navy vs. San Diego State</p><h3>Tuesday, Dec. 26</h3><p><strong>Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dallas (1:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Big 12 vs. Big Ten</em><br>Prediction: Texas Tech vs. North Texas</p><p><strong>Quick Lane Bowl, Detroit (5:15 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Big Ten</em><br>Prediction: Virginia vs. Central Michigan</p><p><strong>Cactus Bowl, Phoenix (9 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Big 12 vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Kansas State vs. Arizona State</p><h3>Wednesday, Dec. 27</h3><p><strong>Walk-On&#39;s Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La. (1:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Boston College vs. UCLA</p><p><strong>New Era Pinstripe Bowl, New York (5:15 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Big Ten</em><br>Prediction: Virginia Tech vs. Purdue</p><p><strong>Foster Farms Bowl, Santa Clara, Calif. (8 p.m., FOX)</strong><br><em>Big Ten vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Fresno State vs. Washington State</p><p><strong>Texas Bowl, Houston (9 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>Big 12 vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Texas vs. Utah</p><h3>Thursday, Dec. 28</h3><p><strong>Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, Annapolis, Md. (1:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. AAC</em><br>Prediction: Wake Forest vs. South Florida</p><p><strong>Camping World Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (5:15 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Big 12</em><br>Prediction: Notre Dame vs. Iowa State</p><p><strong>Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, 9 p.m. (ESPN)</strong><br><em>Pac-12 vs. Big 12</em><br>Prediction: Stanford vs. Oklahoma State</p><p><strong>San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, San Diego (9 p.m., FS1)</strong><br><em>Big Ten vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Northwestern vs. Washington</p><h3>Friday, Dec. 29</h3><p><strong>Belk Bowl, Charlotte, N.C. (1 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Florida State vs. Kentucky</p><p><strong>Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas (2 p.m., CBS)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Pac-12</em><br>Prediction: Louisville vs. Oregon</p><p><strong>Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Nashville, Tenn. (4:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>SEC vs. Big Ten or ACC</em><br>Prediction: Texas A&#38;M vs. Iowa</p><p><strong>Arizona Bowl, Tucson, Ariz. (5:30 p.m., CBSSN)</strong><br><em>Sun Belt vs. MWC</em><br>Prediction: New Mexico State vs. Wyoming</p><h3>Saturday, Dec. 30</h3><p><strong>TaxSlayer Bowl, Jacksonville, Fla. (12 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>SEC vs. Big Ten or ACC</em><br>Prediction: LSU vs. NC State</p><p><strong>AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn. (12:30 p.m., ABC)</strong><br><em>Big 12 vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: West Virginia vs. Missouri</p><h3>Monday, Jan. 1, 2018</h3><p><strong>Outback Bowl, Tampa, Fla. (12 p.m., ESPN2)</strong><br><em>Big Ten vs. SEC</em><br>Prediction: Michigan vs. South Carolina</p><p><strong>Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (1 p.m., ABC)</strong><br><em>SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten</em><br>Prediction: Mississippi State vs. Michigan State</p><h3>New Year&#39;s Six Bowls</h3><p><strong>Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Arlington, Texas (Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>At-large vs. At-large</em><br>Prediction: Penn State vs. TCU</p><p><strong>PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz. (Dec. 30, 4 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>At-large vs. At-large</em><br>Prediction: USC vs. Georgia</p><p><strong>Capital One Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens, Fla. (Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>ACC vs. Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame</em><br>Prediction: Miami vs. Alabama</p><p><strong>Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Atlanta (Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>At-large vs. At-Large</em><br>Prediction: UCF vs. Ohio State</p><p><strong>Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, Pasadena, Calif. (Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist</em><br>Prediction: Oklahoma vs. Auburn</p><p><strong>Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans (Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist</em><br>Prediction: Clemson vs. Wisconsin</p><p><strong>College Football Playoff National Championship, Atlanta (Jan. 8, 8 p.m., ESPN)</strong><br><em>CFP semifinal winner vs. CFP semifinal winner</em></p>
2017 Bowl Projections: What Life Outside the Playoff Looks Like for Alabama

After Saturday’s 26–14 loss to Auburn, Alabama is in the rare position of watching and waiting on championship weekend in hopes of sneaking back into the College Football playoff field. The Tide’s simplest path back into the top four seems to be through losses by Wisconsin and Oklahoma in the Big Ten and Big 12 title games—and they likely need their bitter rivals to beat Georgia a second time for the SEC crown. That’s a lot of moving parts for a team used to clearing its New Year’s calendar.

Below, the latest look at the projected (but far from official—only Army has locked in its postseason plans) matchups for all 39 bowl games leading up to the College Football Playoff national championship in Atlanta on Jan. 8. Because they take into account predicted results for the final week of the season, these projections won’t change when the new playoff rankings come out on Tuesday.

2017 Bowl Schedule

Saturday, Dec. 16

R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, New Orleans (1 p.m., ESPN)
Sun Belt vs. C-USA
Prediction: Troy vs. Southern Mississippi

AutoNation Cure Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (2:30 p.m., CBSSN)
AAC vs. Sun Belt
Prediction: Middle Tennessee vs. Georgia State

Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas (3:30 p.m., ABC)
?MWC vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Boise State vs. Arizona

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque (4:30 p.m., ESPN)
C-USA vs. MWC
Prediction: UTSA vs. Utah State

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, Montgomery, Ala. (8 p.m., ESPN)
MAC vs. Sun Belt
Prediction: Akron vs. Arkansas State

Tuesday, Dec. 19

Boca Raton Bowl, Boca Raton, Fla. (7 p.m., ESPN)
AAC vs. C-USA
Prediction: SMU vs. Florida International

Wednesday, Dec. 20

Frisco Bowl, Frisco, Texas (8 p.m., ESPN)
AAC vs. C-USA/MAC/MWC/BYU
Prediction: Houston vs. Marshall

Thursday, Dec. 21

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, St. Petersburg, Fla. (8 p.m., ESPN)
C-USA vs. AAC
Prediction: UAB vs. Temple

Friday, Dec. 22

Bahamas Bowl, Nassau, Bahamas (12:30 p.m., ESPN)
C-USA vs. MAC
Prediction: Florida Atlantic vs. Northern Illinois
Matchup: UAB vs. Ohio

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise (4 p.m., ESPN)
MAC vs. MWC
Prediction: Ohio vs. Colorado State

Saturday, Dec. 23

Birmingham Bowl, Birmingham, Ala. (12 p.m., ESPN)
AAC vs. SEC
Prediction: Memphis vs. Duke

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Fort Worth, Texas (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Army vs. C-USA
Prediction: Army vs. Western Kentucky

Dollar General Bowl, Mobile, Ala. (7 p.m., ESPN)
MAC vs. Sun Belt
Prediction: Toledo vs. Appalachian State

Sunday, Dec. 24

Hawaii Bowl, Honolulu, (8:30 p.m., ESPN)
AAC vs. MWC
Prediction: Navy vs. San Diego State

Tuesday, Dec. 26

Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dallas (1:30 p.m., ESPN)
Big 12 vs. Big Ten
Prediction: Texas Tech vs. North Texas

Quick Lane Bowl, Detroit (5:15 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big Ten
Prediction: Virginia vs. Central Michigan

Cactus Bowl, Phoenix (9 p.m., ESPN)
Big 12 vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Kansas State vs. Arizona State

Wednesday, Dec. 27

Walk-On's Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La. (1:30 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. SEC
Prediction: Boston College vs. UCLA

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, New York (5:15 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big Ten
Prediction: Virginia Tech vs. Purdue

Foster Farms Bowl, Santa Clara, Calif. (8 p.m., FOX)
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Fresno State vs. Washington State

Texas Bowl, Houston (9 p.m., ESPN)
Big 12 vs. SEC
Prediction: Texas vs. Utah

Thursday, Dec. 28

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, Annapolis, Md. (1:30 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. AAC
Prediction: Wake Forest vs. South Florida

Camping World Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (5:15 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big 12
Prediction: Notre Dame vs. Iowa State

Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Pac-12 vs. Big 12
Prediction: Stanford vs. Oklahoma State

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, San Diego (9 p.m., FS1)
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Northwestern vs. Washington

Friday, Dec. 29

Belk Bowl, Charlotte, N.C. (1 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. SEC
Prediction: Florida State vs. Kentucky

Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas (2 p.m., CBS)
ACC vs. Pac-12
Prediction: Louisville vs. Oregon

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Nashville, Tenn. (4:30 p.m., ESPN)
SEC vs. Big Ten or ACC
Prediction: Texas A&M vs. Iowa

Arizona Bowl, Tucson, Ariz. (5:30 p.m., CBSSN)
Sun Belt vs. MWC
Prediction: New Mexico State vs. Wyoming

Saturday, Dec. 30

TaxSlayer Bowl, Jacksonville, Fla. (12 p.m., ESPN)
SEC vs. Big Ten or ACC
Prediction: LSU vs. NC State

AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn. (12:30 p.m., ABC)
Big 12 vs. SEC
Prediction: West Virginia vs. Missouri

Monday, Jan. 1, 2018

Outback Bowl, Tampa, Fla. (12 p.m., ESPN2)
Big Ten vs. SEC
Prediction: Michigan vs. South Carolina

Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla. (1 p.m., ABC)
SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten
Prediction: Mississippi State vs. Michigan State

New Year's Six Bowls

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Arlington, Texas (Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m., ESPN)
At-large vs. At-large
Prediction: Penn State vs. TCU

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz. (Dec. 30, 4 p.m., ESPN)
At-large vs. At-large
Prediction: USC vs. Georgia

Capital One Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens, Fla. (Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN)
ACC vs. Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame
Prediction: Miami vs. Alabama

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Atlanta (Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m., ESPN)
At-large vs. At-Large
Prediction: UCF vs. Ohio State

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, Pasadena, Calif. (Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ESPN)
CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist
Prediction: Oklahoma vs. Auburn

Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans (Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m., ESPN)
CFP semifinalist vs. CFP semifinalist
Prediction: Clemson vs. Wisconsin

College Football Playoff National Championship, Atlanta (Jan. 8, 8 p.m., ESPN)
CFP semifinal winner vs. CFP semifinal winner

<p>It was a wild weekend with plenty of fireworks. No. 1 and No. 2 both went down, setting the stage for a fun championship weekend ahead.</p><p><strong>1. Oklahoma</strong>: Baker Mayfield didn’t start but he was ready to go and OU drilled 7–5 WVU, 59–31. The Sooners big three wins: at OSU, at Oklahoma State and over TCU are the best trio of wins any team has this season. Or at least the best trio of any team not named Auburn.</p><p><strong>2. Clemson</strong>: Hammering an 8–4 South Carolina team on the road, 34–10, was a nice way to head into the ACC title game. Plus its win over Auburn keeps looking better.</p><p><strong>3. Auburn</strong>: The Tigers took it to the Tide after thumping Georgia. That’s an impressive double. Another win in the SEC title game all but assures Gus Malzahn’s squad of becoming the first two-loss team to make the playoff.</p><p><strong>4. Wisconsin</strong>: Paul Chryst’s team had no trouble at Minnesota, pounding the Gophers, 31–0. The Badgers are still undefeated. Their best win is over 9–3 Northwestern to go with a pretty good win over 8–4 Michigan, and over a nine-win FAU team. But they’ll also have the chance to make a bigger statement next week against Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.</p><p><strong>5. Alabama</strong>: Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of this generation and, in my opinion, of all time, but I think it’s a stretch to say the Tide should be in the playoff. Not based on their résumé this season. It’s not their fault that a top-five FSU team had a dud of a season after losing QB Deondre Francois in the opener, but the reality is with the 26–14 loss to Auburn Saturday, they just don’t have that much for the committee to hang their hats on. Their best win is over 9–3 LSU. After that it’s against 8–4 Mississippi State, which lost to a massive underdog on Thanksgiving night. It’s true MSU lost QB Nick Fitzgerald in that game, but the Rebels were playing with their backup QB too. The Tide could afford a loss before the playoff, but I think it had to be in the SEC title game after at least beating Auburn on the road.</p><p><strong>6. Miami</strong>: The Canes stumbled at Pitt. It also didn’t help that their best win, a blowout of Notre Dame, doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to. Their win over 9–3 Virginia Tech, though, is pretty good too. And if they beat a very talented Clemson team next week in the ACC title game, that’d be their new showcase résumé piece.</p><p><strong>7. Ohio State</strong>: This hasn’t been a great year for Michigan, but beating the Wolverines on the road is still a pretty good win. The Buckeyes also defeated 10-win Penn State and walloped 9–3 Michigan State. They do have two losses, with a bad one in their blowout L at Iowa, but if they can give Wisconsin their first defeat of the season, their résumé seems like it’d be good enough to make the CFP.</p><p><strong>8. Georgia</strong>: The Dawgs dominated a mediocre Georgia Tech team on the road, 38–7. They have a good (not great) win at Notre Dame and over 8–4 South Carolina, and will get the chance to avenge their recent loss to Auburn next week. If they win that, I’m pretty sure they’ll be in the CFP.</p><p><strong>9. UCF</strong>: Even if they win the AAC title, I don’t see any path for them into the playoff, but the Knights are quite good. They beat a talented USF team that is 9–2 in <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/24/ucf-usf-score-scott-frost-aac-quinton-flowers" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:arguably the most entertaining game of the year" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">arguably the most entertaining game of the year</a> on Friday. Earlier in the year they whipped 10–1 Memphis, and they’ll get those Tigers again next week.</p><p><strong>10. Penn State</strong>: Maryland was no match in a 66–3 PSU romp. The Nittany Lions&#39; best win is smashing 9–3 Northwestern on the road, 31–7. They also crushed 8–4 Michigan too and won at 7–5 Iowa, however they have two losses and even though they were both on the road to ranked teams and by just a combined four points, they don’t have anything else to springboard them into CFP contention.</p>
Week 13's Top 10: Defeats by Alabama, Miami Re-Shape the Playoff Picture

It was a wild weekend with plenty of fireworks. No. 1 and No. 2 both went down, setting the stage for a fun championship weekend ahead.

1. Oklahoma: Baker Mayfield didn’t start but he was ready to go and OU drilled 7–5 WVU, 59–31. The Sooners big three wins: at OSU, at Oklahoma State and over TCU are the best trio of wins any team has this season. Or at least the best trio of any team not named Auburn.

2. Clemson: Hammering an 8–4 South Carolina team on the road, 34–10, was a nice way to head into the ACC title game. Plus its win over Auburn keeps looking better.

3. Auburn: The Tigers took it to the Tide after thumping Georgia. That’s an impressive double. Another win in the SEC title game all but assures Gus Malzahn’s squad of becoming the first two-loss team to make the playoff.

4. Wisconsin: Paul Chryst’s team had no trouble at Minnesota, pounding the Gophers, 31–0. The Badgers are still undefeated. Their best win is over 9–3 Northwestern to go with a pretty good win over 8–4 Michigan, and over a nine-win FAU team. But they’ll also have the chance to make a bigger statement next week against Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

5. Alabama: Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of this generation and, in my opinion, of all time, but I think it’s a stretch to say the Tide should be in the playoff. Not based on their résumé this season. It’s not their fault that a top-five FSU team had a dud of a season after losing QB Deondre Francois in the opener, but the reality is with the 26–14 loss to Auburn Saturday, they just don’t have that much for the committee to hang their hats on. Their best win is over 9–3 LSU. After that it’s against 8–4 Mississippi State, which lost to a massive underdog on Thanksgiving night. It’s true MSU lost QB Nick Fitzgerald in that game, but the Rebels were playing with their backup QB too. The Tide could afford a loss before the playoff, but I think it had to be in the SEC title game after at least beating Auburn on the road.

6. Miami: The Canes stumbled at Pitt. It also didn’t help that their best win, a blowout of Notre Dame, doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to. Their win over 9–3 Virginia Tech, though, is pretty good too. And if they beat a very talented Clemson team next week in the ACC title game, that’d be their new showcase résumé piece.

7. Ohio State: This hasn’t been a great year for Michigan, but beating the Wolverines on the road is still a pretty good win. The Buckeyes also defeated 10-win Penn State and walloped 9–3 Michigan State. They do have two losses, with a bad one in their blowout L at Iowa, but if they can give Wisconsin their first defeat of the season, their résumé seems like it’d be good enough to make the CFP.

8. Georgia: The Dawgs dominated a mediocre Georgia Tech team on the road, 38–7. They have a good (not great) win at Notre Dame and over 8–4 South Carolina, and will get the chance to avenge their recent loss to Auburn next week. If they win that, I’m pretty sure they’ll be in the CFP.

9. UCF: Even if they win the AAC title, I don’t see any path for them into the playoff, but the Knights are quite good. They beat a talented USF team that is 9–2 in arguably the most entertaining game of the year on Friday. Earlier in the year they whipped 10–1 Memphis, and they’ll get those Tigers again next week.

10. Penn State: Maryland was no match in a 66–3 PSU romp. The Nittany Lions' best win is smashing 9–3 Northwestern on the road, 31–7. They also crushed 8–4 Michigan too and won at 7–5 Iowa, however they have two losses and even though they were both on the road to ranked teams and by just a combined four points, they don’t have anything else to springboard them into CFP contention.

<p><strong>1</strong>. Sunday marks the 8th anniversary of what to this day remains the craziest sports story of my lifetime -- Tiger Woods&#39; Thanksgiving night in 2009. Twitter was around back then, but it was still in its infancy. If that story took place now, forget about it. Memes and GIFs for months. </p><p>The thing to keep in mind here is that the overall story of that evening alone is insane, but if you can remember the aura around Tiger pre-Thanksgiving 2009, he was basically thought of as a god by fans while sports media couldn&#39;t slobber over him enough. He had the PERFECT image at the time. But then it all came crashing down in truly spectacular fashion.</p><p>For those who don&#39;t remember, <a href="https://nypost.com/2013/11/24/the-night-tiger-woods-was-exposed-as-a-serial-cheater/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the alledged story goes something like this" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the alledged story goes something like this</a>: Woods&#39; then-wife, Elin Nordegren, suspected Tiger of cheating. So while he allegedly was knocked out on Ambien at about three in the morning, she went through his phone, found shady messages and decided to call one of the mistresses. After Elin&#39;s fears were confirmed, she allegedly chased Tiger out of the house with a golf club and scratched up his face. He got in his car, but she allegedly smashed out the back window (<a href="http://www.golf.com/photos/tiger-woods-car-accident-photos#1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:see the pictures here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">see the pictures here</a>) and then he drove into a fire hydrant and then a tree. This real story ended up being quite different than the first-reported story, as you&#39;ll see above.</p><p>He hasn&#39;t won a Major since then and after that insane night tons of women came out of the woodwork to say they also had affairs with Woods. Tiger even pleaded with one of his women to take her name off her voicemail in preparation for Elin calling her.</p><p>To truly relive the events of that monumental night, the Taiwanese animation summary, created a week later, really covers it all in unbelievable fashion. Eight years later and it&#39;s still hard to believe the way it all went down.</p><p><strong>2</strong>. Things got ugly for the Chargers on Thanksgiving when kicker Nick Novak got injured. The team had to turn to punter Drew Kaser to handle kicking duties and he ended up missing three extra points. He also completely missed the net while practicing his kicks on the sideline, which gave CBS analyst, Tony Romo, a good laugh.</p><p><strong>3</strong>. If you&#39;re one of BizNasty&#39;s million followers on Twitter, <a href="https://www.si.com/nhl/2017/11/22/paul-bissonnette-radio-arizona-coyotes" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:you&#39;ll want to read this great feature from SI&#39;s Alex Prewitt on Paul Bissonnette&#39;s transition" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">you&#39;ll want to read this great feature from SI&#39;s Alex Prewitt on Paul Bissonnette&#39;s transition</a> from fourth-liner/social media star to Phoenix Coyotes radio analyst.</p><p><strong>4</strong>. J.J. Watt likes to smile.</p><p><strong>5</strong>. Ole Miss defensive end Breeland Speaks had the chillest response to a fumble recovery in last night&#39;s win against Mississippi State.</p><p><strong>6</strong>. Since The Rock doesn&#39;t have enough jobs, he&#39;s now executive producing a new podcast, <em>What Really Happened. </em>If you&#39;re a Michael Jordan fan, <a href="http://jenkspod.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:you&#39;ll be interested in Episode 4, which examines what happens when Jordan retired from the NBA for the first time" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">you&#39;ll be interested in Episode 4, which examines what happens when Jordan retired from the NBA for the first time</a>.</p><p><strong>7</strong>. Jerry Seinfeld and Jimmy Fallon had a stand-up battle with Jerry being Jerry and Jimmy being Jerry on The Tonight Show last night.</p><p><strong>8</strong>. <strong>RANDOM WRESTLING VIDEO OF THE DAY</strong>: The end of Thanksgiving means the start of the Christmas season. What better way to get into the holiday spirit than by watching Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon host a Christmas edition of the old <em>Prime Time Wrestlin</em>g show.</p><p><i>Traina Thoughts is the best of the Internet, plus musings by SI.com writer, Jimmy Traina. Get the link to a new Traina&#39;s Thoughts each day by <a href="https://twitter.com/JimmyTraina" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:following on Twitter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">following on Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/trainaj/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:liking on Facebook" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">liking on Facebook</a>. Catch up on <a href="https://www.si.com/author/jimmy-traina" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:previous editions of Traina Thoughts right here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">previous editions of Traina Thoughts right here</a>. And check out Jimmy Traina&#39;s weekly podcast, &quot;Off The Board.&quot;</i></p><p><strong>Subscribe:</strong> <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/off-the-board-with-jimmy-traina/id1258303282?mt=2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:iTunes" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"> iTunes</a> | <a href="https://soundcloud.com/offtheboard" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:SoundCloud" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"> SoundCloud</a> | <a href="https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/cadence13/off-the-board" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Stitcher" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"> Stitcher</a></p><p><strong>BONUS ITEM</strong>: When Alabama is only -4.5, as is the case Saturday when it visists Auburn, I&#39;ll gladly take the Crimson Tide.</p>
Traina Thoughts: The Details Of Tiger Woods' 2009 Thanksgiving Night Remain Surreal

1. Sunday marks the 8th anniversary of what to this day remains the craziest sports story of my lifetime -- Tiger Woods' Thanksgiving night in 2009. Twitter was around back then, but it was still in its infancy. If that story took place now, forget about it. Memes and GIFs for months.

The thing to keep in mind here is that the overall story of that evening alone is insane, but if you can remember the aura around Tiger pre-Thanksgiving 2009, he was basically thought of as a god by fans while sports media couldn't slobber over him enough. He had the PERFECT image at the time. But then it all came crashing down in truly spectacular fashion.

For those who don't remember, the alledged story goes something like this: Woods' then-wife, Elin Nordegren, suspected Tiger of cheating. So while he allegedly was knocked out on Ambien at about three in the morning, she went through his phone, found shady messages and decided to call one of the mistresses. After Elin's fears were confirmed, she allegedly chased Tiger out of the house with a golf club and scratched up his face. He got in his car, but she allegedly smashed out the back window (see the pictures here) and then he drove into a fire hydrant and then a tree. This real story ended up being quite different than the first-reported story, as you'll see above.

He hasn't won a Major since then and after that insane night tons of women came out of the woodwork to say they also had affairs with Woods. Tiger even pleaded with one of his women to take her name off her voicemail in preparation for Elin calling her.

To truly relive the events of that monumental night, the Taiwanese animation summary, created a week later, really covers it all in unbelievable fashion. Eight years later and it's still hard to believe the way it all went down.

2. Things got ugly for the Chargers on Thanksgiving when kicker Nick Novak got injured. The team had to turn to punter Drew Kaser to handle kicking duties and he ended up missing three extra points. He also completely missed the net while practicing his kicks on the sideline, which gave CBS analyst, Tony Romo, a good laugh.

3. If you're one of BizNasty's million followers on Twitter, you'll want to read this great feature from SI's Alex Prewitt on Paul Bissonnette's transition from fourth-liner/social media star to Phoenix Coyotes radio analyst.

4. J.J. Watt likes to smile.

5. Ole Miss defensive end Breeland Speaks had the chillest response to a fumble recovery in last night's win against Mississippi State.

6. Since The Rock doesn't have enough jobs, he's now executive producing a new podcast, What Really Happened. If you're a Michael Jordan fan, you'll be interested in Episode 4, which examines what happens when Jordan retired from the NBA for the first time.

7. Jerry Seinfeld and Jimmy Fallon had a stand-up battle with Jerry being Jerry and Jimmy being Jerry on The Tonight Show last night.

8. RANDOM WRESTLING VIDEO OF THE DAY: The end of Thanksgiving means the start of the Christmas season. What better way to get into the holiday spirit than by watching Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon host a Christmas edition of the old Prime Time Wrestling show.

Traina Thoughts is the best of the Internet, plus musings by SI.com writer, Jimmy Traina. Get the link to a new Traina's Thoughts each day by following on Twitter and liking on Facebook. Catch up on previous editions of Traina Thoughts right here. And check out Jimmy Traina's weekly podcast, "Off The Board."

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BONUS ITEM: When Alabama is only -4.5, as is the case Saturday when it visists Auburn, I'll gladly take the Crimson Tide.

<p>The Auburn Tigers, No. 6 in the CFP rankings, are 11-0 straight up and 6-3-2 against the spread in their last 11 games played at home. The Tigers will try to extend that winning streak to 12 games and punch their ticket to the SEC Championship Game with an upset win this Saturday over the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.</p><p>Auburn <a href="http://www.oddsshark.com/ncaaf/alabama-auburn-odds-november-25-2017-794475" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:is a 4.5-point home underdog" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">is a 4.5-point home underdog</a> at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Since losing on the road to the LSU Tigers back on Oct. 14, Auburn has rolled through its last four games with a 4-0 SU and 2-1-1 ATS record, outscoring its opponents 176 to 78 over that stretch. The Tigers&#39; 40-17 win over Georgia as 2.5-point home underdogs coming on the same Saturday as Alabama&#39;s ugly 31-24 win over Mississippi State on the road added plenty of intrigue to this year&#39;s Iron Bowl.</p><p>Alabama was on legitimate upset alert for the first time in 2017 against the Bulldogs, trailing 24-17 in the fourth quarter on the road. But on top of being the best defensive team in the nation, the Crimson Tide also have one of the country&#39;s top offenses, and that offense put together two touchdown drives to escape unscathed.</p><p>The Crimson Tide are 8-2 ATS on the <a href="http://www.oddsshark.com/ncaaf/odds" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:college football odds" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">college football odds</a> in their last 10 road games against teams with winning records.</p><p>Also this weekend, the Michigan Wolverines are hoping that this is the year that they can solve the No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes. Michigan still leads the all-time series between these two programs 58-48-6 SU, but the Buckeyes have bridged the gap of late with a 12-1 SU record in their last 13 games against the Wolverines.</p><p>The Wolverines are going off <a href="http://www.oddsshark.com/ncaaf/ohio-state-michigan-odds-november-25-2017-794580" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:as a 12-point underdog at home" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">as a 12-point underdog at home</a> and are 1-5 ATS in their last six games at the Big House.</p><p>Ohio State enters this year&#39;s game against Michigan with a 9-2 SU and 5-6 ATS record, and they will represent the Big Ten East in the Big Ten Championship Game facing the Wisconsin Badgers. The Buckeyes are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games against Michigan and won their last road game in Michigan 42-13.</p>
College Football Week 13 Top Matchups: Odds for Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan

The Auburn Tigers, No. 6 in the CFP rankings, are 11-0 straight up and 6-3-2 against the spread in their last 11 games played at home. The Tigers will try to extend that winning streak to 12 games and punch their ticket to the SEC Championship Game with an upset win this Saturday over the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Auburn is a 4.5-point home underdog at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Since losing on the road to the LSU Tigers back on Oct. 14, Auburn has rolled through its last four games with a 4-0 SU and 2-1-1 ATS record, outscoring its opponents 176 to 78 over that stretch. The Tigers' 40-17 win over Georgia as 2.5-point home underdogs coming on the same Saturday as Alabama's ugly 31-24 win over Mississippi State on the road added plenty of intrigue to this year's Iron Bowl.

Alabama was on legitimate upset alert for the first time in 2017 against the Bulldogs, trailing 24-17 in the fourth quarter on the road. But on top of being the best defensive team in the nation, the Crimson Tide also have one of the country's top offenses, and that offense put together two touchdown drives to escape unscathed.

The Crimson Tide are 8-2 ATS on the college football odds in their last 10 road games against teams with winning records.

Also this weekend, the Michigan Wolverines are hoping that this is the year that they can solve the No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes. Michigan still leads the all-time series between these two programs 58-48-6 SU, but the Buckeyes have bridged the gap of late with a 12-1 SU record in their last 13 games against the Wolverines.

The Wolverines are going off as a 12-point underdog at home and are 1-5 ATS in their last six games at the Big House.

Ohio State enters this year's game against Michigan with a 9-2 SU and 5-6 ATS record, and they will represent the Big Ten East in the Big Ten Championship Game facing the Wisconsin Badgers. The Buckeyes are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games against Michigan and won their last road game in Michigan 42-13.

<p>Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?</p><p>Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.</p><p><strong>Season-long standings</strong></p><p><strong>Chris Johnson:</strong> 111–37 (75%)<br><strong>Molly Geary:</strong> 108–40 (73.0%)<br><strong>Andy Staples:</strong> 102–46 (68.9%)<br><strong>Bruce Feldman:</strong> 94–44 (68.1%)?<br><strong>Scooby Axson:</strong> 90–44 (67.1%)<br><strong>Eric Single:</strong> 98–50 (66.2%)?<br><strong>Joan Niesen:</strong> 94–54 (63.5%)</p><h3>Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: </strong>This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.</p><h3>Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Miami:</strong> This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.</p><h3>South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks UCF:</strong> McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.</p><h3>Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)</h3><p><b>Joan Niesen picks Iowa:</b> Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.</p><h3>Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Virginia:</strong> This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.</p><h3>Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)</h3><p>It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.</p><h3>Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Florida State:</strong> Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.</p><h3>Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Louisville:</strong> If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.</p><h3>Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks Alabama:</strong> As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.</p><h3>Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Boise State:</strong> Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.</p><h3>Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Arizona:</strong> Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.</p><h3>Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Clemson:</strong> The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant &#38; Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.</p><h3>Texas A&#38;M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Joan Niesen picks LSU:</strong> This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&#38;M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.</p><h3>Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Stanford:</strong> Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation&#39;s best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.</p><h3>Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)</h3><p><strong>Andy Staples picks Washington:</strong> This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.</p>
Week 13 Picks: Auburn–Alabama, Ohio State–Michigan and the Rest of Rivalry Week

Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?

Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.

Season-long standings

Chris Johnson: 111–37 (75%)
Molly Geary: 108–40 (73.0%)
Andy Staples: 102–46 (68.9%)
Bruce Feldman: 94–44 (68.1%)?
Scooby Axson: 90–44 (67.1%)
Eric Single: 98–50 (66.2%)?
Joan Niesen: 94–54 (63.5%)

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.

Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)

Scooby Axson picks Miami: This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.

South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Bruce Feldman picks UCF: McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.

Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)

Joan Niesen picks Iowa: Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.

Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Virginia: This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.

Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)

It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.

Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Florida State: Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.

Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)

Scooby Axson picks Louisville: If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.

Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Bruce Feldman picks Alabama: As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.

Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Eric Single picks Boise State: Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.

Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

Molly Geary picks Arizona: Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.

Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Molly Geary picks Clemson: The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant & Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.

Texas A&M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Joan Niesen picks LSU: This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.

Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Chris Johnson picks Stanford: Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation's best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.

Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)

Andy Staples picks Washington: This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.

<p>Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?</p><p>Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.</p><p><strong>Season-long standings</strong></p><p><strong>Chris Johnson:</strong> 111–37 (75%)<br><strong>Molly Geary:</strong> 108–40 (73.0%)<br><strong>Andy Staples:</strong> 102–46 (68.9%)<br><strong>Bruce Feldman:</strong> 94–44 (68.1%)?<br><strong>Scooby Axson:</strong> 90–44 (67.1%)<br><strong>Eric Single:</strong> 98–50 (66.2%)?<br><strong>Joan Niesen:</strong> 94–54 (63.5%)</p><h3>Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: </strong>This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.</p><h3>Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Miami:</strong> This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.</p><h3>South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks UCF:</strong> McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.</p><h3>Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)</h3><p><b>Joan Niesen picks Iowa:</b> Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.</p><h3>Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Virginia:</strong> This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.</p><h3>Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)</h3><p>It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.</p><h3>Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Florida State:</strong> Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.</p><h3>Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Louisville:</strong> If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.</p><h3>Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks Alabama:</strong> As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.</p><h3>Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Boise State:</strong> Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.</p><h3>Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Arizona:</strong> Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.</p><h3>Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Clemson:</strong> The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant &#38; Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.</p><h3>Texas A&#38;M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Joan Niesen picks LSU:</strong> This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&#38;M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.</p><h3>Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Stanford:</strong> Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation&#39;s best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.</p><h3>Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)</h3><p><strong>Andy Staples picks Washington:</strong> This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.</p>
Week 13 Picks: Auburn–Alabama, Ohio State–Michigan and the Rest of Rivalry Week

Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?

Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.

Season-long standings

Chris Johnson: 111–37 (75%)
Molly Geary: 108–40 (73.0%)
Andy Staples: 102–46 (68.9%)
Bruce Feldman: 94–44 (68.1%)?
Scooby Axson: 90–44 (67.1%)
Eric Single: 98–50 (66.2%)?
Joan Niesen: 94–54 (63.5%)

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.

Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)

Scooby Axson picks Miami: This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.

South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Bruce Feldman picks UCF: McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.

Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)

Joan Niesen picks Iowa: Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.

Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Virginia: This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.

Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)

It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.

Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Florida State: Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.

Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)

Scooby Axson picks Louisville: If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.

Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Bruce Feldman picks Alabama: As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.

Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Eric Single picks Boise State: Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.

Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

Molly Geary picks Arizona: Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.

Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Molly Geary picks Clemson: The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant & Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.

Texas A&M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Joan Niesen picks LSU: This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.

Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Chris Johnson picks Stanford: Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation's best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.

Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)

Andy Staples picks Washington: This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.

<p>Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?</p><p>Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.</p><p><strong>Season-long standings</strong></p><p><strong>Chris Johnson:</strong> 111–37 (75%)<br><strong>Molly Geary:</strong> 108–40 (73.0%)<br><strong>Andy Staples:</strong> 102–46 (68.9%)<br><strong>Bruce Feldman:</strong> 94–44 (68.1%)?<br><strong>Scooby Axson:</strong> 90–44 (67.1%)<br><strong>Eric Single:</strong> 98–50 (66.2%)?<br><strong>Joan Niesen:</strong> 94–54 (63.5%)</p><h3>Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: </strong>This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.</p><h3>Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Miami:</strong> This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.</p><h3>South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks UCF:</strong> McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.</p><h3>Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)</h3><p><b>Joan Niesen picks Iowa:</b> Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.</p><h3>Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Virginia:</strong> This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.</p><h3>Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)</h3><p>It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.</p><h3>Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Florida State:</strong> Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.</p><h3>Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Louisville:</strong> If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.</p><h3>Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks Alabama:</strong> As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.</p><h3>Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Boise State:</strong> Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.</p><h3>Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Arizona:</strong> Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.</p><h3>Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Clemson:</strong> The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant &#38; Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.</p><h3>Texas A&#38;M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Joan Niesen picks LSU:</strong> This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&#38;M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.</p><h3>Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Stanford:</strong> Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation&#39;s best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.</p><h3>Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)</h3><p><strong>Andy Staples picks Washington:</strong> This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.</p>
Week 13 Picks: Auburn–Alabama, Ohio State–Michigan and the Rest of Rivalry Week

Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?

Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.

Season-long standings

Chris Johnson: 111–37 (75%)
Molly Geary: 108–40 (73.0%)
Andy Staples: 102–46 (68.9%)
Bruce Feldman: 94–44 (68.1%)?
Scooby Axson: 90–44 (67.1%)
Eric Single: 98–50 (66.2%)?
Joan Niesen: 94–54 (63.5%)

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.

Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)

Scooby Axson picks Miami: This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.

South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Bruce Feldman picks UCF: McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.

Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)

Joan Niesen picks Iowa: Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.

Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Virginia: This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.

Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)

It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.

Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Florida State: Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.

Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)

Scooby Axson picks Louisville: If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.

Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Bruce Feldman picks Alabama: As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.

Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Eric Single picks Boise State: Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.

Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

Molly Geary picks Arizona: Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.

Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Molly Geary picks Clemson: The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant & Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.

Texas A&M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Joan Niesen picks LSU: This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.

Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Chris Johnson picks Stanford: Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation's best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.

Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)

Andy Staples picks Washington: This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.

<p>Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?</p><p>Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.</p><p><strong>Season-long standings</strong></p><p><strong>Chris Johnson:</strong> 111–37 (75%)<br><strong>Molly Geary:</strong> 108–40 (73.0%)<br><strong>Andy Staples:</strong> 102–46 (68.9%)<br><strong>Bruce Feldman:</strong> 94–44 (68.1%)?<br><strong>Scooby Axson:</strong> 90–44 (67.1%)<br><strong>Eric Single:</strong> 98–50 (66.2%)?<br><strong>Joan Niesen:</strong> 94–54 (63.5%)</p><h3>Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: </strong>This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.</p><h3>Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Miami:</strong> This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.</p><h3>South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks UCF:</strong> McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.</p><h3>Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)</h3><p><b>Joan Niesen picks Iowa:</b> Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.</p><h3>Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Virginia:</strong> This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.</p><h3>Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)</h3><p>It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.</p><h3>Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Florida State:</strong> Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.</p><h3>Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Louisville:</strong> If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.</p><h3>Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks Alabama:</strong> As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.</p><h3>Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Boise State:</strong> Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.</p><h3>Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Arizona:</strong> Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.</p><h3>Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Clemson:</strong> The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant &#38; Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.</p><h3>Texas A&#38;M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Joan Niesen picks LSU:</strong> This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&#38;M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.</p><h3>Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Stanford:</strong> Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation&#39;s best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.</p><h3>Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)</h3><p><strong>Andy Staples picks Washington:</strong> This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.</p>
Week 13 Picks: Auburn–Alabama, Ohio State–Michigan and the Rest of Rivalry Week

Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?

Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.

Season-long standings

Chris Johnson: 111–37 (75%)
Molly Geary: 108–40 (73.0%)
Andy Staples: 102–46 (68.9%)
Bruce Feldman: 94–44 (68.1%)?
Scooby Axson: 90–44 (67.1%)
Eric Single: 98–50 (66.2%)?
Joan Niesen: 94–54 (63.5%)

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.

Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)

Scooby Axson picks Miami: This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.

South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Bruce Feldman picks UCF: McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.

Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)

Joan Niesen picks Iowa: Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.

Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Virginia: This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.

Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)

It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.

Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Florida State: Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.

Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)

Scooby Axson picks Louisville: If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.

Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Bruce Feldman picks Alabama: As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.

Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Eric Single picks Boise State: Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.

Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

Molly Geary picks Arizona: Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.

Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Molly Geary picks Clemson: The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant & Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.

Texas A&M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Joan Niesen picks LSU: This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.

Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Chris Johnson picks Stanford: Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation's best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.

Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)

Andy Staples picks Washington: This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.

<p>Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?</p><p>Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.</p><p><strong>Season-long standings</strong></p><p><strong>Chris Johnson:</strong> 111–37 (75%)<br><strong>Molly Geary:</strong> 108–40 (73.0%)<br><strong>Andy Staples:</strong> 102–46 (68.9%)<br><strong>Bruce Feldman:</strong> 94–44 (68.1%)?<br><strong>Scooby Axson:</strong> 90–44 (67.1%)<br><strong>Eric Single:</strong> 98–50 (66.2%)?<br><strong>Joan Niesen:</strong> 94–54 (63.5%)</p><h3>Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: </strong>This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.</p><h3>Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Miami:</strong> This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.</p><h3>South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks UCF:</strong> McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.</p><h3>Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)</h3><p><b>Joan Niesen picks Iowa:</b> Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.</p><h3>Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Virginia:</strong> This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.</p><h3>Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)</h3><p>It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.</p><h3>Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Florida State:</strong> Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.</p><h3>Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Louisville:</strong> If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.</p><h3>Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks Alabama:</strong> As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.</p><h3>Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Boise State:</strong> Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.</p><h3>Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Arizona:</strong> Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.</p><h3>Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Clemson:</strong> The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant &#38; Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.</p><h3>Texas A&#38;M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Joan Niesen picks LSU:</strong> This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&#38;M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.</p><h3>Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Stanford:</strong> Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation&#39;s best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.</p><h3>Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)</h3><p><strong>Andy Staples picks Washington:</strong> This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.</p>
Week 13 Picks: Auburn–Alabama, Ohio State–Michigan and the Rest of Rivalry Week

Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?

Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.

Season-long standings

Chris Johnson: 111–37 (75%)
Molly Geary: 108–40 (73.0%)
Andy Staples: 102–46 (68.9%)
Bruce Feldman: 94–44 (68.1%)?
Scooby Axson: 90–44 (67.1%)
Eric Single: 98–50 (66.2%)?
Joan Niesen: 94–54 (63.5%)

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.

Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)

Scooby Axson picks Miami: This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.

South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Bruce Feldman picks UCF: McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.

Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)

Joan Niesen picks Iowa: Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.

Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Virginia: This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.

Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)

It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.

Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Florida State: Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.

Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)

Scooby Axson picks Louisville: If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.

Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Bruce Feldman picks Alabama: As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.

Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Eric Single picks Boise State: Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.

Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

Molly Geary picks Arizona: Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.

Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Molly Geary picks Clemson: The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant & Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.

Texas A&M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Joan Niesen picks LSU: This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.

Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Chris Johnson picks Stanford: Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation's best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.

Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)

Andy Staples picks Washington: This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.

<p>Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?</p><p>Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.</p><p><strong>Season-long standings</strong></p><p><strong>Chris Johnson:</strong> 111–37 (75%)<br><strong>Molly Geary:</strong> 108–40 (73.0%)<br><strong>Andy Staples:</strong> 102–46 (68.9%)<br><strong>Bruce Feldman:</strong> 94–44 (68.1%)?<br><strong>Scooby Axson:</strong> 90–44 (67.1%)<br><strong>Eric Single:</strong> 98–50 (66.2%)?<br><strong>Joan Niesen:</strong> 94–54 (63.5%)</p><h3>Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: </strong>This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.</p><h3>Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Miami:</strong> This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.</p><h3>South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks UCF:</strong> McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.</p><h3>Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)</h3><p><b>Joan Niesen picks Iowa:</b> Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.</p><h3>Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Virginia:</strong> This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.</p><h3>Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)</h3><p>It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.</p><h3>Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Florida State:</strong> Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.</p><h3>Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Louisville:</strong> If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.</p><h3>Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks Alabama:</strong> As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.</p><h3>Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Boise State:</strong> Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.</p><h3>Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Arizona:</strong> Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.</p><h3>Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Clemson:</strong> The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant &#38; Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.</p><h3>Texas A&#38;M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Joan Niesen picks LSU:</strong> This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&#38;M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.</p><h3>Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Stanford:</strong> Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation&#39;s best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.</p><h3>Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)</h3><p><strong>Andy Staples picks Washington:</strong> This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.</p>
Week 13 Picks: Auburn–Alabama, Ohio State–Michigan and the Rest of Rivalry Week

Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?

Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.

Season-long standings

Chris Johnson: 111–37 (75%)
Molly Geary: 108–40 (73.0%)
Andy Staples: 102–46 (68.9%)
Bruce Feldman: 94–44 (68.1%)?
Scooby Axson: 90–44 (67.1%)
Eric Single: 98–50 (66.2%)?
Joan Niesen: 94–54 (63.5%)

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.

Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)

Scooby Axson picks Miami: This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.

South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Bruce Feldman picks UCF: McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.

Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)

Joan Niesen picks Iowa: Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.

Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Virginia: This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.

Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)

It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.

Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Florida State: Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.

Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)

Scooby Axson picks Louisville: If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.

Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Bruce Feldman picks Alabama: As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.

Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Eric Single picks Boise State: Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.

Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

Molly Geary picks Arizona: Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.

Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Molly Geary picks Clemson: The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant & Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.

Texas A&M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Joan Niesen picks LSU: This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.

Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Chris Johnson picks Stanford: Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation's best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.

Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)

Andy Staples picks Washington: This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.

<p>Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?</p><p>Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.</p><p><strong>Season-long standings</strong></p><p><strong>Chris Johnson:</strong> 111–37 (75%)<br><strong>Molly Geary:</strong> 108–40 (73.0%)<br><strong>Andy Staples:</strong> 102–46 (68.9%)<br><strong>Bruce Feldman:</strong> 94–44 (68.1%)?<br><strong>Scooby Axson:</strong> 90–44 (67.1%)<br><strong>Eric Single:</strong> 98–50 (66.2%)?<br><strong>Joan Niesen:</strong> 94–54 (63.5%)</p><h3>Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: </strong>This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.</p><h3>Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Miami:</strong> This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.</p><h3>South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks UCF:</strong> McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.</p><h3>Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)</h3><p><b>Joan Niesen picks Iowa:</b> Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.</p><h3>Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Virginia:</strong> This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.</p><h3>Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)</h3><p>It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.</p><h3>Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Florida State:</strong> Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.</p><h3>Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Louisville:</strong> If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.</p><h3>Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks Alabama:</strong> As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.</p><h3>Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Boise State:</strong> Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.</p><h3>Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Arizona:</strong> Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.</p><h3>Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Clemson:</strong> The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant &#38; Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.</p><h3>Texas A&#38;M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Joan Niesen picks LSU:</strong> This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&#38;M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.</p><h3>Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Stanford:</strong> Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation&#39;s best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.</p><h3>Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)</h3><p><strong>Andy Staples picks Washington:</strong> This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.</p>
Week 13 Picks: Auburn–Alabama, Ohio State–Michigan and the Rest of Rivalry Week

Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?

Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.

Season-long standings

Chris Johnson: 111–37 (75%)
Molly Geary: 108–40 (73.0%)
Andy Staples: 102–46 (68.9%)
Bruce Feldman: 94–44 (68.1%)?
Scooby Axson: 90–44 (67.1%)
Eric Single: 98–50 (66.2%)?
Joan Niesen: 94–54 (63.5%)

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.

Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)

Scooby Axson picks Miami: This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.

South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Bruce Feldman picks UCF: McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.

Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)

Joan Niesen picks Iowa: Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.

Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Virginia: This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.

Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)

It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.

Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Florida State: Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.

Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)

Scooby Axson picks Louisville: If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.

Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Bruce Feldman picks Alabama: As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.

Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Eric Single picks Boise State: Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.

Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

Molly Geary picks Arizona: Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.

Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Molly Geary picks Clemson: The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant & Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.

Texas A&M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Joan Niesen picks LSU: This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.

Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Chris Johnson picks Stanford: Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation's best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.

Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)

Andy Staples picks Washington: This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.

<p>Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?</p><p>Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.</p><p><strong>Season-long standings</strong></p><p><strong>Chris Johnson:</strong> 111–37 (75%)<br><strong>Molly Geary:</strong> 108–40 (73.0%)<br><strong>Andy Staples:</strong> 102–46 (68.9%)<br><strong>Bruce Feldman:</strong> 94–44 (68.1%)?<br><strong>Scooby Axson:</strong> 90–44 (67.1%)<br><strong>Eric Single:</strong> 98–50 (66.2%)?<br><strong>Joan Niesen:</strong> 94–54 (63.5%)</p><h3>Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: </strong>This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.</p><h3>Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Miami:</strong> This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.</p><h3>South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks UCF:</strong> McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.</p><h3>Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)</h3><p><b>Joan Niesen picks Iowa:</b> Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.</p><h3>Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Virginia:</strong> This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.</p><h3>Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)</h3><p>It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.</p><h3>Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Florida State:</strong> Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.</p><h3>Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Louisville:</strong> If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.</p><h3>Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks Alabama:</strong> As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.</p><h3>Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Boise State:</strong> Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.</p><h3>Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Arizona:</strong> Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.</p><h3>Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Clemson:</strong> The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant &#38; Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.</p><h3>Texas A&#38;M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Joan Niesen picks LSU:</strong> This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&#38;M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.</p><h3>Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Stanford:</strong> Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation&#39;s best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.</p><h3>Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)</h3><p><strong>Andy Staples picks Washington:</strong> This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.</p>
Week 13 Picks: Auburn–Alabama, Ohio State–Michigan and the Rest of Rivalry Week

Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?

Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.

Season-long standings

Chris Johnson: 111–37 (75%)
Molly Geary: 108–40 (73.0%)
Andy Staples: 102–46 (68.9%)
Bruce Feldman: 94–44 (68.1%)?
Scooby Axson: 90–44 (67.1%)
Eric Single: 98–50 (66.2%)?
Joan Niesen: 94–54 (63.5%)

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.

Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)

Scooby Axson picks Miami: This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.

South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Bruce Feldman picks UCF: McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.

Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)

Joan Niesen picks Iowa: Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.

Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Virginia: This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.

Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)

It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.

Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Florida State: Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.

Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)

Scooby Axson picks Louisville: If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.

Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Bruce Feldman picks Alabama: As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.

Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Eric Single picks Boise State: Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.

Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

Molly Geary picks Arizona: Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.

Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Molly Geary picks Clemson: The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant & Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.

Texas A&M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Joan Niesen picks LSU: This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.

Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Chris Johnson picks Stanford: Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation's best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.

Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)

Andy Staples picks Washington: This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.

<p>Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?</p><p>Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.</p><p><strong>Season-long standings</strong></p><p><strong>Chris Johnson:</strong> 111–37 (75%)<br><strong>Molly Geary:</strong> 108–40 (73.0%)<br><strong>Andy Staples:</strong> 102–46 (68.9%)<br><strong>Bruce Feldman:</strong> 94–44 (68.1%)?<br><strong>Scooby Axson:</strong> 90–44 (67.1%)<br><strong>Eric Single:</strong> 98–50 (66.2%)?<br><strong>Joan Niesen:</strong> 94–54 (63.5%)</p><h3>Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: </strong>This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.</p><h3>Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Miami:</strong> This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.</p><h3>South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks UCF:</strong> McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.</p><h3>Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)</h3><p><b>Joan Niesen picks Iowa:</b> Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.</p><h3>Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Virginia:</strong> This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.</p><h3>Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)</h3><p>It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.</p><h3>Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Florida State:</strong> Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.</p><h3>Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Scooby Axson picks Louisville:</strong> If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.</p><h3>Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)</h3><p><strong>Bruce Feldman picks Alabama:</strong> As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.</p><h3>Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)</h3><p><strong>Eric Single picks Boise State:</strong> Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.</p><h3>Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Arizona:</strong> Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.</p><h3>Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)</h3><p><strong>Molly Geary picks Clemson:</strong> The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant &#38; Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.</p><h3>Texas A&#38;M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)</h3><p><strong>Joan Niesen picks LSU:</strong> This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&#38;M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.</p><h3>Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)</h3><p><strong>Chris Johnson picks Stanford:</strong> Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation&#39;s best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.</p><h3>Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)</h3><p><strong>Andy Staples picks Washington:</strong> This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.</p>
Week 13 Picks: Auburn–Alabama, Ohio State–Michigan and the Rest of Rivalry Week

Each step towards the revelation of the final College Football Playoff rankings is more difficult than the last, but there’s a special challenge to rivalry week, when national title contenders cross paths with teams who spend all year preparing to beat them. Will Michigan muster up enough offense to scare Ohio State in Ann Arbor? Can Auburn vault Alabama as the SEC’s playoff favorite with an upset in Jordan-Hare Stadium? Will Washington State crack Washington’s defense to set up a Pac-12 title game trip with plenty on the line?

Below, our experts make their picks for Week 13’s biggest games, taking turns defending their selections.

Season-long standings

Chris Johnson: 111–37 (75%)
Molly Geary: 108–40 (73.0%)
Andy Staples: 102–46 (68.9%)
Bruce Feldman: 94–44 (68.1%)?
Scooby Axson: 90–44 (67.1%)
Eric Single: 98–50 (66.2%)?
Joan Niesen: 94–54 (63.5%)

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Chris Johnson picks Mississippi State: This could be one of Dan Mullen’s last games in charge of the Bulldogs, and the Rebels are undergoing their own search for a new head coach, but the enmity between these two programs should override the coaching-carousel speculation. Nick Fitzgerald will feast on Ole Miss’s leaky defense.

Miami at Pittsburgh (Friday, Noon ET, ABC)

Scooby Axson picks Miami: This is a classic trap game for the Hurricanes, and they will need all of their turnover chain magic to remain undefeated before next week’s ACC title game. Miami knows that too much is at stake not to once again find a way to win.

South Florida at UCF (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Bruce Feldman picks UCF: McKenzie Milton has been fantastic in Scott Frost’s offense, but this very fast, physical USF squad will be the toughest test he’s faced. Expect this one to be tight going into the fourth quarter, but I don’t see anyone in the AAC derailing the Knights this year.

Nebraska at Iowa (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)

Joan Niesen picks Iowa: Sure, Iowa is 1–3 on the road this season and has lost two straight, but I still think the (at times inconsistent) Hawkeyes can get the win on the road against a hapless Nebraska team that Mike Riley somehow still coaches. This one could be high-scoring, but I think Iowa can outgain and outscore the Huskers.

Virginia Tech at Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Virginia: This has arguably been the ACC’s most one-sided rivalry of the millennium, but in recent years Virginia has had a couple of golden opportunities to break a losing streak that now sits at 13 straight losses. Cavaliers senior quarterback Kurt Benkert can find enough big plays to outduel Virginia Tech’s hit-and-miss offense and make his Scott Stadium farewell a memorable one.

Ohio State at Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)

It’s unclear whether Great Ohio State or Mediocre Ohio State will show up from week to week, but given the special emphasis Urban Meyer puts on rivalry games, it seems like a safe bet the Great Buckeyes will take the field in Ann Arbor.

Florida State at Florida (Noon ET, ESPN)

Eric Single picks Florida State: Seminoles fans have soured on James Blackman for not being the hyper-talented quarterback that he replaced (Deondre Francois), but his competitiveness has been on display in some close losses against top-tier opponents. With Florida State fighting for bowl eligibility, he’ll make enough plays to mercifully end Florida’s season.

Louisville at Kentucky (Noon ET, SEC Network)

Scooby Axson picks Louisville: If Louisville actually played some defense (the Cardinals have allowed an average of 43 points in their four losses), Lamar Jackson might be headed toward a second Heisman. But expect Jackson to slice through a vulnerable Kentucky defense with relative ease to avenge last season’s loss.

Alabama at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Bruce Feldman picks Alabama: As well as the Tigers have been playing of late, especially running back Kerryon Johnson, my hunch here is that Alabama is about to play its best game of the season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has played in a lot of big games in two seasons in college, and I think he’ll be able to take advantage of some things in how the Tigers like to defend. The Tide also has healed up some on defense, and I think they’ll be locked in for the road trip with so many folks aboard the Auburn bandwagon.

Boise State at Fresno State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Eric Single picks Boise State: Weall left the Broncos for dead after they lost twice in September, and once everyone had looked the other way they took out their frustration on the rest of the Mountain West, beating everyone except Colorado State by double digits. In a game where neither team wants to show much—they play again next weekend for the conference title—Boise State will out-talent its hosts.

Arizona at Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

Molly Geary picks Arizona: Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is coming off his worst start of the season, especially on the ground, but Oregon’s run defense is a lot stronger than the Sun Devils’. Look for Tate to rebound and lead Arizona to a road Territorial Cup win.

Clemson at South Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Molly Geary picks Clemson: The Tigers must avoid looking ahead to the ACC title game, but the threat of what’s on the line regarding their playoff hopes should keep Kelly Bryant & Co. focused enough to handle an eight-win South Carolina squad.

Texas A&M at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Joan Niesen picks LSU: This LSU team is almost unrecognizable from the one that lost two games in September. Texas A&M has won two straight, but it doesn’t have the defense to stop Derrius Guice, D.J. Chark and the Tigers’ offense.

Notre Dame at Stanford (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Chris Johnson picks Stanford: Neither of these teams are in the conversation for playoff berths anymore, but this matchup will feature an intriguing matchup between two of the nation's best running backs: Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Advantage Love.

Washington State at Washington (8 p.m. ET, FOX)

Andy Staples picks Washington: This feels like a much better matchup for the Cougars than the past two years (when they’ve lost by an average of 31.5 points), but Washington’s defensive personnel (good corners and a big, quick line) is built to slow offenses like Washington State’s.

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