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Sports Five games in Week 13 with the biggest impact on the College Football Playoff

15:21  27 november  2020
15:21  27 november  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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The focus this weekend returns to the ACC, seemingly headed toward a rematch of an earlier instant classic, and to the SEC, where the odds-on favorite faces its in-state foe. Then there’s the Pac-12, trying to present its best case.

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No. 2 Notre Dame at No. 23 North Carolina

Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Notre Dame’s likely reunion with Clemson in the ACC title game is not a mathematical certainty just yet, but the Fighting Irish will look to move a step closer in what would appear to be its toughest remaining road challenge. The high-scoring Tar Heels could pose a threat.

Both teams are coming off a scheduled open date. UNC might have needed the rest more after needing everything in the tank to get past Wake Forest two weeks ago. QB Sam Howell can keep the Tar Heels in just about any game, but he’ll face a much stronger secondary this time, anchored by Notre Dame DB Kyle Hamilton. Fighting Irish QB Ian Book has heated up of late himself. He might have to test the deep waters more this week if the points start to mount, but WRs Javon McKinley and Avery Davis give him the weapons to do it. The Tar Heels have struggled to generate pressure from the front line and might need to unleash LBs Chazz Surratt and Tomon Fox in a variety of blitz packages.

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Pittsburgh at No. 4 Clemson

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Tigers, who haven’t taken the field since their double-overtime loss at Notre Dame, had to wait an extra week and figure to be champing at the bit as the Panthers come to town. Pitt’s own encounter with Notre Dame last month didn’t go so well but is hoping to carry over some momentum from last week’s dominant performance against Virginia Tech.

Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence hasn’t taken a live snap since the Syracuse game on Oct. 24. He’s an experienced veteran so is unlikely to show any rust, but he might still rely on RB Travis Etienne at first as he gets back to game speed. DB Damar Hamlin and the Panthers’ secondary must keep the big gainers to a minimum. Pitt QB Kenny Pickett had injury issues earlier in the season but is healthy now and is coming off a career game against the Hokies. If he’s hot again, there might be yards to be had against the Tigers’ pass defense that has been leak prone, but DE Myles Murphy and DT Bryan Bresee will do their best to get after him.

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No. 19 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

The Iron Bowl highlights the Saturday slate in its traditional place on the calendar, though it isn’t the regular-season finale as it usually is with the 2020 season extended into December. Auburn is one of the few SEC teams that has had even a modicum of success against the Crimson Tide in recent years, but Alabama enters this encounter as the heavy favorite, even without coach Nick Saban on the sidelines.

Auburn has won three in a row since a disastrous setback at South Carolina, though QB Bo Nix still has a somewhat pedestrian 61.3% completion rate. His scrambling ability sometimes gets him out of trouble, but he likely won’t have that option against the likes of Alabama LB Dylan Moses. Nix also doesn’t have nearly as many weapons around him as his Alabama counterpart, and Tide QB Mac Jones also has the luxury of handing off to RB Najee Harris and throwing to WR DeVonta Smith. The Auburn defense, featuring LBs Zakoby McClain and Owen Pappoe, is effective in the red zone but could be on the field a lot.

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LSU at No. 6 Texas A&M

Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Aggies can make a playoff case if a few things go their way, but any such scenario is contingent upon avoiding a second loss. The Tigers, for all their struggles, still have talent and would love to play spoiler.

Pass defense remains LSU’s most troubling weakness, and Aggies QB Kellen Mond was just getting things cranked up before the team’s unexpected two-week layoff. He is a senior who isn’t likely to show rust, but he must beware of Tigers LB Jabril Cox nevertheless. It’s going to be freshman TJ Finley at QB the rest of the way for LSU, and the Tigers’ makeshift line must give him a chance by keeping A&M DE Micheal Clemons at bay.

Colorado at No. 18 Southern California

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

The Pac-12’s long-shot playoff case will likely hinge on both its division champions arriving at the league title game unblemished. It would also help if both participants get in their full complement of six league games. That is becoming increasingly unlikely as cancellations continue, but USC is one of the candidates that can still make it happen. The Buffs still have a chance to represent the South division, and would like to pick up their first win against the Trojans in program history in the process.

USC QB Kedon Slovis insists he’s healthy, but his deep balls haven’t looked quite right. He has the weapons in WRs Amon-Ra St. Brown and Drake London if he can improve in that area, but CB Christian Gonzalez and the Buffs’ secondary will make him prove he can deliver. Colorado is capable of putting up a big score, thanks to the one-two punch of QB Sam Noyer and RB Jarek Broussard. They’ll keep Trojans DB Talanoa Hufanga and LB Ralen Goforth busy.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Five games in Week 13 with the biggest impact on the College Football Playoff

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