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Sport Five games in Week 14 that will impact the College Football Playoff race

16:40  29 november  2019
16:40  29 november  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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Here are the five Week 14 games that will have the biggest impact on the quest for the College Football Playoff.

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No. 2 Ohio State at No. 11 Michigan

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Warning: the following statement could cause paroxysms of indignation among college football fans. The Ohio State-Michigan game doesn’t really mean anything. OK, that’s not entirely true. It’s obviously an intense rivalry that neither side wants to lose. But in the big picture, the Buckeyes already know they’ll be playing for the Big Ten title next week, and as long as they win that one a loss to the Wolverines almost certainly wouldn’t keep them out of the playoff. It might, however, cost them a shot at the top seed, and that is fairly important this year with No. 2 likely to be pitted against defending champion Clemson. Even so, one could almost argue the game means more to Michigan, which can’t win the league but can at least end years of frustration against its archnemesis.

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The Buckeyes found themselves pushed in the second half for the first time all season in last week’s win against Penn State. That was largely because of their own errors, however, and QB Justin Fields figures to be more attentive to ball security going forward. He still has weapons like RB J.K. Dobbins and WR Chris Olave to help him finish drives. Michigan’s senior-laden defense that includes LBs Khaleke Hudson and Jordan Glasgow and S Josh Metellus might be better equipped than most to at least make the Buckeyes work for their points. The Wolverines’ offense struggled mightily during the first half of the season but has been much more productive of late as QB Shea Patterson has grown more comfortable with WRs Nico Collins and Ronnie Bell. Having veteran Donovan Peoples-Jones back at full speed has also helped. The biggest question in this outing will be whether Patterson will have time to find them against Ohio State’s devastating pass rush, where the attention required by DE Chase Young also leads to sack opportunities for LBs Malik Harrison and Baron Browning.

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No. 5 Alabama at No. 16 Auburn

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

The Crimson Tide can’t win the SEC, so this is going to have to be their closing statement for the playoff committee as they try to present their case for inclusion. The Tigers will get a lot of support from afar as fans of contenders from other major conferences are hoping they can eliminate one factor from the equation.

Alabama got the tune-up it needed against Western Carolina last week to get QB Mac Jones, who also started an earlier game against Arkansas, acclimated to his first-team role. He won’t be able to match Tua Tagovailoa’s precision on deep balls, so the attack as a whole won’t be as explosive. RB Najee Harris provides a constant breakaway threat from the backfield, but finding room to roam against Auburn’s star-studded defensive front featuring DT Derrick Brown and DE Marlon Davidson could be difficult. The Tigers were also able to work out some kinks in a whitewashing of Samford, but QB Bo Nix will have to be sharp from the outset. He can expect to see a lot of Tide LB Anfernee Jennings.

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No. 14 Wisconsin at No. 9 Minnesota

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

Unlike the earlier tilt in the Big House, this Big Ten clash does have championship consequences. The winner claims the West division and earns a date with Ohio State for, at the very least, a trip to the Rose Bowl. The Golden Gophers even have a plausible, albeit extremely difficult, path to the playoff. The Badgers looked overmatched in their first encounter with the Buckeyes over a month ago and would certainly welcome a chance for redemption.

Minnesota’s aerial attack has become one of the most dangerous in the Big Ten as sophomore QB Tanner Morgan’s accuracy has improved, allowing both WRs Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman to surpass the 1,000-yard mark. Senior RB Rodney Smith is a steady producer as well as a good pass protector, and he’ll be needed against LB Chris Orr and the Badgers’ active front seven. Wisconsin continues to rely heavily on record-setting RB Jonathan Taylor. Gophers S Antoine Winfield Jr. will be kept busy monitoring Taylor while also trying to limit Wisconsin QB Jack Coan’s effective short-passing game.

Texas A&M at No. 1 LSU

Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

No matter what happens here, LSU will play Georgia in a week for the SEC title with the winner all but assured of a spot in the playoff. The Bayou Bengals might even have a case if they lose to the Bulldogs, but that option disappears if they stumble against the Aggies. And, oh yeah, LSU certainly hasn’t forgotten last season’s utterly insane seven-OT loss to A&M in College Station.

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Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher was quick to say he didn’t care for moral victories after last week’s setback at Georgia, but the way the team competed after going through such a daunting schedule this season was heartening. Even so, the Tigers’ offense has simply been playing at another level this season with QB Joe Burrow authoring a Heisman-worthy campaign. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire has made his share of big plays as well, giving LB Buddy Johnson and the Aggies’ defense even more to worry about. The good news for A&M is the LSU defense isn’t as airtight, so QB Kellen Mond and RB Isaiah Spiller might be able to generate yardage and control the clock. But they must beware of CB Derek Stingley and S JaCoby Stevens, takeaway threats in the Tigers’ secondary.

No. 7 Oklahoma at No. 21 Oklahoma State

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox

The annual “Bedlam” showdown will not alter the Big 12 championship picture. The Sooners’ spot opposite Baylor in the title game is secured. OU’s precarious playoff aspirations, however, are very much on the line, and the Cowboys would love to put an end to them.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their offense has been hit hard by season-ending injuries, first to standout WR Tylan Wallace last month and then to promising freshman QB Spencer Sanders. QB Dru Brown was steady in his first start in OSU’s victory at West Virginia last week, wisely leaning on RB Chuba Hubbard via handoffs as well as short passes. LB Kenneth Murray is the veteran leader of the Sooners’ defense that has improved significantly from a season ago but can still give up long gainers. Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts is still one of the game’s most dynamic signal callers, but his recent tendency to give the ball away has been alarming. Having WR CeeDee Lamb back in the lineup against TCU helped, but he’ll need to spread the ball around a bit to avoid taking further punishment. He'll likely be monitored by Cowboys S Malcolm Rodriguez.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Five games in Week 14 that will impact the College Football Playoff race

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