College Football: Rivalry Week and Their Playoff Implications

Written by: Coleman Bahr – Staff Writer (@ColemanBahr)

Nothing is better than rivalry week. The week where you don’t talk to your buddy because he’s fan of that team, and the week where you spend more time at work arguing on social media than actually working. Yeah, it’s that week.

This year’s rivalry week is loaded with playoff implications, and many teams can either make a statement with a win, or kiss their playoff hopes goodbye with a loss.

#1 Alabama vs #16 Auburn

Don’t let Auburn’s three losses undermine this game. The Iron Bowl has been one of the best rivalries in recent memory, and if you’re a betting man, I would take Auburn on the spread, as the Tigers are currently 17.5-point underdogs.

If Alabama wins, they are the undisputed number one team in the nation. They have dominated teams all year long, and they have only won by less than 10 points once this season.

If Auburn wins, Alabama is still in the playoffs, but the SEC championship game turns into a must-win. The winner of Ohio State and Michigan would take over the #1 spot, and we could see Alabama take on one of the Big Ten teams in the semi-finals.

My Pick: 40-30 Alabama

#2 Ohio State vs #3 Michigan

This is the big one that everyone is talking about. Ohio State and Michigan are ranked second and third by the playoff committee, and the winner all but clinches a playoff spot. If Michigan wins, they get a date with Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship, and Ohio State’s season will be up in smoke.

However, an Ohio State win is where things get interesting. If Ohio State beats Michigan and Penn State beats Michigan State, Penn State will go the Big Ten championship. There is no way that the playoff committee can keep a one-loss Ohio State team out of the playoffs, but they also won’t have the conference championship. The Big Ten is a mess for the playoff committee with four teams still fighting for a playoff spot, and things could get messier with an Ohio State win.

My Pick: 24-20 Ohio State

#4 Clemson vs South Carolina

This isn’t the marquee game that everybody will be watching, but it still has major playoff implications. These teams have been playing each other almost every year since 1896, and a South Carolina win would make their miserable season not-so-miserable after all.

A Clemson win will keep them at fourth, and they will take on either North Carolina or Virginia Tech in the ACC championship with a trip to the playoffs on the line.

A South Carolina win is highly unlikely, with the largest spread in the last 30 years of this rivalry, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Clemson has been shaky all season, winning five games by seven points or less, and South Carolina will come into this game looking to ruin Clemson’s season.

My Pick: 26-13 Clemson

#5 Washington vs #23 Washington State

This one’s on Friday if you want to watch U-Dub light up their rivals. Washington runs this rivalry, owning a 70-32-6 record dating back to 1900, and they have won six of the last seven.

A Washington win could possibly plunge them into fourth if Michigan loses, but all likelihood they will stay put at fifth. They also have to look forward to the Pac-12 championship, and they could take on USC for the second time this season, hoping for a better result than the last time around.

If Washington State wins, Washington’s season is over, and that would a tough one for the Huskies to swallow. This would allow for teams like Penn State, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma to increase their playoff chances also.

My Pick: 38-21 Washington

#7 Penn State vs Michigan State

Michigan State and Penn State aren’t the two household names you think of when it comes to rivalry week, but they have been playing each other on and off since 1914. They’ve only had 30 meetings since then, but 21 of them have been in the last 23 years, with Penn State holding the series lead at 15-14-1.

Penn State opens as hefty 12.5-point favorites, and a win would clinch a trip to the Big Ten championship pending a Michigan loss. They would then take on #6 Wisconsin, and the winner would inevitably punch their ticket to the playoffs.

However, a Michigan State win would crush Penn State’s playoff hopes. The Nittany Lions would be handed their third loss, and the winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game would represent the East in the Big Ten championship. This game will be no pushover for Penn State, though. Michigan State is 3-8, but they are well coached, and they almost knocked off Ohio State last week, losing 17-16 in a hard-fought battle.

My Pick: 24-20 Michigan State


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