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GameDay Kickoff: The playoff stakes for 10 biggest rivalry week games

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Playoff dreams on the line for college football's finest (0:58)

Rivalry week is headlined by a showdown between Alabama and Auburn that could shake up the College Football Playoff landscape. Ohio State looks to sneak into the playoff rankings with a win at Michigan, and unbeaten Miami faces a tough road game at Pitt. (0:58)

With the exception of the switch between No. 2 Miami and No. 3 Clemson, the top 12 teams in the College Football Playoff selection committee's rankings stayed exactly the same Tuesday. Don't get too comfortable, not with rivalry week on deck.

Three of the past five meetings between Ohio State and Michigan have been one-possession games. Nick Saban has never defeated an Auburn team that won nine games, going 0-6 (Auburn is 9-2 entering Saturday's showdown). Things are bound to change in Week 13.

Here's a look at the 10 biggest games that will shape the committee's fifth of six rankings, listed in order of biggest potential impact:

1. No. 1 Alabama (11-0) at No. 6 Auburn (9-2)

(Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS)

Playoff stakes: The winner clinches the SEC West and earns a matchup against No. 7 Georgia in the SEC championship game. A win over the Bulldogs in Atlanta probably would seal a place in the top four for whichever team wins the Iron Bowl. It certainly would for the Tide, and the Tigers would have a very strong case to become the CFP's first two-loss team.

If Alabama loses, it would finish 11-1 and leave open the possibility of two SEC teams finishing in the top four. In that scenario, the Tide would hope that Auburn went on to win the SEC since it would look better for them if their only loss was to the SEC champion and not a three-loss Auburn team. Remember, Ohio State finished in the committee's top four last season despite not winning its division, so there is precedent for an Alabama team that doesn't win the West or the SEC, especially if the Tide have been in the committee's top two for the five previous weeks.

Player to watch for Alabama: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick. He didn't play against Mercer because of a pulled hamstring but returned to practice this week. He should play an integral role in both the run and pass defense against an Auburn team that is one of only three FBS teams to average more than 230 yards passing and 230 yards rushing. Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said Fitzpatrick is "one of the best, or most talented players in all of football."

The junior, who is Todd McShay's third-ranked NFL draft prospect, has 44 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, six pass breakups, one forced fumble and a blocked kick this season.

Player to watch for Auburn: RB Kerryon Johnson. He leads the SEC with 18 total touchdowns and 130.2 rushing yards per game and is second in the FBS with an average of 12 points per game. With Kamryn Pettway still unavailable, the Tigers will continue to lean on the junior.

Outside rooting interests: Ohio State fans should be rooting for Alabama, because the only way the two-loss Buckeyes possibly stand a chance would be for Alabama and Miami to win their respective conferences and eliminate the possibility of having two teams in from one conference. Clemson fans should be cheering for Auburn, because the more Auburn wins, the better Clemson's nonconference win on Sept. 9 looks.

2. No. 9 Ohio State (9-2) at Michigan (8-3)

(Saturday at noon ET on Fox)

Playoff stakes: Ohio State has already clinched the Big Ten East, but it would be disastrous if it entered the conference championship game with Wisconsin as a three-loss team. If the Buckeyes win, their playoff hopes remain on life support as a potential two-loss Big Ten champion, but they would still need others to stumble.

The Badgers were blown out by the Buckeyes 59-0 in the Big Ten title game in 2014. A win could be the boost they need to finally crack the committee's top four.

Player to watch for Ohio State: RB Mike Weber. In his past two games, Weber has rushed 20 times for 270 yards and four touchdowns (13.5 yards per carry) with four of those carries going for 20 or more yards. He surpassed 50 yards rushing in only two previous games.

Player to watch for Michigan: The quarterback, whoever it is. Brandon Peters went through the concussion protocol earlier this week, and it is unclear whether Wilton Speight will be cleared for contact in practice. Fifth-year senior John O'Korn took over for Peters in the Wolverines' loss to Wisconsin last week.

Outside rooting interests: This game doesn't have much of a direct impact on other teams or conferences, but with No. 11 USC and No. 12 TCU still looking up at the Buckeyes in the CFP rankings -- and still in contention to win their respective conference championships -- an Ohio State loss would at least eliminate one possible conference champion in front of them.

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Ohio State, Michigan rivalry runs deep

The Buckeyes and Wolverines are set to add another chapter to their storied rivalry in Week 13.

3. No. 5 Wisconsin (11-0) at Minnesota (5-6)

(Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC and ESPN App)

Playoff stakes: The moment Wisconsin loses, its playoff hopes plummet. As an undefeated conference champion, Wisconsin has a 99 percent chance to reach the playoff, according to FiveThirtyEight. At 12-1, with the weakest strength of schedule of any team in the CFP top 25, Wisconsin's chances sink to 8 percent. So yes, the Badgers must win.

Player to watch for Wisconsin: RB Jonathan Taylor. He leads the Big Ten and all FBS freshmen in rushing with 150.6 yards per game, and is averaging 6.9 yards per carry. He needs 269 yards to break Adrian Peterson's record for rushing yards in a season for an FBS freshman (1,925).

Player to watch for Minnesota: QB Demry Croft. He has started the past five games for the Gophers, who are 2-3 in that span. He has the ability to run, though. His 183 rushing yards in a win over Nebraska are the most by a Big Ten quarterback this season.

Outside rooting interests: The ACC and SEC. For either of those leagues to have two teams in the final top four, it would help if Wisconsin is out, because then a one-loss Alabama or one-loss Miami would be stacked against a potential two-loss Big Ten champion.

4. No. 7 Georgia (10-1) at Georgia Tech (5-5)

(Saturday at noon ET on ABC and ESPN App)

Playoff stakes: Georgia has already clinched the SEC East, so even if it loses, it still has a chance to win the SEC and pad its résumé with a win over Auburn or Alabama. It's a huge gamble, though, and nobody should assume a two-loss SEC champ is guaranteed anything, especially if there's a one-loss Alabama or one-loss Miami available.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Georgia currently has a 32 percent chance to make the playoff -- and that's factoring in one loss. If Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, its chances of making the playoff drop to 12 percent.

Player to watch for Georgia: LB Roquan Smith. Can the Jackets' spread option be effective against Georgia's defense? Smith is the team's leading tackler with 91, fourth highest in the SEC.

Player to watch for Georgia Tech: QB TaQuon Marshall. He has racked up 1,963 yards of total offense (1,074 rushing, 889 passing) and he's had a hand in 26 touchdowns (17 rushing, nine passing).

Outside rooting interests: Miami should pull for Georgia Tech. A Jackets win would help the Canes twofold: First, it would give their résumé a little boost because Miami beat Georgia Tech and it would put the Jackets at 6-5 and make them a bowl-eligible opponent.

Second, it would eliminate at least one scenario in which two SEC teams get in because the two-loss Bulldogs probably would be eliminated, even with a title win against Bama. If a two-loss Georgia beats a two-loss Auburn in the SEC title game, Alabama would be the league's best hope, and Miami would arguably have a better résumé than the Tide.

5. No. 3 Clemson (10-1) at No. 24 South Carolina (8-3)

(Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN App)

Playoff stakes: The committee has already given Clemson a pass for its loss to Syracuse. One more and the Tigers probably would drop out of the top four, especially if an undefeated Wisconsin is still waiting in the wings. Clemson would need multiple two-loss conference champions to get back into the debate. (Picture that: A two-loss Auburn wins the SEC, a two-loss Ohio State wins the Big Ten, a two-loss Clemson wins the ACC, and a two-loss Oklahoma wins the Big 12).

Clemson currently has a 70 percent chance to go to the playoff, according to FiveThirtyEight, but that number drops to 51 percent with a loss to South Carolina.

Player to watch for Clemson: QB Kelly Bryant. He has thrown only five interceptions in 299 pass attempts this year, compared to 17 by Deshaun Watson last year. He is eighth in the nation with a 66.2 completion percentage, and has thrown for 2,154 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Player to watch for South Carolina: WR Bryan Edwards. He leads the Gamecocks with 53 receptions and 635 receiving yards, and ranks third in the SEC in receptions per game at 4.8.

Outside rooting interests: Wisconsin, Oklahoma and the SEC would all benefit from a Clemson loss. If the Tigers stumble, both the Sooners and the Badgers should move up in the committee's next ranking. If Clemson loses, it also helps the SEC because it eliminates the possibility of both Clemson and Miami finishing in the top four.

6. West Virginia (7-4) at No. 4 Oklahoma (10-1)

(Saturday at 3:45 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN App)

Playoff stakes: Oklahoma has already clinched a spot in the Big 12 championship game, but if the Sooners lose to WVU, the conference is guaranteed to produce a champion with at least two losses. Whether that eliminates the Big 12 from the playoff would depend on what happens in the other Power 5 championship games. If there's still a one-loss Alabama and one-loss Miami available, the committee could choose them for a semifinal even if those teams don't win their respective conference titles.

If it comes down to a debate between a two-loss OU and two-loss Ohio State, the committee would definitely consider Oklahoma's Week 2 win in Columbus.

Player to watch for Oklahoma: QB Baker Mayfield. The senior won't start the final home game of his career as a result of discipline for his actions during the Kansas game. How will the off-field chatter that has engulfed Mayfield all week impact the Heisman hopeful's performance?

Player to watch for WVU: QB Chris Chugunov. With starter Will Grier sidelined for the next four to six weeks because of a broken finger, Chugunov will get his first career start. The redshirt sophomore was 14-of-26 for 189 yards and a touchdown after replacing Grier in a loss to Texas.

Outside rooting interests: Chances of the SEC and/or ACC getting two teams in the top four would be aided by the prospect of a two-loss Big 12 champion.

7. No. 2 Miami (10-0) at Pittsburgh (4-7)

(Friday at noon ET on ABC and ESPN App)

Playoff stakes: Well, Clemson lost to Pitt last year, too. A loss certainly wouldn't eliminate the Canes, but it would eliminate their margin for error in the ACC championship game.

Player to watch for Miami: DB Jaquan Johnson. He owns stock in Miami's turnover chain -- he's tied for the team lead with four interceptions, including a pick-six against Virginia -- and leads the team with 75 tackles. He has been named the league's best DB for three straight weeks.

Player to watch for Pitt: TB Darrin Hall. Over the past four games, Hall is averaging 122.5 yards, totaling 490 yards and eight touchdowns on 87 carries (5.6 yards per carry).

Outside rooting interests: Wisconsin, Oklahoma, the SEC. Even if Miami loses, there's no guarantee the Canes would fall out of the top four, but it would at the very least open the door for the Sooners to move up and the Badgers to move into the top four. The SEC would benefit because of the improbability of the ACC getting two teams in the top four, which obviously would increase the SEC's odds.

8. Baylor (1-10) at No. 12 TCU (9-2)

(Friday at noon ET on FS1)

Playoff stakes: TCU's playoff hopes are already a long shot, but as long as the Horned Frogs have a chance to play for the Big 12 title, they have a chance to impact the top four -- even if it's by eliminating the entire conference.

TCU currently has a 99.8 percent chance to reach the conference championship game, according to ESPN's Football Power Index. Should the Horned Frogs pull off an upset against the Sooners in the Big 12 title game, it's likely the conference is left out of the top four again, even though the sole purpose of instituting the championship game this year was to best position the league for the CFP.

As a two-loss conference champion, TCU currently has a 30 percent chance to reach the CFP -- behind Auburn and Ohio State -- according to FiveThirtyEight.

Player to watch for TCU: QB Kenny Hill. He missed last week's game against Texas Tech because of an undisclosed injury, but coach Gary Patterson told reporters Hill was "closer to probable" for the regular-season finale.

If Hill isn't available, freshman Shawn Robinson will get his second career start. He rushed for a team-best 84 yards on 10 carries, and passed for 85 yards and a touchdown in a 27-3 win over the Red Raiders.

Player to watch for Baylor: WR Denzel Mims. His 1,061 receiving yards are ninth best in the nation, and he has 100-plus yards receiving in five of the past eight games.

Outside rooting interests: Big 12 title game hopefuls. A TCU loss would open the door for a number of teams depending on how results go and tiebreaking scenarios play out. But it's only possible if the Horned Frogs lose.

9. No. 8 Notre Dame (9-2) at No. 21 Stanford (8-3)

(Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and ESPN App)

Playoff stakes: Both of these teams are out of the CFP race but will still impact the overall Power 5 picture. Stanford has an 84 percent chance to win the Pac-12 North, according to ESPN's FPI, which means the Pac-12 can have a three-loss champion, or possibly a four-loss champion, if the Cardinal lose to Notre Dame. Even if it loses, Stanford will clinch a place in the Pac-12 title game against USC if Washington beats Washington State in the Apple Cup.

Player to watch for Notre Dame: OL Quenton Nelson. The Irish offensive line clears the way for Josh Adams and the sixth-best rushing offense in the country. Nelson has gone 744 offensive snaps without giving up a sack or a quarterback hit.

Player to watch for Stanford: RB Bryce Love. He sat out most of the fourth quarter of Stanford's win against Cal, and his status for the Notre Dame is uncertain as he rehabs an ankle injury. He ranks first among Power 5 conference running backs in rushing yards (1,723), yards per game (172.3), yards per carry (8.8) and touchdowns (16). He has had six carries that have gone for at least 60 yards.

Outside rooting interests: Miami and Georgia. Both of them beat Notre Dame, and both will only benefit even more from an Irish win. It's the best win on each of their playoff résumés.

10. USF (9-1) at No. 15 UCF (10-0)

(Friday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC and ESPN App)

Playoff stakes: Selection committee chair Kirby Hocutt has made it clear that even though UCF is undefeated, its strength of schedule is going to prevent it from rising much higher in the rankings, so a New Year's Six Bowl will be its ceiling.

There's a 59 percent chance the Knights will finish 12-0 according to FPI, but only a 3 percent chance they'll make the playoff if that happens, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Player to watch for USF: QB Quinton Flowers. He's second in the nation in total QBR, trailing only Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, and is the seventh player in FBS history with 7,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards in a career.

Player to watch for UCF: QB McKenzie Milton. He ranks No. 2 in the nation in passing efficiency (186.1), No. 5 in passing yards per completion (15.2), No. 13 in passing yards per game (292.8) and No. 8 in total offense (330.1).