College Football Playoff impact games include Clemson, Texas A&M,

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SportsPulse: Dan Wolken reacts to the second College Football Playoff rankings and believes Ohio State can get into the playoff without qualifying for the Big Ten championship game given the committee’s track record.

USA TODAY

It would take some truly wild happenings to alter the playoff picture at this late stage, but truly crazy happenings have been part and parcel in college football for decades.

Even bearing that in mind, No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Notre Dame aren’t likely to be knocked from their perches this weekend. The Crimson Tide’s once-anticipated date with LSU is now a mere footnote thanks to the Tigers’ 2020 tumble, and the Fighting Irish host 1-9 Syracuse in what amounts to a tune-up for the ACC title game in two weeks.

We’ll turn our attention to the quest for the remaining coveted spots among the top four around the power leagues.

Here are the five games with the most potential impact on the race:

No. 3 Clemson at Virginia Tech

Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC

A few weeks ago, this looked like the toughest remaining test on Clemson’s schedule before its expected rematch with Notre Dame for the ACC title. It still might be, but the Hokies were last seen getting rolled by the same Pittsburgh team the Tigers just demolished.

Clemson running back Kobe Pace umps into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half against Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium. (Photo: Hyosub Shin, Pool Photo)

Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence showed no signs of rust after over a month without throwing a live pass. That is not good news for the Hokies’ defense that is surrendering nearly 275 yards a game through the air, but periodic protection issues on the Tigers’ line could allow Hokies’ DE Justus Reed to generate some heat. Virginia Tech’s ground attack, led by RB Khalil Herbert and also featuring QB Hendon Hooker, must also help by keeping the Clemson offense off the field. LB Baylon Spector will lead the efforts of the Clemson defense to keep the Hokies bottled up.

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No. 6 Texas A&M at Auburn

Saturday, Noon ET, ESPN

The Aggies, barring an extremely unlikely Alabama collapse, aren’t going to win the SEC. They must get to the finish line with just the one loss to the Tide to present their best case to the playoff committee. The Tigers, also victimized by said Crimson Tide in their most recent outing, are now just trying to salvage a winning season.

Texas A&M was not sharp against LSU after some extended down time. QB Kellen Mond will look to rebound against the Tigers’ reeling defense, though he doesn’t have Alabama’s array of weapons. RB Isaiah Spiller can help if he can find his way around LBs Zakoby McClain and Owen Pappoe. The Tigers

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Rose Bowl: No fans allowed at College Football Playoff semifinal game

No spectators will be allowed at the Rose Bowl for the College Football Playoff semifinal on Jan. 1 because of COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the state, county and city of Pasadena.

The Tournament of Roses said Thursday that it requested special permission to allow for a limited number of spectators or a select number of guests of players and coaches at the 90,888-seat stadium but was denied.

Los Angeles County is under a stay-home order that took effect this week and runs through mid-December. Pasadena has its own public health department and can set its own rules, but has mostly followed the county’s lead during the coronavirus pandemic.

“While we are disappointed that the Rose Bowl Game will not be played in front of spectators, we are pleased that we are still able to hold the game this year, continuing the 100-year plus tradition of The Granddaddy of Them All,” said David Eads, executive director and CEO of the Tournament of Roses. “We continue to work closely with health department officials and the Rose Bowl Stadium to provide the safest possible environment for our game participants.”

The Rose Bowl is hosting one of the playoff semifinals; the other is at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The CFP selection committee will set the pairings for the semifinals on Dec. 20. The national championship game is set for Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The Fiesta Bowl also announced Thursday that no fans would be allowed at the Jan. 2 game in Glendale, Ariz., though the immediate families of players will be able to attend.

The first Rose Bowl was played on Jan. 1, 1902, beginning the tradition of postseason college football games. In 1942, the game was moved to North Carolina because of fears of an attack by Japan on the U.S. West Coast after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Rose Parade, traditionally held the morning of the game, is off, too. It had previously been canceled only during World War II.

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How Ohio State could impact Big Ten, College Football Playoff debate

Welcome to Before The Snap, For The Win’s college football show where we’ll break down the sport’s trending storylines, examine each week’s biggest matchups and track the College Football Playoff and Heisman Trophy races.

Going into Week 14 of this strange college football season, the top-4 teams in the country remain clear: Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State. But whether or not those four teams actually make it to the College Football Playoff is a bit more complicated this year because the season is carrying on through the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Thursday morning, Ohio State has the second-best chance to make the College Football Playoff, according to ESPN’s Playoff Predictor, at 77.4 percent — behind only Alabama with 96.4 percent.

However, the Buckeyes are 4-0 and have had two games this season canceled already, and they have two games remaining on their schedule. They’re set to play Michigan State on Saturday and Michigan the following weekend. But if either of those matchups are canceled, they won’t meet the Big Ten’s six-game threshold to be eligible for the conference championship game.

If Ohio State plays and wins its next two games, none of this will be an issue. But if it’s unable to play for a conference title — a factor the selection committee considers — can it still make the playoff?

We break down Ohio State’s position in the Big Ten and how this season’s playoff debate could be even more complex than usual.

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What is more important to Ohio State fans: The Game or the College Football Playoff?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State football fans cannot imagine a season that does not end with The Game against Michigan.

They also don’t want to consider the consequences of a season without a trip to the College Football Playoff.

The coronavirus pandemic remains a threat to both. The Buckeyes’ own COVID-19 outbreak appears to be under control enough for Ohio State to return to the field on Saturday. But Michigan is on pause due to its own increase in cases, and much remains uncertain about the closing weeks of the season.

Could the Big Ten change its minimum games requirement for playing in the league championship game? Would it consider altering its schedule next week to ensure Ohio State another game if the Wolverines need to cancel? What about reconsidering the amount of times players who tested positive must remain out of competition?

We delved into all of those questions and more in our big Thursday edition of Buckeye Talk. And we surveyed our text subscribers to learn:

• What means more, The Game or the playoff?

• What does it mean for a season if Ohio State and Michigan cannot play?

• Should the Big Ten have protected The Game by scheduling it earlier in the season?

If you’ve never listened to Buckeye Talk, try it now. And subscribe to Buckeye Talk on any of these podcast platforms or wherever you listen to podcasts.

• Buckeye Talk on iTunes

• Buckeye Talk on Spotify

• Buckeye Talk on Google Play

New Ohio State face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Ohio State-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection. A 3-pack is available on Fanatics for $29.99.

Ohio State Buckeyes Adult Face Covering

Fanatics has released Ohio State Buckeyes Adult Face Coverings. This 3-pack of adult masks, retails for $29.99.


Buy Buckeyes gear: Fanatics, Nike, Amazon, Lids


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College Football Playoff rankings: Ohio State still No. 4 in after cancellation; USC drops to No. 20

Ohio State held on to the fourth spot in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday night after having its previous game canceled, landing behind No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 3 Clemson for a second straight week.

The selection committee’s top seven teams were unchanged from last week’s rankings after the playoff contenders either won comfortably or didn’t play because of COVID-19 issues.

Texas A&M (6-1) was in fifth and Florida (7-1) sixth.

Ohio State (4-0) had to cancel its game at Illinois last week because of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the program. It was the second game of the season the Buckeyes have missed out on. One more cancellation would leave them ineligible for the Big Ten championship game and unable to play more than six regular-season games.

No. 7 Cincinnati (8-0) also had its last game canceled. The Bearcats are next scheduled to play Dec. 12 at Tulsa.

The College Football Playoff has set no minimum number of games played to be eligible for the playoff. It’s just going to be up to the selection committee to figure out how many is too few.

“There is a discrepancy sometimes between a team that plays eight or nine games and a team that’s played three or four games and frankly that’s a problem (in ranking teams),” said selection committee chairman Gary Barta, who is Iowa’s athletic director.

Barta said the committee discussed ranking Texas A&M ahead of Ohio State, but for now the Buckeyes and their potent offense led by quarterback Justin Fields are holding down the final playoff spot.

“When those two teams were put side-by-side this morning and last night, there just wasn’t enough there to put Texas A&M ahead of Ohio State,” Barta said.

Texas A&M is coming off a 20-7 victory against LSU that was played in a rainy and windy conditions.

Georgia was eighth and Iowa State and Miami rounded out the top 10. Oklahoma was 11th, followed by Indiana and BYU.

The Cougars, who are hoping for a New Year’s Six bowl, edged up one spot.

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Clemson
4. Ohio State
5. Texas A&M
6. Florida
7. Cincinnati
8. Georgia
9. Iowa State
10. Miami (FL.)
11. Oklahoma
12. Indiana
13. Brigham Young
14. Northwestern
15. Oklahoma State
16. Wisconsin
17. North Carolina
18. Coastal Carolina
19. Iowa
20. USC
21. Marshall
22. Washington
23. Oregon
24. Tulsa
25. Louisiana-Lafayette

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Texas A&M’s road to the College Football Playoff is all about Notre Dame and white flags

DALLAS — There are two potential paths for Texas A&M to climb into the College Football Playoff, and ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit presented both of them Tuesday, even if he never stated it that way and was forced to apologize for one possibility after the show.



Jimbo Fisher wearing a uniform: Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher disputes a call during a game against Alabama on October 12, 2019, at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.


© Ashley Landis/Dallas Morning News/TNS
Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher disputes a call during a game against Alabama on October 12, 2019, at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.

This, of course, is assuming the Aggies’ offense gets back up to speed after a 2-for-16 third-down conversion performance in an uninspired 20-7 win over one-time nemesis LSU on Saturday. Playing better against Auburn, Tennessee and Ole Miss is presumably coach Jimbo Fisher’s first order of business.

But the Aggies were ranked fifth by the committee a week ago, and they were fifth again Tuesday, and it seems entirely possible they will still be sitting in the No. 5 spot on Dec. 20 when it all counts. There’s no real shame in being fifth and the last one out unless you’re Pete Best.

Do I have to explain that? No.

An appearance in the Orange Bowl would certainly feel like an upgrade for Fisher’s Aggies, but when you’re this close thanks to a 6-1 record with a win over No. 6 Florida, you want to slide right into the big show.

Before Herbstreit made comments that lit a fire under host Rece Davis and led to an apology, he made a simpler statement regarding Notre Dame. “To me, I think maybe they’ve already secured a spot in the playoffs,” he said.

And he’s right.

The Fighting Irish sport a 9-0 record with a win over Clemson. If they lose the ACC Championship rematch with Clemson (Trevor Lawrence missed the game in South Bend due to COVID-19), they would still have one of the four best resumes in the country. That’s as long as they don’t lose the rematch by 30 points and force everyone to think that the game of the year — a 47-40 double overtime win at Notre Dame — was solely a product of Lawrence not being available.

So that’s the first challenge for Aggies fans. Learn the Irish fight song. Be ready to cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame on Dec. 19, and if Clemson falls again, then there’s a definite opening in the top four.

That’s not an entirely likely development, but it’s not out of the question. After watching Notre Dame dismantle 19th-ranked North Carolina on the road Saturday, this team at least looks more equipped to handle big games than recent Irish disappointments.

The second way in for the Aggies relates to the suggestion that led to the fireworks and the apology. Out of the blue, Herbstreit said, “I still think Michigan waves the white flag and potentially avoids playing Ohio State next week.” He then went on to state that it’s just not fair that teams can cancel games and leave their opponent hanging. In this case,

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Texas A&M’s road to the College Football Playoff is all about Notre Dame and white flags

There are two potential paths for Texas A&M to climb into the College Football Playoff, and ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit presented both of them Tuesday, even if he never stated it that way and was forced to apologize for one possibility after the show.

This, of course, is assuming the Aggies’ offense gets back up to speed after a 2-for-16 third down conversion performance in an uninspired 20-7 win over one-time nemesis LSU on Saturday. Playing better against Auburn, Tennessee and Ole Miss is presumably coach Jimbo Fisher’s first order of business.

But the Aggies were ranked fifth by the committee a week ago, and they were fifth again Tuesday, and it seems entirely possible they will still be sitting in the No. 5 spot on Dec. 20 when it all counts. There’s no real shame in being fifth and the last one out unless you’re Pete Best.

Do I have to explain that? No.

An appearance in the Orange Bowl would certainly feel like an upgrade for Fisher’s Aggies, but when you’re this close thanks to a 6-1 record with a win over No. 6 Florida, you want to slide right into the big show.

Before Herbstreit made comments that lit a fire under host Rece Davis and led to an apology, he made a simpler statement regarding Notre Dame. “To me, I think maybe they’ve already secured a spot in the playoffs,” he said.

And he’s right.

The Fighting Irish sport a 9-0 record with a win over Clemson. If they lose the ACC Championship rematch with Clemson (Trevor Lawrence missed the game in South Bend due to COVID-19), they would still have one of the four best resumes in the country. That’s as long as they don’t lose the rematch by 30 points and force everyone to think that the game of the year — a 47-40 double overtime win at Notre Dame — was solely a product of Lawrence not being available.

Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond (11) is chased out of the pocket by LSU defensive lineman Ali Gaye (11) during the first quarter of a game on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. in College Station. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond (11) is chased out of the pocket by LSU defensive lineman Ali Gaye (11) during the first quarter of a game on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. in College Station. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)(Sam Craft)

So that’s the first challenge for Aggies fans. Learn the Irish fight song. Be ready to cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame on Dec. 19, and if Clemson falls again, then there’s a definite opening in the top four.

That’s not an entirely likely development, but it’s not out of the question. After watching Notre Dame dismantle 19th-ranked North Carolina on the road Saturday, this team at least looks more equipped to handle big games than recent Irish disappointments.

The second way in for the Aggies relates to the suggestion that led to the fireworks and the apology. Out of the blue, Herbstreit said, “I still think Michigan waves the white flag and potentially avoids playing Ohio State next week.” He then went on to state that it’s just not fair that teams can

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Is Michigan really gearing up to take a dive so Ohio State can’t make the College Football Playoff? | This is the Loop

Something fishy is brewing over in the Big Ten. On Tuesday night, during ESPN’s weekly College Football Playoff rankings show, former Ohio State Buckeyes signal caller Kirk Herbstreit casually floated this little theory mid-conversation . . .

Nothing in the world of COVID and college football is casual, however, and soon the statement spread like wildfire. Herbie, being the pro’s pro that he is, quickly took to Twitter to douse the flames, but the seed was planted.

Then Wednesday afternoon, right on schedule, Michigan announced it would be pausing football activities due to COVID-19 “concerns” ahead of Saturday’s game against Maryland. Suddenly Herbie’s words came rushing back. Does he know something we don’t? Michigan wouldn’t really . . . would they?

What we’re talking about here would be unprecedented. Taking a dive. Throwing the game. Waving the white flag. The Buckeyes, who have already had games against Maryland and Illinois cancelled and are planning to play Michigan State on Saturday without head coach Ryan Day, would be ineligible for the Big Ten Championship game if they are forced to cancel a third game. And if they cancel a third game, don’t play in the Big Ten Championship game, and finish the season with a record of 5-0, their best win coming against Indiana by a touchdown at home, are they really making the College Football Playoff ahead of a potential one-loss Florida or Texas A&M or an undefeated Cincinnati? Hell no they aren’t. Not even in 2020.

We’re not saying this is what the Wolverines are setting up here, but we’re not not saying it either. Where’s there’s smoke, there’s usually fire, and we know nobody loves to blow smoke quite like the Ann Arbor faithful. But let’s not jump to conclusions just yet. Let’s wait and see how the movers shake and the shakers move. One thing is certain, however: Should this happen—should Michigan take the dive and effectively end Ohio State’s season—then Harbaugh deserves that elusive W he’s been searching for.

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Florida Gators Remain No. 6 in College Football Playoff Rankings

For the second week in a row, the Florida Gators are ranked at No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings. The top seven teams did not move in the second installment of the 2020 rankings.

Below, you can find the top 25 in its entirety.

1, Alabama (8-0)

2. Notre Dame (9-0)

3. Clemson (8-1)

4. Ohio State (4-0)

5. Texas A&M (6-1)

6. Florida (7-1)

7. Cincinnati (8-0)

8. Georgia (6-2)

9. Iowa State (7-2)

10 Miami (7-1)

11. Oklahoma (6-2)

12. Indiana (5-1)

13. Brigham Young (9-0)

14. Northwestern (5-1)

15. Oklahoma State (6-2)

16. Wisconsin (2-1)

17. North Carolina (6-3)

18. Coastal Carolina (9-0)

19. Iowa (4-2)

20. Southern California (3-0)

21. Marshall (7-0)

22. Washington (3-0)

23. Oregon (3-1)

24. Tulsa (5-1)

25. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-1)

In total, four teams can be found from the SEC within the top 25, in fact, within the top 10: Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida, and Georgia.

A win over Tennessee this weekend would lock the Gators into a spot for Dec. 19’s SEC Championship Game, likely to be against Alabama which can clinch the SEC West with a win over LSU on Saturday. Florida has no remaining East games left, and while the Crimson Tide will see divisional opponent Arkansas on Dec. 12, Alabama has the head-to-head advantage over Texas A&M if the two programs end with identical West records.

It’s this simple: If Florida wins out, including in Atlanta against the Crimson Tide, the Gators will make the College Football Playoff for the first time.

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