This has to be the week, doesn't it? In a season devoid of many Earth-shaking upsets, maybe this is the week the Earth moves. The top four in the College Football Playoff Rankings all face rivalry challenges. Maybe we're getting greedy during a week when we're supposed to stuff ourselves.
We have plenty to be thankful for in the world of college football:
- Efficiency: Alabama and Notre Dame can all but clinch playoff berths this weekend, eight days before CFP pick 'em day.
- Les Miles in his sprinter's stance ready to begin recruiting now that Kansas has completed its last game.
- Pat Fitzgerald doing it the right way.
- Northwestern, with hope for the greatest upset of the season next week in the Big Ten Championship Game.
- Jalen Hurts' decision not to transfer from Alabama. That opened the door for Gardner Minshew to go to Washington State and make the mustache cool again.
- The Rams and Chiefs for confirming to the rest of us the NFL is just flat-out ripping off college offenses.
- Dana Holgorsen's hair. (You try to figure it out.)
- A Heisman Trophy race. There suddenly is one.
- Texas wide receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey playing like Big Jordan. The 6-foot-5 Humphrey has used small forward skills to catch a 1,000 yards in passes. "He's our best player," coach Tom Herman said.
- The Holy War: It might be Utah coach Kyle Whittingham's last BYU game if USC comes calling.
- The Los Angeles Coliseum at night for Notre Dame-USC with something on the line.
- Ok, Cool. Hook 'em becoming a (bigger) thing thanks to Michelle Herman.
- More turkey, less Hokie on Thanksgiving.
What's else is at stake? Plenty.
The Game: No. 4 Michigan at No. 10 Ohio State
Both of these things feel like they're possible: Urban Meyer could go on and win his fourth national championship or retire in the near future. It all depends on the result of Michigan-Ohio State (noon ET, streaming live on fuboTV -- try for free). The winner clinches the Big Ten East. We already told you about how the Buckeyes look like the worst best team out there. They're an underdog for the first time in 51 games. Something has been missing since the Purdue loss. Meyer doesn't look healthy. Neither does his defense.
But this game is at The Shoe, where Michigan is favored by 4.5. The Wolverines haven't won this game since 2011 nor won in Columbus, Ohio, since 2000. They have dropped 13 of the last 14 in this series. That's where the issues begin for Jim Harbaugh. That 10-game winning streak won't means much unless he can finally beat the Buckeyes. In essence, the season will be a failure if he doesn't. Michigan fans hate Ohio State more than they'll ever love Harbaugh.
"He's got to beat Ohio State this week," Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson said.
Michigan tailback Karan Higdon has guaranteed a win. Yeah, that's tired and worn and cliche, but the Wolverines are tired and worn from losing. The Big Ten office is secretly -- or maybe overtly -- rooting for Harbaugh. It doesn't want a 12-1 Ohio State being compared to a 12-1 Alabama, Oklahoma and Washington State by the CFP Selection Committee. That committee already seems to have made a statement by dropping the Buckeyes to No. 10 this week.
Last stands: No. 3 Notre Dame at USC
Notre Dame (11-0) needs to win Saturday night at the Coliseum to basically clinch a spot in the CFP. Wow, that sure snuck up on us quick. It's fitting the Irish go from one coast (New York) to the other (Los Angeles) in one week to prove they are worthy.
Brian Kelly has positioned himself as a hot (NFL) coaching commodity and his team as a worthy playoff contender. Quarterback Ian Book has at least 260 yards passing and multiple touchdown throws in all seven of his starts. Meanwhile, coordinator Don Brown's defense is one of only four yet to give up at least 28 points this season. (Clemson, Fresno State and Michigan are the others.)
Judging the mood in Southern California, USC is already set to move on from Helton. A GoFundMe page has been started to pull one of those "Fire Helton" banners over the Coliseum and to pay for a full-page ad in the L.A. Times. The UCLA loss was the last straw. Helton is a decent man and good coach, but USC fancies itself with a high-profile coach. That's the problem. There aren't that many available. Complicating things: An upset gets USC into a bowl and may give athletic director Lynn Swann second thoughts.
Iron Bowl: Auburn at No. 1 Alabama
Go ahead, try to get excited for one of the more low-key Iron Bowls. Auburn -- a more than three-touchdown underdog -- doesn't figure to put up much of a fight. That's what rankles Tigers fans. Alabama just keeps winning. Auburn is a year away from a double-digit win season that propelled it to the SEC Championship Game.
The one thing Gus Malzahn can count on for his offense; he can't in this one. The running game is severely limited. Leading rusher JaTarvious Whitlow hasn't had double-digit carries for a month. His last rushing touchdown was Sept. 22. This is Auburn's worst rushing attack since 2012. Anyone else agree that QB Jarrett Stidham has been a bit of a disappointment this season?
You might have heard Alabama has more weapons than the U.S. Department of Defense. Win this one, and Alabama may have clinched a playoff spot -- win or lose against Georgia.
Palmetto clash: South Carolina at No. 2 Clemson
Clemson has beaten its last six opponents by a combined 302-49. South Carolina (6-4) is already bowl eligible. The Tigers are already have clinched a spot against Pittsburgh next week in the ACC Championship Game. Clemson has won four straight in the series. South Carolina's best hope: Clemson hasn't won five straight in the series since 1938.
Baffling Big 12: Title game now set
No. 14 Texas kicked off the action on Friday by clinching a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game after winning its 15th in the last 16 meetings against Kansas. The road was not as simple for No. 6 Oklahoma, which edged No. 13 West Virginia 59-56 in a thriller. The win by the Sooners at least keeps the Big 12 alive in the CFP conversation, even if they will need a good amount of help to ultimately get in the field.
Apple Cup followed its usual format
Just as it had in the teams' prior five meetings, No. 16 Washington earned a double-digit victory over No. 7 Washington State on Saturday night on a snowy field in Pullman, Washington. The victory marked the Huskies' ninth in the last 10 meetings against the Cougars, who had a terrific season behind Minshew but once again failed to get past rivalry week when it truly mattered.
Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate: Georgia Tech at No. 5 Georgia
Dawgs everywhere are upset Georgia Tech ripped up Sanford Stadium's hedges after a one-point upset win two years ago. Receiver Isaac Hauta says the Yellow Jackets won't get that chance again on Friday. "I definitely don't want them to win here ever again," Nauta said. "We're going to make sure that don't happen again." We'll see. Georgia Tech has actually won in the last two visits to Georgia.
Sunshine Showdown: No. 11 Florida at Florida State
Florida State (5-6) needs to beat Florida (8-3) to add to its 37-game bowl streak. This is also one of the worst Seminoles teams in years. FSU has history going for it having won five straight in the series. Florida has a better roster going for it. This is the second straight year the Gators face a sub-.500 FSU. The last time that happened was 1976. Florida has a potential New Year's Six bowl berth on the line in Year 1 under coach Dan Mullen, plus it hasn't beaten FSU since 2012.
Major casualty in The War on I-4
No. 9 UCF (11-0) completed its undefeated regular season but not without a devastating loss. The Knights saw star QB McKenzie Milton go down with a gnarly right leg injury that resulted in Milton being carted off the field and immediately taken to the hospital. UCF still managed to blast South Florida 38-10 thanks to an insane effort from running back Greg McCrae, who took 16 carries for 181 yards and three touchdowns. UCF will now face Memphis in the AAC Championship Game with a New Year's Six berth on the line. The Knights escaped the Tigers by a single point back in Memphis, Tennessee, earlier this season.
Keep climbing: No. 21 Utah State at No. 23 Boise State
The Utah State-Boise winner clinches the MWC Mountain and plays Fresno State in the MWC Championship Game. The only reason Utah State is here is because a Colorado State receiver stepped out of bounds, came back in and caught the would-have-been game-winning touchdown pass on a Hail Mary last week. Except that you can't do, that so the Rams didn't win the game. Boise is gunning for its second straight conference title. Look for coaches in this game to get a look at USC, if the Trojans make a move. Aggies coach Matt Wells' team has won 10 in a row. Boise's Bryan Harsin has just about maxed out with the Broncos.