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College football Week 12: Five games match ranked teams

The jockeying for position in the College Football Playoff race and among New Year's Six bowl contenders is heating up with significant games in the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten.

Coach Matt Rhule's undefeated Baylor Bears will host Oklahoma on Saturday night.
Coach Matt Rhule's undefeated Baylor Bears will host Oklahoma on Saturday night.Read moreEric Gay / AP

Week 12 has the most games, five, matching ranked teams this season. The scramble to stay alive in the College Football Playoff race is hot, as is the competition for a New Year’s Six bowl.

While there are no glamour games to speak of compared to last week, competition will be everywhere.

Georgia (No. 4 College Football Playoff/No. 5 Associated Press) at Auburn (No. 12 CFP/No. 13 AP), 3:30 p.m., CBS3

The Tigers have two losses, which likely leave them on the fringes of playoff contention, but they can certainly help themselves and impact the ranking with wins at home both Saturday and in two weeks against Alabama.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are this week’s surprise participant in the top four of the CFP rankings. They have won three straight and posted shutouts in two of those victories. They have yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season.

Coupled with its defense, Georgia would appear to have the advantage at quarterback with junior Jake Fromm, who has completed 67% of his passes for 1,859 yards and 13 touchdowns with three interceptions, going against Tigers freshman Bo Nix (56.5%, 1,798 yards, 12 touchdowns, six interceptions).

But Nix has passed for 675 yards in his last two home games, against Mississippi State and Mississippi, and Auburn’s pass rush might test a Bulldogs offensive line that has allowed just five sacks.

Oklahoma (No. 10 CFP/AP) at Baylor (No. 13 CFP/No. 12 AP), 7:30 p.m., 6ABC

The Big 12 has provided more than its share of tightly contested football games. One-half of conference games have been decided by eight points or fewer. Six Big 12 teams own a win against a top 25 opponent from the league.

But that competition is making it difficult for one team to emerge as a playoff contender. The Sooners seemed to have the best chance, but they blew a big lead last week and had to stop a two-point conversion try by Iowa State to win, 42-41. They dropped from ninth to 10th in the CFP.

Meanwhile, Baylor, coached by former Temple head man Matt Rhule, has the lowest CFP ranking of any undefeated team. The Bears have been called lucky — two overtime wins, two other wins by three points or fewer — but it doesn’t hurt to have a little luck sometimes.

They’ll need some Saturday. The Bears are 3-24 all-time against Oklahoma, and have lost the last four.

Minnesota (No. 8 CFP/No. 7 AP) at Iowa (No. 20 CFP/No. 23 AP), 4 p.m., Fox29

P.J. Fleck and his undefeated Golden Gophers row the boat into Kinnick Stadium, where they haven’t won since 1999, a run of eight straight losses. They might see more resistance from the Hawkeyes defense, which has allowed just 12 touchdowns, third fewest in FBS, than that of Penn State.

In going 18-for-20 last week for 339 yards, Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan became only the second FBS quarterback in the last 20 years to have two games with a 90% completion rate in the same season, matching Florida State’s Jameis Winston in 2013.

Louisiana State (No. 1 CFP/AP) at Mississippi, 7 p.m., ESPN

The big question is whether the Tigers’ monumental win last week over Alabama has lingered into this rivalry game known as the Magnolia Bowl. They know, however, there is a lot at stake — remaining atop the SEC West, landing a berth in the conference championship game and, of course, grabbing one of the four playoff berths.

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, has thrown for 3,198 yards and is 149 yards from the single-season program record for passing yardage.

Alabama (No. 5 CFP/No. 4 AP) at Mississippi State, noon, ESPN

What, oh what would the lords of college football do if the Crimson Tide had to sit out the College Football Playoff for a year?

Alabama has made the field in each of the playoff’s five seasons, winning two national championships. However, at No. 5 and with an unimpressive list of victories, that streak is in jeopardy.

Against the Bulldogs, the Tide hope to avoid their first two-game losing streak since 2013. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who played against LSU on a gimpy ankle, will be a game-time decision.

Wake Forest at Clemson (No. 3 CFP/AP), 3:30 p.m., 6ABC

The Tigers, fifth in the CFP last week, swapped places with Alabama to move into the first four. The bad news is that the Demon Deacons got clobbered last week by Virginia Tech and fell out of the rankings, meaning Clemson has not defeated a single team that is currently ranked (Texas A&M was No. 12 when they played the Tigers in September but now is 6-3 and unranked). They will be tested, however, by quarterback Jamie Newman, who leads the ACC’s top passing attack.

What else is happening?

— A streak likely will end Saturday when Notre Dame (No. 16 CFP/AP) takes on Navy (No. 23 CFP/No. 21 AP). The Fighting Irish’s athletic department said this game will not sell out, snapping the program’s streak of 273 sellouts dating to the final game of the 1973 season. This is the first time since 1978 that both teams are ranked in the AP top 25 on the day of their game.

— The AP cites “several gambling organizations” as saying the 51-point spread for Ohio State (No. 2 CFP/AP) at Rutgers is the largest for a Big Ten game. It should just be a brisk workout for the Buckeyes in advance of next week’s showdown against Penn State, and will provide some entertaining viewing for defensive end Chase Young as he sits out the final game of his two-game suspension. The Scarlet Knights have lost their last 18 Big Ten games.

— Oregon (No. 6 CFP/AP) can clinch the Pac-12 North and earn a berth in the conference title game by defeating Arizona on Saturday night. Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert has 24 touchdown passes, tying him for ninth in FBS. The Wildcats average nearly 496 yards of total offense, but the Oregon defense has allowed just 54 points in five games at home this season.

Expatriate of the week

Christian Barmore, who was an All-Catholic League defensive lineman at Neumann Goretti, has become part of the rotation at nose guard for Alabama.

A 6-foot-5, 310-pound redshirt freshman, Barmore made his college football debut Sept. 7 against New Mexico State and contributed three tackles. In eight games, he has 12 total tackles, with 3 ½ tackles for loss, 1 ½ sacks and three quarterback hurries.