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Ohio State and Michigan are headed for a huge Big Ten clash — if the Buckeyes can handle Michigan State

Alabama can clinch an SEC title game berth vs. No. 1 Georgia with a win over Arkansas. The Crimson Tide have won the last 14 matchups.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is a leading Heisman Trophy candidate.
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is a leading Heisman Trophy candidate.Read moreJay LaPrete / AP

Week 12 of the college football season is all about positioning — teams looking to punch their tickets for conference championship games, and teams trying to find a way to earn a coveted top-four berth in the College Football Playoff rankings.

No. 7 Michigan State at No. 5 Ohio State (-19), noon, 6ABC

The three-way tie in the ultra-competitive Big Ten East will be reduced by at least one team, with the Buckeyes (9-1, 6-1) in the unusual position of being cheered on by what Urban Meyer used to call “that team up North,” a.k.a. archrival Michigan.

The main question is whether the Spartans (9-1, 6-1) can play better pass defense; they are dead last in FBS, allowing 329 passing yards per game. Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, a Heisman Trophy front-runner, has thrown for 3,036 yards and 30 touchdowns accompanied by the nation’s best trio of wide receivers — Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

» READ MORE: Can Penn State avoid another fourth-quarter collapse?

The Spartans boast their own Heisman candidate, running back Kenneth Walker III, who has rushed for an FBS-high 1,473 yards and 17 touchdowns. Plus, Ohio State has shown it can be scored upon, having yielded 31 points last week against Purdue.

Michigan, also 6-1 in the conference, plays at Maryland. Should the Wolverines and the Buckeyes win, they will meet next Saturday at the Big House for a berth in the Big Ten championship game.

PREDICTION: Ohio State 48, Michigan State 31

No. 21 Arkansas at No. 2 Alabama (-20½), 3:30 p.m., CBS3

The Crimson Tide (9-1, 5-1), ranked No. 2 again this week by the College Football Playoff committee, can clinch the SEC West title and a spot in the conference championship game against Georgia with a victory over the Razorbacks (7-3, 3-3), a team they have defeated 14 consecutive times.

Arkansas, which has won three straight, ranks sixth in FBS in rushing at 233.5 yards per game and has four players who have rushed for at least 456 yards. The problem? Alabama comes in at No. 4 in rush defense, allowing an average of 83.5 yards.

» READ MORE: Rutgers’ football fortunes improving under coach Greg Schiano with the help of ‘chop’

The Tide also can play a little offense with Bryce Young (3,025 yards, 33 TD passes) at the controls. They are averaging 44.6 points, third in FBS.

PREDICTION: Alabama 45, Arkansas 22

SMU at No. 3 Cincinnati (-11½), 3:30 p.m., ESPN

The Bearcats (10-0, 6-0 AAC) remain in the CFP’s equivalent of the on-deck circle, standing at No. 5 in the rankings and waiting for one of the four teams ahead of them to falter. The debate continues: Yes, they’re unbeaten and deserve to be highly ranked, but no, they should be beating conference rivals in a more decisive fashion.

The Mustangs (8-2, 4-2) lost two of their last three to fall out of the Top 25. So while this game might have lost some luster, it still presents a chance for SMU to play spoiler and run into Cincinnati again in the conference championship game.

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The Mustangs’ Tanner Mordecai, who played behind Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts, and Spencer Rattler at Oklahoma in his career before transferring, is enjoying a special season — 37 touchdown passes (second in FBS) and 3,264 yards. Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder leads an offense that averages 39 points.

PREDICTION: Cincinnati 37, SMU 31

Virginia at No. 20 Pittsburgh (-14½), 3:30 p.m., ESPN2

The Panthers (8-2, 5-1) can clinch the ACC Coastal Division title with a victory in what figures to be a shootout. If you take the average points scored and total offense for each team, it’s a combined 78.8 points and 1,049.6 yards.

Those figures may not be reached if quarterback Brennan Armstrong is unable to come back for the Cavaliers (6-4, 4-2) from what has been reported to be bruised ribs. He sat out last week’s game against Notre Dame.

» READ MORE: With each defeat, Penn State’s postseason plans involve a lower-tier bowl game

Pitt has a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Kenny Pickett (3,517 yards, 32 TDs) and a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist in Jordan Addison (60 catches, 1,070 yards, 11 TDs). Defensively, the Panthers have posted 36 sacks, third in FBS.

PREDICTION: Pitt 55, Virginia 38

Nebraska at No. 19 Wisconsin (-9), 3:30 p.m., 6ABC

Winners of six straight, the Badgers (7-3, 5-2) are tied with Iowa for the Big Ten West lead but hold the tiebreaker as a result of their win over the Hawkeyes three weeks ago.

The Wisconsin defense has been outstanding, ranking first or second in FBS in the four major categories: scoring, rush, pass, and total defense. Its offense has new life thanks to freshman Braelon Allen, who has rushed for 100 yards in six consecutive games, including a career-high 173 last week.

The Cornhuskers (3-7, 1-6) have been a baffling bunch. Head coach Scott Frost fired four offensive assistants last week, but Nebraska ranks 16th nationally in total offense (459 yards per game) and hasn’t lost any game by more than nine points.

PREDICTION: Wisconsin 24, Nebraska 14

No. 4 Oregon at No. 24 Utah (-3), 7:30 p.m., 6ABC

This could be a preview of the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 3, but the stakes are higher for the Ducks (9-1, 6-1), who are ranked third in the College Football Playoff rankings and would like to stay there for two more weeks.

The offenses are pretty equal — 35.7 points and 438 total offensive yards per game for the Utes (7-3, 6-1), 35.3 points and 441 yards per game for Oregon. The conference’s top three in sacks — the Ducks’ Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Utah’s Mike Tafua and Devin Lloyd — will spend the night in pursuit of quarterbacks.

Oregon ranks 11th in FBS in rushing, and Travis Dye is one of the conference’s top performers in that category with 908 yards.

PREDICTION: Oregon 35, Utah 31