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The 10 Games That Will Determine College Football’s Playoff – New York Times

Sept. 30, Northwestern at Wisconsin

The de facto Big Ten West Division championship game comes in Madison, Wis., in the season’s first month. Unlike the East, where Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State are gathered, the West’s best chance to send a team to the playoff is by winning the division, then picking off the East champion in the conference title game.

Oct. 14, Oklahoma vs. Texas (in Dallas)

This Red River Rivalry game is as good a bet as any for determining Big 12 pecking order. But this year’s arrives with a bonus: Both teams have first-year head coaches (Tom Herman and Lincoln Riley, the first time that has happened since 1947, Bud Wilkinson’s first year with the Sooners).


For Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Sooners, the path to the College Football Playoff includes trips to Ohio State and Oklahoma State.

LM Otero/Associated Press

Oct. 28, Penn State at Ohio State

It is not as simple as saying the winner has punched its ticket to the playoff: Last year, it was the loser, Ohio State, that got to go. Still, if the Nittany Lions can win in Columbus and otherwise avoid trouble in the Big Ten’s East Division, they will have an extremely strong case. Note: Michigan travels to Penn State and hosts Ohio State this season.

Nov. 4, Virginia Tech at Miami

More division math: The winner of the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division is likely to get a chance to face an extremely good team (Clemson? Florida State?) in the conference title game. These are the two most probable contenders for that title shot.

Nov. 4, Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

The Bedlam game was moved up from its typical spot in the regular season’s final week to minimize the risk that the Big 12 championship game, already guaranteed to be a rematch in the league’s one-division structure, did not simply replay a game from the previous week. That is how likely schedulers thought it was that the Sooner State would supply both entrants.

Nov. 10, Washington at Stanford

Much of the Pacific-12 attention is focused on Southern California and its Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback, Sam Darnold, and rightly so. But the Huskies return quarterback Jake Browning, who led them to the College Football Playoff last year, and Stanford figures to challenge as well. Moreover, the winner is in pole position to win the North Division, and for all that aforementioned U.S.C. hype, it is the North winner that has won every Pac-12 title game since its inception in 2011.

Nov. 11, Florida State at Clemson

Chaos could happen in the A.C.C. Atlantic Division … but probably not. The winner of this annual game has eventually taken the A.C.C. championship the last six seasons, and it has also made at least the national semifinals in the last four years.

Nov. 25, Alabama at Auburn

The Southeastern Conference West Division (well, the whole conference) is still all about who can beat Alabama. This season, while the Crimson Tide will host Louisiana State, they will go on the road for the Iron Bowl against Auburn. So this rivalry game could be the best chance to knock them off. This game’s victor has won every SEC title since 2009, except for 2011 — when the winner (Alabama) still won the national championship.

Correction: September 1, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the site of the Northwestern-Wisconsin game on Sept. 30. It will be at Wisconsin, in Madison, not at Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.

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