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Five games in Week 13 that will impact the College Football Playoff race

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 11/22/2019 Eddie Timanus, USA TODAY
a group of men playing a game of football: Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert looks for a receiver during the first half against Colorado at Autzen Stadium. © Troy Wayrynen, USA TODAY Sports Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert looks for a receiver during the first half against Colorado at Autzen Stadium.

With one notable exception, the penultimate weekend of the college football regular season doesn’t appear to feature many games that will drastically alter the postseason picture. Of course, it is on just such weekends that chaos often emerges from expected places. Chaos avoidance, then, is the order of the day for the primary contenders.

Here are the five games with the most potential impact on the College Football Playoff chase.

No. 9 Penn State at No. 2 Ohio State

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Saturday, noon ET, Fox

It wasn’t easy, but the Nittany Lions got the bounce-back win they needed against Indiana to set up this head-to-head showdown with the Buckeyes for control of the Big Ten East. Ohio State hopes to end the suspense in the division race altogether before their finale against Michigan.

Even when the opponent isn’t named Rutgers, Ohio State is still posting an average victory margin of nearly six touchdowns. QB Justin Fields and RB J.K. Dobbins have been nearly unstoppable. Penn State DE Shaka Toney and LB Micah Parsons will lead the effort to at least slow them down. The equally dominant Buckeyes’ defense, featuring do-everything LB Malik Harrison and standout CB Jeff Okudah, will regain the services of DE Chase Young with his NCAA matter cleared up. Nittany Lions QB Sean Clifford does have good mobility, which he’ll likely need in order to make use of WR KJ Hamler and TE Pat Freiermuth. Hamler's status, however, is uncertain due to an injury that caused him to miss most of the Indiana win.

POWER RANKINGS: ACC | Big 12Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

UNDERDOG ROLE: Penn State relishes matchup with No. 2 Ohio State

BOWL PROJECTIONS: Unbeatens fall to change playoff outlook

No. 24 Texas A&M at No. 4 Georgia

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Georgia has already won the SEC East, but the Bulldogs must nevertheless avoid a stumble here before they play for the conference title against, in all likelihood. LSU. The Aggies, who still must take on those aforementioned Bayou Bengals next week to close out their killer schedule, would like to notch at least one top-tier win.

The Bulldogs dominated last week for three quarters but needed a final stop before winning at Auburn. QB Jake Fromm was able to make enough plays against the Tigers’ stingy defense. He figures to have an easier time this week, though top WR Lawrence Cager aggravated a shoulder injury and might be limited. A big day for RB D’Andre Swift would be UGa’s best-case scenario, but Aggies LBs Buddy Johnson and Anthony Hines will try to keep him in check. Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond and RB Isaiah Spiller might have their hands full against the Georgia defense, which finally allowed its first rushing TD of the season late last week but still knows how to control gaps. LBs Monty Rice Jr. and Tae Crowder should again be around the ball often.

No. 6 Oregon at Arizona State

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

Oregon’s spot in the Pac-12 title game is secured. The Ducks must now make sure they’ll be 11-1 when they get there and hope Utah is as well. Two somewhat challenging games stand in their way, starting with this date with the seemingly snake-bitten Sun Devils. ASU could be better than its .500 record indicates, but last week’s loss to Oregon State thanks to a failed two-point attempt was its third setback by five points or fewer.

One of the Sun Devils’ losses that wasn’t particularly close, however, was against Utah, the Pac-12’s other top 10 squad. QB Jayden Daniels didn’t get much help in that one, and Ducks S Jevon Holland and Co. will likewise do their best to keep him bottled up. Meanwhile, Oregon QB Justin Herbert has been the veteran leader he was expected to be, amassing 28 TD passes with just three picks. His receiving corps has been hit hard by the injury bug, but Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd are consistent producers who will give S Evan Fields and the Sun Devils plenty of concerns.

TCU at No. 7 Oklahoma

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox

The Big 12 still has two candidates with a non-zero chance to reach the playoff. Both will need a few breaks, of course, but they must also avoid playing themselves out of the equation. The Sooners rescued their top-four aspirations for the time being with last week’s second-half rally at Baylor. The Horned Frogs, who made that same Bears’ squad work three overtimes not long ago, won’t make it easy for OU.

With the availability of top WR CeeDee Lamb still in question due to an undisclosed medical issue, Sooners QB Jalen Hurts might again have to rely on Charleston Rambo to stretch the field. OU fans would probably like to see RB Kennedy Brooks take more handoffs to limit collisions for Hurts, but TCU LB Garret Wallow will try to eliminate that option. Horned Frogs QB Max Duggan has begun to show flashes of his enormous potential in recent outings. The freshman will need to be even more accurate to keep pace and exploit the Sooners’ pass defense that can still be leaky. Oklahoma DE Ronnie Perkins will try to help them with another strong effort.

Texas at No. 13 Baylor

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FS1

This will serve as a major resilience test for these teams coming off devastating losses. The Bears are in a somewhat better position as a win will all but guarantee them a rematch with Oklahoma. The Longhorns likely squandered any hope of reaching the Big 12 title game thanks to last week’s setback at Iowa State and must find motivation where they can.

After a huge first half aided by Oklahoma miscues, QB Charlie Brewer and the Baylor offense couldn’t stay on the field after intermission. He and big-play WR Denzel Mims must regain their rhythm quickly. The openings should be there against the depleted Texas secondary, but DE Ta’Quon Graham will try to throw off their timing. The Longhorns had the opposite problem last week in Ames, with the offense not kicking into gear until after halftime. QB Sam Ehlinger has been streaky this season, so a fast start would be just as preferable for him. His main nemesis will be Baylor DE James Lynch.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Five games in Week 13 that will impact the College Football Playoff race

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