Miami (Fla.) survived a scare against Virginia. Alabama had no fear of Mercer, and it showed. It was a surprisingly standard Saturday of college football. Enjoy the feeling, because it won’t last long. While waiting for what promises to be two dramatic weeks to close the regular season, here are teams that played themselves into and out of the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowl race in Week 12.


Wisconsin. The Badgers were already in control of their spot in the Playoff before Saturday’s meeting with Michigan. But the solid win against a ranked opponent, even if the Wolverines should drop out of the polls this week, should boost Wisconsin’s credibility even more with the Playoff selection committee. Basically, while Wisconsin’s road to a semifinal demands a win against Ohio State in December, this is the sort of win that may ease the minds of committee members who were on the fence due to the team’s schedule.

Southern California. Beating crosstown rival UCLA handed USC the South Division crown in the Pac-12 and sets up a rematch for the conference title, either with Stanford or Washington State. As they look back at their two losses, it’s the one against the Cougars that should keep the Trojans awake at night — a 30-27 decision that could have been had, unlike a later blowout loss at the hands of Notre Dame. That one knocked USC out of the top-four mix, but a New Year’s Six bowl is 60 minutes away.

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Central Florida. All the Knights do is win in style. UCF avoided a potential trap game at Temple, dropping 45 on the Owls, to set up the biggest Group of Five game of the regular season: South Florida at UCF on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Now 10-0 with just one decided by single digits, the Knights are a lock to represent the Group of Five in a January bowl with wins against the Bulls and Memphis. It’s even possible that UCF could crack the final top 10 heading into the postseason.


Oklahoma State. In the span of three weeks, Oklahoma State has gone from potentially reaching a semifinal, to potentially a New Year’s Six bowl, now to a secondary bowl. After a huge comeback fell short against Kansas State, the Cowboys’ only hope of a major bowl lies with the selection committee: Should Oklahoma make the Playoff, would the committee choose 9-3 Oklahoma State for a New Year’s bowl or pick 10-3 TCU, fresh off a second loss to the Sooners?

Penn State. The Nittany Lions continued their march toward another 10-win season by blitzing Nebraska’s embarrassing defense to the tune of 56 points, 32 first downs and 609 yards of total offense. So there’s some good news: Saquon Barkley put up big numbers, which brings him one step closer to securing an invite to Manhattan for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. But the bad news was Ohio State’s 52-14 win against Illinois, which eliminated Penn State from the East Division race. The quest to make another major bowl took a hit.


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