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Playoff Push: The five biggest games of the weekend

FSU Clemson

Easy as it is to get caught up in the whirling coaching carousel, there are football games this weekend - and massively important ones at that. The season has reached its third act, and with the College Football Playoff releasing its first rankings on Tuesday, every week will shift and squeeze the final picture at a magnitude greater than that of September and October.

With that said, here's a quick look at everything that's at stake this weekend.

1. Florida State at Clemson
2. LSU at Alabama

Grouping these together because their recent history is nearly identical. LSU and Clemson each beat their divisional nemeses in 2011 en route to a conference championship. Neither has done so since, despite coming achingly close. LSU held a fourth quarter lead over Alabama in 2012 and 2014 and failed to hang on both times. Clemson did the same at Florida State last season, turning a 17-10 fourth quarter edge into a 23-17 overtime loss.

Both sets of Tigers enter Saturday undefeated, ranked higher and in possession of the best player on the field. Alabama is a touchdown favorite over LSU, but the Tide is just 2-5 against the spread as a favorite and 1-5 against the spread in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

For both Dabo Swinney and Les Miles, Saturday's game is an "If not now, when?" situation.

3. TCU at Oklahoma State

Of the four teams vying for the Big 12 championship, only Oklahoma accomplished anything more than bupkis in non-conference play. That's bad for their collective strengths of schedule, but great for building drama, because we're entering what amounts to a month-long round-robin squared circle of doom. Whoever loses is (probably) done. Whoever manages to emerge unscathed will (almost assuredly) become the first Big 12 team to reach the College Football Playoff.

How good is this Oklahoma State team? Seriously, how good are they? I'm asking because no one knows. The Cowboys were extremely fortunate to beat Texas and Kansas State, but, still, they beat Texas and Kansas State. They survived West Virginia in Morgantown and roared back from two 17-point deficits to put a licking on Texas Tech in Lubbock. All of those accomplishments seem impressive on paper, but pale in comparison to the challenge of defending Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson.

Here's what we do know: The Brothers Mike (Gundy and Yurcich) seem to have figured out how to compliment the skills of quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and J.W. Walsh, and Glenn Spencer's defense enters Saturday ranked ahead of his purple-clad counterparts. But TCU's defense is starting to figure things out (seven shutouts in their last 10 quarters) and the Boykin-Doctson combination seems immune to off weeks. Something else we know: both of these teams are well-conditioned for wild, back-and-forth shootouts.

3. Baylor at Kansas State

Since 2011, Art Briles has owned just about every destination in the Big 12... except Stillwater and Manhattan. He visits both this year. Baylor took future Heisman winner Robert Griffin III to Manhattan in 2011 and lost to an unranked Kansas State team, 36-35, blowing a nine-point lead with six minutes to play. In 2013, Briles took an eventual Big 12 champion Baylor team to face a Kansas State team that hadn't yet won a game in Big 12 play and didn't put the game away until the 1:16 mark of the fourth quarter.

On Thursday, Briles again takes his undefeated Bears team to face a seemingly overmatched Kansas State team, except this time, instead of RG3 and Bryce Petty, he's got a true freshman making his first career start.

5. Navy at Memphis

Toledo has fallen, all but assuring the winner of the American will head to either the Peach or Fiesta bowl as the Group of Five's representative. So, it'll be East Division winner Temple against the winner of the Houston-Memphis game, right? Not exactly.

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Only a road loss to Notre Dame separates Navy from the Cougars and Tigers.

Navy ranks fourth nationally in rushing, while Memphis is 22nd against the run.