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Playoff Push: The five games that will shape this week's Playoff debate

rickety bridge

We've reached the point in the season where every College Football Playoff contender has stepped on to a long, rotten rickety bridge. Every step, every jolt, every gust of wind is a tremor felt across the entire structure, and every wrong move sends you plunging into the gushing rapids 80 feet below.

It's with that picture in mind we dissect this week's games that matter in the College Football Playoff race:

1. Michigan State at Ohio State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC): The situation in the Big Ten is fairly simple. If Ohio State, Michigan State or Iowa win their remaining games, they're headed to Dallas or Miami on New Year's Eve. Lose, and they're not.

Now, who will actually win Saturday? Ohio State seems to have all the advantages here. They're at home. They have a healthy J.T. Barrett at quarterback. Michigan State may or may not have quarterback Connor Cook after injuring his throwing shoulder in last week's win over Maryland. Because of that the Buckeyes are 13-point favorites.

But there is this to consider: in all three previous meetings between Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio, the underdog has won every time.

2. Baylor at Oklahoma State (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
3. TCU at Oklahoma (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

I'm not one to think the Playoff's selection committee has it out for the Big 12. I do, however, think the conference has clearly battled a life-threatening snakebite over the past two years.

The latest example: TCU and Baylor heading into massive game as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and both are severely banged up. The Frogs will be without All-America wide receiver Josh Doctson and possibly Heisman candidate quarterback Trevone Boykin. Baylor has already lost starting quarterback Seth Russell and must play a banged up true freshman backup in Jarrett Stidham.

Stranger things have happened, but to these eyes it appears Saturday night is shaping up for two gaping Oklahoma and Oklahoma State wins - and to then receive precisely zero credit for them on Tuesday night.

4. Temple at Memphis (noon ET, ESPNU)
5. USC at Oregon (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Each of these games are big on their own. Temple likely makes or breaks its AAC championship bid with a trip to a wounded by talented Memphis team. Two wins gives them the East title. A loss and two USF wins hands it to the Bulls. Considering the Owls close with UConn, if they're going to lose, this is probably the time they'd do it.

Likewise, two Utah losses (including a 42-24 setback at L.A. Coliseum in October) has handed Clay Helton's Trojans control of the Pac-12 South. Beat Oregon in Autzen and UCLA next week in the Coliseum and USC will play for the Pac-12 championship.

So, yes, these are gigantic games for each team as Temple looks to win its way into the Peach or Fiesta bowls and USC into the Rose.

But they may be even bigger for Notre Dame - and, thus, the Big 12.

There's a chance the Irish's resume could contain wins over AAC East champion Temple, AAC West champion Navy (if the Mids beat Houston next week), Pac-12 South champion USC and Pac-12 North champion Stanford (if the Cardinal beats Cal this week and, obviously, the Irish win in Palo Alto next week).

Notre Dame's resume is already strong, but wins over all four participants in the American and Pac-12 championship games would be a strong argument for a conference title-less Irish team and could leave the Big 12 on the outside looking in for the second year in a row.