College Football Picks: Playoff-elimination possibilities

Oct 18, 2017 - 7:54 PM A team that has lost two games has yet to make the College Football Playoff. The playoff has only been in existence since 2014, and it's bound to happen at some point, but for now it seems like a difficult bar to clear. So it seems fair to say that No. 11 Southern California (6-1) and No. 13 Notre Dame (5-1) are playing an elimination game on Saturday night in South Bend, Indiana. The big games are back this weekend after upsets dominated the schedule last week. The Trojans and Fighting Irish have not met when both were ranked since 2009, and it has been since 2006 since both were ranked in the top 15. An argument could be made that the storied rivals haven't play a game where the stakes were so high on both sides since 2005's "Bush Push" game. No. 19 Michigan (5-1) is also likely putting its playoff hopes on the line when it visits No. 2 Penn State. The Wolverines and Nittany Lions have not played with both teams ranked since 2002. The picks: THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS No. 25 Memphis (plus 3) at Houston Tigers snapped a six-game losing streak to the Cougars last season ... MEMPHIS 35-28. SATURDAY MAIN EVENTS No. 19 Michigan (plus 10) at No. 2 Penn State Winning this without much offense is going to be a very tall task for the Wolverines ... PENN STATE 24-16. No. 11 Southern California (plus 3 ½) at No. 13 Notre Dame A USC loss would also be another major hit for the Pac-12's playoff chances ... NOTRE DAME 31-30. STAYING UNBEATEN Tennessee (plus 34 ½) at No. 1 Alabama Tide has won 10 straight and the Vols' chances of ending the skid could not be much bleaker ... ALABAMA 48-7. Kansas (plus 39 ½) at No. 4 TCU Jayhawks have lost 43 straight road games, though Kansas has stayed within 14 points against the Horned Frogs in each of the last five games ... TCU 38-9. Maryland (plus 24) at No. 5 Wisconsin Terps, down to their third-string QB, face one of the toughest run defenses in the Big Ten. Not ideal ... WISCONSIN 35-17. Syracuse (plus 16) at No. 8 Miami Former Big East rivals play for the first time since 2003 ... MIAMI 31-21. BIG 12 ROAD TESTS No. 9 Oklahoma (minus 14) at Kansas State In 1983, when Sooners coach Lincoln Riley was born, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, now 78, was in his fifth season as offensive coordinator for Hayden Fry at Iowa ... OKLAHOMA 38-21. No. 10 Oklahoma State (minus 6) at Texas Longhorns have been close against USC and Oklahoma. Charlie Strong had a lot of close calls, too ...TEXAS 38-31, UPSET SPECIAL. No. 16 South Florida (minus 11 ½) at Tulane Bulls going for 24th straight game with at least 30 points to break an FBS record they now share with Oregon ... TULANE 28-27. No. 20 UCF (minus 7) at Navy Can the Midshipmen play keep-away with the highest-scoring team in the country? ... UCF 35-24. CONFERENCE CALLS North Carolina (minus 21) at No. 14 Virginia Tech Tar Heels are in very real danger of going 0-8 in conference ... VIRGINIA TECH 38-14. Colorado (plus 10 ½) at No. 15 Washington State Buffs TB Phillip Lindsay is averaging 25.4 carries per game, tops among Power Five conference running backs; the Cougars are averaging 26.1 rushing attempts per game as a team — which includes quarterback sacks ... WASHINGTON STATE 33-20. Indiana (plus 6 ½) at No. 18 Michigan State Hoosiers snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Spartans last year, a loss that sent Michigan State spiraling to a three-win season ... MICHIGAN STATE 24-16. No. 21 Auburn (minus 15 ½) at Arkansas Tigers beat the Razorbacks by 53 last year and it was every bit as bad as the score indicated ... AUBURN 35-14, BEST BET. No. 23 West Virginia (minus 9) at Baylor Winless Bears were showing some signs of improvement before getting routed last week at Oklahoma State ... WEST VIRGINIA 38-31. No. 24 LSU (minus 6 ½) at Mississippi Renewed hope for the Tigers' season still feels a little tenuous ... LSU 35-24. TWITTER REQUESTS Arizona State (plus 9) at Utah — @BigCatPhx Was last week's upset a turning point or aberration for the Sun Devils? ... UTAH 28-21. Kentucky (plus 10 ½) at Mississippi State — @The_Kip_Wilson A victory for the Wildcats would be a huge step toward preventing Georgia from running away with the SEC East ... MISSISSIPPI STATE 28-20. Iowa (minus 1 ½) at Northwestern — @ACPressSports Everybody in the Big Ten West is playing for second behind Wisconsin, but the Hawkeyes can at least still hope to catch the Badgers ... NORTHWESTERN 24-20. Iowa State (plus 6 ½) at Texas Tech — @shawn200m Cyclones' 66-10 victory against the Red Raiders last season sent shock waves through Lubbock. Tech has so far looked improved, but another loss to Iowa State would be viewed as a big setback ... TEXAS TECH 38-28. Louisville (plus 6 ½) at Florida State — @RTD_MikeBarber The loser is the best most disappointing team in the ACC, maybe the country ... FLORIDA STATE 34-24. ___ Record last week: 18-7 straight up; 15-9-1 against the spread. Record this season: 121-37 straight up; 69-75-5 against the spread. Upset specials: 3-4 (straight up). Best bets: 5-1 (vs. points). ___ Follow Ralph D. Russo at ___ More college football coverage: and

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