Football feast: Heaping helping of playoff implications highlight Thanksgiving rivalry weekend

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Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott looks for an open receiver in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, in Starkville, Miss. No. 4 Mississippi State won 51-0. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)


Rivalries are like a big Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings — oh so appetizing but with the potential to leave you feeling sick and sleepy.

Throw a heaping helping of playoff implications on top of those rivalries, and it's like smothering the whole thing in gravy.

Welcome to rivalry week in the College Football Playoff era, a three-day football feast.

Selection committee chairman Jeff Long stresses that the 12-member panel begins the task of ranking teams each week with a clean slate, so conceivably there could be some drastic changes at the top of the top 25 even if the favorites win out this weekend.

The reality is Alabama, Oregon and Florida State look locked into the top three as long as they don't lose again. All three face archrivals on Saturday, with conference championship games looming.

Mississippi State, TCU, Baylor and Ohio State are jockeying for that fourth spot, now held by the Bulldogs — but for how long?

No. 4 Mississippi State faces the toughest test of all the contenders, playing at No. 18 Mississippi. The Egg Bowl has rarely been a bigger deal.

"This game is special. It's like no other," Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott said. "You circle this game on the calendar each and every year. You really don't have to hype it up or do anything special. I think we're ready for them."

The Bulldogs and Rebels have played 111 times, 87 with the Golden Egg Trophy on the line. This is the fifth time they have met as ranked teams.

Yum!

The picks:

TEXAS TURKEY BOWL

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 6 TCU (minus 6 1/2) at Texas

Improving Longhorns try to get coach Charlie Strong his first statement victory ... TEXAS 28-24.

LSU (minus 3) at Texas A&M

Good defense/bad offense (Tigers) vs. good offense/bad defense (Aggies) ... TEXAS A&M 27-21

FRIDAY FEAST

Stanford (plus 5) at No. 9 UCLA

Bruins, making late playoff push, can clinch Pac-12 South and rematch with Oregon ... UCLA 27-17.

No. 13 Arizona State (off) at No. 12 Arizona

Winner takes the Pac-12 South if UCLA loses; Status of Wildcats QB Anu Solomon (ankle) is uncertain ... ARIZONA STATE 35-28.

Arkansas (off) at No. 17 Missouri

Tigers need a win to lock up second straight trip to SEC title game; QB Brandon Allen (right hip) is questionable ... MISSOURI 20-17.

Western Kentucky (plus 21) at No. 19 Marshall

Top two offenses in Conference USA ... MARSHALL 58-42

No. 21 Colorado State (minus 7) at Air Force

Rams QB Garrett Grayson is second-rated passer in country (176.3) behind Marcus Mariota ... COLORADO STATE 35-31.

Nebraska (plus 1) at Iowa

Another Huskers season ending with question marks about coach Bo Pelini's future ... NEBRASKA 24-17.

PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS

Florida (plus 7 1/2) at No. 1 Florida State

Gators want to send Will Muschamp out a winner; Seminoles have eyes on playoff position ... FLORIDA STATE 27-21.

No. 15 Auburn (plus 9 1/2) at No. 2 Alabama

Crimson Tide clinch SEC West with victory ... ALABAMA 38-20.

No. 3 Oregon (minus 20) at Oregon State

Mariota is first player in FBS history with 30-plus TD passes as a freshman, sophomore and junior ... OREGON 45-21

No. 4 Mississippi State (minus 2) at No. 18 Mississippi

Bulldogs can clinch SEC West with win and Alabama loss; need a win to stay in thick of playoff race ... OLE MISS 28-24.

No. 5 Baylor (minus 24) vs. Texas Tech at Arlington, Texas

Bears have won three straight against Red Raiders, averaging 60 points ... BAYLOR 60-28.

Michigan (plus 20) at No. 7 Ohio State

Buckeyes have won nine of 10 against that team up north ... OHIO STATE 38-13.

DIVISION RACES

No. 22 Minnesota (plus 14) at No. 14 Wisconsin

Paul Bunyan's Axe and Big Ten West go to winner ... WISCONSIN 35-14.

Utah State (plus 9) at No. 25 Boise State

Broncos clinch Mountain West's Mountain Division with victory; Aggies need Colorado State loss and a win to go to conference title game ... BOISE STATE 28-20.

Hawaii (plus 11) at Fresno State

Up-and-down year for Bulldogs could still lead to third straight Mountain West title; Fresno clinches spot in title game with victory ... FRESNO STATE 38-24.

Rice (plus 6 ½) at Louisiana Tech

Winner goes to Conference USA title games as West champ to face Marshall ... LA TECH 31-23.

Northern Illinois (plus 8) at Western Michigan

Huskies win MAC West with a victory; Broncos need victory and Toledo loss to last-place Eastern Michigan (good luck) to earn spot in conference title game against Bowling Green ... WESTERN MICHIGAN 28-24.

BRAGGING RIGHTS

No. 16 Georgia Tech (plus 13) at No. 8 Georgia

Bulldogs have won five straight and 12 of 13 meetings with Yellow Jackets ... GEORGIA 38-28.

Kansas (plus 28) at No. 11 Kansas State

Wildcats have won five straight against Jayhawks, average scores 44-13 ... KANSAS STATE 44-13.

Notre Dame (plus 7) at Southern California

Bejeweled Shillelagh goes to winning team; ear plugs and bottle of Pepto-Bismol to losing coach who falls to 7-5 ... USC 35-31.

Kentucky (plus 13 1/2) at No. 24 Louisville

Cardinals have won three straight against Wildcats ... LOUISVILLE 35-24.

BEST BET

South Carolina (plus 4) at No. 23 Clemson

Gamecocks have won five straight in Palmetto state rivalry, their longest streak in series ... CLEMSON 35-24

WEIRD TROPHY

No. 10 Michigan State (minus 13 1/2) at Penn State

Land Grant on the line and Spartans hoping 10-2 finish is good enough to land New Year's Bowl invitation ... MICHIGAN STATE 21-14.


Last week: Record straight: 15-5; vs. points 8-9.

Season: Record straight: 177-56; vs. points 105-122-2.

Best bet: 5-8.

Upset special: 5-9.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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