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Playoff Pillars: Three Biggest Week 12 Matchups Altering UC's Playoff Hopes

There are a pair of proverbial CFP quarterfinal matchups this weekend.

CINCINNATI — Just two weeks remain in college football's regular season, and the undefeated UC Bearcats need some help to crack the College Football Playoff. It was never going to be easy, but it's now clear that UC can't sneak its way in going perfect alone.

They need one or two teams to stumble in front of them. That brings us to the All Bearcats Playoff Pillars. Let's look across the country at the three most impactful Week 12 games for UC's playoff hopes.

No. 7 Mich. State at No. 4 Ohio State (-19) | 12 p.m. 

Let the Big Ten civil war begin.

Purdue has already played spoiler for Michigan State, and the Buckeyes are trying to drive a nail into the Spartans coffin. What intrigues me most is the committee's thinking on Michigan State should they pull the road upset.

CFP chairman Gary Barta and the committee is already "setting aside the games" in their evaluations. Could they move MSU all the way to No. 4 with a victory? We will find out on the field whether the Spartans and Heisman Trophy candidate Kenneth Walker III have what it takes on Saturday.

Either way, no two-loss team has ever made the CFP, making this a pseudo-CFP quarterfinal at Ohio Stadium.

No. 3 Oregon at No. 23 Utah (-3) | 7:30 p.m. 

No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. Oregon is an underdog for the first time since their upset victory over Ohio State in September. The Utes are rolling of late and the PAC-12 South division leaders play this conference title game preview at home in Salt Lake City.

Jacked up home crowd, conference bragging rights up for grabs, and a major record is on the line for Utah. Head coach Kyle Whittingham (141-69) will become the winningest coach in Utah history with his next triumph.

Bearcats fans should recognize Utes' leading rusher Tavion Thomas (742 rushing yards on 6.1 yards per attempt). The running back carried the ball 129 times for 689 yards in his two years with Cincinnati.

It would be pure poetry if Thomas has a big day and leads Utah over Oregon. Unlike the matchup in Columbus, the Bearcats (by beating SMU) will move up if the Ducks lose this weekend. Oregon's loss to Stanford (3-7) is much worse than Michigan State's stumble against Purdue (6-4).

No. 21 Arkansas at No. 2 Alabama (-20.5) | 3:30 p.m.

The Crimson Tide controls their own destiny despite a road loss earlier this season to No. 16 Texas A&M. Alabama also struggled to dispatch Florida—but the program has (rightfully) earned leeway from the committee.

In walks Sam Pittman and No. 21 Arkansas to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Bearcats fans can hope for a surprise upset here but don't hold your breath. Alabama has won 14 straight games against Arkansas, and ESPN's matchup predictor has the Tide winning 92.6% of the time.

Arkansas may be able to dent Tide's armor just a bit, and that could be enough to trip them up as least once in their final three games. One more loss may not be enough though. If Alabama wins the SEC with two losses, ESPN gives them a 91% chance to make the CFP.

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