By Brad Carroll
When it comes to College Football Playoff implications, it doesn't get any bigger than the Oklahoma-Baylor matchup this week in primetime Saturday night. For both teams, with Baylor obviously in better shape than Oklahoma right now, the season is on the line, and after 60 minutes (or more), one team will take a big step toward the final four, while the other will be looking ahead to next season. The other four big night games all have Playoff implications as well, making for some must-see TV when the sun goes down Saturday night.
Below we analyze, preview and our college football experts pick those games against the spread. Check out our College Football Playoff analysis and early afternoon game picks here. And don't forget about our late afternoon previews and picks here. As always, follow us on Twitter for all of our latest updates.
No. 21 Memphis at No. 24 Houston, 7 p.m., ESPN2
The Spread: Memphis +7; Houston -7
Analysis: Memphis watched its College Football Playoff dreams end last week with a loss to Navy. Houston, on the other hand, is still alive, although it would be considered a huge longshot for the Cougars, who are undefeated but are getting very little respect from the Playoff committee. Memphis is ranked higher than Houston despite losing last week. Houston defeated Cincinnati by three last week to improve to 9-0. A week before, the Cougars beat Vanderbilt 34-0, a team Florida needed a late field goal to beat last week. Vanderbilt isn't a great team by any stretch, but the Gators are ranked 11th, while Houston is barely in the top 25. But if Houston beats Memphis and then Navy, which has just one loss, to Notre Dame, this season, it could make a play for a spot at the end of the season. It's not likely, however. Memphis was riding high after upsetting Ole Miss at home and would have had a great case to make the Playoff if it finished undefeated. But Navy won that game by 25. If the Tigers haven't lost their way mentally after that loss, this game should be close, possibly with a late field goal making the difference.
Brad's Score: Houston 34, Memphis 31
Craig's Score: Houston 28, Memphis 24
Glenn's Score: Memphis 21, Houston 20
Matt's Score: Memphis 56, Houston 52
Arkansas at No. 9 LSU, 7:15 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Arkansas +7.5; LSU -7.5
Analysis: Despite its loss to Alabama last week, there is an outside chance LSU could still make the final four. First, LSU would have to beat Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M to close out the season. All three are unranked. Alabama would then have to lose one of its final three games, against Mississippi State, Charleston Southern and Auburn. Both SEC games are on the road. It's not likely, but the Tigers will be alive heading into the regular season finales. Arkansas pulled off a wild overtime victory over Ole Miss, going for a two-point conversion to win the game. That was the Razorbacks biggest win in years. Overall, Arkansas is just 5-4, but has won three straight games, against Auburn, Tennessee-Martin and Ole Miss. Before that, the Hogs lost by 13 to Alabama. LSU needs a bounce-back performance, and should be able to get it done against Arkansas at home.
Brad's Score: LSU 28, Arkansas 20
Craig's Score: LSU 31, Arkansas 10
Glenn's Score: LSU 35, Arkansas 13
Matt's Score: LSU 28, Arkansas 14
Oregon at No. 7 Stanford, 7:30 p.m., FOX
The Spread: Oregon +10; Stanford -10
Analysis: Oregon has had a gigantic fall from the powerhouse team they've been for several years, while Stanford has rebounded nicely from a season-opening loss to Northwestern to move into College Football Playoff contention. When it comes to one-loss teams, however, Stanford will be at the end of the line, as that loss to the Wildcats plays large. But Stanford does get a huge shot at the Playoff in the regular season finale against Notre Dame. Win that game, and then the Pac-12 championship, and the Cardinal likely are playing for a national championship. Oregon, despite already losing three games, are no pushovers, though. The Ducks have won three straight, against Washington, Arizona State and Cal, and have designs on ruining Stanford's season. As always, the play of Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan will determine just how far the Cardinal will go. He's as inconsistent as they come in college football, despite his wealth of experience. Stanford should survive at home, but the Ducks will make it close.
Brad's Score: Stanford 31, Oregon 28
Craig's Score: Stanford 34, Oregon 28
Glenn's Score: Stanford 24, Oregon 20
Matt's Score: Oregon 49, Stanford 35 (upset pick)
No. 12 Oklahoma at No. 6 Baylor, 8 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Oklahoma +3; Baylor -3
Analysis: If you read my College Football Playoff analysis story, you know I believe Baylor should be in the final four right now, not on the outside looking in. A case can be made the Bears have been the most impressive team in the nation and could have the Heisman trophy favorite too, wide receiver Corey Coleman, who is a touchdown machine. The loss of starting quarterback Seth Russell is huge, but shouldn't be used against the Bears until they prove otherwise. If Baylor finishes the season undefeated there should be no stopping it from playing for a national championship. At least we hope the Playoff committee will recognize that. Baylor plays a intimidating schedule to close the year, with games against Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State and TCU and then finishes with Texas. If the Bears close the season with all wins, they should get their chance. Oklahoma has a chance too, although the odds are slim. The Sooners are 8-1 but there one loss is a big albatross, against Texas. But like the rest of the Big 12, they will get their chance to impress with games against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State to close the year. Win all those and the Sooners will have a strong case. But Baylor will stop those hopes for Oklahoma Saturday night, and continue its own with a big win.
Brad's Score: Baylor 38, Oklahoma 31
Craig's Score: Baylor 35, Oklahoma 31
Glenn's Score: Baylor 45, Oklahoma 35
Matt's Score: Baylor 49, Oklahoma 42
No. 10 Utah at Arizona, 10 p.m., FS1
The Spread: Utah -6; Arizona +6
Analysis: Sitting at No. 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings, it's not out of the realm of possibility for the Utes to crash the party and make the final four. Utah would have to win its final three games, against Arizona, UCLA and Colorado, and then beat Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game to have a chance. The Utes would need help from other teams ahead of them losing as well, but running the table would at least put them in the conversation. Utah was 6-0 at one point and ranked No. 3 in the nation, but a 42-24 loss to unranked Southern Cal ruined that fantastic start to the season. The Utes are still alive, though. Arizona is 5-5, taking a huge downward turn this season after what many thought would be a program on the rise. The Wildcats have lost five of their last seven games, including three straight to Washington, Washington State and USC. If Utah has any idea of how close it is to making a strong push for a Playoff spot, and the players should, the Utes win this game.
Brad's Score: Utah 35, Arizona 28
Craig's Score: Utah 24, Arizona 17
Glenn's Score: Arizona 35, Utah 31 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: Utah 28, Arizona 13