The Playoff Eliminator: Week One

Our weekly breakdown of games involving contenders for the inaugural FBS playoffs.

Fifteen of 17 legitimate playoff contenders are in action this weekend, beginning Thursday night with defending champion and second-ranked Florida State traveling to Louisville to take on the newly-minted 25th-ranked Cardinals.

Among the identified 17, only No. 6 Alabama and No. 8 Michigan State are idle. At present, #23 East Carolina, #24 Duke, and unranked Marshall, undefeated at 8-0, are not on our Final Four radar, nor are ranked two-loss programs #18 Oklahoma, #19 LSU, #20 West Virginia, #21 Clemson, and #22 UCLA.

All point spreads are as of Thursday morning's listing.

Thursday: #2 Florida State at #25 Louisville (7:30): Winners of 23 consecutive, the Seminoles are favored by just 4 points at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium tonight.

(4-4) Arkansas at #1 Mississippi State (7:15): The host Bulldogs enter as favorites of 10.5 points for Saturday's contest. The Razorbacks have lost 16 consecutive SEC games, last winning against Kentucky in Oct. 2012.

#3 Auburn at #4 Ole Miss (7:00): The Rebels have been staked as two-point favorites vs. head coach Gus Malzahn's Tigers. Saturday's contest is the first of three for Auburn vs. teams ranked among the nation's top 11 teams. (Georgia and Alabama await.)

(5-3) Stanford at #5 Oregon (7:30): The Ducks opened as favorites of 12 points but the line has since dropped to -8. Stanford has beaten an undefeated Oregon squad in consecutive seasons. The Ducks enter Saturday night's contest at 7-1.

#7 TCU at #20 West Virginia (3:30): The host Mountaineers are 5.5-point underdogs to streaking TCU. The Horned Frogs only loss this fall is to Baylor with a key win against Oklahoma. West Virginia has defeated Baylor while losing to both Alabama and Oklahoma.

(5-3) Oklahoma State at #9 Kansas State (8:00): The Wildcats haven't lost since a Week Two home defeat at the hands of Auburn, 20-14. They're favored by 14.5 over the Cowboys, losers of two straight by a combined 57 points.

#10 Notre Dame vs. (4-4) Navy (8:00): The Irish are favored by two touchdowns, 14 points, over annual rival Navy, though the line opened as ND -16.5. Notre Dame defeated Navy 38-34 last season after previously handling the Midshipmen by a combined score of 106-24 in 2011-12.

(3-3) Florida vs. #11 Georgia (3:30): Georgia is listed as a 13-point favorite in the annual Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs only loss is to South Carolina with a key win over Clemson.

#12 Arizona at #22 UCLA (10:30): The host Bruins are favored by 6.5 points over the Wildcats, conquerors of Oregon to open October. Arizona lost to USC, 28-26, on Oct. 11.

(2-5) Kansas at #13 Baylor: The Bears are the biggest favorite among contenders, 36 points over the hapless Jayhawks in what will likely be the only unwatchable contest of the lot.

#17 Utah at #14 Arizona State (11:00): The weekend's final kickoff pits six-point favorite ASU against upstart Utah. After a 5-7 season in 2013, Utah has defeated both UCLA and USC this fall (as well as former power Michigan in Ann Arbor).

(3-5) Purdue at #15 Nebraska (3:30): The Cornhuskers are favorites of 23.5 points over the 3-5 Boilermakers. Nebraska's only loss this season is to #8 Michigan State.

(4-4) Illinois at #16 Ohio State (8:00): Ohio State is favored by more than four touchdowns, 28.5 points, against the visiting Illini. Look for 4-4 Illinois to keep it a touch closer as the Buckeyes experience a "sandwich game" letdown between Penn State (an overtime win last Saturday) and Michigan State next week.

Five Most Likely to Win/Advance: Baylor, Ohio State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Kansas State (in order).

Five on Upset Watch: TCU, ASU, Florida State, Georgia, and Oregon (in order).

On a Hunch: Florida and Arkansas play inspired football in defeat; Navy doesn't make it easy on Notre Dame; Arizona and UCLA combine for more than 80 points; four of the 17 teams in contention lose (two are guaranteed).

Idle Contenders: #6 Alabama, #8 Michigan State Top Stories