Looking for playoff contenders outside the obvious

Associated Press

October 31, 2014

         

Nebraska running back Terrell Newby (34) runs away from Rutgers defensive back Lorenzo Waters (21) in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Lincoln, Neb., in this Oct. 25, 2014 file photo. The Huskers lost at Michigan State and could draw a rematch in the Big Ten title game. Of course, games like these don't do much to enhance the cases for the best Big Ten teams.

The first games after the release of the College Football Playoff rankings have a chance to reveal some new contenders.

Games to watch if you're looking for playoff hopefuls outside the obvious:

—Oklahoma State at Kansas State (CFP 9) and Kansas at Baylor (CFP 13).

The Wildcats are ninth in the playoff rankings, behind TCU among Big 12 rivals. K-State still has its most of its pivotal Big 12 games ahead with Baylor, West Virginia and TCU. That loss to Auburn is good news, bad news. The good news is the Wildcats played a quality game against a high-level opponent. The bad news is if it comes down to K-State and Auburn for a spot, the Tigers hold a trump card. Baylor was 13th in the playoff rankings. The Bears have one great win against TCU, and that's it. Still, Baylor has time and opportunity to bolster that resume. Both the Bears and Wildcats should roll Saturday.

Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters (15) looks for a receiver while scrambling from the pocket during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Texas in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014. Waters threw for 224 yards in the game. Kansas State defeated Texas 23-0.

— Illinois at Ohio State (CFP 16) and Purdue at Nebraska (CFP 15).

Michigan State seems to be in the driver's seat in the Big Ten, but don't discount the Cornhuskers and Buckeyes. If either can run the table and finish 12-1 with conference title they'll be in the hunt. Ohio State has that loss to Virginia Tech weighing it down, but it gets Michigan State next week with a chance to help bury that performance. The Huskers lost at Michigan State and could draw a rematch in the Big Ten title game. Of course, games like these don't do much to enhance the cases for the best Big Ten teams.

—Arizona (CFP 12) at UCLA (CFP 22) and Utah (CFP 17) at Arizona State (CFP 14).

The Pac-12 is going to grind up playoff contenders, and its champion could easily emerge from this group of South Division rivals. The Utes can take control of the division with a victory in Tempe, especially if UCLA beats Arizona. But there is so much more to come. Utah hosts Oregon, the highest ranked Pac-12 team, next week, and eventually the Wildcats and Sun Devils will have to sort of the Territorial Cup. Here's the big question with the Pac-12: Can a two-loss champion from out West get into the playoff?