For the moment, the College Football Playoff picture is the exclusive property of two conferences. That will change in a couple of weeks when the Big Ten kicks off, but for now the SEC and ACC have the spotlight to themselves with the Big 12 still struggling to find its footing.
Week 6 offers a solid lineup of games in both the SEC and ACC with the top four teams in the Amway Coaches Poll all facing intriguing matchups that could boost or hurt their title chances.
Here are this week’s five games with the most potential impact on the playoff race.
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No. 7 Miami (Fla.) at No. 1 Clemson
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
There’s a generally accepted narrative among college football pundits that Clemson, in addition to having championship-quality talent, has an easier path to the playoff as a member of the ACC than its counterparts from the SEC. But the Tigers’ conference appears to be significantly deeper this year, and this home date against the surging Hurricanes will begin to test that thesis.
Miami will come to Clemson well rested after doing whatever it wanted to against hapless Florida State two weeks ago. Transfer QB D’Eriq King has made an immediate impact, accounting for nearly 300 yards of total offense per game. He’ll want to steer clear of freshmen Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee, who have emerged quickly as the next big stars on the Clemson defensive line. Tigers QB Trevor Lawrence was efficient if not flashy in last week’s victory against Virginia as he stayed pick-free in 2020. DBs Amari Carter and Bubba Bolden anchor an active Hurricanes’ secondary that could keep Clemson’s big-play potential in check.
No. 12 Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The SEC has a prevailing narrative of its own, admittedly borne out by recent years’ results, that the West is the deeper of the league’s two divisions while the East has been a two-team race between Georgia and Florida. Tennessee, off to its best start in several seasons, will soon find out if it is ready to challenge that notion.
The Bulldogs’ shaky outing in their opener against Arkansas doesn’t look so bad in the context of the Razorbacks’ stunner at Mississippi State that followed, as well as the Georgia offense seemingly finding its identity with QB Stetson Bennett at the controls. There’s been nothing wrong with the Georgia defense, featuring lots of playmakers like LB Azeez Ojulari, that kept Auburn out of the end zone. But that group could get a test from the Volunteers, built around a veteran offensive line that paves the way for RBs Ty Chandler and Eric Gray while making QB Jarrett Guarantano’s job easier. The Tennessee defense, anchored by LB Henry To’o To’o, must hold up its end
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No. 3 Florida at No. 20 Texas A&M
Saturday, Noon ET, ESPN
Florida has handled its first two challenges by putting up big scores. They now make the long road trip to College Station, where the Aggies are in need of a signature performance to keep their waning hopes of competing for the league crown alive.
Gators QB Kyle Trask has played like the veteran he is, and TE Kyle Pitts, all but uncoverable at times, may have already locked up the John Mackey Award. If Buddy Johnson and the A&M LB unit devote too much energy to Pitts, Florida RB Dameon Pierce could take advantage. Texas A&M was hanging with Alabama for a while before a critical pick-6 in the second quarter. QB Kellen Mond is an experienced starter who should bounce back, but his offense as a whole has not been explosive. LB Ventrell Miller and the Gators’ back seven will look to keep it that way.
No. 2 Alabama at Mississippi
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Lane Kiffin picked up his first win at Ole Miss in last week’s overtime squeaker against Kentucky. The task this week is a taller order as he attempts to become the first former Nick Saban assistant to get the better of his former boss.
The offense Kiffin helped build in Tuscaloosa has gone through some personnel changes but is still capable of hitting a home run at any time. QB Mac Jones and WR Jaylen Waddle comprise the most dangerous aerial combination, but RB Najee Harris can bust loose as well. CB Keidron Smith and the Ole Miss secondary will once again have its hands full. The Rebels will counter with QB Matt Corral, who has an excellent primary target in WR Elijah Moore but also makes good use of TE Kenny Yeboah. As always, look for Crimson Tide LBs Christian Harris and Dylan Moses to be in on a lot of tackles all over the field.
No. 18 Virginia Tech at No. 9 North Carolina
Saturday, Noon ET, ABC
Back in the ACC, two of those teams hoping to show the conference is indeed deeper this season square off in a key battle to keep pace with the Clemson-Miami winner and, presumably, Notre Dame.
It took longer than expected for the Hokies to get on the field thanks to some COVID-19 issues, but so far they’ve displayed an impressive ground attack behind RB Khalil Herbert and QB Braxton Burmeister. UNC LB Chazz Surratt and S Don Chapman will lead the effort to keep them contained. Tar Heels QB Sam Howell hasn’t been able to unleash many deep balls through his first two outings, but the support from RBs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams has been helpful. The Tech defense has been leaky at times, so veteran LBs Rayshard Ashby and Dax Hollifield must keep everyone on the same page.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Week 6 games that will impact the College Football Playoff