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Rivalry week might shake up football playoff race

Ralph D. Russo, Associated Press

This is the point in the season when things get weird.

Rivalry week is here, with championship weekend on deck.

From Thanksgiving night through Saturday, the potential for mayhem and a major shake-up in the College Football Playoff race exists. Time to assess the threat level for the contenders.

■ Florida (6-5) at No. 1 Florida State. Threat level: orange.

The Gators have nothing to lose. The coach they love has already been fired, but what better way to send off Will Muschamp then with the biggest victory of his four-year tenure. Of course, the Seminoles have lived in a constant state of high alert these days. Florida State has played five one-score games and five games in which it has trailed at half — and is still unbeaten.

■ No. 15 Auburn (8-3) at No. 2 Alabama (10-1). Threat level: purple, the color Crimson Tide fans will turn if their team lets another chance to play for the national championship get away in the Iron Bowl.

The Tigers are trending in the wrong direction having lost three of five real games (Samford not included), and barely escaping in the two wins. The Iron Bowl winner has played for the national title each of the last five years. You might remember that last year's Auburn victory had an unorthodox ending.

■ No. 3 Oregon (10-1) at Oregon State (5-6). Threat level: Halloween orange, more treats than tricks.

The Ducks have won six straight Civil War games. Four have been decisive. Two, including last year's meeting, were close. The Beavers need the win to get bowl eligible, but there are no signs to suggest Mike Riley's crew can derail Marcus Mariota's march to the Heisman Trophy and dash the Ducks playoff hopes.

■ No. 4 Mississippi State (10-1) at No. 18 Mississippi (8-3). Threat level: red (danger) … or white (all is well).

The Rebels looked done Saturday, getting shut out at Arkansas to end any chance they had to win the SEC West.Does Ole Miss rally and ruin their rivals playoff hopes in just the third Egg Bowl with both teams ranked? Or are the Rebels road kill? Seems like it could go either way.

■ Texas Tech (4-7) vs. No. 5 Baylor (9-1) at AT&T Stadium Arlington, Texas. Threat level: silver star.

Unless the Bears get star-struck playing at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, they should name their score.

■ No. 6 TCU (9-1) at Texas (6-5). Threat level: burnt orange, which is as serious as Longhorns coach Charlie Strong.

Texas is getting better under its first-year coach. The defense is the best in the Big 12 and the offense has found a smash-mouth identity. This has trouble written all over it for the Horned Frogs.