GameDay Kickoff: Playoff contenders hit the road before first rankings release

Which undefeated team can least afford to lose? (1:05)

Three undefeated top 10 teams hit the road this weekend in college football. Heather Dinich takes a look at which of the three, Clemson, Washington, or Nebraska must win to stay in the race for the College Football Playoff. (1:05)

The 12 members of the College Football Playoff selection committee -- especially the five former coaches in the room -- know just how difficult it is to win on the road.

Which is why it's oh-so-important for any team looking for a spot in the top four to add a statement road win to its playoff resume.

(Hey, undefeateds. Now would be a good time.)

It's the final Saturday before the first CFP rankings are revealed on Nov. 1, and seven of the nine remaining unbeaten FBS teams are on the road.

No. 1 Alabama and No. 20 Western Michigan are off, but Boise State, West Virginia, Michigan, Washington, Baylor, Nebraska and Clemson all have road trips on Saturday. According to ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI), there's a 97 percent chance that at least one of those undefeated teams will lose Saturday, with Nebraska the most likely to go down.

Here's a look at what's at stake for the Power 5 unbeatens, ranked in order of who has the most to lose:

No. 8 Baylor at Texas (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Because of a nonconference schedule that ranks 127 out of 128 FBS teams, Baylor most likely has to finish the season undefeated to get serious consideration as a top-four team. Its only two road wins have been against teams that have a combined 2-12 record (Rice, Iowa State). Baylor has the smallest margin of error among the remaining undefeated teams, and it has nothing to do with off-field transgressions and everything to do with a schedule that features just two ranked opponents. Baylor certainly can't afford to slip up against an unranked Texas team that has lost four of its past five games.

Why it could be tricky: Baylor has played the easiest schedule of any Power 5 team so far, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Texas has lost its past two games by a total of eight points, including a five-point loss to Oklahoma.

No. 10 West Virginia at Oklahoma State (noon ET)

The Mountaineers have legitimized their playoff chances by playing stingy defense in back-to-back games against Texas Tech and TCU. The Mountaineers are back in The Associated Press top 10 for the first time since 2012, but WVU doesn't have any road games on its schedule against currently ranked teams. That puts more pressure on the Mountaineers to leave no doubt they're the better team in Stillwater. The most ideal situation for the Big 12 would be for both WVU and Baylor to be undefeated heading into their Dec. 3 game in Morgantown.

Why it could be tricky: According to ESPN's FPI, the Mountaineers have a 44 percent chance to win Saturday; it's the toughest remaining game on their schedule and the only one they aren't favored to win (including their home matchup against Baylor to end the regular season). The Cowboys are 4-1 at home this season with just nine turnovers while averaging 41.1 points per game.

No. 4 Washington at No. 17 Utah (3:30 p.m. ET)

An undefeated Pac-12 champ would likely finish in the top four, but with a loss, Washington falls into a debate it might not win. The Huskies could afford to lose at Utah and still win the North as long as they win out, but even if they go on to win the conference title, they could be measured against another one-loss conference champ for the fourth spot, such as Ohio State or Michigan.

Why it could be tricky: Washington hasn't faced a defense this good yet. The Utes have recorded an FBS-high 22 takeaways this season and are tied for the FBS lead with 14 interceptions. Huskies quarterback Jake Browning hasn't faced a Power 5 defense that has forced more than seven turnovers.

No. 2 Michigan at Michigan State (noon ET, ESPN)

If then-No. 2 Ohio State could lose at Penn State, anything is possible -- especially between these two programs. It's also the same scenario, though, as it was for the Buckeyes. If Michigan loses, it can still win out and win the East. It seems that no matter what happens each week, everything still revolves around the Nov. 26 game in Columbus. The Wolverines could really use a respectable road win, though, considering their lone trip outside of the state so far was the 78-0 drubbing at Rutgers.

Why it could be tricky: Michigan State is desperate. Who better to take it out on? Sparty is trying to avoid being winless in its first five conference games for the first time since 1983.

No. 7 Nebraska at No. 11 Wisconsin (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

This is a must-win for Wisconsin, or it's out of the West race. With a win, the Badgers would still need Nebraska to lose again in order to win the West with a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Huskers. It's not a far-fetched scenario, considering Nebraska goes to Ohio State next week. So while Nebraska can technically afford to lose this game and still lead the West, it certainly doesn't want to head to Columbus in a must-win situation. Nebraska has lost nine straight against top-10 teams in true road games since beating No. 2 Washington in 1997.

Why it could be tricky: Wisconsin has been tested, Nebraska has not. Nebraska has played the fourth-easiest schedule among Power 5 teams, according to FPI, but will now face a defense that ranks among the top five in the FBS in five different categories, including red-zone touchdown percentage and third-down conversion percentage.

No. 3 Clemson at No. 12 Florida State (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

The Tigers can afford to lose this game only because they would still be leading the Atlantic Division and it's the toughest remaining game on their schedule. If Clemson joins the one-loss club, though, it would be compared with the likes of Ohio State, Texas A&M and even Louisville. Don't forget -- Clemson hasn't won the ACC championship game yet. The committee has only the head-to-head results and the comparison of common opponents to go on right now. Who's to say the committee won't rank the Aggies or Buckeyes ahead of Clemson if the Tigers lose? Getting leapfrogged by Louisville is less probable because of the head-to-head result, but nothing is a guarantee.

Why it could be tricky: Turnovers. Clemson turned the ball over four times -- including a pick-six from Deshaun Watson -- two weeks ago in its win against NC State. The Tigers turned it over five times in their home win against Louisville, including three interceptions and a fumble. Probably not a good idea to continue the trend against a team that is 11-1 in its last 12 games in Tallahassee.


Player in the spotlight: Utah RB Joe Williams -- Williams has rushed for 511 yards and five touchdowns in the two games since he came back from "retirement." Against UCLA last week, he rushed for a school-record 332 yards, the most in FBS since Samaje Perine's 427-yard, FBS-record performance in 2014. Washington has allowed just 2.7 plays of 20 or more yards per game this season, the third-fewest in the FBS behind Michigan and South Carolina.

Matchup to watch: Clemson defense vs. FSU RB Dalvin Cook -- Cook leads all Power 5 players with 1,256 yards from scrimmage this season, and he has rushed for 100 yards in each of the past four games. Cook ran for 194 yards against the Tigers last season, the second-most they've allowed to any opposing rusher with Brent Venables as defensive coordinator (Todd Gurley had 198 in 2014). The Tigers trailed FSU at halftime 10-6 but held Cook to 37 rushing yards in the second half and came back for a 23-13 win.

Upset watch: Nebraska at Wisconsin -- Cornhuskers QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. will get his toughest test to date, as Wisconsin's defense is holding opponents to just 25 percent on third downs, and touchdowns on just 37 percent of its red zone trips.

Can-miss game: New Mexico State at No. 9 Texas A&M -- New Mexico State is 0-13 all time against AP top-10 teams and has lost each game by at least 31 points (44.2 average margin of defeat in those games).

Don't forget about: The SEC East -- Florida and Tennessee are in a fight to the finish: The Gators will win the division if they win out, and the Vols will win it if they win out and Florida loses again. Tennessee heads to South Carolina this week, while Florida takes on Georgia in Jacksonville.

Under-the-radar game: No. 22 Navy at South Florida (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2 Friday) -- The Midshipmen are still undefeated in the West Division of the American Athletic Conference, and the Bulls are trying to rebound from a surprising road loss at Temple.

Must-win game: No. 13 Boise State at Wyoming -- The undefeated Broncos are leading the Group of 5 race for a New Year's Six Bowl, but Wyoming is still undefeated in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. A loss wouldn't eliminate Boise State entirely, but it would certainly open the door for Western Michigan or Navy.