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Playoff paths differ for nation's top teams

The path to the College Football Playoff is a winding road and there are still twists and turns that need to be maneuvered before we find out who will make the final four.

Take a closer look at the 10 teams in the playoff picture and the potential obstacles they face the rest of this season:

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Rest of schedule: vs. UT Martin (Nov. 8); at Alabama (Nov. 15); vs. Vanderbilt (Nov. 22); at Ole Miss (Nov. 29)

The Buzz: Mississippi State’s needs to win tough games on road, with key matchups versus Alabama and Ole Miss loom. Win the SEC and you’re a shoe-in for the final four.

FLORIDA STATE

Rest of schedule: vs. Virginia (Nov. 8); at Miami (Nov. 15); vs. Boston College (Nov. 22); vs. Florida (Nov. 29)

The Buzz: The knock on Florida State has been its schedule and with no truly marquee games remaining, the ‘Noles have to remain undefeated and hope winning the ACC is enough to impress the selection committee.

AUBURN

Rest of schedule: vs. Texas A&M (Nov. 8); at Georgia (Nov. 15); vs. Samford (Nov. 22); at Alabama (Nov. 29)

The Buzz: Auburn’s resume is good enough to keep it in the playoff mix, but any hope of making the final four hinges on beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

OREGON

Rest of schedule: at Utah (Nov. 8); vs. Colorado (Nov. 22); at Oregon State (Nov. 29)

The Buzz: The Ducks maybe the best one-loss team in the country, but they’ll have to hope a Pac-12 title will carry enough weight with the selection committee.

TCU

Rest of schedule: vs. Kansas State (Nov. 8); at Kansas (Nov. 15); at Texas (Nov. 27); vs. Iowa State (Dec. 6)

The Buzz: The Horned Frogs need to beat Kansas State and then hope the Wildcats can topple Baylor, giving TCU a clear path to the Big 12 title and potentially a playoff spot.

ALABAMA

Rest of schedule: at LSU (Nov. 8); vs. No. 1 Mississippi State (Nov. 15); vs. West Carolina (Nov. 22); vs. Auburn (Nov. 29)

The Buzz: You should never count out Nick Saban, but Alabama has the toughest path to the final four. If ‘Bama wins out in the brutal SEC West, they’ll lock in a playoff spot.

MICHIGAN STATE

Rest of schedule: vs. Ohio State (Nov. 8); at Maryland (Nov. 15); vs. Rutgers (Nov. 22); at Penn State (Nov. 29)

The Buzz: The Big Ten shot at earning a playoff spot rests on the shoulders of Sparty. Michigan State needs to beat Ohio State, win the conference title and pray for some help.

KANSAS STATE

Rest of schedule: at TCU (Nov. 8); at West Virginia (Nov. 20); vs. Kansas (Nov. 29); at Baylor (Dec. 6)

The Buzz: Unlike TCU, Kansas State may have enough on its plate to present the selection committee with an interesting choice — especially if the Wildcats win the Big 12 by beating TCU and Baylor.

NOTRE DAME

Rest of schedule: at Arizona State (Nov. 8); vs. Northwestern (Nov. 15); vs. Louisville (Nov. 22); at USC (Nov. 29)

The Buzz: Notre Dame is on the outside looking in of the playoff talk, checking in miles away from the top four at No. 10 in the first round of rankings. The Fighting Irish need to win out and hope it’s enough to impress the selection committee.

ARIZONA STATE

Rest of schedule: vs. Notre Dame (Nov. 8); at Oregon State (Nov. 15); vs. Washington State (Nov. 22); at Arizona (Nov. 28)

The Buzz: Arizona State is my dark horse to get into the playoff. The Sun Devils may have enough quality opponents left on the schedule and a possible Pac-12 title to help push them into final four.