As uninteresting and lethargic as parts of this and other college football seasons can be, the stretch runs are almost -- we said "almost" -- worth it. Take the case of Ohio State. Most would agree that when it comes to determining the College Football Playoff four-team field, a loss in November isn't the same as one in September. So in essence, the Buckeyes on Saturday against Michigan State will begin what they hope is a trip through a five-round tournament.

As uninteresting and lethargic as parts of this and other college football seasons can be, the stretch runs are almost -- we said almost -- worth it. Take the case of Ohio State.

Most would agree that when it comes to determining the College Football Playoff four-team field, a loss in November isn't the same as one in September. So in essence, the Buckeyes on Saturday against Michigan State will begin what they hope is a trip through a five-round tournament.

Beat the Spartans and Ohio State's playoff hopes live for another week. Lose and the team up north will still be on tap the following weekend, but the stakes will be greatly reduced and dreams of returning to the CFP likely vanquished.

Close the regular season with two victories and the Buckeyes will play in the Big Ten championship game knowing that a berth in a national semifinal hangs in the balance.

So though the College Football Playoff begins with two games on New Year's Eve, the college football playoffs actually start on Saturday.

This week's games:

Michigan State at Ohio State
Michigan at Penn State
Northwestern at Wisconsin
LSU at Ole Miss
Mississippi State at Arkansas
Memphis at Temple
Baylor at Oklahoma State
TCU at Oklahoma
Southern California at Oregon
UCLA at Utah

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Last week's results:

Rob Dewolf 6-4
Todd Jones 6-4
Tim May 6-4
Rob Oller 6-4
Bill Rabinowitz 6-4
Ray Stein 6-4
Bob Hunter 5-5

Year-to-date standings:

Bob Hunter 80-30
Bill Rabinowitz 77-33
Rob Oller 75-35
Todd Jones 73-37
Rob Dewolf 71-39
Ray Stein 70-40
Tim May 65-45

This week's picks (pickers listed alphabetically and certainly not in order of importance -- or expertise):

Rob Dewolf, BuckeyeXtra editor

Ohio State 31, Michigan State 13: Turns out the waiting was the hardest part.

Michigan over Penn State
Wisconsin over Northwestern
LSU over Ole Miss
Arkansas over Mississippi State
Temple over Memphis
Baylor over Oklahoma State
Oklahoma over TCU
Oregon over Southern California
Utah over UCLA

Bob Hunter, Dispatch sports columnist

Ohio State 28, Michigan State 17: Buckeyes' defense, Connor Cook's injured shoulder make the difference in tense game.

Michigan over Penn State
Wisconsin over Northwestern
Ole Miss over LSU
Arkansas over Mississippi State
Memphis over Temple
Oklahoma State over Baylor
Oklahoma over TCU
Oregon over Southern California
Utah over UCLA

Todd Jones, Dispatch college football writer

Ohio State 33 Michigan State 24: The Buckeyes aren't playing as well as they did a year ago, but neither are the Spartans. Is Connor Cook's shoulder really OK? Michigan State's injury-depleted secondary will give up too many big plays.

Penn State over Michigan
Wisconsin over Northwestern
LSU over Ole Miss
Arkansas over Mississippi State
Temple over Memphis
Oklahoma State over Baylor
Oklahoma over TCU
Oregon over Southern California
Utah over UCLA

Tim May, Dispatch beat writer

Ohio State 31, Michigan State 21: The Spartans aren't as good as a year ago, and the Buckeyes, they're getting there.

Michigan over Penn State
Wisconsin over Northwestern
LSU over Ole Miss
Arkansas over Mississippi State
Memphis over Temple
Oklahoma State over Baylor
Oklahoma over TCU
Southern California over Oregon
Utah over UCLA

Rob Oller, Dispatch sports columnist

Ohio State 34, Michigan State 17: Defense wins the day -- again.

Michigan over Penn State
Northwestern over Wisconsin
LSU over Ole Miss
Arkansas over Mississippi State
Memphis over Temple
Oklahoma State over Baylor
Oklahoma over TCU
Oregon over Southern California
Utah over Utah

Bill Rabinowitz, Dispatch beat writer

Ohio State 31, Michigan State 20: If Connor Cook is -- and can stay -- fully healthy, this will be a closer game. But OSU's defensive line should be able to harass him. The Buckeyes must be able to protect J.T. Barrett in the pocket to allow OSU to have balance. Do that, and they should prevail.

Michigan over Penn State
Wisconsin over Northwestern
Ole Miss over LSU
Arkansas over Mississippi State
Memphis over Temple
Baylor over Oklahoma State
Oklahoma over TCU
Southern California over Oregon
Utah over UCLA

Ray Stein, Dispatch sports editor

Ohio State 28, Michigan State 26: It is so tempting to say the Buckeyes finally are going to get burned playing with matches in their paper-mâché house, but the Spartans have too many issues of their own.

Penn State over Michigan
Wisconsin over Northwestern
Ole Miss over LSU
Arkansas over Mississippi State
Memphis over Temple
Baylor over Oklahoma State
Oklahoma over TCU
Oregon over Southern California
Utah over UCLA