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Consider what's at stake when Michigan and Ohio State clash on Saturday

Consider what's at stake when Michigan and Ohio State clash on Saturday
Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, left, and Urban Meyer of Ohio State will lead their teams into a critical Big Ten battle on Saturday. (Andrew Weber / Getty Images)

Each week during the season, visit "The Huddle" for the latest in college football news, notes, conversation and opinion.

This is notable

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This is what rivalry games are made of. If No. 3 Michigan can defeat No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus on Saturday, the Wolverines will win the Big Ten Conference East Division and make their first trip to the conference championship game. Michigan (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) has lost four in a row and 11 of 12 to the Buckeyes and hasn't won at the Horseshoe since 2000. Ohio State (10-1, 7-1)  could make its third trip to the conference title game, but it needs a victory plus a Michigan State win over No. 7 Penn State.

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No. 13 Auburn might as well be America's team this week, the nation's last hope to make a mark on No. 1 Alabama's perfect (11-0) regular season. The Crimson Tide  own the nation's longest winning streak, 23 games, and have won by an average of 25.1 points. Alabama has won six of the last eight Iron Bowl meetings with Auburn (8-3), and it took miracles for the Tigers to pull off the two victories: he "Kick-Six" game-winning touchdown in 2013 and overcoming a 24-point deficit in 2010.

That was tweet

"Once again.. #NerdNation @StanfordFball"

— Doug Baldwin (@DougBaldwinJr), Seattle Seahawk and former Stanford receiver

Losses to Washington, Washington State and Colorado had people asking, "What happened to Stanford?" — until the dust settled and all three of those teams landed in the top 25. The Cardinal (8-3, 6-3 Pac-12 Conference) swept the league's California schools — USC, UCLA and California — for a second consecutive season and face Rice in a regular-season finale Saturday.

Hot off the presser

"You know what happened, the other night I came home and I just kind of sat there and stared at the wall and I guess it was on and I just watched it and I just kept replaying it in my mind."

— Charlie Strong, Texas coach

Strong was surrounded by players showing support at his Monday news conference after a 24-21 loss at Kansas. It was the Jayhawks' first victory over the Longhorns in 78 years. Texas (5-6, 3-5 Big 12 Conference) concludes its regular season Saturday against Texas Christian. Barring a wild turn of events, it probably will be Strong's last game as Longhorns coach. In his three seasons, Texas is 16-20.

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"Another coach in the conference sent me a text message when I first got the job and it said, 'Congratulations and condolences,' so there you go."

— Mark Helfrich, Oregon coach

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Helfrich kept his tone lighthearted when asked this week if he was having fun as the Ducks' coach. "Sunshine and rainbows," he said. Hardly. The Ducks stopped their tailspin with a last-second upset of No. 12 Utah last weekend, but a record of 4-7, 2-6 in Pac-12 play, is not acceptable in Eugene.

Fresh out the Pac

It's come down to the final weekend in the Pac-12 to determine which teams make a trip to the conference title game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara next week.

No. 5 Washington and No. 23 Washington State will play in the Apple Cup on Friday to determine the North Division champion. The Huskies (10-1, 7-1), have won their last seven games against the Cougars (8-3, 7-1).

"They get the rivalry. They get that we're playing a heck of a team in a really hostile situation," said Huskies Coach Chris Petersen, whose team needs a victory to stay in the College Football Playoff hunt.

No. 9 Colorado and No. 22 Utah will face off in the South Division. If the Utes pull an upset, it actually will be a bigger victory for No. 12 USC, which would clinch the South title by tiebreaker because it defeated Colorado in October.

My Thiry

The NCAA got it wrong. Again.

It was announced this week that Notre Dame's entire program was being punished for rules broken by a few. An investigation found that a student athletic trainer helped players commit academic fraud by completing a portion of their assignments from 2011 to 2013.

The Fighting Irish have been forced to vacate their perfect 12-0 season in 2012 that led to a matchup against Alabama in the national championship game, plus nine victories in 2013.

Several players were suspended during the 2014 season as a result of a school investigation, and that should have been enough.

Rewriting the record books doesn't change the outcome of any game played in those seasons by the Irish, and it shouldn't.

The NCAA would be better served by forcing a school to create more measures to ensure academic integrity. It would be time better spent than littering program guides with meaningless asterisks.

Follow Lindsey Thiry on Facebook and Twitter @LindseyThiry

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