How will the College Football Playoff picture be affected by the upcoming championship weekend, with Alabama almosg guaranteed to get in win or lose, Notre Dame not playing and still in, while Oklahoma, Ohio State and even UCF are hoping to make an impression that lifts them up the rankings.
Pac-12 Championship Game: #17 Utah vs #11 Washington
Only twice in the four-year history of the College Football Playoff has a Pac-12 team made it in: In the first, 2014, when Oregon lost to Ohio State in the title game, and two years later, as Washington struggled to keep up with Alabama in the semifinal.
So does a Washington win in Santa Clara guarantee another spot in the CFP for the Pac-12? Not. Not when the Huskies are 9-3, with losses to Auburn, Oregon and California. But for a school with just one conference title from 2001 and onward, establishing itself further as THE team in the Pac-12 is no mean feat.
Utah, also 9-3 (6-3 in conference play) are in the Pac-12 title game for the first time since making the switch. A home loss 21-7 to the Huskies back in September doesn’t bode well for the rematch, but winning their last 3 games with 30 points or more scored in each one gives the Utes something to lean back on.
Big 12 Championship Game: #14 Texas vs #5 Oklahoma
A rematch of the Red River Shootout, which the Longhorns won 48-45 earlier in the season. The best the Longhorns can hope for in the finale to their best season since Mack Brown left, is to ruin the Sooners’ hopes of making it to the CFP for the third time.
The Sooners, 11-1, might not make it in even with a win: They’ll need a loss for either Alabama, Clemson and Georgia and who knows, maybe even an Alabama loss in the SEC title game isn’t going to be enough to knock the Crimson Tide from their annual CFP berth.
A whole lot of points are what everyone expects, and despite the earlier win in Dallas, it will be a bit of a surprise if Texas can beat the red hot Sooners a second time in one season. Texas hasn’t won the conference championship since 2009.
SEC Championship Game: #1 Alabama vs #4 Georgia
A rematch of last year’s fantastic, overtime national championship game. Alabama are heading in undefeated; Georgia have their 20-point loss to LSU as a reminder that they’re far from flawless.
The outcome regarding playoff implications is quite simple with this game: Alabama win, and they’re in, while Georgia are most likely out, unless teams beneath it lose their games. If Georgia wins makes things interesting – If Alabama lose for the first time this season while Ohio State and Oklahoma win, will the Tide be left out? Hard to say.
Regardless, it’s difficult to envision an Alabama loss, despite championship games often going less than smoothly for them, when they’re 12-0 this season, including blowout wins in each of their games this season.
ACC Championship Game: #2 Clemson vs Pittsburgh
Clemson have been in the last 3 College Football Playoffs, facing Alabama in each of them, losing twice, including last year’s semi final. Undefeated at this point, a win will obviously put them in another CFP. A loss probably means they’re out, but it depends on what the #5 and #6 teams, Oklahoma and Ohio State do.
For Pittsburgh, a team without any sliverwear during their ACC era, turning a 6-2 ACC season and 7-5 overall into a success story might help set up things nicely for a less inconsistent ACC future.
Big Ten Championship Game: #21 Northwestern vs #6 Ohio State
Northwestern are on the verge of winning the Big Ten for the first time since 2000, although it won’t put them in the playoffs. Can Ohio State, a team with a loss to Purdue, get in?
Depends. They were left out last season despite winning the conference at the expense of Alabama. They might win it again (Big favorites to conquer in Indy), and could be left out again. The CFP put Oklahoma ahead of them. Notre Dame are a lock, and one SEC team is a lock too. Maybe two. The Buckeyes need a lot of things to go their way in order to make the CFP for the third time, hoping to erase the impression left by their 31-0 loss to Clemson two years ago.
Can UCF Get In?!
If they win vs Memphis… probably not. They’ll need the Buckeyes, Sooners and Clemson to lose, probably Georgia too, and that might not be enough anyway. Undefeated seasons aren’t worth that much in the current format if you don’t play in the right conference.