‘Championship Week’ in college football is upon us
Just a heads up to every married guy across the country, Saturday will be an absolutely terrible day to acquiesce with your wife and go Christmas shopping. That is because beginning at 12:30 p.m. and running for the ensuing 12 hours will be a smorgasbord of college football, and it isn’t hyperbole to say that the entire season for those involved comes down to one game. For now, at least.
“Championship Weekend” will involve a number of conference title games from the West Coast (Santa Clara, Calif.) to the East (Orlando and Charlotte), with a dose of middle America (Indianapolis and Arlington, Texas) sprinkled in for good measure.
No. 10 USC (10-2) will face No. 12 Stanford (9-3) tonight in Santa Clara (8 p.m., ESPN) for the Pac-12 title, while No. 20 Memphis (10-1) will travel to unbeaten and 14th-ranked Central Florida (11-0) in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
“The Selection Committee looks forward to Championship Weekend,” College Football Playoff Selection Committee chair Kirby Hocutt said recently.
We all do.
The games Saturday will play a massive part of how the Selection Committee decides on Sunday which four teams will get to compete in the Playoff (semifinals will be Jan. 1 in the Rose and Sugar Bowls, while the National Championship will be played Jan. 8 in Atlanta), as well as who gets to participate in a New Year’s Six bowl games (Cotton, Fiesta and Peach Bowls to be played Dec. 29 and 30).
Championships will be determined not just in the Pac-12 and American, but also the Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference, Big Ten, and Big 12, conferences.
Here are some vital things to watch for in some of those games.
No. 1 Clemson (11-1) vs. No. 7 Miami (Fla.) (10-1),
Saturday at 8 p.m. (ABC) in Charlotte
The Committee absolutely loves the entire body of work that the defending national champion Tigers have put together and their top ranking of exhibits that.
“The committee continues to be impressed with how balanced the Tigers are on both sides of the ball,” Hocutt said, “and how that has translated into an impressive season-long body of work.”
The winner of this game gets into the Playoff. If Miami loses, then it will be put into a New Year’s Six game.
The situation gets turned upside down if Clemson loses because the Tigers could still be a possibility for a Playoff spot, even with a loss.
With a loss, the Tigers need:
Clemson would really need Wisconsin to lose to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game and/or Oklahoma to lose to TCU in the Big 12 title game. If either of those things occur, then the Committee will have to choose among a losing Sooner team (11-2 at that point), Alabama (11-1) and Clemson for one to two of the possible spots.
No. 4 Auburn (10-2) vs. No. 6 Georgia (11-1),
Saturday at 4 p.m. (CBS) in Atlanta
There may not be a better playing team in the country than the Tigers, who have destroyed Georgia and beaten Alabama in two of the last three weeks. However, both of those were played at home and this game will be played in the Bulldogs’ backyard.
“Auburn is a team that has played well all year,” Hocutt said. “Auburn is a physical team. They are balanced and getting solid play from the quarterback position at this point in time in the season.”
The winner of this game gets into the Playoff. If Georgia loses, it is out, period. However, it would be put into a New Year’s Six game.
This situation isn’t nearly as complex for Auburn as Clemson’s losing predicament could turn out, but it could be.
A Tiger loss to Georgia would be their third loss, two of which are to Clemson, so Auburn would be out of the Playoff picture and put into a New Year’s Six game, just as Georgia would be.
The Tigers need:
A miracle. In order for Auburn to make the Playoff, it would need:
* TCU to rout Oklahoma badly,
* Ohio State to crush Wisconsin,
* Miami to destroy Clemson, and
* The Committee to value its late play enough to include it into the Playoff picture, which would also then involve Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, and Oklahoma, and at that point, possibly even Penn State.
All of this is not going to happen, so sorry “War Eagle” fans.
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 3 Wisconsin (12-0) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (10-2),
Saturday at 8 p.m. (FOX), in Indianapolis
There was the famed war cry “Remember the Maine,” but for Buckeye fans hearing “Remember Iowa” has to make them nauseous.
The Buckeyes have a fantastic resume – if only people would disregard the fact that Ohio State lost by 31 to the Hawkeyes in Iowa City last month.
“Ohio State has put together a solid resume,” Hocutt said. “The win over Penn State, the win over Michigan State, the way that Ohio State has played and executed these last three weeks has been very impressive.”
If Wisconsin wins, it gets into the Playoff. If the Badgers lose, they will be put into a New Year’s Six game, which is where Ohio State ends up with a loss.
The Playoff picture becomes a mess if Ohio State wins, especially if it routs the Badgers. It isn’t clear-cut that Ohio State would earn a Playoff berth, even with a dominating victory, but that scenario isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.
The Buckeyes need:
Ohio State not only needs to win, it needs to win by, like, 50. The Buckeyes then also need Auburn to win (just to take them out of the debate) and Oklahoma to win by 50 (though News-Sentinel.com colleague Justin Kenny argues this point).
That last point is due to the Sooners having beaten the Buckeyes in Columbus, which is bad, but an Oklahoma rout diminishes that Ohio State loss in the eyes of the Committee and would insert the Buckeyes into a debate with Alabama for a Playoff berth.
“I will be prepared to answer that question Sunday,” Hocutt said of comparing the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide. “This week, obviously, the Selection Committee thought Alabama (ranked fifth) was the better football team. If that should change, if Ohio State wins a conference championship, I don’t know how the Selection Committee would make that decision until it happens.”
BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 2 Oklahoma (11-1) vs. No. 12 TCU (10-2),
Saturday at 12:30 p.m. (FOX), in Arlington, Texas
Each of these bowl games have a defined winner in terms of Playoff berths. The ACC winner is in, the SEC winner is in, and Wisconsin is in with a victory. There is no debating those points.
“When you are comparing like teams,” Hocutt said, “that conference championship designation is very important.”
An Oklahoma win and the Sooners are in. If the Sooners lose, they are definitely involved in a New Year’s Six game, but certain situations could unfold to keep Oklahoma in the national title hunt. TCU can remain in the hunt for a New Year’s Six appearance, but that is it.
If Oklahoma does indeed lose, it needs it to be close and perhaps even debatable (a bad officiating call, for example), which in a Big 12 game? Yeah, that is possible.
With a loss, the Sooners need:
Oklahoma would need Clemson and Auburn to win (to take them out of the debate), as well as Ohio State to win massively over Wisconsin, thus making its win in Columbus all the more impressive to the Committee. All of those scenarios are very possible.
The wild card is the Committee’s perception of Alabama over Oklahoma if there is just one spot available.
“Alabama is a very good football team,” Hocutt said. “That is obvious by their No. 5 ranking this year and we’ll continue to evaluate the 12 opportunities that we’ve had to watch them and how they’ve performed each week on the field.”
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