It’s the final week of college football. It’s conference championship week with four of the five power conferences holding conference championship games. The SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Pac 12 will all hold their title games this weekend.
The SEC matchup is Florida-Alabama once again. This is by far the most common matchup with these teams facing off Saturday for the ninth time in the 25-year history of the game. Florida leads in both appearances with 12 and wins with 7. Alabama defeated Florida in last year’s game. The Tide is a heavy favorite in this Saturday’s game partially due to the incredible amount of Gator injuries. It seems like Florida has lost multiple players for the rest of the season in every game they have played this year. I saw a chart showing that out of a possible 85 scholarship players, if you remove redshirted players, injured players and players who have virtually never contributed as Gators, Florida has 36 contributing players available for this game. It is nearly impossible to imagine the Gators winning the game. A win would guarantee a spot in the four-team playoff for Alabama. If Alabama were to somehow lose they would probably still be in the playoff.
Penn State faces off against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game even though the common consensus is that Michigan and Ohio State are the two best teams in the conference. Penn State is riding an eight-game winning streak and has been thrashing their opponents since a close win over Ohio State. Wisconsin is also 10-2 but lost to both Ohio State and Michigan. With the Buckeyes finished playing and sitting at 11-1 I guess we will find out whether “conference championship” is as important to the playoff committee as they claim. If the favorites win each of the four conference championship games the committee will be forced to decide between Ohio State and a Washington one-loss conference champion and a Penn State two-loss conference champion that beat Ohio State head to head. I’m not sure which way the committee will go here. It will be hard to drop the Buckeyes out of the top four when you just put them at number two. This could be a beer and popcorn spectator event.
The ACC championship game is Clemson-Virginia Tech. The ACC is praying that Clemson wins this game. A Virginia Tech win swings the door wide open for Ohio State and eliminates the ACC from the playoff. A two loss Clemson would not beat out Ohio State for a spot in the playoff. There are huge ramifications for this game. Clemson is the better team but that doesn’t always equate to a win in these games. There will be a lot of folks watching that matchup with great interest.
The Pac 12 pits Washington against Colorado in their championship game. If Washington wins I believe they will be in the playoff. I doubt a two-loss Buffaloes team would make it with the Buckeyes sitting out there at 11-1. This is another game Buckeye fans will be watching with interest. If either Washington or Clemson loses, Ohio State is in. The best team right now in the Pac 12 is likely USC but with three losses and no spot in the conference championship game there is zero chance of USC making the playoff.
When all of the dust settles on Saturday the committee will start pouring over all of the data and all of the resumes of the teams in contention to pick the four team playoff. I predict it will be Alabama, Penn State, Ohio State and either Clemson or Washington. One of those two will probably lose their conference championship game. This might be the year that pushes the powers that be to extend the playoff to eight teams which is where it should be already. I think the champions of each of the power five conferences should make the playoff regardless of their record followed by three at-large teams.