What this weekend's title games mean to the College Football Playoff
The penultimate round of the College Football Playoff selection committee's rankings gave us some insight into just how meaningful this weekend's conference title games will be.
Here's a guide for the weekend, in chronological order, with an eye toward the Jan. 9 national championship at Raymond James Stadium:
Pac-12 championship (9 p.m. Friday): No. 4 Washington vs. No. 8 Colorado
What it means: If the Huskies win, they're in the final four. If the Buffs win, it gets shaky. Colorado would have ranked wins (in the committee's eyes) against No. 18 Stanford and No. 20 Utah, plus No. 4 Washington. But No. 5 Michigan beat the Buffs 45-28 in September, and the Wolverines also have wins over No. 7 Penn State and No. 6 Wisconsin. Could the Buffs jump past Michigan and whoever wins the Big Ten?
Bedlam (12:30 p.m. Saturday): No. 10 Oklahoma State at No. 9 Oklahoma
What it means: Not much, aside from bragging rights in my old stompin' grounds. The victor wins the Big 12. That's good. But that team is also currently behind whoever wins the Pac-12, whoever wins the Big Ten and two teams who could be in regardless (No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State). And also behind ACC favorite Clemson. That's bad. So unless Virginia Tech upsets the Tigers, Florida upsets ‘Bama and the NCAA reverses the outcome of the Oklahoma State-Central Michigan game...the psychologically disadvantaged league is out of the final four. Again.
SEC championship (4 p.m. Saturday): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 15 Florida
What it means: Not much, unless the Gators win and coach Jim McElwain can silence his critics. ‘Bama is in no matter what, and it's hard to see the Crimson Tide not being No. 1. I'm not exactly hyping up the game I'll be covering, but such is life.
ACC championship (8 p.m. Saturday in Orlando): No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 23 Virginia Tech
What it means: A lot for the Tigers. Win, and they're in. But the Hokies are good enough to pull an upset. If that happens, it opens the door for someone else. Which leads to...
Big Ten Championship (8 p.m. Saturday): No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 7 Penn State
What it means: No idea. We don't know how the committee values a conference championship, as I wrote a few weeks ago. Is it enough to put the Badgers or Nittany Lions ahead of the Buckeyes? I doubt it, but it's conceivable. Ahead of Michigan, which beat both teams during the regular season? That's where it gets tricky. The Badgers lost by a touchdown, but Penn State lost by 39 points. Wisconsin might have a case; Penn State might not. But with upsets in the ACC and Pac-12 title games, three of the top four teams in the country might be in the Big Ten.