Five coaches to watch
1. Memphis coach Mike Norvell: The Texas native has been connected to the Florida State job for weeks and seems like the favorite to take over the Seminoles after the AAC title game.
2. Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin: The Lane Train could be ready to leave the station for a bigger job (USF? Arkansas? Ole Miss?) after facing UAB in the Conference USA title game.
3. Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain: Missouri could have interest in bringing the 57-year-old former Gators coach back to the SEC East.
4. Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo: The one-time Bucs playcaller would be an enticing candidate for a West Coast opening like UNLV.
5. The Clemson coordinators: Brent Venables, Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott aren’t all going to stay on Dabo Swinney’s staff forever, right? We’ll see whether one (or more) take a spin on this year’s coaching carousel to USF, FSU or somewhere else.
Gators rooting guide
By coming in ninth in the latest College Football Playoff selection committee’s rankings, the Gators look like a lock to appear in a prestigious New Year’s Six bowl. UF fans hoping to spend some time in New Orleans should hope Georgia knocks off LSU for the SEC championship; that scenario would likely send both the Bulldogs and Tigers to the final four and put the Gators in the Sugar Bowl as the next best SEC team. Otherwise, UF is probably bound for the Orange Bowl or, perhaps, the Cotton Bowl.
McElwain winning the MAC?
After becoming the first coach in SEC history to make it to the league title game in his first two seasons, Jim McElwain is again vying for a conference championship, this time at Central Michigan, against Miami (Ohio). Regardless, his Chippewas have had the biggest turnaround in the nation and the largest in program history, going from 1-11 to 8-4.
Hello, Hallandale trio
Utah wouldn’t be in the College Football Playoff discussion without a trio from Broward County.
Quarterback Tyler Huntley, running back Zack Moss and receiver Demari Simpkins all signed with Utah out of Hallandale High (where they were teammates with Florida receiver Josh Hammond). Huntley has a 16-2 touchdown-interception ratio and ranks fifth nationally in passing efficiency (188.65). Moss is in the top 20 in the nation with 1,246 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns, and Simpkins’ 28 receptions are second on the team.
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They all ended up at Utah because of Dennis Erickson, the former Miami head coach who was then a Utes assistant.
It’s been easy to overlook the Tigers because they’ve dominated 11 of their 12 games. But let’s appreciate this program’s excellence. The only other team besides these Tigers to win four consecutive conference title games was the 1993-96 Gators. If Clemson beats Virginia, the Tigers will join 1971-75 Alabama as the only teams to win five consecutive outright league titles. Oklahoma can also accomplish that feat Saturday.
Ranking the rematches
1. Oklahoma-Baylor (Big 12 championship): The Sooners staged the largest comeback in program history, going from a 28-3 deficit to a 34-31 triumph in an entertaining game in Waco. We’ll take a repeat of that, please.
2. Cincinnati-Memphis (AAC championship): The Tigers’ 34-24 win last week was a one-score game for most of the fourth quarter. Bonus points because the teams have clashing styles in addition to being fairly evenly matched.
3. Appalachian State-Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt championship): App State needed a touchdown with 1:56 left to clinch 17-7 October win. Act II marks the first time two Sun Belt teams with double-digit victories have ever met.
4. Ohio State-Wisconsin (Big Ten championship): Only this high because Buckeyes stars Justin Fields, Chase Young and J.K. Dobbins are worth watching. There’s no reason to think Wisconsin gets much closer than its previous 38-7 defeat.
5. Hawaii-Boise State (Mountain West championship): The 9-4 Rainbow Warriors’ 9-4 are a great story. But Boise blew them out 59-37 in October and has beaten Hawaii all seven times they’ve met on the blue turf by an average of 33.1 points apiece.
How LSU’s high-scoring offense compares to Georgia’s elite defense in a top-four showdown for the SEC title:
Points per game: 48.7 (second nationally)
Yards per play: 7.90 (second)
Passing efficiency: 196.93 (fourth)
Plays of at least 20 yards: 87 (third)
Rushing touchdowns: 29 (T-21st)
Points per game allowed: 10.4 (second nationally)
Yards per play allowed: 4.12 (third)
Opposing passing efficiency: 106.72 (third)
Plays of at least 20 yards allowed: 34 (sixth)
Rushing touchdowns allowed: 1 (first)
Local of the week
Georgia receiver Matt Landers (St. Petersburg High)
With the Bulldogs’ top receiver (Miami transfer Lawrence Cager) out with an ankle injury and another, George Pickens, suspended for the first half, Jake Fromm will need someone to emerge as a viable target. How about Landers, a 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore who had a 26-yard catch last week against Georgia Tech?
“As explosive as a team as I have probably ever watched on tape.” — Georgia coach Kirby Smart on LSU
Although Lane Kiffin is known for his offense, don’t ignore Florida Atlantic’s defense. Defensive back Meiko Dotson is tied for the national lead with eight interceptions, and linebacker Rashad Smith’s four fumble recoveries are also tied for first in the country. The Owls, not surprisingly, are a nation’s best plus-19 in turnover margin.
By the numbers: Conference championship weekend
27 Consecutive victories by Clemson. It’s the second-longest winning streak in ACC history, behind FSU (which won 29 in a row from 2012-14)
3 Previous times teams have met in a regular-season finale and conference title game in consecutive weeks before Memphis-Cincinnati. The team that lost the first game is 2-1 in rematches, with both wins coming in the last two years
22-8 Miami (Ohio)’s record in its past 30 conference games
19-11 The other Miami’s record in its past 30 conference games
188 Career catches for Ohio State’s K.J. Hill. Four more will send him past David Boston for the most in program history
13 ½ Sacks by Boise State’s Curtis Weaver, a potential first-round pick