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College Football Playoff scenarios and the rest of our weekly gameday guide

Utah State has our local of the week, and a stat Florida fans should know as they watch Billy Napier’s Louisiana finale.
Armwood High alumnus Jerome Ford and the Cincinnati Bearcats have a very realistic path to the College Football Playoff.
Armwood High alumnus Jerome Ford and the Cincinnati Bearcats have a very realistic path to the College Football Playoff. [ KARL B DEBLAKER | AP ]
Published Dec. 2, 2021

Our best guess for how the top contenders can make the College Football Playoff:

No. 1 Georgia: Continue existing. The Bulldogs are near-certain locks.

No. 2 Michigan: Beat Iowa. The Wolverines could still get in with a respectable loss and with some help (Alabama losing).

No. 3 Alabama: Beat Georgia. A close loss might push the Crimson Tide in, too, especially with defeats by Oklahoma State and/or Cincinnati.

No. 4 Cincinnati: We think the Bearcats are in with a victory over Houston (ranked 16th by the committee). But it’d help if ‘Bama lost by double digits or if Baylor knocked off Oklahoma State.

No. 5 Oklahoma State: There’s a chance beating Baylor catapults the Cowboys ahead of Cincinnati. Regardless, a win and a decisive Alabama loss should get them in.

No. 6 Notre Dame: The idle Irish’s best-case scenario is ’Bama knocking itself out while Michigan loses to Iowa. Another Oregon loss to Utah would help, too.

No. 9 Baylor: There’s a chance if the Bears blow out Oklahoma State, Georgia wins big and Cincinnati loses big.

No. 10 Oregon: Chaos. If the Ducks win while Michigan and Oklahoma State lose, every Power Five champion (except the SEC) will have two defeats. Maybe Oregon avenging its loss to Utah with a rout would push the Ducks into the final four?

Viewing guide

After beating Ohio State, can Michigan take the next step and win the Big Ten?
After beating Ohio State, can Michigan take the next step and win the Big Ten? [ CARLOS OSORIO | AP ]

Lamest time window: Friday night. The weeknight games are interesting, but you don’t have to rearrange your plans for them.

Friday

8: Here’s hoping No. 14 Utah vs. No. 10 Oregon (ABC) is closer than the Utes’ 31-point rout two weeks ago.

Saturday

Noon: It would be very Big 12 for No. 5 Oklahoma State to lose to No. 9 Baylor (ABC), potentially knocking the conference out of the playoff.

3:30: Florida fans can watch incoming coach Billy Napier as his No. 20 Louisiana team hosts Appalachian State (ESPN) for the Sun Belt championship.

Related: 5 takeaways from Billy Napier’s first remarks since taking Florida Gators job

4: No. 1 Georgia should finally get a big test against No. 3 Alabama (CBS) in the SEC championship.

8: The Big Ten championship (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 15 Iowa on Fox) is more meaningful, but the ACC title game (No. 17 Pitt vs. No. 18 Wake Forest) will probably be more entertaining.

Local of the week

Justin McGriff is a starting receiver for Utah State.
Justin McGriff is a starting receiver for Utah State. [ STEVE CONNER | AP (2020) ]

Utah State receiver Justin McGriff (Jefferson High)

McGriff has started every game for the 9-3 Aggies and has emerged as one of the team’s top targets (31 catches, five touchdowns). He’ll face a San Diego State defense that’s great against the run but susceptible through the air. A big play or two by McGriff could help give Utah State to its first Mountain West championship.

Eye on the NFL draft

Georgia's Travon Walker, seen here tackling Georgia Tech quarterback Jordan Yates, is a potential first-round pick.
Georgia's Travon Walker, seen here tackling Georgia Tech quarterback Jordan Yates, is a potential first-round pick. [ JOHN BAZEMORE | AP ]

Georgia-Alabama is loaded with future NFL talent. One recent mock draft by The Athletic featured five players in this matchup in the first round: offensive tackle Evan Neal and receiver Jameson Williams from Alabama and linebacker Nakobe Dean and defensive linemen Jordan Davis and Travon Walker from Georgia. They’re all players NFL fans will want to know.

Stat of the week

Nick Saban, left, and Kirby Smart, right, are the only two recent SEC championship game coaches still in the same role.
Nick Saban, left, and Kirby Smart, right, are the only two recent SEC championship game coaches still in the same role.

From ESPN’s Brandon Zimmerman: 11 different coaches have made the SEC title game since 2010. The only two still coaching at the same school are Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Alabama’s Nick Saban. The other nine were either fired (seven, including Florida’s Jim McElwain and Dan Mullen) or retired.

ACC update

Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett is poised to break some significant records against Wake Forest.
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett is poised to break some significant records against Wake Forest. [ ADRIAN KRAUS | AP ]

Though Pitt-Wake Forest lacks playoff implications, it does have historic potential. Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett has thrown a school-record 40 touchdown passes. He only needs one to tie Clemson’s Deshaun Watson for the ACC’s single-season record (set over 15 games in the Tigers’ 2016 national championship season). One more touchdown pass will also move Pickett out of a tie with Dan Marino for Pitt’s career record.

Gators preview

Incoming Florida coach Billy Napier has done well in one-score games at Louisiana.
Incoming Florida coach Billy Napier has done well in one-score games at Louisiana. [ MATTHEW HINTON | AP ]

If Billy Napier’s final game at Louisiana comes down to the wire, that’s an encouraging sign for Florida’s incoming coach. Since 2018, Napier’s Ragin’ Cajuns are 15-3 in one-possession games. Compare that to UF, which lost its last eight one-possession games under Dan Mullen (before last week’s three-point win over Florida State under interim coach Greg Knox).

Related: Billy Napier isn’t Lincoln Riley or Brian Kelly. That’s okay, Florida Gators fans.

By the numbers: Week 14

Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder has had a record-setting career for the Bearcats.
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder has had a record-setting career for the Bearcats. [ KARL B DEBLAKER | AP ]

113 — Career touchdowns by Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder (84 passing, 28 rushing, 1 receiving) after breaking the AAC record last week.

18 — Touchdowns scored by Cincinnati running back Jerome Ford (Armwood High). He needs two more to tie Michael Warren for the Bearcats’ single-season record.

6 — Consecutive times Alabama has beaten Georgia.

9 — Times Alabama has beaten a No. 1 team in the AP poll era (since 1936). That’s tied with Miami for the most ever.

51.47 — Punting average of San Diego State star Matt Araiza, who’s on track to break the NCAA record.

2004 — The last time Michigan won a Big Ten championship. With a win over Iowa, the Wolverines will claim their conference-leading 43rd title.

4-0 — Oregon’s all-time record in the Pac-12 title game.

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