Talking About Playoffs?
You wanted an eight-team playoff? You got it, sort of. One could argue that we have the following four quarterfinal matchups this weekend, with two potential twists:
- #1 Clemson (-9) vs. #7 Miami
- #2 Auburn (-1.5) vs. #6 Georgia
- #3 Oklahoma (-7) vs. #11 TCU
- #4 Wisconsin (+6) vs. #8 Ohio St
The winners of the first two matchups will presumably make the College Football Playoff. Wisconsin and Oklahoma would also most likely get in with victories. The first twist involves No. 5 Alabama, who will essentially be represented by TCU this weekend. If TCU defeats Oklahoma in Arlington, Alabama would be the next highest ranked team in the current rankings. However, even with a TCU victory, the committee could still leave the Crimson Tide out if Ohio State beats Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, a potential second twist. If Alabama does find a way to sneak in, they would become the only school in the country to make the CFP in all four years since inception. Alabama and No. 9 Penn State are the only two teams currently ranked in the top 12 that do not play this weekend.
Ignore the Revenge
There are nine conference championship games this weekend, starting with #10 USC (-4) vs #12 Stanford for the Pac-12 title on Friday night. Stanford will look to avenge an early-season loss at USC with a different quarterback under center in K.J. Costello, but the Trojans have the benefit of extra rest and prep as a result of a well-timed bye week. You might hear some use the revenge angle as a reason for backing the Cardinal, but history tells us otherwise. Of the 20 previous times that a Power Five conference championship featured a regular season rematch, the team that won the first game also won the rematch 14 of those 20 times (70 percent). I think this speaks to the fact that matchup advantages don’t change much during the course of a college football season, and revenge angles are generally overblown when both teams have full motivation, as is the case in a conference championship.
You will actually hear about revenge quite a bit this weekend, as seven of the nine conference championships feature regular season rematches. Interestingly enough, all seven home teams won the first meeting by double digits:
- USC beat Stanford 42-24 in LA; the rematch will take place at Levi’s Stadium
- Florida Atlantic beat North Texas 69-31 in Boca Raton, where they will play the rematch
- Auburn beat Georgia 40-17 in Auburn; they will meet for a rematch in Atlanta
- Oklahoma beat TCU 38-20 in Norman; the rematch will be played in Arlington
- Fresno beat Boise 28-17 in Fresno; they will meet again a week later in Boise
- UCF beat Memphis 40-17 in Orlando, where they will play again on Saturday
- Toledo beat Akron 48-21 in Toledo; the rematch will take place at Ford Field
Only two of the seven conference championships will involve teams meeting for the first time this season: Clemson/Miami in Charlotte and Ohio State/Wisconsin in Indianapolis. For a detailed breakdown of this weekend’s marquee games, check out our Conference Championship Betting Guide.
Injuries to Watch
Before locking in any wagers on the conference championships this weekend, make sure you keep your eye on the status of the following key players:
- RB Kerryon Johnson (Auburn) is questionable
- LB Gabe Perez (Boise) is OUT
- TE Jake Roh (Boise) is questionable
- CB Mark Fields (Clemson) is OUT
- LB Tre Lamar (Clemson) is OUT
- TE Harrison Bryant (FAU) is questionable
- CB Raekwon Williams (FAU) is questionable
- FB Christian Payne (Georgia) is questionable
- WR Ahmmon Richards (Miami) is OUT
- TE Christopher Herndon (Miami) is OUT
- LB Joey Alfieri (Stanford) is questionable
- K Jonathan Song (TCU) is questionable
- S Nick Orr (TCU) will miss the first half
- QB J.T. Barrett (tOSU) will play
- S D’cota Dixon (Wisconsin) is questionable
Kerryon Johnson’s health will get most of the publicity, but Miami is in the worst shape injury wise. After already losing their starting running back for the season, they have now lost their starting tight end and best wide receiver within the last week.
Fun Belt Sideshow
I only previously mentioned nine conference championships since the Sun Belt doesn’t have one (they will starting in 2018). Instead, the Belt will play another full weekend to decide the conference, with a likely result of co-champions. Let’s take a quick look at each of this weekend’s games to determine which ones have any significant meaning:
Troy at Arkansas State (+1): The winner of this game will at least get a share of the SBC. Arkansas State has won four straight in the series and at least a share of the conference championship in five of the last six seasons.
Louisiana at Appalachian State (-14.5): With a win, App State clinches a share of the SBC with the winner of Troy/Ark State. ULL (5-6) is playing for bowl eligibility.
Louisiana Monroe at Florida State (-27): FSU rescheduled this game so they could become bowl eligible. It’s meaningless for Louisiana Monroe (4-7).
South Alabama at New Mexico State (-9.5): An NMSU win will end the nation’s longest bowl drought of 57 years. South Alabama (4-7) is playing for nothing.
Georgia Southern at Coastal Carolina (+2.5): Two 2-9 teams ,so no real motivation. Coastal is coming off of a bye. GSU is on the second of consecutive road games.
Idaho at Georgia State (-5.5): Idaho is down to its third string QB for the program’s final game as an FBS school. GSU is already bowl eligible and has no chance at the conference crown.
It is worth noting that if Florida State, Appalachian State and New Mexico State all win as substantial favorites this weekend, we will have 81 bowl-eligible teams for 78 bowl spots. In recent years, teams with 5-7 records were needed to fill remaining bowl spots, but too many teams won six games this year. At least one, and up to four, but likely three teams with six wins will not get invited to a bowl. I can’t imagine NMSU getting snubbed if they end their long drought, which probably means a few Conference USA teams will get left out.
There is actually one non-Belt meaningless game this weekend, with Florida International scheduled to make up their cancelled game against Indiana.
Massachusetts at FIU (-1): FIU (7-4) is already bowl eligible. UMass (4-7) can’t get to a bowl, but they’ve won four of five with the one loss coming in a close game at Mississippi State.
What’s on When and Where?
Finally, I organized the Saturday channel guide below by kickoff time for every college football game involving an FBS school along with the corresponding spread/total, something only true degenerates will appreciate. I also added streaming links when applicable and corresponding DirecTV channels in parentheses next to each game for your reference.
You can watch every game for free with the exception of UMass at FIU -1, which will require a premium subscription on CUSATV.
12 P.M. ET
(20) Memphis @ (14) UCF -7 O/U 81, ABC (396)
North Texas @ FAU -11.5 O/U 73.5, ESPN2 (209)
Akron @ Toledo -21.5 O/U 58.5, ESPN (206)
ULM @ Florida State -27 O/U 64, ACCN
UMass @ FIU -1 O/U 56, CUSATV
12:30 P.M. ET
(11) TCU @ (3) Oklahoma -7 O/U 63.5, FOX (398)
1 P.M. ET
Ga Southern @ Coastal Carolina +2.5 O/U 52, ESPN3
2 P.M. ET
Idaho @ Georgia State -5.5 O/U 46, ESPN3
2:30 P.M. ET
Louisiana @ Appalachian State -14.5 O/U 58, ESPN3
4 P.M. ET
(6) Georgia vs (2) Auburn -1.5 O/U 48, CBS (392)
4:30 P.M. ET
South Alabama @ NMSU -9.5 O/U 53, ESPN3
7:30 P.M. ET
Troy @ Arkansas State +1 O/U 60, ESPN2 (209)
7:45 P.M. ET
(25) Fresno State @ Boise State -8.5 O/U 50, ESPN (206)
8 P.M. ET
(7) Miami @ (1) Clemson -9 O/U 46, ABC (396)
(8) Ohio State vs. (4) Wisconsin +6 O/U 51, FOX (398)