It’s championship Saturday and the temptation would be to look for upsets to see how they will impact the current top 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
But look again. Would the current unbeaten teams — No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Louisiana State, No. 3 Clemson — be knocked out if they lost out on conference titles? It says here that wouldn’t be likely considering the resumes they’ve built during their first 12 games.
Of course, if No. 4 Georgia loses, that would allow either No. 5 Utah (which plays Oregon on Friday night for the Pac-12 championship) or the Oklahoma-Baylor winner (No. 6 vs. No. 7) to move up.
Should be a fun day, and a tense night, before the playoff and bowl selections are announced Sunday.
LSU (No. 2 College Football Playoff/No. 1 Associated Press) vs. Georgia (No. 4 CFP and AP) at Atlanta, 4 p.m., CBS3
The best matchup of the day brings together one of the nation’s most explosive offenses against one of the strongest defenses in FBS.
The Tigers, led by quarterback and Heisman Trophy front-runner Joe Burrow, are second in FBS with 48.7 points per game, 560.4 total yards per game, and 7.9 yards per play. The Bulldogs have allowed 10.4 points per game (second in FBS), 4.12 yards per play (third), and 257 total yards per game (fourth).
The LSU defense had a four-game stretch in which it allowed an average of 29.5 points per game before holding Texas A&M to one touchdown last week in a 50-7 rout. The Tigers made a statement to the College Football Playoff selection committee that dropped them from No. 1 to No. 2 earlier in the week.
The Bulldogs have to score some points to win but have some injury problems on offense. Lawrence Cager, one of their top receivers, is out after undergoing ankle surgery. Running back D’Andre Swift (St. Joseph’s Prep), who has rushed for 1,203 yards, suffered a shoulder injury last week against Georgia Tech, but head coach Kirby Smart says he’s good to go.
Big Ten Championship
Ohio State (No. 1 CFP/No. 2 AP) vs. Wisconsin (No. 8 CFP/No. 10 AP) at Indianapolis, 8 p.m., Fox29
This is a rematch of the Oct. 26 game in which the Buckeyes routed the Badgers, 38-7. Should a similarly one-sided result happen again Saturday, the conference’s seat at the Rose Bowl likely will be filled by Penn State.
Also, an Ohio State win would mark the first time since 2015 that the Big Ten champion reached the playoff. The Buckeyes were the last team in the conference to reach the CFP, in 2016, but Penn State was the Big Ten champ that year.
Quarterback Justin Fields, the Big Ten offensive player of the year, has made the Buckeyes go all season, but he has aggravated a left knee injury twice in the last two weeks and will wear a heavy brace, which he says affects his mobility but not his passing. J.K. Dobbins provides ample support in the backfield.
On defense, Chase Young, the conference’s defensive player of the year, and company will try to repeat its performance of six weeks ago against Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (Salem High), who managed a season-low 52 yards against the Buckeyes.
Taylor needs 68 yards to reach 6,000 career rushing yards and become the first player ever to reach that milestone in three seasons.
Big 12 Championship
Oklahoma (No. 6 CFP and AP) vs. Baylor (No. 7 CFP/No. 8 AP) at Arlington, Texas, noon, 6ABC
The last time these teams played, on Nov. 16, the Bears blew a 28-3 second-quarter lead and lost, 34-31. Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts made up for two fumbles and an interception in that game by throwing for 297 yards and four touchdowns, and adding 114 yards on 27 carries. This is Baylor’s first trip to the Big 12 title game. The Sooners are seeking their fifth Big 12 title in a row, and fourth playoff berth in that span.
Clemson (No. 3 CFP and AP) vs. Virginia (No. 23 CFP/No. 22 AP) at Charlotte, N.C., 7:30 p.m., 6ABC
A fifth consecutive championship game victory for the Tigers will earn them a fifth consecutive College Football Playoff. They have done their best to answer those who criticize them for a weak schedule by winning their last seven games by 30 or more points. Quarterback Bryce Perkins has been the offensive force for the Cavaliers, but the Tigers, second in total defense in FBS, will provide the ultimate test.
Cincinnati (No. 20 CFP/No. 21 AP) at Memphis (No. 17 CFP/No. 16 AP), 3:30 p.m., 6ABC
A win likely gets the Tigers into the Cotton Bowl as the top Group of 5 team in the final CFP ranking. Brady White led Memphis to a 34-24 win over the Bearcats a week ago by throwing for 233 yards and two touchdowns. The Memphis defense came up with five sacks and three turnovers. Cincinnati should have quarterback Desmond Ridder back from a shoulder injury.
What else is happening?
Should Memphis lose to Cincinnati, No. 19 Boise State and No. 21 Appalachian State would have a shot at grabbing the Group of 5 bid to the Cotton Bowl. The Broncos will be on their home blue turf for the Mountain West championship game against Hawaii. The Mountaineers take on Louisiana-Lafayette on their home field in the Sun Belt title contest.
Expatriate of the week
Freshman linebacker Keith Maguire, who starred at Malvern Prep, has seen limited action for a loaded Clemson team this season. Maguire (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) has three tackles, including one for a loss, in three games played as the team’s third-string weakside linebacker. Maguire was considered the No. 1 high school recruit in Pennsylvania by Rivals.com in last year’s senior class.