With two games left in the regular season for most FBS teams, the picture in the various conference championship games is starting to become clearer as Week 13 begins.
Meanwhile, all the one-loss teams from Nos. 5-10 (such as No. 8 Penn State) in the College Football Playoff rankings will be looking to hold or improve their position with two weeks left until bowl selection day on Dec. 8.
The Bulldogs wrapped up a berth last week in the SEC championship game and now want to hold their spot in the CFP top four. Their success is a product of their defense, which is second in the nation in points allowed (10.5 per game) and sixth in total yards yielded (267.2 per game). D’Andre Swift (St. Joseph’s Prep) has rushed for 1,000 yards for the second straight season.
In their eighth season in the SEC, the Aggies have yet to become a threat in the league. But with games remaining against Georgia and No. 1 Louisiana State, they certainly could attract a lot of attention as a spoiler. They enter this game on a four-game winning streak, though none of those four opponents had a winning record.
The Bears get another chance to secure a berth in the Big 12 championship game one week after suffering their first defeat, a nightmarish collapse from a 28-3 lead to a 34-31 loss to Oklahoma.
“That was the first chance for us to see what a championship mindset looks like,” Baylor (and former Temple) coach Matt Rhule said. “When the game is on the line and you have to make one more play, you can’t look at the scoreboard [and] you can’t sit there and hope the time runs off the clock. You have to just keep playing, and so Oklahoma did it.”
The Longhorns were expected to be in the race for a Big 12 championship, only to lose four games for the 10th consecutive year. They still could make a repeat trip to the conference title game but need to win their last two contests and get some help.
Then you have the Sooners and their highly potent offense on one side of the line, and their strangely disappearing defense on the other side, as depicted by the 113 points scored against them by their last three opponents.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts has accounted for 43 touchdowns (28 passing, 15 rushing) and has led an offense that averages 581 total yards (first in FBS) and 47 points per game (fourth). The Horned Frogs, who need one win to become bowl eligible, lead the Big 12 in total defense (329 yards per game).
Oklahoma has an uphill climb to the College Football Playoff, but a win would earn the Sooners a berth in the conference championship game and a possible rematch with Baylor.
This is the Crimson Tide’s first chapter of Life Without Tua — quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who had hip surgery Monday. Mac Jones, who led Alabama to a win over Arkansas in his first start earlier this season, gets a chance to keep his team alive for a CFP spot and gain some confidence against the Catamounts, who are 0-56 against FBS teams.
Fans of the Golden Gophers are outraged that their team slipped two spots behind Penn State in this week’s CFP rankings less than two weeks after Minnesota defeated the Nittany Lions. The Gophers do hold a one-game lead over Wisconsin in the Big Ten West, though they might be without quarterback Tanner Morgan (concussion).
The Badgers need a victory to keep pace with Minnesota and set up a showdown for the division title next Saturday in Minneapolis. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (Salem High School) posted the 11th 200-yard rushing game of his career last week against Nebraska, and his 5,634 yards are the most in FBS history through a player’s junior season.
— Top-ranked Louisiana State should have no trouble at all with Arkansas, but Tigers coach Ed Orgeron is concerned that his defense has developed sieve-like tendencies after it gave up 614 yards and 37 points last week to Mississippi. However, with Joe Burrow leading an offense that averages 47.8 points, things can’t be that bad.
— With the Pac-12 North title in hand, Oregon (No. 6 CFP/AP) will try to avoid a stumble at Arizona State and stay in the playoff mix. Quarterback Justin Herbert is up to 28 touchdown passes against only three interceptions this season. Herm Edwards’ Sun Devils would become bowl eligible with one more win.
— Memphis needs two wins, including Saturday at South Florida, to reach the AAC championship game for the third straight season. What the Tigers would really like is a Temple win over Cincinnati to make their road to a New Year’s Six bowl as the best Group of Five team less cluttered.