Finally, championship Saturday is here.
Finally, all the pontificating, all the lobbying, all the "expert" analysis from what seems like dozens of talking heads whom we've watched over the last month or so can stop. Hopefully, the decisions over which four teams will qualify for the College Football Playoff will be worked out on the field.
Perhaps the most exciting game of the day will be played Saturday night between undefeated Iowa, fourth in the CFP poll, and No. 5 Michigan State for the Big Ten Championship. The winner is most likely in the tournament. The loser is presumed to be in the Rose Bowl but may have to duke it out with Ohio State.
No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama are in with wins in the ACC and SEC championship games, respectively. No. 3 Oklahoma has completed play and would have to think it's safely in the top four no matter what happens Saturday, right? Right?
Ohio State is sixth but needs help, like Stanford not doing anything too impressive. Think back to last year when the Buckeyes rolled, 59-0, over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title contest and jumped over both Baylor and Texas Christian to capture the fourth and final CFP spot. The No. 7 Cardinal probably would need a victory of the Ohio State-Wisconsin magnitude when playing Southern California for the Pac-12 crown, and have either Clemson or Alabama fall.
Of course, if the Tigers or the Crimson Tide do lose, that will give the hundreds of talking heads until the release of the final rankings at 12:30 p.m. Sunday to air their grievances over who should and shouldn't be in. Can't wait - for the final rankings, that is.
The last weekend for Heisman Trophy candidates to prove themselves to the voters will be more like a victory lap for Alabama running back Derrick Henry, the solid favorite to collect the coveted trophy on Dec. 12.
The 6-foot-3, 242-pound junior set an Alabama rushing record for most yards in a single season last week and enters Saturday with 1,797 yards. He now looks to shatter Herschel Walker's SEC record of 1,891. Then if he really gets on a roll, the 2,000-yard mark could be in sight.
Only two other Heisman contenders will be playing Saturday - Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Stanford running back/return man Christian McCaffrey. Watson is considered the No. 2 betting favorite after Henry during a year that has seen him roll up an average of 331.6 yards of total offense.
For the last three weeks, Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds had been leading fan voting for the Heisman, where the No. 1 vote-getter by this weekend actually receives an official vote for the award. But after Navy's loss to Houston last weekend, Reynolds' name was removed from the list of candidates, causing a stir at the academy and drawing the ire of one Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.).
"Outrageous! I'm voting #KeenanReynolds for #Heisman - join me!" McCain said on Twitter.
A spokeswoman for ESPN, which administers the fan-voting site, said the candidates listed are those mentioned in the network's weekly Heisman Watch - an editorial poll of the network's college football experts. And Reynolds wasn't mentioned after Navy lost.
That's a major miscue for ESPN: Taking down the leader in the fan voting, who just happens to NOT be from a Power Five school but from the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy, home of former Heisman winner Roger Staubach. At least there was a write-in function so fans could continue to vote for Reynolds, but that's not as easy as finding the candidate and clicking once.
The number of teams with the six wins needed to be eligible for one of the 40 postseason bowl games is at 75 with three more teams - Kansas State, Georgia State, and South Alabama - having a chance to get a sixth victory this weekend.
Still, that means between two and five teams with 5-7 records will be needed to fill out the 80 open spots for the bowls.
The NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee has given a one-time approval to 5-7 teams, ranking them in order of their academic progress rates and submitting that pool for selection to interested bowl officials. The order is Nebraska, Kansas State, Missouri, Minnesota, San Jose State, Illinois, and Rice.
Missouri already has said it does not want to be considered. Nebraska, Minnesota, San Jose State, and Illinois say they're all in.
Fifth-year senior Anthony Sarao, who starred at Holy Spirit High School, is in his third year as a starting inside linebacker for Southern California. The 6-foot, 235-pound Sarao, who was on the watch list for the Butkus Award given to the nation's top linebacker, is fifth on the team in tackles with 45. He is expected to make his 33d career start Saturday night in the Pac-12 title game against Stanford. In the Trojans' regular-season meeting with the Cardinal, Sarao had six tackles and a sack.
Desmond King, DB, Iowa vs. Michigan State
King, a finalist for the Walter Camp player of the year award, is the leader on defense for the undefeated Hawkeyes in their bid for a spot in the College Football Playoffs. He is tied for first in the Football Bowl Subdivision with eight interceptions and ranks 10th in punt returns with a 13.3-yard average. He also has averaged 25.6 yards on kickoff returns.
Clemson vs. North Carolina, ACC championship, at Charlotte, 8 p.m., 6ABC: The Tigers and Deshaun Watson try to wrap up an undefeated regular season and No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. The Tar Heels have run the table since a Week 1 loss, but their two wins over Football Championship Subdivision teams probably will keep them out of the CFP.
Alabama vs. Florida, SEC championship, at Atlanta, 4 p.m., CBS3: Derrick Henry, the Crimson Tide's 242-pound battering ram of a running back, takes aim on Herschel Walker's SEC single-season rushing record against the Gators, who are ranked seventh in the nation (111.3 yards per game) in rushing defense.
Iowa vs. Michigan State, Big Ten championship, at Indianapolis, 8 p.m., Fox29: The Hawkeyes may be the nation's Cinderella story, going unbeaten one year after coach Kirk Ferentz's job was thought to be in jeopardy. Midnight could come against the Spartans, who were humming on all cylinders last week against Penn State.
Stanford vs. Southern California, Pac-12 championship, at Santa Clara, Calif., 7:45 p.m., ESPN: The Cardinal are just hanging around the CFP poll at No. 7, hoping that an impressive win over the Trojans, and some help in other games, can convince the committee to give them one of the four playoff berths.