If they didn't play the regular season, the Pac-12 championship game between USC and Stanford (8 p.m., ESPN) would have some impact on the College Football Playoff.

Instead, it will simply serve as an appetizer to the games that will actually matter for the College Football Playoff.

Southern California was ranked No. 4 in the AP's preseason poll, and stayed in the mix until losing to Washington State in Week 5. The Trojans (10-2) were knocked out of consideration when they were stomped by Notre Dame in October.

Stanford was done early. The Cardinal (9-3) lost to USC and San Diego State in the second and third weeks of the season. But they finished the season by winning eight of their final nine games.

To add to the Pac-12's misery, the Rose Bowl serves as one of this year's playoff semifinal sites. So the conference winner won't even be going to Pasadena on New Year's Day as a consolation prize.

Instead, the USC-Stanford winner will likely go to the Fiesta Bowl. They'll probably play the loser of the Big Ten title game between Wisconsin and Ohio State (8 p.m. Saturday, Fox29).

The primary goal of the bowls that aren't semifinal sites is, of course, to put together the most attractive matchup that will increase attendance. So the "traditional" Rose Bowl matchup will be played in Arizona.

After playing in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore., last week, Gonzaga hosts Creighton tonight and faces Villanova in New York on Tuesday. (Timothy J. Gonzalez/AP)
AP
After playing in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore., last week, Gonzaga hosts Creighton tonight and faces Villanova in New York on Tuesday. (Timothy J. Gonzalez/AP)

Villanova will be watching Creighton-Gonzaga

There might not be a lot of people in the Delaware Valley who will stay up late to watch No. 25 Creighton visit No. 15 Gonzaga (10 p.m., ESPN2), but I'll lay odds that Jay Wright and the coaching staff at Villanova will pay close attention.

Coaches love to get a scouting report on two opponents out of the same game – especially while sitting in the comfort of their home or office.

Heck, with a DVR, you can instantly re-run plays if you want to.

After a Big 5 matchup at Saint Joseph's on Saturday (5:30 p.m., ESPN2), Villanova will play Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic in New York on Tuesday (7 p.m., ESPN).

On a personal note, that will mark my return as the beat writer for the Wildcats.

Creighton is one of the teams that could make a challenge to Villanova for the Big East regular season and tournament titles.

(On an even more personal note, I will pack thermal underwear for the game in Omaha on Feb. 24.)

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (left) and Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (right) embrace after last year’s game in Seattle.
David Maialetti
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (left) and Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (right) embrace after last year’s game in Seattle.

What I’m reading

It's Friday and the Eagles staff has put in their fearless predictions for the game with the Seattle Seahawks. All predict that the Birds will win, but somebody says it won't be the ones in midnight green.

Staff writer Rob Tornoe examines an experiment by NBC Sports in Portland that may have a financial impact on Philadelphia sports fans down the road.

Staff writer Les Bowen reports the Eagles understand that their nine-day stay on the West Coast is going to be a business trip, and not just a break from Northeast winter weather.

Scripting plays to start a game doesn't mean squat if teams don't execute. Staff writer Paul Domowitch explains how the Eagles put a script together and can stick to it because they have executed well.

The way players move in the NFL the Eagles are going to find a former team in most games. Former offensive tackle Matt Tobin is now with Seattle, and he says the Seahawks will be able to run the ball against the Eagles.

Sixers’ Ben Simmons is intentionally fouled by the Washington Wizards’ Ian Mahinmi during the 4th quarter of Wednesday’s game at at the Wells Fargo Center.
Steven M. Falk
Sixers’ Ben Simmons is intentionally fouled by the Washington Wizards’ Ian Mahinmi during the 4th quarter of Wednesday’s game at at the Wells Fargo Center.

The riff

On Thursday a lot of national outlets wondered if the Boston Celtics would resort to intentionally fouling Ben Simmons to send the notoriously bad free throw shooter to the foul line the way the Washington Wizards had done on Wednesday.

And perhaps if the Celtics had found themselves down by 20 after three quarters, they too would have sent Simmons to the line — an NBA record 24 times in one quarter.

The bad news is the "Hack-a-Ben" strategy isn't going away on its own.

The good news is I fully expect Simmons to eliminate that hole in his game by mid-March when the Sixers will be in the thick of the playoff hunt.

Simmons was embarrassed by what happened against Washington.

He wants to eventually be considered an all-time great. Simmons recognizes his flaws and will be driven to ultimately correct all of them.

My suggestion for a first step would be for Simmons to offer a string of dinners at any of Philadelphia's five-star restaurants to teammate JJ Redick, a career 88.9 percent free throw shooter; Jerryd Bayless (82.4 percent); or even Dario Saric, a near 7-foot teammate with big hands who shoots 78.2 percent. They can work with Simmon on his technique.

Today’s Schedule

TV/Radio

NBA
Timberwolves at Thunder, 8 p.m. (NBA TV)

College Football
Pac-12 championship game: USC vs. Stanford, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Men's College Basketball
Holy Cross vs. Manhattan (at Belfast, Northern Ireland), 11:30 a.m. (CBSSN)
La Salle vs. Towson (at Belfast, Northern Ireland), 2 p.m. (CBSSN)
North Carolina vs. Davidson, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Creighton at Gonzaga, 10 p.m. (ESPN2)

(By the way, check out staff writer Joe Juliano's feature on La Salle's Cian Sullivan, an Ireland native who will be playing a few hours' drive from home.)

Golf
Hero World Challenge, 12:30 p.m. (Golf Channel)
Australian PGA Championship, 9:30 p.m. (Golf Channel)
European PGA: Mauritius Open, 3:30 a.m. Saturday (Golf Channel)

Auto Racing
Formula E: Hong Kong E-Prix, 2 a.m. Saturday (FS1)

Skiing
Men's Super G from Beaver Creek, Colo., 12:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Women's Downhill from Lake Louise, Alberta, 2:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

Local Events

Women's College Basketball
Drexel vs. Lafayette, 7 p.m., Daskalakis Center

Harness Racing
Harrah's Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack, 12:40 p.m., Chester