College Football Championship Week is set to provide clarity or create utter chaos for the Playoff Committee.
On Saturday, six different conference championships will take place with four games having a direct impact on the outcome of the final rankings of the season and the decisions that lie ahead for the 13-person College Playoff Committee, who will reveal their choice for the four-team College Football Playoff on Sunday.
To this point, the committee has a somewhat built-in defense, creating a virtuoso win-and-in scenario for current #1 Clemson, #2 Auburn, #3 Oklahoma and #4 Wisconsin. The only caveat being that each one of those teams will be facing a quality opponent who also happens to be looking for their own invitation to the playoffs and trying to earn the “conference champion” label as a boost.
Opportunity awaits for #5 Alabama, who is idle this week after a devastating loss in the Iron Bowl to Auburn a week ago. Though in an unfamiliar position, the Tide would undoubtedly be the beneficiary to any slip up by a current top-4 team, earning a controversial spot in the playoffs despite not even appearing in the conference championship game.
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
Who: #20 Memphis Tigers / #14 UCF Knights
When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
Where: Spectrum Stadium (Orlando, FL)
The dream season continues for Scott Frost and the undefeated #14 UCF Knights, who host a familiar foe, the #20 Memphis Tigers for the American Athletic Conference Championship. With the emotional win over the South Florida Bulls, the Knights became the first team in college football history to go from winless to unbeaten in two years during the regular season. With rumors swirling about Frost’s future at UCF, this game could signify Orlando’s last opportunity to show the coach just how appreciative this community is of his team’s accomplishments and to fully support any decision Frost will make after the clock hits zero on Saturday night. The Knights defeated the Tigers 40-13 in a game at Spectrum Stadium in September.
Who: #2 Auburn Tigers / #6 Georgia Bulldogs
When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, Georgia)
For the first time in the 26-year history of the SEC Championship game, the #6 Georgia Bulldogs will face the #2 Auburn Tigers. The two teams have a storied regular-season history, where Auburn most recently defeated Georgia 40-17 in a game at Auburn just weeks ago. That loss remains the only blemish on the Bulldogs schedule all season, and Kirby Smart’s crew looks to earn a playoff bid for the first time if they are able to earn the school’s third SEC Championship. Auburn, who last won the SEC Championship in 2013, will earn an automatic bid into the playoffs with a win.
Who: #1 Clemson / #7 Miami Hurricanes
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)
The defending National Champion and #1 ranked Clemson Tigers find themselves in a familiar position, making their third consecutive appearance in the ACC Championship game seeking their third consecutive trip to the playoffs. The Tigers will face an opponent who is in extremely unfamiliar territory, the #7 Miami Hurricanes. This is Miami’s first appearance in the ACC Championship game in the 12-year history of the event. Needing a win, and some help from teams ranked above them, the Hurricanes look to make the committee misremember the loss in their final regular season game at Pittsburgh, their only one of the year.
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Who: #4 Wisconsin / #8 Ohio State
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, Indiana)
As the nation’s only undefeated team from a power-5 conference, the #4 Wisconsin Badgers will continue to have the odds stacked against them on Saturday when they take on the #8 Ohio State Buckeyes for the Big Ten Championship. With the Buckeyes a heavy favorite, this game has an eerily similar feeling to the 2014 Big Ten Championship, where a talented Ohio State team, then ranked #5, completely dismantled then-ranked #13 Wisconsin 59-0. The Buckeyes earned a spot into the playoffs as a result, winning the 2014 Championship with wins over Alabama and Oregon. Although this year’s team will need a bit more circumstance beyond their control to earn a spot in the playoffs, the Buckeyes will look to add their second Big Ten title since the conference began hosting a championship game in 2011.
BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP
Who: #3 Oklahoma / #11 TCU
When: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
The Big 12 returns to Championship Week for the first time since 2010 when the #3 Oklahoma Sooners face the #11 TCU Horned Frogs. The conference has been dismantled by re-alignment in recent years and has struggled to find a competitive balance when compared to other conferences within the power-5. The inclusion of a conference championship game just a season ago may have arguably helped propel the Sooners into the playoffs last season; however, this season, with the return of the game, a Sooner loss could take them out of the playoffs, leaving the conference with no representative come Sunday. This will serve as TCU’s first opportunity to play in the Big 12 Championship after joining the conference in 2012.