College Football Playoff Predictions: How the Championship Games Could Play Out
We are down to the last five football games that have a bearing on how the College Football Playoff will shape up this year. Perhaps more so than some years, though, we still don't know too much. All five of the major conference championship games could have a direct and significant impact on what the four-team playoff looks like. There are all sorts of different possibilities. It's all a little crazy. And none of them involve Alabama, which is just something we aren't used to in this era. Here are the basics of what we can be watching for this coming weekend:
ACC Championship - Clemson (-28.5) vs. Virginia
This one is straightforward. If, as expected, Clemson beats Virginia , then they will be an undefeated team and will be in the playoff as a top-three seed. But if they were somehow to lose to Virginia, things would get tense for them. Suddenly they would be a one-loss team with a bad recent loss. If Oklahoma or Utah wins their conference championship, it would be very tough to imagine Clemson sticking around for the playoff. If they did, then it would be a strong argument for the importance of reputation above record, because Clemson has played a marshmallow-soft schedule. So, a Clemson loss would be one sure way to unleash chaos.
Big 12 Championship - Baylor (+9) vs. Oklahoma
If Baylor and Oklahoma play a tight, close championship game, then neither team is likely to get in. Oklahoma is ranked behind Utah and would need to make a statement - combined with a flat performance from the Utes or a loss - to get past them. If Baylor or Oklahoma blows out the other, though, and Utah doesn't do great, then the Big 12 champ could get up. This would likely require either a Clemson loss or a Georgia loss to LSU to open up a spot in the top four. So, to sum up, Big 12 fans need to hope for a lopsided win by one team, a lackluster performance by Utah, and they can't have Clemson and Ohio State win and Georgia beat LSU. In other words, they need a lot of things to fall their way.
Big Ten Championship - Ohio State (-16.5) vs. Wisconsin
Ohio State has it easy - win against a huge underdog in Wisconsin, and they are in the playoff - and as a high seed. But there is even less drama than that. Given how impressive the Buckeyes have been so far, they would very likely be in even with a loss this weekend. They would have to get thoroughly humiliated - which isn't happening - and they would likely need both Georgia to win the SEC and Utah to win huge in the Pac 12 or Oklahoma to destroy Baylor in order to get knocked out. In other words, if you are an Ohio State fan, you can start making playoff plans.
Pac 12 Championship - Oregon (+6.5) vs. Utah
The first thing Utah needs to do is win against Oregon , and the more impressively they can do it the more helpful it will be. Then they need some help. The worst-case scenario for the Utes would be wins by Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia. I would find it tough to imagine a 12-1 Utah getting in ahead of a 12-1 LSU, so that would likely be the end of things. If a spot in the top four did open up with a Georgia loss, though, Utah would still probably be vulnerable at 12-1 with a narrow win over Oregon combined with a decisive win by the Big 12 champ. All Utah can really do is take care of business and then hope for the best.
SEC Championship - Georgia (+7) vs. LSU
If LSU wins the game, then they are obviously in the playoff, and a two-loss Georgia team would be out unless there was absolute chaos outside of the SEC - decisive wins by Wisconsin and Virginia, losses by Utah, and a very underwhelming Big 12 title game. But if Georgia wins the game, then the networks will likely get what they want more than anything - two SEC teams in the playoff. Georgia would get in for sure, but LSU would be very formidable as a one-loss team with a superstar QB. The only way that LSU would likely miss the playoff is if they got absolutely humiliated in this game. It would be tougher to make the argument that they belonged if they lost by 40 while Utah or the Big 12 winner won by as much. But, in all likelihood we can pencil in LSU alongside Clemson and Ohio State as teams that are far more likely to be in. And Georgia is also the one team from among the other contenders that controls their own destiny - win and they are in. Utah or Oklahoma would love to be in that situation, but they aren't even close.
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