The ride of the NCAA Football season is not quite over yet. After a season filled with ups, downs, and, as those in the college basketball world would say, madness, the regular season will come to a close this Saturday (excluding the Army-Navy game on December 10th) as teams battle it out for the title of best in their respective conferences and make their final cases for one of those coveted spots in the college football playoff.
The selection committee will have their hands full from the conclusion of Saturday’s games to Selection Sunday, a mere 12 hours to decide the fate of the College Football Playoff. And other than Alabama and Ohio State, who appear to be locks, few knows for sure who will be in the playoff. We can make predictions, analyze scenarios, and crunch the numbers, but that’s the beauty of college football–the unpredictability. So hold on to your hats, order some wings and nachos, and tell your friends, family, teachers, the guy you always see at Subway, even the guy who says he doesn’t like football: It’s Championship Week.
#8 Colorado vs. #4 Washington
Not only is Championship Week a fantastic day of football, it even comes with bonus coverage on a Friday! Though people are down on the PAC-12 this year, Friday night in Levi Stadium will be absolutely rocking, and this will be one of the better championship games. Both teams are coming off their best seasons in recent memory, with Colorado heading to its first PAC-12 championship and Washington looking to capture its first title since 2000. Both are in contention for a playoff spot: it would be hard to see the committee leaving Washington out with a win, whereas Colorado, while not mathematically out, needs a number of scenarios to fall their way to have a shot. Don’t tell the Buffs that though. This team is hungry and ready to play, and led by dual threat QB Sefo Linfau and riding a six game win streak, this team is ready to shock the world and overcome the Huskies strong defense. Unpredictability, right? Look for a Chris Graham game winning field goal as time expires.
Prediction: Colorado 27, Washington 24
#10 Oklahoma State vs. #9 Oklahoma
Though technically not a championship game (come one Big 12, we’re waiting on you to get with the rest of the Power 5 conferences), this game still has minor playoff implications. Plus, who doesn’t want to watch an in-state rivalry game for all the Big-12 marbles? Both teams have an outside shot at the playoff: A win for Oklahoma would mean completing the sweep of the Big 12, and a win for Oklahoma State would put them at 10-2, with the argument that they should be 11-1 if not for a missed call in the game against Central Michigan. However, the argument could also be made for the other side, that Oklahoma State should’ve blown out Central Michigan. Lack of defense will likely put this game in the 40’s, but Oklahoma will prove too much and pull away led by the Baker Mayfield-Dede Westbrook connection, and the Sooners will capture back to back Big 12 titles.
Prediction: Oklahoma 45, Oklahoma State 35
#1 Alabama vs. #15 Florida
Alabama is in. Even a loss in this game would not be enough to knock the Tide out of the playoff. While a win is likely for Alabama, especially after the way Florida played last week against Florida State, it is not guaranteed, and that’s why they play the game. Florida does have something in their favor, and that is their stout defense, which has given up 14.6 points per game, 5th best in the NCAA. Unfortunately for the Gators, they’re facing the number one scoring defense, and they have little going for them on offense right now. Alabama has a chance to go down as one of the best teams in college football history, and freshman Jalen Hurts is not going to throw that away. This won’t be a very high scoring game, but one that Alabama will win fairly easily.
Prediction: Alabama 28, Florida 13
#3 Clemson vs. #23 Virginia Tech
Despite the fact that Clemson has had some close calls this year, few are picking Virginia Tech in this one. Credit to the Hokies: they’ve exceeded expectations this year, led by quarterback Jerod Evans, who can do it all, leading the team in both passing and rushing, and potential coach of the year candidate Justin Fuente. Evans may be able to do it all, but he won’t be able to do enough to put the Hokies past the Tigers. A loss for Clemson would raise eyebrows in the committee and potentially leave them out of the playoff, so expect Deshaun Watson, in what should be his last ACC game, to have that offense firing on all cylinders. The loss to Pitt seemed to have awoken the Tigers, so look for them to come away with a victory and a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Prediction: Clemson 35, Virginia Tech 17
#6 Wisconsin vs. #7 Penn State
This is the game with the most questions surrounding the playoff. Few expected that this would be the match-up we’d be seeing in Indianapolis. Due to their tough schedule, many picked the Badgers to finish 3rd in the Big Ten West at best. On the other side, few outside of University Park, Pennsylvania thought that the Nittany Lions would be in this game, with the likes of Michigan and Ohio State to compete with. The Big Ten has been the best conference this season, yet there are scenarios in which the winner of this game doesn’t even earn a spot in the playoff. No matter who comes away on top in this game, the winner will have to wait and hope they did enough to convince the committee that they are worthy of one of the four spots, and in the case of Wisconsin and Penn State, likely the last spot. Penn State has been hot of late, but Wisconsin has one of the best defenses in the country, and will able to come up with a stop when it matters most. With Hornibrook nursing a head injury, look for more of Bart Houston leading the offense, and expect a low scoring affair as the Badgers have to sit and await their playoff fate.
Prediction: Wisconsin 20, Penn State 16