CFB Championship Week
FRIDAY 8:00 PM: #5 Oregon Ducks vs. #3 Washington Huskies (+10) – ABC
In the last year of the Pac-12 and the current playoff format, this is the first time that this game has represented a true win-and-in scenario for both teams playing in the game. A rematch of one of the most exciting games of the regular season, and the winner will have a clear claim to one of four playoff spots.
Oregon has looked like a juggernaut since losing the regular season game in Seattle on a last-minute touchdown drive and missed game-winning field goal attempt in the dying seconds. Since that game, the Ducks have won all of their games by an average of 26 points including a 31-7 Civil War game win over Oregon State last Saturday. Bo Nix will be playing for the Heisman on Friday night, but the story in my eyes lies in the steady improvement of Oregon’s defense over the course of the six-game win streak.
Washington on the other hand, has slightly wavered over the last month despite still finding ways to win its games. I think it’s very telling that Oregon sits at a double-digit favorite in Vegas as of this writing. Yes it is important to win your down games, but the Huskies have played in three straight one score games and just barely squeaked by Washington State in the Apple Cup. Gutsy playcalling from head coach Kalen DeBoer put Washington in a position to kick the winning field goal and keep its playoff hopes alive, but the defense has to play similar to its outing against Oregon State two weeks ago to finish off the undefeated season.
If you made me put everything I own on a team to win the national championship right now, I’d bet on Georgia. But I would really think about Oregon, and I think they win this game and go into the playoff as the team no one wants to see.
3:30 PM: #1 Georgia Bulldogs vs. #8 Alabama Crimson Tide (+6) – CBS
After a one-year hiatus, the Tide and the ‘Dawgs meet once again in Atlanta. The exception this year is that, depending on results, it could be an elimination game for both teams.
Alabama was thought in the preseason to have a ‘down year’ and the early loss at home to Texas had the public in the tank for the Tide. However, QB Jalen Milroe’s continued improvement throughout the year and key role in beating Auburn in an Iron Bowl scare has Alabama in a position to make the playoff once again even without a true Heisman-contender player on the roster. Offensive line issues have plagued Alabama in their loss and close calls, and Georgia will look to exploit that weakness again on Saturday.
Georgia, similarly to its opponents this week, have steadily improved week after week this year. QB Carson Beck had big shoes to fill this season as back-to-back champions, and behind a steel wall of an offensive line has shined. TE Brock Bowers and WR Ladd McConkey are the reliable targets, and the Bulldogs defense will pin its ears back trying to get after Milroe and force mistakes similar to the Texas game.
Earlier this week, I was preparing myself to not pick against Nick Saban in this game after so many did in the same situation back in 2021. But after Alabama’s near-disaster last week at Jordan-Hare, I’ll take Georgia to beat Alabama and keep the Tide out of the CFP for the second straight year.
8:00 PM: #14 Louisville Cardinals vs. #4 Florida State Seminoles (-2.5) – ABC
Florida State passed its first test last Saturday, getting by Florida after a bad opening half to stay unbeaten and in playoff consideration. QB Tate Rodemaker overcame early struggles but still couldn’t put together anything through the air, and had to lean heavily on RB Trey Benson to score three touchdowns to pull away.
This very column one week ago warned Louisville against looking ahead to a wounded Seminoles team, and it clearly did not heed the warning. The Cardinals dropped its rivalry game to Kentucky, allowing RB Ray Davis to score three times and never establishing a rushing attack.
The Seminoles have the weapons outside of QB to be able to win this game, the question will be how easy will it be for Rodemaker to put it in their hands? If Louisville can get in his face with the physical nature that beat Notre Dame earlier this year, the Cardinals can open the door for Texas to potentially take Florida State’s playoff spot it occupies.
12:00 PM: #18 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. #7 Texas Longhorns (-14.5) – ABC
- Texas is in a situation where it needs to win and needs some help to jump the three spots required to make the playoff for the first time. A win should leap the Longhorns over Ohio State as a conference champion, as well as jump the loser of Friday night’s Oregon/Washington game. That leaves either a Florida State loss or a Georgia loss to put Texas in head-to-heads with other one-loss non-champions.
8:00 PM: #2 Michigan Wolverines vs. #16 Iowa Hawkeyes (+23.5) – FOX
- Michigan enters the Big Ten championship game looking for its third league title in a row, and as big favorites over an Iowa team that legitimately has one of the best defenses over the past few seasons and one of the worst offenses over the same period. The Wolverines get Jim Harbaugh back on the sidelines, and should coast to another playoff appearance and potential top seed.
THE GROUP OF 5 CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME OF THE WEEK
4:00 PM: SMU Mustangs vs. #22 Tulane Green Wave (-4) – ABC