CFB Week Championship Week Preview: Bring Your Best
By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
It's the last call for a slate of college football on Saturday before we dive into Bowl Season, and for many of these Championship Week matchups it’s the last call before the Great Realignment of 2024 shakes up everything we’ve gotten to know in recent years. Add in the plethora of knockout playoff scenarios at hand to determine who makes the final four team playoff and we have ourselves a championship week for the ages. Soak it all in - one last full slate of games of the year to determine who’s in and who’s out before we all go bowling!
Last weekend showed us that one loss may be too many for some playoff contenders, as Georgia, Michigan and Florida State remain unbeaten and have “win and you’re 150% in” games this Saturday. The PAC-12 winner of Washington/Oregon is very likely the fourth team to get in, which leaves out a lot of big names from the playoffs. Let’s break down the matchups and paths for the teams on the outside looking in:
Must Watch “Main Screen” Games
#6 Oregon vs. #4 Washington (+9.5) - 8 pm ET (Friday) - It’s assumed that this is a play-in game for the last four team playoff, and Oregon looks to exact revenge on a tough 36-33 loss to the Huskies earlier this season. It’s Bo Nix vs. Michael Penix Jr. with some Hesiman trophy votes surely on the line in addition to being the LAST PAC-12 champion…ever?
#20 Oklahoma State vs. #7 Texas (-14.5) - 12 pm ET - It’s Jerryworld, It’s the Big 12 Championship and it’s the Longhorns last chance to impress the committee. It feels like the Texas path to the playoff includes a win here and maybe a Florida State loss later at night? Regardless, they’ll need to take care of business, put up a big number and hope for a little help in the other games.
#8 Alabama vs. #1 Georgia (-5.5) - 4 pm ET - Alabama hung on by the skin of their teeth Saturday with a 4th and 31 touchdown miracle to beat Auburn. Now they head to Atlanta to a familiar position - facing Georgia. Alabama’s playoff path demands that they beat a team that hasn’t lost in nearly three calendar years - quite the longshot for Saban and Co.
#10 Louisville vs. #5 Florida State (-2.5) - 8 pm ET - The entire state of Texas will be Louisville fans if the Horns win Saturday morning, as the committee would love any excuse to move Florida State out of the top four now that they are without Jordan Travis. The line indicates it will be a tough test for the Noles and their backup QB Tate Rodemaker, who now starts the biggest game of his life.
#2 Michigan vs. #17 Iowa (+23.5) - 8 pm ET - It’s simple for Michigan: beat up on Iowa like they’ve beat up on every other opponent. Iowa could be a solid matchup on defense but they are a historically poor and inefficient offense that has zero chance of going score for score in this game. The uglier the game, the better a chance Iowa has to cover thai massive spread.
Tier Two “Second Screen” Games
New Mexico State @ #25 Liberty (-10) - 7 pm ET (Friday) - SHOUT OUT to Liberty for running the table and completing a perfect regular season - Now they get to keep the dream season running and host the C-USA Championship. It’s a tall task for the other Aggies to head to VA and keep close with the Flames, but NMSU QB Diego Pavia could single handedly keep them close with an inspired performance.
Miami (Ohio) vs. Toledo (-8) - 12 pm ET - MACTion supremacy is on the line at Ford Field, and this is a heck of a matchup of unquestionably the two best teams in conference. Dequan Finn is a versatile QB that has lead Toledo to 11 wins, and they’re poised to put up #12. Toledo won the first matchup 21-17 earlier this season.
Boise State vs. UNLV (+2) - 3 pm ET - The Mountain West title game should have plenty of trips to the endzone on Saturday from Vegas, as these offenses are firing on all cylinders heading into Saturday. The fact that Boise State fired their head coach midseason and still find themselves in this game is quite the feat.
SMU @ #23 Tulane (-4) - 4 pm ET - Tulane is making big Green Waves down in Louisiana as they play for their second straight AAC title and a likely spot in a New Year’s six bowl game with a win. Both teams are undefeated in conference this season and this AAC game has a knack for being close. Expect SMU QB Preston Stone to chuck it all over the yard to try and take down Tulane.
Appalachian State @ Troy (-6.5) - 4 pm ET - The Sun Belt title game features a gutsy App State team that has won in some tough spots to get to this game, including beating James Madison during their College Gameday weekend. They should be up for a road challenge here and this game has nail-biter written all over it.
Championship Week Plays To Watch
Washington +9.5 - A one score shootout on Friday could go either way.
Oklahoma State +14.5 - Still like the Horns but it could be a grind.
Georgia -5.5 - The tide gets put in their place Saturday.
Louisville +2.5 - The defense keeps Rodemaker at bay and pulls off the upset.
Michigan -23.5 - Lots of points to cover but they will score and Iowa won’t because they can’t.
NMSU +10 - Pavia heroics make this one a fun watch.
Toledo -8 - Feels like a slow groggy game.
UNLV -2 - One of the more overlooked CFB programs wins their conference.
Tulane -4 - I love Tulane’s defense against the SMU offense to get the last stop when needed.
App State +6.5 - Sneaky the best game on the board!
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