Week 14 of the college football season means one thing, and one thing only: conference championship games.
The sport’s elite teams have survived the gauntlet of a full regular season to post sterling records, setting up pivotal matchups to crown conference champs – and possibly send the winner to a spot in the College Football Playoff (CFP).
After last week saw former number one Alabama (11-1) fall to in-state rival Auburn (10-2), the Tigers vaulted over the Crimson Tide to reach the SEC Championship Game.
Auburn vaulted to second in the latest CFP rankings, while Alabama fell to fifth, leaving Nick Saban and Co. in an unfamiliar position on the outside looking in when it comes to postseason positioning.
To maintain their hold on the CFP semifinals, Auburn will need to bring their best game to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where they’ll play sixth-ranked Georgia (11-1) for the SEC title.
Georgia already faced Auburn in mid-November, but playing on the Tigers’ home field, the Bulldogs were rolled over in a 40-17 rout for their lone loss on the season. They’ll have a chance at redemption this Saturday, but per the latest odds posted by online sportsbook Bovada, Auburn holds the edge as 3-point favorites.
Defending national champion Clemson (11-1) has played its way back into the top spot in the CFP rankings, but they’ll face one more test before the title defense truly begins.
The Tigers take on seventh-ranked Miami (10-1) in the ACC Championship Game, and if not for a huge upset suffered last week by the Hurricanes, this could’ve been a CFP preview. Miami had a perfect season on the line against unranked Pittsburgh (5-7), but a 24-14 stumble saw the Hurricanes tumble out of the top of the rankings.
Miami might just be able to play their way back in with a big upset of their own at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, as knocking off the defending champs would certainly add cachet to their resume. The linemakers don’t like their chances, however, as the Hurricanes have been tabbed as 10-point underdogs against the Tigers.
Oklahoma (11-1) has used a string of blowouts to take hold of the top spot in the Big 12 standings, including a 38-20 victory over 11th-ranked TCU (10-2) a few weeks ago.
The Sooners meet the Horned Frogs in a rematch to decide the Big 12 championship, and amidst the backdrop of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TCU should have the de facto home field advantage.
Once again, this game could’ve been a potential CFP preview, if not for the Horned Frogs’ unexpected loss to then 25th-ranked Iowa State (7-5). Instead, TCU will be forced to play the spoiler role against the Big 12’s big boys.
Even a close win by Oklahoma could be enough to drop the Sooners from the CFP’s top-four, so the intensity will be high from kickoff to the final whistle.
Despite playing across the Red River in the hostile territory that is Texas, the Sooners hold a 7.5-point edge in this one.
Finally, the only undefeated team in a Power Five conference must face one final test to secure their spot in the CFP, as fourth-ranked Wisconsin (12-0) plays eighth-ranked Ohio State (10-2) for the Big Ten championship.
Wisconsin suffers from playing in the Big Ten West, as conference heavyweights like Penn State (10-2), Michigan State (9-3), and Michigan (8-4) all reside in the East along with the Buckeyes.
Even so, perfection speaks volumes, and the Badgers have surrendered more than 17 points just once all season. With their defense allowing just 12.0 points per game, Wisconsin has proven itself to be one of the most balanced teams in college football, but they’ve yet to take on a team with Ohio State’s offensive talent.
Accordingly, the books have the Badgers as 6-point underdogs against the Buckeyes – a team with faint hopes of sneaking into the CFP’s final spot if they happen to win handily.