By Sunday afternoon, the College Football Playoff will be finalized. First, however, is one of the biggest days of games in college football history. There are four matchups featuring two teams ranked in the top 10 on Saturday, making it only the second time that has ever happened on the same day before bowl season, according to the AP's Ralph Russo.
Seven of the nine conference championship games may be rematches of regular-season games that were decided by double digits, but that doesn't lessen the appeal of this weekend. Every playoff spot is still up for grabs, and at least four of the title games -- Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, SEC -- will make a direct impact on what the playoff looks like.
Here's what to watch in Week 14, including the nine conference championships and a few lingering regular-season matchups.
All times are Eastern, and within each time slot games are previewed in order of importance and watchability.
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No. 10 USC vs. No. 12 Stanford
8 p.m., ESPN, Pac-12 championship, Santa Clara, Calif.
This is the fourth time in seven years that the Pac-12 title game is a rematch of a regular-season game involving Stanford. The Cardinal finished off season sweeps in each of the first three, including against USC in 2015. However, a Stanford sweep isn't possible this time: Back in Week 2, USC ran away from the Cardinal 42-24 in a game in which the Trojans racked up 623 total yards, with 307 on the ground and 316 through the air.
Sam Darnold has had an up-and-down year, but he gives USC a clear advantage here. Yes, Stanford has Heisman candidate Bryce Love at tailback, but beyond the fact that Love has been limited by an ankle injury, the Trojans have the more complete offense. Ronald Jones II gives them an excellent running game, and Darnold has still been stellar this year, even if he hasn't quite lived up to all the hype just yet. The Trojans have a decisive advantage in the passing game, giving them a decisive advantage on offense, especially with Love not 100 percent.
The Pac-12 South is 0-6 in conference championship games, and USC hasn't won the Pac-12 since 2008. But although USC isn't going to be the playoff team it hoped to be, it can still end both droughts on Friday.
Pick: USC 35, Stanford 27
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Saturday Early Afternoon
No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 TCU
12:30 p.m., Fox, Big 12 championship, Arlington, Texas
No Big 12 team has finished in the top 10 nationally in points allowed since 2014, when TCU did it. Now the Horned Frogs may do it again: They're eighth, allowing just 15.7 points per game, as they've held seven opponents to 14 points or less. Of course, that doesn't seem to matter much Saturday. Three weeks ago, Oklahoma put up 38 points in the first half against TCU and cruised to a 38-20 win. The Sooners got a huge game from Baker Mayfield but also the underappreciated Rodney Anderson. Anderson has broken out in the second half of the season with six straight games of over 100 yards from scrimmage, including 290 against the Horned Frogs.
Beating an opponent twice -- especially one with a defense like TCU's -- isn't easy, but even if the Sooners have issues on defense, their offense has been the best in the country. In fact, they average 8.56 yards per play, nearly a full yard more than second-place Louisville. Mayfield is a week away from winning the Heisman, Anderson has become a standout, too, and the offensive line is as good as any. Although TCU has the ability to put up points on offense behind Kenny Hill, it ranks 44th in yards per play, lost top tailback Darius Anderson and went through a second-half drought before putting up 45 on Baylor.
TCU can slow most teams down, but there's been little indication that it can slow down Oklahoma enough to win with the Sooners playing for a playoff bid.
Pick: Oklahoma 34, TCU 24
No. 20 Memphis at No. 14 UCF
Noon, ABC, AAC championship
For the second year in a row, the top two scoring teams in the country will meet in a Group of Five conference championship game, in a rematch. Last year, it happened in Conference USA: Louisiana Tech beat Western Kentucky 55-52 in the regular season, but WKU won the championship game 58-44. This time, it's in the American: UCF averages 48.3 points per game and is undefeated. Memphis averages 47 points per game and has just one loss … 40-13 at UCF on Sept. 30. Now, the Tigers have to return to Orlando to face the Knights in what could be UCF's final game under Scott Frost before he presumably returns to his alma mater, Nebraska, as head coach.
This game will decide whether UCF finishes the regular season undefeated, and it will also decide a spot in the New Year's Six (likely the Peach Bowl). There's no debate about that, as this championship game is all but guaranteed to produce the highest-ranked Group of Five champion. Memphis -- which averaged 13 yards per play against ECU last week -- has the explosiveness to keep up with just about anyone, but UCF has been the better team and can finish off the season sweep. Just expect a closer game this time.
Pick: UCF 45, Memphis 38
North Texas at Florida Atlantic
Noon, ESPN2, Conference USA championship
Florida Atlantic taking a chance on Lane Kiffin has worked brilliantly. In Boca Raton, of all places, Kiffin has displaced Jim Harbaugh as the biggest one-man publicity machine in college football, mostly because of his Twitter account. It helps that his Owls are winning. After a 1-3 start that included a loss to Buffalo, Florida Atlantic went 8-0 in Conference USA play, outscoring league opponents by an average of 22 points per game. Remember, this is a program coming off three straight 3-9 seasons, and it hasn't been bowling since 2008. Kiffin has engineered an incredible turnaround.
Seth Littrell has quietly done a great job at North Texas, too, taking a 1-11 team and improving to 5-8 last year and 9-3 with a division championship this year. The Mean Green are 7-1 in Conference USA, but their one loss came at the hands of Kiffin's Owls: 69-31 on Oct. 21 in Boca Raton. In that game, Florida Atlantic put up 804 yards of total offense, the most by any team against an FBS opponent this season. The Owls won't be able to duplicate that on Saturday, but behind star tailback Devin Singletary (1,632 yards, 26 TDs), they're too explosive on offense for the Mean Green to slow down enough to win on the road.
Pick: Florida Atlantic 49, North Texas 30
Akron vs. Toledo
Noon, ESPN, MAC championship, Detroit
Akron hasn't played in the MAC title game since winning the conference championship in 2005. Surprisingly, Toledo -- which has been a consistently competitive program -- hasn't done either since 2004. The Rockets have been stuck behind Northern Illinois (and Western Michigan last year) in the MAC West, but behind head coach Jason Candle and quarterback Logan Woodside, they're heavy favorites to win the conference crown at Ford Field on Saturday. They have an explosive offense that ranks seventh in yards per play, far ahead of the 113th-ranked Zips. Toledo averaged 8.8 yards per play in a 48-21 win over Akron earlier this season, and it has a clear-cut advantage in the rematch, too.
Pick: Toledo 42, Akron 20
UL Monroe at Florida State
Noon, ACC regional
Let's consider the bizarre aspects of this game:
- Florida State was ranked No. 3 in the preseason AP poll and expected by many to be playing in the ACC championship game this week.
- Florida State is actually 5-6 and ruining Alabama's playoff resume.
- This game was canceled because of Hurricane Irma but later rescheduled, mostly in an effort to preserve the Seminoles' national-best bowl streak, which stands at 35 straight seasons.
- Florida State will play the game without national-championship-winning head coach Jimbo Fisher, who is 83-23 in eight seasons as the replacement for the legendary Bobby Bowden but reportedly resigned to take the Texas A&M job on Friday. This is a down season, but Fisher won that national title with a Heisman Trophy winner, has had four top-10 teams and has won three ACC championships.
- The school Fisher is leaving for, Texas A&M, hasn't won a conference championship since 1998, hasn't won a national championship since 1939 and has had one top-five team since 1956.
So: Florida State will play UL Monroe on Dec. 2 to try to get to six wins, and it will do it without head coach Jimbo Fisher. Imagine explaining any of this in August, when we thought Florida State might be competing for a playoff bid at this stage of the season.
Pick: Florida State 24, UL Monroe 23
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Saturday Late Afternoon
No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 6 Georgia
4 p.m., CBS, SEC championship, Atlanta
Three weeks ago, Auburn turned a two-team SEC race into a three-team SEC race when it routed then-No. 1 Georgia 40-17 at Jordan Hare-Stadium. The Tigers dominated the game, particularly at the line of scrimmage: They shut down Georgia's vaunted running game, and they subsequently put Bulldogs freshman QB Jake Fromm in high-pressure situations. Without a reliable running game to lean on, Fromm looked more like a freshman than he did all season. The offensive line questions that Georgia faced in the preseason finally showed up after the unit had been one of the most improved in the nation.
So how well-equipped is Georgia's line to handle what's become one of the most disruptive defensive fronts in college football? And will the Bulldogs be able to get after Jarrett Stidham and contain the big-play aspect of the Auburn offense? A big question for Auburn is how healthy standout tailback Kerryon Johnson is after he injured his shoulder in the Iron Bowl. Johnson is considered a game-time decision, and if he does play, he's probably not going to be 100 percent. That puts more pressure on Stidham, who's been quietly fantastic in the second half of the season. It's a run-first offense -- the Tigers run 22 more times per game than they throw -- but Stidham's ability to stretch the field vertically has worked wonders for this offense after a couple years of quarterback issues.
Ultimately, despite the lopsided result a few weeks ago, these teams are built similarly. They lean heavily on the run game -- Georgia a bit more so -- with quarterbacks who have stretched the field and both rank in the top eight nationally in yards per pass attempt. The defensive fronts are both disruptive -- Auburn a bit more so -- with standouts like Auburn pass rusher Jeff Holland and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith leading the way.
There have been six rematches in SEC championship games. The team that won the first game has won the second game five times, the only exception being LSU's 2001 revenge against Tennessee, which took the Vols out of the running for the BCS championship. This time, it appears to be a play-in game for a playoff bid. Auburn looked like the superior team in November, when it beat both Georgia and Alabama by double digits. But in the friendlier confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the Bulldogs should be more prepared to play than the last time we saw this matchup. It seems like a toss-up, regardless of what happened in the recent past.
Pick: Georgia 23, Auburn 20
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No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 7 Miami
8 p.m., ABC, ACC championship, Charlotte, N.C.
At long last, it's finally happening: Miami will play for the ACC championship. The Hurricanes haven't won a conference title since the Big East in 2003. They joined the ACC in 2004 but have yet to win the new conference they were expected to dominate. In fact, they haven't even won the Coastal Division and played for a championship until now.
The chance has arrived, and despite last week's ugly loss at Pittsburgh, Miami can still likely jump from No. 7 into the top four for a playoff bid if it manages to upset the No. 1 Tigers in Charlotte on Saturday night. To have a chance, it has to look like the team that crushed Virginia Tech and Notre Dame in back-to-back weeks not so long ago, not the team that averaged 3.9 yards per play and briefly benched QB Malik Rosier in the fourth quarter last week against a sub-.500 team at Heinz Field.
Of course, Miami isn't alone in taking a bad loss on the road. With QB Kelly Bryant hobbled by an injury, Clemson lost at the Carrier Dome to Syracuse on Oct. 13. What seemed like a turning point for the Orange was actually their last win of the season, as they lost five in a row to finish 4-8, making Clemson's loss look worse and worse. It hasn't mattered in the playoff top 25, however. The committee has excused Clemson more than any other team for its loss, because of the Bryant injury, and thanks to the wins over Auburn, N.C. State, Louisville, South Carolina and Virginia Tech, the Tigers are No. 1 entering the ACC title game. Win Saturday, and they'll be the No. 1 seed in the playoff bracket. Lose, and they're likely heading to the Orange Bowl … although it's possible they could stick in the top four with some help.
Miami has actually been better than Clemson on offense this season and has a talented and athletic defense that forces takeaways, so the Hurricanes are absolutely capable of winning this game, despite what we saw just a few days ago at Pitt. Still, Clemson has been on this stage before. It has many holdovers from the national championship team, and it has spent much of the season winning more convincingly than Miami has.
Pick: Clemson 28, Miami 21
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Ohio State
8 p.m., Fox, Big Ten championship, Indianapolis
Big Ten teams have been shut out in the playoff each of the past two seasons, including Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson a year ago. Before that, in the first year of the playoff in 2014, the Buckeyes became the first playoff champions, after shutting out Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game. They pulled that off with a backup quarterback, Cardale Jones, making his first start after an injury to J.T. Barrett.
Three years later, Ohio State and Wisconsin will meet in Indianapolis, again a week after Barrett was injured against Michigan. But despite undergoing surgery on Sunday, Barrett is expected to play against the Badgers, starting over promising backup Dwayne Haskins. He'll face a formidable challenge: Wisconsin leads the nation in yards per play allowed defensively and has allowed more than 17 points only once. Yes, the Badgers have played a relatively weak schedule lacking great opposing offenses, but strong defense in Madison is nothing new. Neither is strong running, and they have that thanks to freshman tailback Jonathan Taylor.
Wisconsin is undefeated. If it beats Ohio State, there's no doubt that it would deserve a playoff spot. It has won convincingly against inferior opponents and avoided the bad losses we've seen from teams like Miami (Pitt), Clemson (Syracuse), Oklahoma (Iowa State) and, yes, Ohio State, which lost by 31 at Iowa. But while the Buckeyes have been unusually erratic, they're still one of the most talented teams in college football and the biggest challenge Wisconsin has faced all season.
The Badgers can make things easy for the selection committee by winning, but Ohio State has the defense to slow down Taylor, force a few mistakes from the Wisconsin passing game and pull off a win, even if it won't be anywhere near as lopsided as 2014.
Pick: Ohio State 24, Wisconsin 20
No. 25 Fresno State at Boise State
7:45 p.m., ESPN, Mountain West championship
Last year, Wyoming edged San Diego State by one in a regular-season thriller. Two weeks later, San Diego State beat Wyoming for the Mountain West title. There's not even a two-week gap between rematches this year. We just saw Fresno State beat Boise State 28-17 in Fresno last Saturday; now, the teams will meet again one week later in Boise to decide the conference championship. Both teams are 9-3 overall and 7-1 in the conference. The Bulldogs won head-to-head, but the Broncos will host the title game based on computer rankings.
Fresno State enters this week 25th in the playoff rankings, representing a remarkable turnaround under first-year coach Jeff Tedford. The 2016 Bulldogs finished 1-11 and ranked 123rd in yards per play on offense and 65th on defense. The 2017 Bulldogs are 9-3 and rank 48th in yards per play on offense and 17th defense. They've been an excellent team, one of the most improved in the country, and they've been every bit as good as Boise State, as we saw last week. But after motivation was a question in the game in Fresno -- both teams had already clinched division titles -- it wouldn't be surprising to see the result flip this week, especially on Boise State's home blue turf.
Pick: Boise State 31, Fresno State 21
Troy at Arkansas State
7:30 p.m., ESPN2
The Sun Belt won't officially play a conference championship game until next season. This serves as one anyway, although the winner will split the title with the Appalachian State if the Mountaineers beat Louisiana-Lafayette earlier in the day. These are two evenly matched teams that both, bizarrely, have lost only to South Alabama in Sun Belt play. Troy is better defensively, but Arkansas State is on its home field and ranks ninth nationally in scoring, at 39.9 points per game behind Oklahoma transfer QB Justice Hansen.
Pick: Arkansas State 35, Troy 31