As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
1:00: Akron @ Buffalo (ESPN+)
- Utah vs. Southern California (Pac-12 Championship Game @ Paradise, NV; FOX): By all rights, it should really be Washington versus USC here, but unfortunately the Huskies lost a conference game they shouldn’t have, so here we are. Typically, you’d expect Utah to play irascible defense along with an offense that grounds opponents into a fine powder. However, this season they’re just a touch off of where they were last year, and given the firepower at USC’s disposable the Trojans figure to cruise into the playoff once they get everything up and running.
- North Texas @ Texas-San Antonio (Conference USA Championship Game; CBSS): Good for UNT for making it, but this figures to be UTSA’s show all the way.
- Kansas State vs. Texas Christian (Big 12 Championship Game @ Arlington, TX; ABC): A lot of the country figures to be up early for the Netherlands-USA knockout stage game in the World Cup on Saturday. (I live on the West Coast, so I am personally dreading what I will need to do to be ready for a 7am kickoff, but such is life.) Naturally, that game should end close enough to this one to provide a natural place to flip the channel. TCU has perhaps been college football’s most “getting away with it” team this season, and the field goal fire drill they pulled off to Baylor only cemented this in everyone’s mind. K-State is, of course, always the perpetual spoiler in the Big 12, and I definitely rate a higher chance of an upset here than in the Pac-12. Shouts out especially to K-State’s latest iteration of Darren Sproles: Deuce Vaughn, listed at 5’6″ and 176 pounds. Despite his best efforts, I suspect this will be TCU’s game to lose.
- Ohio vs. Toledo (Mid-American Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): Toledo should win this, but on paper Toledo should win pretty much every MAC game. Plus, they have a reputation of losing the MAC Championship in brutal fashion, sort of like how Clemson used to do when “Clemsoning” was a thing. So I’m picking them, but there’s some caveats.
- New Hampshire @ Holy Cross (NCAA Division I Championship Second Round; ESPN+)
- Furman @ Incarnate Word (NCAA Division I Championship Second Round; ESPN+)
- Gardner-Webb @ William & Mary (NCAA Division I Championship Second Round; ESPN+)
- Valparaiso @ New Mexico State (Flofootball)
- Southeastern Louisiana @ Samford (NCAA Division I Championship Second Round; ESPN+)
- Weber State @ Montana State (NCAA Division I Championship Second Round; ESPN+)
- Delaware @ South Dakota State (NCAA Division I Championship Second Round; ESPN+)
- Coastal Carolina @ Troy (Sun Belt Championship; ESPN): Troy has been sneaky good all year, considering that the most anyone has seen of them was that time App State threw a Hail Mary on them to win. They’ve been excellent outside of that, and with CCU’s quarterback likely out and their coach perhaps departing for greener pastures (monetarily, at least, because their turf is already their own shade of green) this looks like it’s finally time for Troy to shine.
- Montana @ North Dakota State (NCAA Division I Championship Second Round; ESPN+)
- Fresno State @ Boise State (Mountain West Championship; FOX): The Mountain West has been… kind of bad this year, but at least the two best teams are in the title game. Naturally, a game in Boise this time year obliges one to check to see if it’s going to snow. While it’ll be plenty cold, snow isn’t really in the forecast. Regardless, Boise’s been the best team in the league all year, and I’m not sure why they’d stop now.
- Louisiana State vs. Georgia (Southeastern Championship @ Atlanta, GA; CBS): Few were happier than to me than to see that UGA was kinda sleepy last weekend, letting my beloved Yellow Jackets hang around with a hope for way too long before we kind of took ourselves out of it. By my reckoning, that’s sort of the third time this season that UGA has played with their food to a point where their own fans probably started getting a bit uncomfortable. Will playing in front of what figures to be a wildly pro-“dawg” crowd against a deflated LSU team get them to fire on all cylinders from the jump? Despite losing to Texas A&M last weekend, LSU still isn’t terrible, and I can’t count out that they may start feeling their oats a little bit. Anyway, that’s a lot of metaphors the past few sentences, so let’s bring this home: I don’t think UGA is going to have any issues here, but if they look like they did against Mizzou, Kentucky, and us, there’ll be reason to watch this.
- Central Florida @ Tulane (American Championship; ABC): This could well be the most evenly matched of the game we’ve looked at so far, at least on paper. UCF did beat Tulane during the season, but regardless they’ll be back in New Orleans and a rematch figures to benefit the Green Wave. I suspect I’ll be watching this, but I also suspect UCF will wind up winning.
- Southern @ Jackson State (Southwest Championship; ESPN2)
5:00: Richmond @ Sacramento State (NCAA Division I Championship Second Round; ESPN+)
- North Carolina vs. Clemson (Atlantic Coast Championship @ Charlotte, NC; ABC): The vibes around this game already weren’t great before UNC and Clemson lost to rivals last weekend. While I still have Clemson winning, their offense looks so limited that if UNC gets up a couple scores it could well be the Tar Heels heading to the Orange Bowl.
- Purdue vs. Michigan (Big Ten Championship @ Indianapolis, IN; FOX): The Wolverines did it again. And in a lot of ways, they look better than last year’s team that dealt with Iowa in this game by a 42-3 margin. Purdue isn’t as limited as Iowa is offensively, but nonetheless I won’t be surprised if this game winds up with a similar margin. Wonder if the entire maize and blue crowd have a song for this season to sing as time winds down at the end?