The College Football Playoff Committee released its last set of rankings on Tuesday night, prior to the announcement of the seedings that will be presented live on ESPN on Sunday at Noon ET. This weekend, of course, is Championship Weekend and for the first time in history, all 10 FBS conferences will stage a conference title game. At the forefront of those contests, are the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 championships while the PAC-12's 'goose is cooked'.
Alabama remains at the top of the committee rankings with Clemson and Notre Dame holding on to the 2nd- and 3rd-place spots. But Michigan dropped from 4th to 7th in the aftermath of being routed 62-39 at Ohio State and paved the way for Georgia to slide into their vacated position. The committee has Oklahoma 5th and Ohio State 6th.
The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com have Clemson at No. 1, followed by Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State. Those rankings have Georgia have No. 6, behind Oklahoma and ahead of Michigan.
'Bama and Georgia will square off in Atlanta on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on CBS. It marks the first time the two have collided in the SEC Championship game since 2012 when Alabama prevailed 32-28 and went on to rout Notre Dame 42-14 in the next-to-last BCS National Championship game. Saturday's showdown is also just the second time the two teams have met in the history of the SEC Championship game which began in 1992.
Alabama is a 13-point Vegas favorite versus the 'Dawgs, but the computer has the projected margin halved at 6.81.
Meanwhile, No. 2 Clemson is a hefty 27-point Vegas favorite over Pittsburgh after opening at 25-1/2. The computer gives the Tigers a 24.73-point nod in that contest. Clemson is going for a four-peat in the ACC while Pitt is playing in its first-ever conference championship contest and limps in with a 7-5 overall record. The Panthers finished 6-2 in the ACC after getting clobbered 24-3 at Miami last Saturday.
Oklahoma and Texas are staging a rematch of their regular season game that saw the Longhorns open a 45-24 lead in the 3trdf quarter and hang on for a 48-45 upset. It was Oklahoma's only loss while Texas comes in with an over-all mark of 9-3 and a conference mark of 7-2. The Longhorns' conference losses came against Oklahoma State and West Virginia by a total of 4 points, including a 42-41 setback to the 'Eers when they scored a touchdown with 16 seconds left and made the gutsy call to go for a 2-point conversion, which they successfully converted. Vegas has Oklahoma by 8, which has to be somewhat annoying to Longhorn fans since Texas was just a 7-point underdog the first time around. The computer has the Sooners by 10.27 after favoring them by 13.84 in the regular season.
The Big Ten title game has Ohio State (11-1) facing Northwestern (8-4). Both teams were 8-1 in conference play, but the Wildcats somehow managed to lose every one of its non-conference games to Duke, Akron and Notre Dame. Northwestern's only conference loss was to Michigan and that was by a narrow 20-17 margin after coughing up a 17-0 lead. The opening Vegas line had Ohio State favored by 14 and it hadn't budged, as of Tuesday night. The computer has the Buckeyes by much less at 8.59. This is the first conference championship game appearance for Northwestern which shared the Big Ten title in 2000 and 1996. When the 'Cats won the outright title in 1995, it was their first since 1936. Ohio State has won or shared the title 37 times. The Big Ten Championship will be broadcast on Fox at 8 p.m. ET Saturday night.
The PAC-12 Championship, to be aired on Friday night at 8 p.m. ET on Fox, pits Washington against Utah with the Huskies favored by 5-1/2 in Vegas and 3.36 by the computer. Utah, which joined the conference in 2011, has never won the PAC-12 title and hasn't won any conference championship since taking the Mountain West crown in 2008. Washington is looking for its second PAC-12 title in 3 years. The Huskies have won or shared the conference title 12 times since joining what was then the PAC-8 in 1969.
The biggest games to watch among the Group of Five conferences are Memphis at UCF (American Athletic Conference), and Fresno State at Boise State (Mountain West Conference). If UCF loses to Memphis, the Fresno State-Boise State winner gets the guaranteed spot in a New Year's Six bowl which goes to the highest-ranked champion of a Group of Five conference. UCF will be without starting QB McKenzie Milton who suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Vegas has UCF favored by 3 (opened at 4-1/2) and Boise State by 2-1/2. The computer likes the Knights by 7.99 and the Broncos by 4.77.
UCF hosted Memphis in last year's American Conference championship game and won a 62-55 double-OT thriller while learning during the game that their head coach (Scott Frost) would be leaving for Nebraska.
Boise State also hosted Fresno State last year and won a 17-14 slugfest.
The other conference championship contests have Middle Tennessee hosting UAB in Conference USA, Appalachian State entertaining Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt, and Buffalo facing Northern Illinois in Detroit for the MAC title.
Vegas likes MTSU by 2-1/2, Appalachian State by 17-1/2, and Buffalo by 4. The computer has the Blue Raiders by 5.83 and the Mountaineers by 17, but it likes Northern Illinois by 0.32 in the week's only computer-projected upset.
The College Football Playoff matches the No. 1 seed vs. No. 4, and No. 2 vs. No. 3 in semifinal games that rotate annually among six bowl games – the Goodyear Cotton Bowl, PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Capital One Orange Bowl, Allstate Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual. This season’s Playoff Semifinals will take place Saturday, December 29, 2018, at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic and Capital One Orange Bowl. The College Football Playoff National Championship will be Monday, January 7, 2019, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Virginia Tech gets one last chance to either run its bowl streak to 26 consecutive seasons or see it end at 25. The Hokies own the second-longest current bowl streak, but would become first on that list if they beat Marshall on Saturday since Florida State's streak ended at 36 seasons when its loss to Florida dropped the 'Noles to 5-7 on the season.
The Hokies had a home game with East Carolina cancelled by the Pirates in the wake of Hurricane Florence in September, but ECU scheduled a makeup game with N.C. State for this week instead of Virginia Tech. N.C. State had a home game with West Virginia get cancelled by the same storm.
South Carolina had its game with Marshall get scrubbed by Florence and the Gamecocks are making that one up by hosting Akron. The Zips had their game at Nebraska cancelled by bad weather in Lincoln on opening weekend.
'The Big Game' rivalry between Stanford and Cal was moved to this week after the deadly fires in Northern California prompted the game's cancellation two weeks ago.
Iowa State is making up its missed game with South Dakota State on Labor Day weekend by hosting Drake.
Congrats to Liberty and Norfolk State who are making up their cancelled contest by actually rescheduling each other.
Two games this week pit FBS teams against FCS schools (Drake at Iowa State, and Norfolk State at Liberty). FBS teams are 103-7 (.936) vs. the FCS this season, and 1,322-124 (.914) since 2003.
Here are all of the FCS victories over FBS teams, so far, in 2018:
August 30: UC Davis 44, San Jose State 31
September 1: Villanova 19, Temple 17
September 1: Northern Arizona 30, UTEP 10
September 1: Nicholls State 26, Kansas 23 (OT)
September 2: North Carolina A&T 28, East Carolina 23
September 8: Maine 31, Western Kentucky 28
September 22: Illinois State 35, Colorado State 19
UCF - Won 24 straight overall (FBS longest), Won 17 straight conference games including AAC title last year (FBS longest). Hosts Memphis in AAC Championship game on Saturday.
Alabama - Won 26 straight home games (FBS longest). Plays Georgia in Atlanta in the SEC Championship game on Saturday.
Oklahoma - Won 20 straight true road games (FBS longest). Plays Texas in Arlington the Big 12 Championship game on Saturday.
Rice - Had lost 11 straight overall (FBS longest). Season completed.
(NOTE: Rice's win also ended the longest current conference game losing streak at 14.)
Rutgers - Lost 11 straight over-all (FBS longest). Season completed.
(NOTE: Rutgers also owns FBS longest conference losing streak at 12 games).
San Jose State - Lost 13 straight road games (FBS longest). Season completed