Championship Week Preview

December 2, 2019 by Dave Congrove

Leading up to Championship Weekend, the college football world of pollsters and computer rankers are in absolute agreement that a Final Four played this weekend would feature Ohio State, LSU, Clemson and Georgia. But not everyone agrees on who is No. 1, or even No. 2  for that matter.

LSU leads the Super 16, AP, and Coaches' polls. The College Football Playoff Committee, charged with seeding the teams, saw it differently in their last set of rankings on November 26 as they jumped Ohio State over LSU. The Congrove Computer Rankings at agree with the committee, placing the Buckeyes in the top spot but also dropping LSU to 3rd, behind Clemson. Georgia is No. 4 in all of the polls and the computer rankings.

The committee will release its penultimate rankings on Tuesday night. The final rankings, playoff seedings and bowl selections will be revealed on Sunday beginning at Noon on ESPN.

How will it all shake out?

Conference-by-conference look at all 10 Championship Games:
(Rankings are CCR Top 130)


No. 2 Clemson (12-0) vs. No. 23 Virginia (9-3) at Charlotte
Sportsbook odds: Clemson (-28.5)
Computer: Clemson (-22.37)

These teams haven't met since November 2, 2013 in Charlottesville when Clemson pounded the UVA 59-10. The Tigers lead the all-time series, 38-8-1, but the teams had split the last 14.

Clemson is almost surely in the Final Four with a win, but a rout wouldn't hurt for insurance purposes.

Big Ten

No. 1 Ohio State (12-0) vs. No. 9 Wisconsin (10-2) at Indianapolis
Sportsbook odds: Ohio State (-16.5)
Computer: Ohio State (-16.43)

These teams just met on October 26 with Ohio State crushing the Badgers 38-7 in Columbus. The Buckeyes have won 7 straight in the series, including victories of 27-21 in the 2017 championship game and 59-0 in the 2014 title game.

Ohio State is positively in the Final Four with a win, and may even get in with a narrow loss.

Big Twelve

No. 6 Oklahoma (11-1) vs. No. 8 Baylor (11-1) at Arlington
Sportsbook odds: Oklahoma (-9.5)
Computer: Oklahoma (-5.33)

These teams met in Waco on November 16 when Baylor rescued defeat from the jaws of victory, losing 34-31 after owning a 28-3 lead. Oklahoma's lone loss came at Kansas State, 48-41, on October 26.

Neither of these teams are likely to make the Final Four, but it's not entirely impossible that the winner could squeeze in if Clemson loses to Virginia and Utah falls to Oregon.


No. 5 Utah (11-1)  vs. No. 10 Oregon (10-2) at Santa Clara
Sportsbook odds: Utah (-6.5)
Computer: Utah (-0.69)

Utah's only loss came at USC on September 20. Oregon's losses came in the opener vs. Auburn (27-21) in Arlington and two weeks ago at Arizona State (31-28).

These teams last met at Utah on November 10 last year with the Utes taking a 32-25 win. The Ducks lead the all-time series 22-10.

Utah can get in the Final Four with a win over Oregon and a loss by Georgia. Especially if Utah wins impressively.


No. 3 LSU (12-0) vs. No. 4 Georgia (11-1) at Atlanta
Sportsbook odds: LSU (-6.5)
Computer: LSU (-3.73)

LSU was a 36-16 winner over Georgia in Baton Rouge a year ago in the only meeting between these schools since 2013. These teams have met three times previously in the SEC Championship game with LSU winning in 2003 and 2011, and Georgia winning in 2005.

LSU is in with a win. Georgia and LSU are likely both in if Georgia wins - even if the 'Dawgs win by 20.


No. 22 Cincinnati (10-2) at No.18 Memphis (11-1)
Sportsbook odds: Memphis (-10)
Computer: Memphis (-3.30)

Memphis' lone loss came at Temple on Oct. 12 (30-28). Temple wound up 8-4 for the regular season.
Cincinnati lost 42-0 at Ohio State, and 24-14 last week at Memphis.

This is a rematch of last Friday's game as the Tigers stay home for the conference championship. General wisdom suggests that a Memphis win means a Cotton Bowl berth as the committee's top-ranked school from a Group Of Five conference.

The computer actually has Appalachian State ahead of Memphis with the Mountaineers at No. 16 and the Tigers at No. 18, followed by Boise State at No. 19, Louisiana at No. 21 and Cincinnati at No. 22.

Vegas had Memphis favored by 11 the first time around and the computer had Memphis by 2.73 (won SU and ATS). Cincinnati could get the Cotton bid with a win over Memphis and a loss by Boise State to Hawaii. But the Bearcats might also need a loss by Appalachian State to Louisiana.

Sun Belt

No. 21 Louisiana (10-2) at No. 16 Appalachian State (11-1)
Sportsbook odds: Appalachian State (-6)
Computer: Appalachian State (-5.86)

This is the 3rd meeting in the last 15 games between these teams, and the 4th in the last 21. The Mountaineers have won all 3 by 10, 11 and 10. Earlier this year, Appalachian State kept Louisiana's high-flying offense grounded, holding the Ragin' Cajuns to just 7 points in Lafayette. Louisiana was a 3-point favorite and a 3.93-poiint computer pick in that game (lost SU and ATS).

Appalachian State's only loss on October 31 at home to Georgia Southern, 24-21, will likely keep it from getting the Cotton Bowl bid without a multitude of stars lining up perfectly in the universe. Appalachian State would have to rout Louisiana while Cincinnati narrowly beats Memphis and Boise State loses to Hawaii.

Likewise, Louisiana would have to rout Appalachian State and hope that Memphis and Boise State both lose.

Mountain West

No. 44 Hawaii (9-4) at No. 19 Boise State (11-1)
Sportsbooks odds: Boise State (-15)
Computer: Boise State (-11.07)

Picking Hawaii to win its division was one of the best preseason predictions by the computer. The Warriors last won a conference championship in the WAC in 2010 (co-champs with Boise State and Nevada). This is Hawaii's first MWC Championship appearance in its 7-year history and Boise State's 4th.

Boise State was a 59-37 winner at home over Hawaii on October 12 and has won each of the last 7 meetings by at least 20 points.

The Broncos will almost surely be the Group of Five rep in the Cotton Bowl if they win this game and Memphis falls to Cincinnati.


No. 46 UAB (9-3) at No. 33 FAU (9-3)
Sportsbooks odds: FAU (-7.50)
Computer: FAU (-12.12)

This hotly-contested conference winds up with the 2018 champion visiting the 2017 champion. The computer has this game as the 3rd-most lopsided with the Owls favored by 12.12, well over the 7.5-point Vegas line.

These teams haven't met since 2014 when UAB won 31-28 in Boca Raton. FAU leads the series 4-2 with all of the previous meetings having taken place between 2008 and 2014.


No. 57 Central Michigan (8-4) vs. No. 69 Miami, O. (7-5) at Detroit
Sportsbooks odds: Central Michigan (-6.50)
Computer: Central Michigan (-0.55)

Most preseason magazines and rankings had the Chippewas finishing last in their division, but they won 6 of their last 7. Most had the RedHawks finishing 3rd in their division, but they went on a 5-game winning binge to improve from 2-4 and 7-4 before falling at Ball State in the season finale.

These teams haven't faced each other since September 23, 2017 when CMU lost 31-14 at home.