Going into Saturday, there were 13 teams in strong contention for nabbing a playoff spot. Once the clock struck midnight and regular season ended for college football fans, only 8 hopefuls remained. Some seem to be a shoe-in while others are praying for a gridiron miracle, but ultimately the Conference Championships played today will decide which schools will secure a spot in the second college football playoff in history. And if we’ve learned anything in years past, it’s to expect the astonishing, because today’s matchups could seriously shake up the playoff picture. Because college football is no stranger to chaos, let’s take a look at the stakes this weekend holds!
Already in: Oklahoma
Take the big 12’s lack of a conference title game and couple it with Oklahoma’s crushing win over No. 11 Oklahoma State, and you get a guarantee for a Sooners playoff appearance. With a playoff bid on lock, Stoops and the Sooners can begin their post-season prep and rest easy this Saturday.
SEC Championship: Alabama vs. Florida
On paper, it looks as if coach Saban already has this game won. The Crimson Tide’s suffocating front 7 against Florida’s lackluster offense seems like a mismatch. But the Gator defense is capable, and should the offense find a spark this Saturday, a Florida win could throw a huge wrench on Selection Sunday’s playoff picks. (Much to Stanford and Ohio State’s delight!)
ACC Championship: Clemson vs. UNC
Clemson is still strongly holding onto its No. 1 seed, and will undeniably be a part of the chosen four should they enter Selection Sunday with a win. But where this game gets particularly interesting, is what will happen if North Carolina pulls off the grand upset. With only one loss on opening weekend, the Tar Heels have rolled over opponents and impressed the BCS enough to earn a spot in the Top 10, but will a victory be enough to jump other contenders like defending champ Ohio State? It would need to be impressive, that’s for sure.
Big 10 Championship: Iowa vs. Michigan State
This is the big one – in fact, the Big 10 Championship is practically a playoff itself, as the champion will undoubtedly go on to secure one of the four coveted spots. This is the kind of matchup college football fans dream about – the No. 4 faces No. 5, both coming off important wins, and both with something to prove.
Wildcards: Stanford, Ohio State
Given how Saturday breaks down, wildcards Stanford and Ohio State still have a shred of hope for their post-season position, but neither control their own fate.