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College Football: Championship Saturday Preview
KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 13: Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs looks on in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on November 13, 2021 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Stock the fridge, cancel your plans, and mentally prepare.

Championship Week has arrived, and we couldn’t have asked for a better slate of conference championship games to end the year.

It will be an all-day affair, each game incredibly meaningful to the College Football Playoff selection committee. Will a loss by Alabama eliminate them from CFP contention? Or would it depend on the margin of victory by Georgia, making Alabama potentially the first two-loss team to make the playoff?

Can Jim Harbaugh and Michigan avoid a letdown of epic proportions in the BIG 10 Championship Game following their first win over Ohio State since 2011? Can Cincinnati end the regular season undefeated and become the first non-Power Five school to make the CFP? What happens if Oklahoma State beats Baylor, defeating top-10 teams in back-to-back weeks?

All questions will be answered by noon eastern on Sunday when the final CFP rankings are announced, but first we play the games.

Let’s take a look at the Championship Saturday slate.

Big 12 Championship Game: No. 5 Oklahoma State vs No. 9 Baylor – 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC

It’s the first Big 12 Championship Game for Oklahoma State, and the second in three years for Baylor.

It’s also the second matchup of the season between the two teams, with Oklahoma State beating Baylor 24-14 in week five.

With a win, the Cowboys give themselves a chance at sneaking into the CFP, though they would need some help in order for that to happen. Mike Gundy’s team has done it with a very different formula than past years — winning with their defense.

Oklahoma State’s defense is ranked third in the nation in yards per game (276.3), sixth in rushing yards allowed (91.5), and fifth in points per game (16.4).

Baylor leads the Big 12 in rushing yards per game (227.4) and total yards per game (446.0). Baylor running back Abram Smith is second in the Big 12 in rushing yards with 1,366 yards on the season, and rushed for 97 yards on 10 carries in their first meeting.

“There was a lot of unforced errors in that [first] game,” Baylor head coach Dave Aranda said. “Things that, unfortunately, we could control that we didn’t do a very good job with. Credit to Oklahoma State. We played Baylor and we played them that night.”

If Oklahoma State can find a way to beat Baylor for a second time this season, they’ll be spending the rest of the day scoreboard watching.

SEC Championship Game: No. 3 Alabama vs No. 1 Georgia – 4:00 p.m. ET, CBS

This matchup fascinates me.

The teacher in Nick Saban versus the student in Kirby Smart. Smart was Saban’s defensive coordinator from 2008-2015, helping in the winning of four national championships.

Now, Smart has his Georgia team rolling, undefeated on the season, and looking to make a statement against Alabama. And yet, Smart is yet to beat Saban as a head coach, 0-3 against Alabama in his career.

“We don’t communicate daily or anything, but I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” Smart said of Saban on Thursday. “He spent some time in the summer up around where my parents live (in Rabun County). But it’s not like we get to keep in touch a lot. We both have our own families and own things going on.”

A win for Alabama and they’re in — and more than likely Georgia as well — a loss and the craziness begins. A close loss to Georgia and Alabama could have an argument for being the first two-loss team to make the college football playoff.

Saban’s team has struggled in past weeks, winning their last three SEC games by a meager 15 combined points. Georgia has continued to roll behind their dominant defense, first in the nation in yards allowed per game (230.4), and in points allowed per game (6.9).

Will Georgia finally be challenged by Saban’s collection of five-star talent? Or will Smart’s defense shut down Alabama’s offense like they have every other offense this season?

AAC Championship Game: No. 4 Cincinnati vs No. 21 Houston – 4:00 p.m. ET, ABC

Cincinnati has a chance to make history — becoming the first non-Power five school to make the CFP. Ranked No. 4 in the CFP rankings, an undefeated season should secure them a spot in the final four, unless the committee gets crazy.

Dana Holgorsen’s Cougars are second in the AAC in points per game (38.8), right behind Cincinnati (39.6). Houston has won eleven games in a row since their opening week loss to Texas Tech when quarterback Clayton Tune threw four interceptions. Houston’s defense is also ranked sixth in the country in yards allowed per game (289.5), two spots ahead of Cincinnati’s defense (303.3 yards allowed per game).

In no way is this a game that should be given to the Cincinnati Bearcats before the coin flip.

BIG 10 Championship Game: No. 12 Iowa vs No. 2 Michigan – 8:00 p.m. ET, FOX

Harbaugh finally found a way over the Ohio State hump, but there is still one more game to go in order for the Michigan turnaround to be complete.

Win, and Michigan is one of the four CFP teams. Lose, and I can guarantee you the murmurs around big games and Harbaugh will once again rise to the surface.

Michigan has the best rushing attack in the BIG 10 (224.9 yards per game) and a running back in Hassan Haskins who is coming off of a five touchdown performance against the Buckeyes.

“They’re extremely talented in all phases. They have good depth. Very talented and well-coached. And to me this is typical of good teams. But Michigan has a real identity, offensively, defensively, special teams. You can tell their players fully believe in what they’re doing. They do it well and they do it with a lot of energy and play at a high level,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz told reporters on Tuesday.

Iowa’s defense is third in the BIG 10 in rushing defense, allowing 105.8 yards per game. The Hawkeyes are no joke despite Michigan being favored by 10 ½ points. Iowa was once the No. 2 team in the country, and will try to make this an ugly game.

It’s the first time since 2015 that Iowa has been in the championship game, and the first for Michigan.

ACC Championship Game: No. 15 Pittsburgh vs No. 16 Wake Forest – 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC

Mountain West Championship Game: No. 19 San Diego State vs Utah State – 3:00 p.m. ET, FOX

Sun Belt Championship Game: Appalachian State vs Louisiana Lafayette – 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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