College Football Playoff race comes down to several title games


The College Football Playoff picture looks a bit clearer than usual from this vantage point:

ACC champion: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 7 Miami winner

SEC champion: No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 6 Georgia winner

Oklahoma: If the No. 3 Sooners beat No. 11 TCU in the Big 12 title game.

Wisconsin: If the No. 4 Badgers beat No. 8 Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

If Wisconsin or Oklahoma lose, it opens up a spot for No. 5 Alabama. Ohio State would have an argument, but the Crimson Tide’s 11-1 record beats the Buckeyes’ 11-2, especially with OSU’s embarrassing 55-24 loss to unranked Iowa.

If the Badgers AND Sooners lose, then Alabama and Ohio State each probably slip in, much to the chagrin of TCU and perhaps No. 10 USC, if it beats Stanford in the Pac-12 title game.

Defending national champ Clemson might grumble if the Tigers lose a thriller to the Hurricanes, but the ACC runner-up is not making the playoff.

Part II: Seven of the nine conference championship games are rematches of regular-season contests. Only the ACC’s Clemson-Miami and the Big Ten’s Ohio State-Wisconsin are originals.

We’ve always heard how hard it is to beat a good team twice, but the history of conference title games shows the opposite. Winners of the first game own a 19-11 record in the rematch.

It’s different in bowl games when teams have a month to prepare. In those, regular-season losers carry a 15-7 record.

SEC, SEC: If you can only watch one game, Auburn-Georgia is probably the headliner. For starters, there’s the novelty of Alabama not playing in the SEC title game. The Bulldogs, a 2½-point underdog, will be playing in Atlanta, not at Jordan-Hare, where they were dismantled 40-17. But Auburn has a big edge at quarterback with Baylor transfer Jared Stidham over Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

A few handicapping stats: Georgia is 9-3 straight up and 8-4 against the spread in its last dozen meetings with Auburn. The Dawgs also have won their last four games against teams that beat them in the previous matchup. Yet the Tigers are on quite a roll, 4-1 vs. the line in their last five since losing to LSU.

Bucking gives a lean to Auburn but probably best to keep your cash away from this one.



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