Georgia, Michigan TCU attempt to hold college football playoff positions on Saturday

A game. Maybe two.

So many of this year’s Conference Championship matchups actually matter when determining which four teams will make the College Football Playoffs.

One of those was the Pac-12 title game, a Friday night affair where No. 4 USC will likely need to beat Utah to make the playoffs for the first time. As for the Saturday table, the Big 12’s game — No. 3 TCU vs. Kansas State — holds all the intrigue. When the undefeated Horned Frogs finally lose, and lose badly, will they be out? If they lose a tight one, are they still in it, warts and all? Of course, if they beat the Wildcats for the second time this season, they get to kiss the princess and start packing to either Glendale, Arizona or Atlanta.

But with the news that playoff expansion is coming in 2024 — the field expands to 12 — it’s hard not to get distracted when imagining what the weekend might have looked like.

The new format will reward the top six league champions ranked by the Selection Committee (of which the top four will receive a first-round bye) and the six top-ranked teams that are not among them. If the format were in play now, Utah would have a chance to win and field two Pac-12 teams. The same goes for Kansas State in the Big-12. An LSU upset by Georgia in the SEC would potentially field four teams from this powerhouse league. A Michigan Purdue riot would bring three or four from the Big Ten. Clemson-North Carolina in the ACC and Tulane-UCF in the American would be play-in games. Meanwhile, non-champions Ohio State, Alabama, Tennessee and Penn State would all be licking their chops in anticipation of first-round pairings.

So much excitement and chaos… just not yet.

This year and next, we have what we have. It has to do.

CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES ON SATURDAY

Big 12: No. 3 TCU (-2½) vs. No. 10 Kansas State (11 p.m., Ch. 7, Arlington, Texas): K-State led at halftime — at TCU — 28-17 as these teams went head-to-head for the first time. The Frogs made it, but they endured in tight games all season. Is it finally time to blow off the No. 1 defensive team in the Big 12? K-State can lead the ball, and his coach Chris Klieman is a postseason champion who has won four FCS national titles in North Dakota State. But the Frogs still get hilariously overlooked, like ESPN’s silly Power Index, which still has them behind Texas despite winning and unbeaten in Austin. come on man TCU, 34-31.

MAC: Ohio (+3) vs. Toledo (11 a.m., ESPN, Detroit): Toledo last won this thing in 2017. Ohio has made four title games and lost them all, which hardly seems fair. Northern Illinois only lost by seven in Ohio but was bombed at home by Toledo by 20 and you know what that means – absolutely nothing. Bobcats in a little fuss.

Sunbelt: Coastal Carolina (+8½) at Troy (2:30 p.m., ESPN): Troy’s defense is as good as it gets at this level, a tireless unit that plays angry and can run properly. Coastal coach Jamey Chadwell reportedly has one foot out the door at Liberty, which can’t bode well for his current squad, right? Trojans protect their home, 27-14.

SEC: No. 1 Georgia (-17½) vs. No. 14 LSU (3 p.m., Ch. 2, Atlanta): The embarrassment of last weekend’s pathetic performance at Texas A&M has fueled LSU’s preparation for Georgia, at any cost. But will the ‘Dogs’ really lose this game for the second year in a row? No chance. Knowing they’re in the playoffs no matter what will narrow the edge a bit though. “Dogs win, tigers cover.

Tulane vs. USF

Tulane is looking for a huge “W” in American.

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Americans: No. 22 UCF (+4) at No. 18 Tulane (3pm ch 7): We saw these same teams play at the same stadium in New Orleans three weeks ago and UCF won 38-31. Why else would Tulane be preferred, right? Green Wave flips the script, 38-31.

Mountain West: State of Fresno (+3) in the state of Boise (3 p.m., Fox-32): We saw these same teams play at the same Boise Stadium eight weeks ago, and the visitors lost 40-20. But it was a closer game than that result suggests and — more importantly — great senior QB Jake Haener was absent with an injury. Under Haener’s leadership, Bulldogs get some revenge.

Big Ten: No. 2 Michigan (-17) vs. Purdue (7 p.m., Fox-32, Indianapolis): A disappointment for the Wolverines after a glorious win over Ohio State? That’s what a lot of us asked a year ago, then they stormed the field in Indy and wiped out Iowa 42-3. I guess they’ll leave a little bit more in the tank for the playoffs this time. Blake Corum, Michigan’s superstar running back, has been shut down, but that’s okay. Backup Donovan Edwards hits Paydirt three times in a 34-19 win.

ACC: No.9 Clemson (-7½) vs. No.23 North Carolina (7pm, Ch. 7, Charlotte, NC): Can UNC’s passing attack, powered by QB Drake Maye and top target Josh Downs, match Clemson’s scoring? Because even Dabo Swinney’s up-and-down offense is sure to match Mack Brown’s terrible defense with big numbers. Tiger 38, Tar Heels 34.

Last week: 5-3 straight up, 3-4-1 against the spread.

Previous season: 71-41 straight, 56-55-1 against the spread.

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