Championship Saturday preview
While the Big 12 doesn't have an actual conference championship game, the league title is up for grabs on Saturday. TCU will host Iowa State and try to further impress the College Football Playoff selection committee, which ranked the Horned Frogs No. 3 in the latest poll. Meanwhile, Baylor will look to not only take care of Kansas State at home but win impressively enough to move up from No. 6 in the rankings.
Let's take a look at the conference title games that are on tap in the final week of the regular season (with all due respect to the annual Army-Navy tilt next week, of course). This is the last chance for college football's best to impress the committee before the group selects the four teams for the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Louisiana Tech at Marshall (Conference USA Title): The 8-4 Bulldogs meet the 11-1 Thundering Herd at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington one week after Doc Holliday's squad lost its opportunity to be considered for the Group of Five's 'New Year's Six' bowl berth. How will the Herd rebound in a game that is expected to be played in rainy conditions? Star quarterback Rakeem Cato will look to put behind last week’s rough performance that included four interceptions. Meanwhile, Skip Holtz's squad leads the nation in turnovers gained (36) and is fourth in the country in kickoff return yardage (25.3), so keep an eye on turnovers and special teams play.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 16 Missouri in Atlanta (SEC Title): The 11-1 Crimson Tide will look to cement a spot in the College Football Playoff with a win over the 10-2 Tigers. The story should be the battle between Alabama's offensive line and Missouri's defensive front. Nick Saban's squad has done a nice job of protecting quarterback Blake Sims, as the Tide have allowed an SEC-low 11 sacks. However, Missouri leads the conference with 40 sacks, led by end Shane Ray's league-leading 13.5.
No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 11 Georgia Tech in Charlotte (ACC Title): The unbeaten Seminoles look to close out the regular season with a perfect record yet again versus the 10-2 Yellow Jackets. Jimbo Fisher's squad has played with fire all season long, but all the 'Noles have done is survive and win. In order to defend their national title, the Noles' front seven will have to keep in check a Jackets rushing attack that features dangerous B-Backs Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days. The pair had 234 yards on the ground last week in the win over rival Georgia last week. FSU signal-caller Jameis Winston will also need to take care of the football. GT is No. 12 in the country in takeaways, including recording 17 interceptions (five of which have been returned for scores). Four times this season Winston has thrown multiple interceptions in the first half.
No. 13 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Ohio State in Indianapolis (Big Ten Title): The 11-1 Buckeyes were forced to turn the offense over to their No. 3 quarterback, as Cardale Jones steps in for Heisman Trophy contender J.T. Barrett against the 10-2 Badgers. This will be the first career start for Jones, and he'll be going against a defense that has allowed the fewest points and the fewest total yards in the Big Ten. He'll need running back Ezekiel Elliott to be productive (1,182 rushing yards) and keep Wisconsin's defense honest. Meanwhile, star Badgers running back Melvin Gordon has already rushed for a league-record 2,260 yards and will try to put on another outstanding performance to key a Wisconsin victory. Head coach Gary Andersen will try to lead Wisconsin to the program's fourth Big Ten title in five years, which is quite remarkable. Keep in mind that the last three games between these teams have been decided by three or fewer points.
Fresno State at No. 22 Boise State (Mountain West Title): The 10-2 Broncos are looking to essentially cement their place as the Group of Five's representative in a 'New Year's Six' bowl game, possibly against Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. The heavily favored Broncos are paced by running back Jay Ajayi, who has recorded 1,619 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground and had 229 rushing yards and five scores in the Broncos' win over Utah State last week. Earlier in the year, Ajayi rushed for 158 yards and two scores against the 6-6 Bulldogs. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will lean on their own running back, Marteze Waller, who had a career-high 164 yards and two touchdowns (including a 76-yard scoring run) in the game against the Broncos earlier this season. Fresno State has lost 18 straight games to ranked teams since knocking off Virginia in a 2004 bowl game.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.