At this point, we think we know the Playoff stakes for college football’s final regular season weekend:
- The winner of the SEC title game (No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 6 Georgia) is in.
- If No. 1 Clemson beats No. 7 Miami in the ACC title game, the Tigers are in. If the Hurricanes win, they’re probably in?
- If No. 4 Wisconsin beats No. 8 Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, the Badgers are in. If the Buckeyes win, they need some help.
- If No. 3 Oklahoma beats No. 11 TCU in the Big 12 title game, the Sooners are in. The Horned Frogs probably don’t have a path to the top four, but, hey, destroy OU, and we’ll see what happens.
- The winner of the Pac-12 title game (No. 12 Stanford vs. No. 10 USC) will probably enjoy a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
Now let’s figure who’s actually going to win.
Below are picks and projections using the S&P+ projections you can find in full in the Football Study Hall stat profiles. This document breaks games (and S&P+’s season performance to date) out into their decimal glory.
All games are on Saturday unless otherwise noted. Spread pick in italics.
SEC: Georgia 26 (+2.5), Auburn 25 (4 p.m. ET, CBS)
Georgia’s win probability: 53 percent
Here’s your reminder that analytics look at the whole season. They don’t care how overwhelmed Georgia’s offensive line and quarterback became against Auburn’s defensive front over the course of the Tigers’ 40-17 win. For that matter, they don’t care that AU running back Kerryon Johnson, who torched UGA for 167 yards three weeks ago, is now dealing with a shoulder injury.
All S&P+ sees is that, over the course of 12 games each, Georgia graded out as the slightly better team. We’ll see how much context ends up mattering.
ACC: Clemson 27, Miami 24 (+9.5) (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Clemson’s win probability: 57 percent
Both of these teams mastered the art of Doing Just Enough through most of the season, but each faltered once in a shaky loss. Clemson fell to Syracuse and Miami did the same at Pitt.
Both teams have also, however, played their best in their biggest games. Clemson is battle-tested, and it feels safe to assume that the Tigers will deliver. Can Miami, so discombobulated a week ago, rediscover its A game in time?
Big Ten: Ohio State 27, Wisconsin 24 (+6) (8 p.m. ET, Fox)
Ohio State’s win probability: 56 percent
The conventional wisdom has been structured around what happens when Ohio State wins, not if Ohio State wins. But while S&P+ thinks the Buckeyes are indeed the best overall team in the country, the Badgers are No. 3. They’re not exactly going to need that many breaks to pull off the slight upset and go to the CFP.
Big 12: Oklahoma 34, TCU 31 (+7.5) (12:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
OU’s win probability: 59 percent
You know we have to mention that the third-ranked Sooners would have clinched a CFP bid early for the second time in three years if the Big 12 title game didn’t exist. You know we have to mention that the Big 12 title game killed many a national title hope. You know how stupid we think this game is.
If OU plays like it has for most of the last half of the year, the Sooners can overcome the stupidity and go to the Playoff all the same. But the prospect of having to beat a Gary Patterson team twice in one month is pretty terrifying, isn’t it?
Pac-12: USC 31, Stanford 30 (+3.5) (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
USC’s win probability: 53 percent
(This game was Friday night. USC indeed scored 31, but Stanford only scored 28.)
AAC: UCF 40 (-7), Memphis 32 (Noon ET, ABC)
UCF’s win probability: 69 percent
The winner gets a New Year’s Six game, maybe a lovely trip to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl, and will have a very good chance of acquitting itself well in such a game. I just really wished for better for UCF, which has done almost literally everything it could against the schedule at hand (including destroying Memphis earlier in the season) but can’t get much higher than 14th in the CFP rankings.
MWC: Boise State 27, Fresno State 26 (+9) (7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)
BSU’s win probability: 53 percent
How the hell is this game not on at 10 p.m. ET? What does ESPN or the Mountain West stand to gain having it on opposite the Big Ten and ACC games? Regardless, last week’s Boise-Fresno game was pretty tight and competitive, and this one should be, too. Unfortunately, you won’t be watching it, unless you’re a BSU or FS fan.
MAC: Toledo 37, Akron 21 (+21.5) (Noon ET, ESPN)
UT’s win probability: 82 percent
Akron is resilient and competitive. Toledo is much better.
Of course, upsets have not exactly been uncommon in the MAC Championship.
Conference USA: FAU 37, North Texas 28 (+11) (Noon ET, ESPN2)
FAU’s win probability: 70 percent
Six weeks ago, FAU ran roughshod over North Texas in Boca Raton. The Owls both ran and passed at will, and the Mean Green simply couldn’t keep up. Does UNT head coach Seth Littrell have any tricks up his sleeve for Lane Kiffin in the rematch?
The spread (listed in parentheses) is shown next to S&P+’s pick for each game.
- Coastal Carolina (+3) 30, Georgia Southern 24 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
- Georgia State 26, Idaho (+6.5) 23 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
- Appalachian State (-15) 38, UL-Lafayette 22 (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
- NMSU 31, South Alabama (+9.5) 24 (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
- Arkansas State (-1) 29, Troy 27 (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
The Arkansas State-Troy winner will clinch a share of the conference title at 7-1; meanwhile, Appalachian State will reach the finish line without having played either the Red Wolves or Trojans. A win over UL-Lafayette would give the Mountaineers a share as well.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, New Mexico State is a win away from bowl eligibility. There’s no guarantee that the Aggies will actually get a bowl, but they definitely won’t without a win over South Alabama.
- Florida State 36, ULM (+27) 24 (Noon ET, ACCN)
- FIU (-1) 29, UMass 27 (Noon ET, $CUSATV)
Two hurricane-postponed games finally get their moment, with bowl eligibility on the line for the Noles.
- Army 33, Navy 30 (December 9, 3 p.m. ET, CBS)
Can the Black Knights make it two in a row over the Middies? Last year was an upset; this year might not be the case.