This week marks the conclusion of the regular season in college football, and there are still a lot of things to be decided as we head into the season’s final games. Bowl positioning and playoff spots are all on the line, and when the dust settles tonight and the final polls come out on Sunday, at least a few things will be clarified as we go into Conference Championship weekend.
For the local team, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, they have a chance to both play spoiler and to claim a rivalry trophy, but they’ve got a tall order in front of them. They have to travel to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison this afternoon for a battle against the 6th-ranked team in college football, the Wisconsin Badgers. This is the fight for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, a trophy that hasn’t called the Twin Cities home since 2003. I’m not sure how much of a shot the Gophers have in this one, but a win would get them a ninth victory on the season and put them in a position for a pretty good bowl game. Wisconsin still has a shot at the College Football Playoff, but needs a win and probably a couple of other things to fall into place to make it happen. This one is going to be shown on the Big Ten Network, with kickoff taking place at 2:30 PM Central. Our friends at The Daily Gopher are all over this one.
Speaking of playoffs, the FCS playoffs get underway today in cities across the nation. The North Dakota State University Bison. . .the five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time reigning and defending FCS Champions. . .will not be playing this week, however. As they are the #1 seed in the tournament, they have a bye this week.
Before we get into the Top 25 matchups for this week, let’s take a look at the current playoff top ten.
- Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0)
- Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1)
- Michigan Wolverines (10-1)
- Clemson Tigers (10-1)
- Washington Huskies (11-1)
- Wisconsin Badgers (9-2)
- Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2)
- Oklahoma Sooners (9-2)
- Colorado Buffaloes (9-2)
- Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-2)
Let’s run down what these teams have on the slate for today.
- Alabama will be hosting 13th-ranked Auburn in the “Iron Bowl” today. The Crimson Tide is already locked into next week’s SEC Championship Game against Florida, and a loss here likely wouldn’t knock them out of the playoff picture, but they’re going to want to put a hurt on their rivals today anyway. This one starts at 2:30 PM Central time and will be broadcast on CBS.
- “The Game” is taking place today in Columbus, as the 3rd-ranked Michigan Wolverines come to town to take on the nation’s 2nd-ranked team, the Ohio State Buckeyes. As you can see, there’s a whole lot riding on this one for both the B1G picture and the playoff picture. If Michigan wins, they go to the B1G Title Game next week. If Ohio State wins, then Penn State (who Ohio State lost to) heads to Indy for the title game if they beat Michigan State. An Ohio State win and a Penn State loss would put the Buckeyes back in the conference title game. This one starts at 11:00 AM Central time, and will be shown on ABC.
- Clemson has an out-of-conference matchup this evening with their in-state rivals, the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Gamecocks have had a bit of a down year, sitting at just 6-5, but they can throw a pretty significant wrench into the national picture with a win today. ESPN will be broadcasting this one, and the kickoff is set for 6:30 PM Central time.
- Washington has put themselves in a prime position, as they’ve already played this week, crushing Washington State 45-17 yesterday to win the Apple Cup. With one of the top four teams guaranteed to lose in the Michigan/Ohio State game, we’ll have to see if the pollsters think enough of a 1-loss Washington team to jump them ahead of a two-loss Ohio State or Michigan team. They still have a Pac-12 title game to play as well against either Colorado or USC.
- Penn State will host Michigan State this afternoon in Happy Valley. Sparty is down this year, and the Nittany Lions are still playing for a spot in the B1G Championship Game next week. As detailed above, a Penn State win over Michigan State coupled with an Ohio State win over Michigan will send the Nittany Lions to the B1G Championship Game. This one will also be on ESPN, and it’s set to get underway at 2:30 PM Central.
- Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both have this weekend off, but they’ll meet next week in Norman for the annual “Bedlam” game. While it’s not an “official” championship game, it will take place on Championship Weekend and will serve as the de-facto championship game for the conference.
- Colorado hosts 22nd-ranked Utah in their regular season finale today. If Colorado wins today, they will head to the Pac-12 Championship Game against Washington. If Utah pulls the upset, then USC will take on the Huskies for the Pac-12 title instead. This game is going to be shown on FOX, with kickoff scheduled for 6:30 PM Central time.
The only other Top 25 matchup outside of the above-mentioned games is another in-state, inter-conference rivalry tilt, as the 15th-ranked Florida Gators head to Tallahassee to do battle with the Florida State Seminoles, ranked #14 in the land. This one will be on ABC and will kick off at 7:00 PM Central.
That’s a look at the lineup for this final weekend of the college football regular season, ladies and gentlemen. If you’re going to be watching the games or any particular players, feel free to hang out here and discuss all of it with your fellow Minnesota Vikings fans.