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2023 College Football Watch Guide - Championship Week

College football in December. It’s a beautiful thing.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 26 Big Ten Conference Media Days Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’ve made it to championship week, my friends. Soak up this weekend because it’s the last one (yes, I know you’re there, Army/Navy) without having to refer to each game by some D-list corporate sponsor. I love bowl games, I really don’t mind how many there are because it just means more college football to watch. But I don’t have to like calling it the “Famous Toastery Bowl” or the “LA Bowl Hosted by Gronk”.

But we don’t have to worry about that now. Let’s crown us some conference champions!

Friday, December 1

New Mexico State @ #24 Liberty - Conference USA Championship - 6:00 PM - CBSSN

What a job Jerry Kill has done as the Aggies head coach. Since taking over a 2-10 team after the 2021 season, he went 7-6 in 2022. Now the Aggies sit at 10-3 and are in the Conference USA championship game in their first year in the league. Liberty is a clean 12-0 on the year with a dangerous offense averaging 40.1 points per game.

#5 Oregon @ #3 Washington - Pac-12 Championship - 7:00 PM - ABC

This year’s playoff quarterfinal and a rematch of one of the season’s best games. The Huskies won the first meeting, a 36-33 thriller, but lately the Ducks look to be the stronger team. After fighting so hard all year to get into the top four, Washington needs to find their early season form if they want to stay there.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday, December 2

#18 Oklahoma State @ #7 Texas - Big 12 Championship - 11:00 AM - ABC

This is an unfortunate spot for Texas. If they want to get into the playoff they have to win, obviously. But a win over the #18 team that has a seven point loss to Iowa State (!) and double digit losses to UCF (!!) and South Alabama (!!!) isn’t likely to move the needle. Longhorns have to hope for chaos this weekend.

Miami (OH) @ Toledo - MAC Championship - 11:00 AM - ESPN

This Tuesday and Wednesday I hated turning on the TV at the end of a long day and not having MACtion to enjoy. Even if I wasn’t into the game it was like a calming presence in the middle of the stressful work week. Either the 10-2 Redhawks or 11-1 Rockets will claim the title of champion of the most beloved G5 conference in the land.

Boise State @ UNLV - Mountain West Championship - 2:00 PM - FOX

If you were a fan of the old BCS system you would have loved how the Mountain West determined their championship game. Three teams ended the year 6-2 and tied for first in the conference. Since all three teams didn’t play each other, and therefore couldn’t use a round robin tiebreaker, the conference had to use computer rankings to determine a winner. It’s the first time the MWC has had to determine their title game in this way.

San Jose State v UNLV Photo by Louis Grasse/Getty Images

#1 Georgia @ #8 Alabama - SEC Championship - 3:00 PM - CBS

The championship game everyone has known about for what seems like eight months. The SEC was one of the first conferences to have their title game determined which honestly took some of the fun out of the end of the regular season. Yeah, Georgia is playing a surging Missouri but we already know they’re in. Sure, Auburn was so very close to stunning Alabama but they were going to play in Atlanta anyway. Still, should the Crimson Tide upset Georgia it’ll make for a very interesting final CFP rankings.

SMU @ #22 Tulane - AAC Championship - 3:00 PM - ABC

I’m a bit shocked SMU isn’t in the CFP rankings. Their only two losses came in the first four weeks of the season against Oklahoma (understandable) and TCU (a bit less so but still a big rival). They have been a steady force in the AAC, with only two of their wins coming by single digits. Tulane is no slouch either, boasting an 11-1 record with that sole blemish being to Ole Miss in week two. Seven of those wins have been by double digits.

Appalachian State @ Troy - Sun Belt Championship - 3:00 PM - ESPN

Full disclosure, and no disrespect to either program, but I know absolutely nothing about either of these teams this year so I have no interesting statistics or fun facts. Appalachian State is 8-4, though all of their losses have been by a touchdown or less while Troy sits at 10-2 with early season losses to Kansas State and JMU.

Oh, Iowa does play Troy at Kinnick next year! There’s your fun fact for this game.

#14 Louisville @ #4 Florida State - ACC Championship - 7:00 PM - ABC

Florida State seems to be in a similar spot to Texas, but at the very least they’re already in the top four. Louisville’s loss to Kentucky last weekend makes a potential win over the Cardinals a bit less attractive. And should Oregon top Washington in a closely fought Pac-12 championship, the Seminoles could be in serious danger of falling out. If an undefeated ACC champion Florida State is left out of the playoff it’ll add more fuel to the disgruntlement in Tallahassee about the benefits of remaining in the conference.

Iowa v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

#2 Michigan @ #16 Iowa - Big Ten Championship - 7:00 PM - FOX

The championship game much of the country is talking about for reasons not that endearing to Iowa. Twitter isn’t real life, thank goodness, but from the discourse I’ve seen so far this week every Michigan fan is already booking tickets to a semifinal location and every Iowa fan is using whatever scrap of disrespect, real or imagined, to fuel their fire. Michigan is heavily favored and Iowa is the Rodney Dangerfield of college football. But Iowa has proven in the past they can win as 20+ point dogs, against Michigan in 2016 and Ohio State the year after, and what else do they have to lose at this point.