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College Football Championship Weekend Preview: Playoff spots on the line

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NCAA Football: Washington at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the weekend, the college football playoff could go two ways. If Clemson and Washington both win then there will be little discussion about the top four. If one of them were to lose, a door would open. If both lose, then who knows what the committee will do.

*All ranking reflect the College Football Playoff.

#8 Colorado v. #4 Washington. Levi’s Stadium, Friday at 9pm on FOX.

NCAA Football: Utah at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The first power five conference to be decided is on the west coast as Colorado and Washington clash in Santa Clara. For Washington, the task is simple, win and they will be in the playoff. Colorado would need a lot of help to get in. They can create some of the help themseleves by knocking off Washington but they would still need Clemson to lose the ACC Championship.

After a road loss at Southern California in early October, Colorado has rattled off six straight wins. The Buffs have been led by their defense this year. Currently the best scoring defense in the Pac-12, Colorado will need another strong defensive performance to pull of the upset. On offense, they continue to rely on QB Sefo Liufau and RB Phillip Lindsay. Those two will need another big game for the Buffs to win their first Pac-12 title. The defense has their hands full. Washington QB Jake Browning has quietly had a Heisman caliber season. With all of the attention on Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Browning’s stellar play had gone almost unknown. With a big game against Colorado, Browning can lead his team to the playoff and may just snatch the Heisman Trophy away from Jackson.

#10 Oklahoma State at #9 Oklahoma. 12:30pm on FOX.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The “Bedlem” rivalry decides the Big 12 conference this season. Without a title game, the conference lucked out with the pair being first and second heading into the final week. There is very little possibility for either of the two to qualify for the playoff. The winner will likely earn a trip to the Sugar Bowl against the second highest ranked SEC team (Auburn or Florida).

This one will be the typical Big 12 shootout. Both teams light up the scoreboard and give up a lot of points doing so. Both teams have QBs who have had solid seasons. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph has improved in his junior season. The South Carolina native is completing just over 64 percent of his passes with 25 touchdowns and only four INTs. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield has put up another solid season after some early struggles. In Oklahoma last game, a 56-28 road win against West Virginia, Mayfield had little to do. The Oklahoma ground game ran all over the Mountaineers. This is where the Sooners have the edge. Since Samaje Perine returned from injury, he has ran for 260 yards and four touchdowns in two games. In those same two games, Sooners RB Joe Mixon has ran for 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Mixon has already broken one thousand yards for the year and Perine may get there in only nine games with a big one here and in the bowl game.

#1 Alabama v #15 Florida. The Georgia Dome, 4pm on CBS.

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Coaches Press Conference John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

For the record ninth time the SEC Championship game features Alabama and Florida. Both schools have won four of the previous eight meetings. For Alabama, the playoff awaits but for Florida, the ceiling is the Sugar Bowl with a win.

The Gators do have a shot to knock off Alabama. With the defense they possess, they can keep the game close. Alabama has struggled offensively in the first half this season. They created points for Auburn last week with a poor punt and two Interceptions in the first half. For Florida to win, they will need to turn Alabama mistakes into touchdown as Alabama will be much stronger in the second half like they always are. If Florida fails to get offensive production in the first half then the Gators defense is likely to be gassed in the fourth. Florida has only scored one offensive touchdown the last two games. If the Gator defense gives up some big plays early, it could be the biggest blowout of the nine meetings.

#3 Clemson v. #23 Virginia Tech. Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL. 8pm on ABC.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Virginia Tech Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson is looking for their second straight playoff appearance, they will get it with a win against Virginia Tech. But if the Tigers lose to the Hokies, they can kiss the playoff goodbye. Clemson should be able to knock off Tech if they continue to play like they have been since the loss to Pitt.

Virginia Tech has been hit or miss this season. They have big road wins at North Carolina and Pittsburgh, but a blowout loss to Tennessee, and upsets against Syracuse and Georgia Tech have kept them away from the playoff conversation. They have the tools to pull off the upset. The Hokies are always sound on defense with Bud Foster still in charge. They have been getting big play from QB Jerod Evans the last few weeks. A strong fourth quarter by Evans propelled Tech to a win comeback win at Notre Dame. The Hokies prepped for the game with a 52-10 thumping of Virginia. They will need a perfect game to knock off the Tigers. Crazier things have happened.

#6 Wisconsin v. #7 Penn State. Lucas Oil Stadium, 8pm on FOX.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Few people had this matchup in the Big 10 title game in the preseason as the Wisconsin Badgers take on Penn State in Indianapolis for the Big 10 crown. Even though both teams will play for the title, they are the third and fourth ranked teams in the Big 10. It’s likely a trip to the Rose Bowl is the grand prize, but with Washington playing on Friday, the two teams may get a boost in the playoff race before kickoff. Penn State has a better chance to get in with the win, having defeated Ohio State. But that blowout loss to Michigan will likely keep them behind the Wolverines. The Badgers need both Clemson and Washington to lose to qualify.

For Wisconsin to win the matchup, it will have to be low scoring. The Badger offense has continued to struggle against better teams. It looked like they were going to lose against Minnesota last week until the defense intercepted four passes to spark a 24-0 second half in a 31-17 win. The problem for the defense is the high flying Penn State offense. 62, 41, 45, 39, and 45. Those are the points Penn State has put up since knocking off Ohio State. QB Trace McSorley has been on fire. He had his best game of the year last week in the 45-12 win over Michigan State going 17 for 23 for 376 yards and four TDs. Penn State suffered a big loss in the win though. Newly named Big 10 offensive player of the year, RB Saquon Barkley went down with an injury. It is currently unknown if the star RB will play.

Others to Watch:

#17 Western Michigan v. Ohio. MAC Championship Game. Friday at 7pm on ESPN2.

Temple at #19 Navy. American Conference title game. Noon on ABC.

San Diego State at Wyoming. Mountain West title game. 7:45pm on ESPN.