COLLEGE FOOTBALL FRENZY: NCAA’s Power Five conference finals shape up

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The conference championship pictures are clearing up …

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Which means the College Football Playoff photo is beginning to take shape.

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A few more snaps here or there and we’ll get the whole image.

Let’s dive into each of the Power Five conferences and see what’s in store heading into the penultimate Saturday of the NCAA pigskin regular schedule.

ACC

It’s a done deal. The No. 9 Clemson Tigers (9-1) meet the North Carolina Tar Heels (9-1) in the ACC championship game. The winner likely won’t carry enough cache to slot into the final four, though.

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BIG TEN

As is the case every year, the winner of the big showdown between the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0) and the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (10-0) — that’s next week — will represent the East in the Big Ten conference championship. Who will join them? That’s a free for all, with four teams sporting 4-3 records atop the West.

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BIG 12

The No. 4 TCU Horned Frogs (10-0) have leapt into the Big 12 title tilt. The frontrunners to join them are the No. 15 Kansas State Wildcats (7-3). The ‘Cats need a win over the host West Virginia Mountaineers (4-6) on Saturday (2 pm ET) and a loss by the Texas Longhorns (6-4) against the host Kansas Jayhawks (6-4) on Saturday afternoon (3 :30 pm ET) to clinch that spot.

PAC-12

It’s still pretty murky, but two games this weekend could deliver us the Pac-12 finale combatants. A win by the No. 7 USC Trojans (9-1) over the No. 16 UCLA (8-2) late Saturday at the Rose Bowl (10 p.m. ET, FOX) slots them in. And should that happen, coupled with a No. 10 Utah (8-2) won over the No. 12 Oregon Ducks (8-2) also late Saturday (10:30 pm ET), then Utah grabs the other spot. An Oregon win combined with a loss by the No. 17 Washington Huskies (8-2) to the Colorado Buffaloes (1-9) — good luck with that — puts Oregon into the final.

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SEC

It’s already been decided — and much celebrated — since the No. 8 Alabama Crimson Tide (8-2) won’t be in the conference championship for only the third time in 11 years. Instead, it’ll be the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs (10-0) against the No. 6 LSU Tigers (8-2) to decide the SEC.

SECOND DOWN

A few Group of Five championship spots can be clinched this weekend: No. 20 UCF (8-2) can earn a berth in the American Athletic Conference title tilt with a win over Navy (3-7) on Saturday (11 am) and a loss by Houston (6-4) at East Carolina (6- 4) on Saturday (2 pm ET); UTSA (8-2) is in the Conference USA finale with a win over Rice (5-5) on Saturday (1 pm ET) or a Florida Atlantic (5-5) loss at Middle Tennessee (5-5) on Saturday ( 3:30 p.m. ET); MAC daddy Toledo (7-4), with its seventh appearance in the conference final, awaits either Ohio (8-3) or Bowling Green (6-5), whichever wins the head-to-head next week; In the Mountain West, Fresno State (6-4) gets in with a win over Nevada (2-8) late Saturday (10:30 pm ET) and losses by San Jose State (6-3) — at Utah State (5 -5) on Saturday (9:45 pm ET) — and San Diego State (6-4) — at New Mexico (2-8) on Friday (9:45 pm ET), and Boise State (7-3) gets in with a win over host Wyoming (7-3) on Saturday (7 p.m. ET); And in the Sun Belt, Coastal Carolina (9-1) has clinched the East Division to make its debut in the title tilt and awaits Troy (8-2), which needs a win over UL Monroe (4-6) on Saturday ( 3:30 pm ET) and a South Alabama (8-2) loss at Southern Mississippi (5-5) on Saturday (3:30 pm ET, NFL Network) … BTW: The four 4-3 Big Ten West teams are Purdue , Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. Wisconsin is still in the mix at 3-4. Yeah, it’s ugly … After clinching that Big 12 berth last week with a no-doubt win over Texas, does TCU let up in Week 11? Better not with host Baylor (6-4) on tap early Saturday (noon ET, FOX) and a final-four spot within TCU’s grasp.

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THIRD DOWN

The Pac-12 has accomplished its annual eat-itself job, leaving just one team in the race for the final four. That’s USC — the only West Coast team remaining with fewer than two losses. But watch that change late Saturday when it visits its little LA brother, UCLA … Why is USC a contender this year? New head coach Lincoln Riley brought in 40 (!) faces through the transfer portal. Yes, it’s a brave NCAA new world … More Pac-12: Sounds like QB Bo Nix is ​​out for Oregon in its game versus Utah on Saturday. But coach Dan Lanning says, “He’s preparing as if he can go” in Eugene.

FOURTH DOWN

Canadian RB Chase Brown continues to lead the nation in rushing yards with 1,442 for Illinois (7-3), which has lost three in a row. It’s looking like another loss in Week 12, especially if Brown isn’t able to go after suffering an injury (leg) last week. Might not matter anyway since Illinois faces the top run defense in the FBS ranks up against Michigan early Saturday (noon ET, ABC) … Reason No. 44 to love college football — all the unique nicknames from Hawkeyes to Buckeyes to Mean Green, Green Wave, Crimson Tide and Demon Deacons. What’s your favorite? … Hard to come to grips with that ugly scene in Charlottesville late Sunday, when three Virginia players were killed and another sent to hospital by a former teammate on a charter bus after a drama class trip to Washington, DC The shooting suspect, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is also accused of injuring a University of Virginia non-football student, who has since been released from the hospital. The school has canceled Saturday’s home game against Coastal Carolina, and all ACC teams will honor Virginia with special helmet decals, field signage relaying ‘UVA Strong’ and a moment of silence during the conference games. Take a moment for junior WR Devin Chandler, junior WR Lavel Davis Jr. and junior LB D’Sean Perry, who lost their lives in yet another senseless American tragedy involving guns.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS

Rank Team (last week) Record

1. Georgia (1) 10-0

2. Ohio State (2) 10-0

3. Michigan (3) 10-0

4. TCU (4) 10-0

5. Tennessee (5) 9-1

6. LSU (7) 8-2

7. USC (8) 9-1

8. Alabama (9) 8-2

9. Clemson (10) 9-1

10. Utah (13) 8-2

11. Penn State (14) 8-2

12. Oregon (6) 8-2

13. North Carolina (15) 9-1

14. Ole Miss (11) 8-2

15. Kansas State (19) 7-3

16. UCLA (12) 8-2

17. Washington (25) 8-2

18. Notre Dame (20) 7-3

19. Florida State (23) 7-3

20. UCF (23) 8-2

21. Tulane (15) 8-2

22. Oklahoma State (NR) 7-3

23. Oregon State (NR) 7-3

24. NC State (16) 7-3

25. Cincinnati (NR) 8-2

NR — not ranked

GAME TO WATCH

(-2.5) #4 TCU @ BAYLOR

Saturday, noon ET, in Waco, Texas, FOX

Another big game for TCU, which is perfect so far. So why can’t it continue in Waco?

PICK: TCU

BEST BET

UCONN @ ARMY (-10)

Saturday, noon ET

The triple op is hard to stop, but nothing’s stopped Jim Mora from turning UConn around.

PICK: UCONN

(-14) BOISE STATE @ WYOMING

Saturday, 7 pm ET

Wyoming’s wildcard is its home field in Laramie. It can turn opponents inside-out.

PICK: WYOMING

(-2.5) #7 USC @ #16 UCLA

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, FOX

UCLA owes its big brother a few, and it’s got the horses and motivation to do it this year.

PICK: UCLA

LAST WEEK: 3-1

2022 RECORD: 26–22-1

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