Game of the week
SEC championship: Alabama vs. Georgia, 3 p.m. Saturday in Atlanta (CBS)
The four-team playoff isn’t here yet, but this game amounts to a national semifinal with the winner advancing to meet Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7 in Miami. Alabama and Georgia are plenty talented at the skill positions — quarterbacks Aaron Murray of the Bulldogs and A.J. McCarron for the Crimson Tide and running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon of the Tide and Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall for the Bulldogs — but the trenches will be where the action is. Future NFL talent on both sides will make this the hardest hitting game of the year. Can Georgia nose tackle John Jenkins and pass rushing linebacker Jarvis Jones make things difficult for Tide offensive lineman Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack? Georgia is better on offense, Alabama better on defense. This should be a classic.
Others to watch
Big Ten championship: Nebraska vs. Wisconsin, 7 p.m. Saturday in Indianapolis (Fox)
This isn’t a matter of just being happy to be here for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers haven’t won a conference championship since beating Texas in 1999. They lost three Big 12 title games after that, and this is the program’s best chance to claim a trophy. Running back Rex Burkhead is back and healthy for the Huskers. Wisconsin is healthier than when it lost 30-27 at Nebraska in the league opener Sept. 29, and running back Montee Ball has averaged 160 rushing yards in his last six games.
Pac-12 championship: UCLA at Stanford, 7 p.m. Friday (Fox)
Not since Washington State’s appearance in Pasadena after the 2002 season has a Pac-12 team other than Oregon or Southern California played in the Rose Bowl. That changes this year. Stanford beat the Bruins 35-17 six days earlier in Pasadena. Since 1999, teams that won the regular-season meeting are 15-9 in conference title game rematches. UCLA didn’t need to win last week, and it’s natural to wonder if that had an impact on the Bruins’ approach.
ACC championship: Florida State vs. Georgia Tech, 7 p.m. Saturday in Charlotte (ESPN)
It’s the first meeting between the programs since 2009. Seminoles defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has been announced as Kentucky’s new head coach, a possible distraction for a defense that has to deal with Tech’s triple-option attack. A bigger concern for Florida State will be the loss of end Cornellius Carradine, the team’s top tackler who is out for the season after tearing an ACL last week against Florida. Georgia Tech, 6-6, had won three straight before getting smacked down by Georgia last week.
MAC championship: Kent State vs. Northern Illinois, 6 p.m. Friday in Detroit (ESPN2)
The Golden Flashes and Huskies are both 11-1 and have some of the nation’s best at their positions. Keep an eye on Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch, who has passed for 2,750 yards and thrown 23 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,611 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Huskies. Kent State return specialist Dri Archer is so good — three touchdowns in his first five games — teams simply didn’t kick to him anymore. He’s had four return attempts the rest of the season.
This game has implications for the Big 12. If Kent State, No. 17 in the BCS standings, wins, the Flashes are likely to jump into the top 16 and earn an automatic spot in the BCS. That would come at the expense of an at-large selection, and that could be a second Big 12 team.
Conference USA championship: Central Florida at Tulsa, 11 a.m. Saturday (ESPN2)
The Golden Hurricane won the regular-season battle in Tulsa two weeks ago, 23-21. Tulsa quarterback Cody Green passed for three touchdowns in that game. Tulsa’s athletic department was in the news for the wrong reason this week when athletic director Ross Parmley, on the job for 10 months, was placed on paid leave as the university investigates allegations that he may have been involved with a bookmaker.
Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee State at Arkansas State, 2 p.m. Saturday
It’s not officially a conference championship game, but it’s become a winner-take-all finale between a pair of 8-3 teams. Middle Tennessee, which beat Georgia Tech earlier this season, made news by announcing it was joining Conference USA. The Blue Raiders have won four straight. Arkansas State has won six in a row and has a quarterback, Ryan Aplin, who might be a late-round NFL Draft selection.
| Blair Kerkhoff, email@example.com