Game of the week
Iowa vs. Michigan State in Indianapolis, 7 p.m. Saturday on Fox
Stakes are high for the fifth Big Ten championship game, the first matching top-five teams. Winner is all but guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoff. No. 4 Iowa, 12-0, doesn’t beat itself. The Hawkeyes don’t have a dynamic downfield passing game, but they don’t turn it over and limit penalties. Also, Iowa knows how to win the close ones with five victories by eight or fewer points. No. 5 Michigan State, 11-1, is a last-minute loss at Nebraska away from a perfect record. The Spartans have won at Michigan and Ohio State. And they’ve won this game, two years ago over Ohio State when quarterback Connor Cook was the game’s MVP.
Upset of the week
Southern California over Stanford in Santa Clara, Calif., 6:45 p.m. Saturday on ESPN
The No. 7 Cardinal, 10-2, was the underdog when the teams met Sept. 19, resulting in a 41-31 Stanford victory. Southern California was ranked sixth, Steve Sarkisian was coaching and Stanford already owned a loss, at Northwestern. In the Pac-12 title game, the Cardinal is favored over a No. 24 Trojans team that just removed the interim tag from coach Clay Helton. The Trojans, 8-4, are a tougher squad with a more run-first attack. Stanford, a four-point favorite, could be in the College Football Playoff if there’s an upset in the ACC or SEC title games.
Others to watch
North Carolina vs. Clemson at Charlotte, N.C., 7 p.m. Saturday on ABC
The No. 8 Tar Heels, 11-1, play in their first ACC title game, which debuted in 2005. No. 1 Clemson bids for its second victory in the championship game after Tajh Boyd led the Tigers to the 2011 title. Clemson, 12-0, survived scares from Louisville and Notre Dame early then powered through the rest of the schedule. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is the ACC Player of the Year and a likely Heisman finalist who is 16-1 as a starter and completes 70.4 percent of his passes.
Alabama vs. Florida in Atlanta, 3 p.m. Saturday on CBS
This doesn’t set up well for the offensively challenged and 18th-ranked Gators, 10-2. Florida’s defense is first-rate, and that will give it a chance to keep the game low scoring. No. 2 Alabama, 11-1, leads with the Heisman favorite, running back Derrick Henry. SEC championship games usually stick to form, and Alabama is in a position to dominate with college football’s top front seven.
Saturday’s Big 12 games
West Virginia at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m. (FS1)
No. 12 Baylor vs. Texas, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Friday’s conference title game
Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois, Mid-American championship in Detroit, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Saturday’s conference title games
No. 20 Temple at No. 17 Houston, AAC championship, 11 a.m. (ABC)
Southern Miss at Western Kentucky, Conference USA championship, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 18 Florida, SEC championship in Atlanta, 3 p.m. (CBS)
Air Force at San Diego State, Mountain West championship, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 24 Southern California, Pac-12 championship in Santa Clara, Calif., 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 8 North Carolina, ACC championship in Charlotte, N.C., 7 p.m. (ABC)
No. 4 Iowa vs. No. 5 Michigan State, Big Ten championship in Indianapolis, 7 p.m. (Fox)