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Previewing the Top Games of College Football's Championship Week

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Rivalry week delivered on excitement but only one major alteration in the playoff race.

Mississippi State is out (we assume) after losing the Egg Bowl. Championship week, though, may go a long way to clinching that final spot — or more depending on upsets.

The selection committee has said since Day One that conference championships will factor into their decisions, but to what degree isn’t certain. There’s no rubric that awards points for league champions.

We may find out this week how much a conference championship is worth. Or a share of a conference title. Or none in the event of upsets of Alabama, Oregon or Florida State in a conference title game.

The Week Ahead: Dec. 5-6

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Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois

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MAC championship in Detroit

When and where: Friday, 7 p.m., ESPN

We’re watching because... a rematch of last year’s title game wraps up an otherwise quiet year of MACtion. The MAC has lacked star power and hasn’t has a ranked team all year. Still, we should applaud the two teams playing for the title. Drew Hare isn’t Jordan Lynch, but he’s been an efficient dual threat quarterback for an NIU team on the fringes of consideration for a major bowl game. With back-to-back losses entering this week, Bowling Green hasn’t been the overwhelming favorite Athlon projected, but first-year coach Dino Babers has his team in the league title game despite losing his starting quarterback, Matt Johnson, in the first game of the season.

Vegas says: Northern Illinois by 6 1/2

Arizona vs. Oregon

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Pac-12 championship in Santa Clara

When and where: Friday, 9 p.m., FOX

We’re watching because... Oregon has a Pac-12 title, a playoff spot and a potential Heisman on the line against a team that’s had the Ducks’ number. Oregon is 22-3 the last two seasons and two of those losses are to Arizona, including the Ducks’ only loss this season. In the first meeting this season, Oregon’s offensive line was in shambles, so the Ducks are looking to prove that was the problem back on Oct. 2. Arizona, though, is out to prove its win over Oregon and some of its close calls (Cal, Washington) are no fluke. With games against three ranked teams to round out the season, Arizona could also find itself a playoff contender with the right breaks. And lastly, this game could feature the Heisman winner (Marcus Mariota) vs. the national defensive player of the year (Scooby Wright).

Vegas says: Oregon by 13 1/2

Iowa State at TCU

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When and where: Saturday, noon, ABC

We’re watching because... stranger things have happened, but not many. This Iowa State team isn’t the same as the one that spoiled Oklahoma State’s bid at a national title game. The Cyclones are winless in the Big 12, but we’re still keeping one eye on TCU in its finale.

Vegas says: TCU by 33

Louisiana Tech at Marshall

Conference USA championship

When and where: Saturday, noon, ESPN2

We’re watching because... these two teams combined to score 142 points last week. Also, we haven’t taken the time to properly acknowledge the wild season Louisiana Tech has had. Second-year coach Skip Holtz has turned Louisiana Tech from 4-8 to 8-4 with a C-USA West division title yet still found time to lose to Northwestern State and Old Dominion.

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Vegas says: Marshall by 12 1/2

Alabama vs. Missouri

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SEC championship in Atlanta

When and where: Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS

We’re watching because... Missouri won’t be a pushover as Alabama tries to seal the No. 1 seed in the playoff. The Tigers pulled away from Texas A&M and Tennessee in the second half and then located their run game just in time to defeat the hottest team in the SEC in Arkansas last week. Worth noting: Missouri leads the SEC in sacks while Alabama allows the fewest sacks in the league thanks in part to Blake Sims’ ability to move around. 

Vegas says: Alabama by 14

Kansas State at Baylor

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When and where: Saturday, 7:45 p.m., ESPN

We’re watching because... Baylor is looking for one last statement to get into the playoff. While most of the playoff contenders are simply looking to hold serve, Baylor has a chance to push its way past TCU and into the top four against a top 15 Kansas State team. The Bears will be watching Bryce Petty closely after their start quarterback sustained a “mild concussion” against Texas Tech. Baylor’s defense may be just as much of a concern after giving up four long touchdown drives in the final 16:38 against the Red Raiders.

Vegas says: Baylor by 8 1/2

Florida State vs. Georgia Tech

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ACC championship in Charlotte

When and where: Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC

We’re watching because... Georgia Tech may be the team best-suited to capitalize on Florida State’s uneven play this season. The Seminoles have been pedestrian against the run this season (seventh in the ACC in yards per play) and now prepare for the Georgia Tech option. Jameis Winston has thrown 17 interceptions this season, and now he’ll face a team that is second only to Louisville in the ACC in picks. And if Florida State needs to make yet another second-half comeback, Georgia Tech may be able to limit possessions. The Yellow Jackets are allowing the fifth-fewest plays per game this season (63.6).

Vegas says: Florida State by 3 1/2

Wisconsin vs. Ohio State

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Big Ten championship in Indianapolis

When and where: Saturday, 8:17 p.m., FOX

We’re watching because... the season-ending injury to quarterback J.T. Barrett has made Ohio State the mystery team in the playoff conversation. If Ohio State beats Wisconsin to win the Big Ten, will the selection committee give the Buckeyes a vote of confidence? Suffice to say, much of Ohio State’s outlook depends on new starting quarterback Cardale Jones. Issue No. 1 for Ohio State, though, is containing Melvin Gordon.

Vegas says: Wisconsin by 4

Fresno State at Boise State 

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Mountain West championship

When and where: Saturday, 10 p.m., CBS

We’re watching because... Boise State is likely one win away from playing in a major bowl game. The Broncos are 10-2, but this is hardly the same Boise State team that challenged for BCS games. Consider this: Two top-10 Boise State teams played in the MAACO Bowl and this unranked, two-loss Broncos team may end up in the Fiesta Bowl if it can dispatch a 6-6 Fresno State team.

Vegas says: Boise State by 19 1/2