College Football Playoff Set Following Conference Championship Weekend

The 2015 NCAA football regular season comes to a close on Saturday and four conference championship games will decide three of the four sports in the College Football Playoff. The final rankings for the CFP will be unveiled on Sunday.

TOP-RANKED TIGERS ON UPSET ALERT

Clemson remains the No. 1 team in the rankings but has a very tough test in the ACC Championship Game against No. 10 North Carolina in Charlotte, N.C. The Tigers are  only 5-point favorites and if they lose, there could be some chaos in the playoff. North Carolina has won 11 straight games since a close opening loss to South Carolina — which also happened to be in Charlotte. Carolina ranks 11th in the country in scoring offense (41.2) and 19th in scoring defense (20.8). Carolina is one of just 11 teams in the country averaging more than 200 yards per game rushing (229.7) and 250 passing (266.0). The Tar Heels scored an average of 50 points per game in November, the highest total of any Power 5 team in that time frame. Clemson has Heisman Trophy candidate Deshaun Watson and a terrific offense of its own. The defense is one of the nation’s best but has been slipping. The Tigers are allowing an average of 25 points a game in the past five after only two opponents even topped 20 in the first seven games.

Alabama is No. 2 in the CFP rankings and has lock Heisman Trophy winner in running back Derrick Henry. His 1,797 rushing yards are tops in the nation as are his 22 rushing touchdowns, which are a school record. The Tide are 17.5-point favorites in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta over No. 18 Florida, the second-biggest spread in that game’s  history. The Gators are not a good offensive team, averaging only 13.8 points in November despite playing weak teams such as Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic. The Gators do have a very good defense so that’s their only prayer.

Oklahoma is No. 3 in the CFP rankings and gets to sit back and watch this week. The Sooners’ regular season is over as they are Big 12 champions and it doesn’t have a conference championship game. Last year, the Big 12 was the only conference left out of the playoff but now it has a nice advantage.

And in the Big Ten Championship Game, No. 4 Iowa faces No. 5 Michigan State in Indianapolis, a matchup of similar teams: they grind on offense with a running game and big offensive line and have stout defenses. The Spartans are 3.5-point favorites. The winner of that game will be in the playoff with the loser out of luck.

REST HOPING FOR BREAK

The other major conference championship game on Saturday features No. 7 Stanford against No. 20 Southern Cal in the Pac-12 title game in Santa Clara, Calif., with the Cardinal as 4.5-point favorites. They won at USC in September, 41-31. Stanford is a long shot for the playoff as it would need a bit win and both Clemson and Alabama to lose.

No. 6 Ohio State, the defending national champion, might be in the catbird seat as its regular season is over and the Buckeyes could return to the playoff with either a Clemson or Alabama loss. But would the committee put Stanford or perhaps North Carolina over Ohio State on Sunday? We shall see.

Current national title odds are: Alabama 2.4000, Oklahoma 3.7500, Clemson 6.5000, Michigan State 9.5000 and Iowa 15.0000.

Matt from Betadvisor, the best in NFL Betting Tips