Championship Week Primer: CFP spots, bowl slots are at stake
Conference champions will be crowned, bowl selection pecking orders will be locked in and more clarity will emerge about which teams will and won't be among the four picked for the College Football Playoff.
It's Championship Week, and while the matchups for the conference title games Friday and Saturday include many of the usual suspects, there are some joining the party for the first time - or the first time in a while.
Start with Michigan, which had zero appearances in the previous 11 Big Ten championship games. The Wolverines are in after knocking off Ohio State to win the East Division. Their opponent, Iowa, is in for the second time and the first since 2015.
Oklahoma State clinched its first appearance in the Big 12 championship game a week before its breakthrough win over six-time defending league champion Oklahoma.
Wake Forest is back in the Atlantic Coast Conference game for the first time since 2006.
In the Group of Five, UTSA will make its debut in the Conference USA game, Kent State is back in the Mid-American Conference game for the first time since 2012 and Utah State is in the Mountain West game for the first time since 2013.
A rundown of the games, with AP ranking:
No. 10 Oregon (10-2, 7-2) vs. No. 14 Utah (9-3, 8-1), Friday, 8 p.m. EST (ABC)
Where: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas.
Last meeting: Utah won 38-7 on Nov. 20.
Series: Oregon leads 23-11.
Stakes: Winner to Rose Bowl.
Notable: Oregon is first team to make title game three straight times and will be appearing for fifth time. Ducks are 4-0 in the game, including a 37-15 win over Utah in 2019.
No. 9 Baylor (10-2, 7-2) vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State (11-1, 8-1), Saturday, noon EST (ABC)
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas.
Last meeting: Oklahoma State won 24-14 on Oct. 2.
Series: Oklahoma State leads 22-18.
Stakes: Oklahoma State to CFP or Sugar Bowl if it wins; Baylor to Sugar Bowl if it wins.
Notable: Cowboys held Baylor to season lows of 107 rushing yards and 280 total yards in their previous meeting.
No. 4 Alabama (11-1, 7-1) vs. No. 1 Georgia (12-0, 8-0), Saturday, 4 p.m. EST (CBS)
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta.
Last meeting: Alabama won 41-24 on Oct. 17, 2020.
Series: Alabama leads 41-25-4.
Stakes: Winner to CFP, and loser could be in line for CFP spot depending on score margin and results of other conference championship games.
No. 18 Wake Forest (10-2, 7-1) vs. No. 17 Pittsburgh (10-2, 7-1), Saturday, 8 p.m. EST (ABC)
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Last meeting: Pittsburgh won 34-13 on Nov. 17, 2018.
Series: Pittsburgh leads 1-0.
Stakes: Winner to Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.
Notable: In the team's only previous meeting, current QB Kenny Pickett and the Panthers beat the Demon Deacons to clinch a spot in the 2018 ACC title game, where they lost to Clemson.
No. 15 Iowa (10-2, 7-2) vs. No. 2 Michigan (11-1, 8-1), Saturday, 8 p.m. EST (Fox)
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis.
Last meeting: Michigan won 10-3 on Oct. 5, 2019.
Series: Michigan leads 42-15-4.
Stakes: Michigan to CFP if it wins; Iowa in line for Rose Bowl bid if it wins.
Notable: Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo are 1-2 in the Big Ten in sacks with a combined 24; Iowa is 94th nationally in sacks allowed.
GROUP OF FIVE GAMES
Western Kentucky (8-4, 7-1) vs. UTSA (11-1, 7-1), Friday, 7 p.m. EST (CBS Sports Network)
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio.
Last meeting: UTSA won 52-46 on Oct. 9.
Series: Tied 1-1.
Stakes: Both teams will go to a bowl.
Notable: Western Kentucky has won seven straight since losing to the Roadrunners, all by at least 15 points.
Northern Illinois (8-4, 6-2) vs. Kent State (7-5, 6-2), Saturday, noon EST (ESPN)
Where: Ford Field, Detroit.
Last meeting: Kent State won 52-47 on Nov. 3.
Series: Northern Illinois leads 21-8.
Stakes: Both teams will go to a bowl.
Notable: Huskies have won seven of the nation-leading nine one-score games they've played. The loss to Kent State was one of the two they didn't.
Utah State (9-3, 6-2) vs. No. 19 San Diego State (11-1, 7-1), Saturday, 3 p.m. EST (Fox)
Where: Dignity Health Sports Park, Carson, California.
Last meeting: San Diego State won 38-7 on Oct. 31, 2020.
Series: San Diego State leads 13-2.
Stakes: Winner goes to Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl.
Notable: Utah State, picked fifth in the Mountain Division, won six games after trailing by double digits and went 6-0 on the road.
Appalachian State (10-2, 7-1) vs. No. 20 Louisiana-Lafayette (11-1, 8-0), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST (ESPN)
Where: Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana.
Last meeting: Louisiana-Lafayette won 41-13 on Oct. 12.
Series: Appalachian State leads 8-2.
Stakes: Both teams will go to bowls.
Notable: This will be the third time these teams have met in the four-year history of the game. App State won the previous two.
No. 16 Houston (11-1, 8-0) vs. No. 3 Cincinnati (12-0, 8-0), Saturday, 4 p.m. EST (ABC)
Where: Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati.
Last meeting: Cincinnati won 38-10 on Nov. 7, 2020.
Series: Houston leads 15-12.
Stakes: Cincinnati is in line for CFP spot if it wins; Houston will go to bowl win or lose.
Notable: The defending champion Bearcats have won 15 straight against conference opponents and 19 of their last 21.
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