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Championship Week Preview

Baylor plays in the Big 12 Championship and a number of other critical games.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Media Days Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Championship week is here and there is a TON in play for your Baylor Bears. Usually, these preview articles are organized by when the games are being played. However, with this weekend having a handful of other P5 championship games that are critical to Baylor’s playoff potential, I’m going to instead rank and order these games by which ones matter to Baylor from the most to the least (that way you know which games are must watches for loyal Bears).

1. Big 12 Championship: #6 Oklahoma vs. #7 Baylor

Saturday, December 7th 11:00 AM CT, ABC

Rematch. Revenge. Redemption. A Big 12 title. A chance at the College Football Playoff. All of this is at play as #7 Baylor (11-1, 8-1) battles #6 Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1) in Arlington at AT&T Stadium. I won’t burden readers with a thorough recap of the last matchup, other than to say Baylor clearly revealed how they can exploit OU in the first half of the game. Then, OU retaliated and showed how they can shut down Baylor in the second half. With that, I think this rematch could come down to coaching adjustments more than other factors. Will Matt Rhule and Phil Snow come up with a strategy for containing Jalen Hurts in the running game? Will Lincoln Riley find a way to get the pass game going more consistently, especially with the reintroduction of receiver CeeDee Lamb? Without access to practice it’s hard to say what adjustments are being made by each team and if they’ll be successful. But, Baylor does have the Big 12 Coach of the Year on their side, so that seems like a decent omen. Another key to the last meeting between these teams was Oklahoma’s defense shutting down Baylor’s offense in the second half. Luckily, Baylor has come out firing with more passion offensively the last couple games, thoroughly controlling Texas then blowing Kansas out in Lawrence. Granted, Oklahoma has a stronger defense than both those teams but I think the effort being shown by Charlie Brewer and company goes a long way. The spread is 9 points in favor of OU, but at the end of the day, it is really hard to beat a team twice in a single year. It’s even harder when that team is a top 10 talent with an elite defense. Oklahoma barely got it done round one, Baylor finishes the job and secures a Big 12 Championship in round two, even getting a bit of separation.

42-31 Baylor

2. SEC Championship: #2 LSU vs. #4 Georgia

Saturday, December 7th 3:00 PM CT, CBS

This is the second most important game being played this weekend for Baylor’s playoff chances, which might surprise some people because all the talk this week has centered on Baylor vs. Oklahoma vs. Utah. However, those conversations tend to assume that #2 LSU (12-0, 8-0) beats #4 Georgia (11-1, 7-1) in this game. IF Georgia beats LSU, Baylor/Oklahoma/Utah will likely be on the outside looking in. Every Baylor fan should be a massive Tigers fan this weekend, assuming the Bears win earlier in the day. This will be another big test for LSU’s new look offense, led by Heisman candidate Joe Burrow. LSU has the #2 offense in the country according to SP+, combined with the #22 defense. Georgia brings the 29th best offense but the best defense in the country. So this game will certainly be strength on strength. Even with Georgia boasting such a strong defense, I can’t see them slowing down LSU enough to snag a win. The spread is 6.5 in favor of LSU, which seems a touch low in my book. I like the Tigers by 10.

31-21 LSU

3. PAC-12 Championship: #5 Utah vs. #13 Oregon

Friday, December 6th 7:00 PM CT, ABC

This game being on Friday night is great for Baylor fans because we can all watch and root for the Ducks without distraction. If #13 Oregon (10-2, 8-1) wins, Baylor has a very clear path to the playoff heading into their own game. If #5 Utah (11-1, 8-1) wins, then the committee will have a mess to untangle. Baylor could still make its way in, however, with a Utah win which is why this game is dropped to the #3 spot below LSU and Georgia. Commentators in favor of Utah making the playoff have cited their dominant performances as of late as an indication of how good the Utah squad is. Which, to be fair, they have won their last three games by a combined 104 points. But those games have been against 5-7 Colorado, 4-8 Arizona, and 4-8 UCLA. The last time Utah played a team with a winning record, they barely escaped with a five point win over Washington. The ONLY time Utah played a ranked team, they lost. Oregon dropped a game to Arizona State, in which they almost made a fourth quarter comeback. They also lost a close, early season game to Auburn. While Utah is favored by 6.5 points, the ESPN FPI predictor is much closer, giving the Ducks a 48.9% chance of victory. I think Oregon is a stiff enough test that Utah’s dominance starts crumbling and frustrations build on the Utes sideline. Plus, Oregon QB Justin Herbert is really good, with nearly double the touchdowns of Utah QB Tyler Huntley.

31-17 Oregon

4. ACC Championship: #3 Clemson vs. #23 Virginia

Saturday, December 7th 6:30 PM CT, ABC

I’ll be very upfront here: I think #3 Clemson (12-0, 8-0) blows by #23 Virginia (9-3, 6-2), securing a spot in the playoff. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. However, a huge upset here could really, really help out Baylor’s playoff hopes. I, along with most, believe that if Clemson loses here, their extremely weak schedule and lack of conference championship drops them out of the playoff. This could make up for a scenario where Georgia beats LSU or Utah beats Oregon and the committee favoring them over Baylor. However, the odds of that happening are very slim. ESPN’s FPI gives Clemson a whopping 94.9% chance at winning. The spread is 28.5 in favor of Clemson. That’s a mindbogglingly huge line for a conference championship game. Clemson does boast the #6 offense and #3 defense in the country according to SP+. So I think Clemson wins this game with ease (although I like a slight cover by Virginia), which still might help Baylor. Clemson winning big likely knocks Virginia out of the Top 25, opening a path for Kansas State to enter the rankings and give the Bears another Top 25 win.

35-10 Clemson

5. Big Ten Championship: #1 Ohio State vs. #8 Wisconsin

Saturday, December 7th 7:00 PM CT, FOX

This game really doesn’t matter very much at all for Baylor or in the grand scheme. #1 Ohio State (12-0, 9-0) is almost certainly getting into the playoff whether they win or lose this game. #8 Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2) is almost certainly not getting into the playoff regardless of if they win or lose this game. The only way that might not be the case is if this game gets really lopsided one way or the other and there’s some wild, sloppy games in the other championships. Now that you all are clearly super invested in this game, let’s talk shop quick. Ohio State is a 16.5 point favorite over Wisconsin and has the #4 offense and #2 defense according to SP+. Wisconsin, on the flip side, has the #11 offense and the #14 defense. Ohio State beat Wisconsin in their earlier meeting, 38-7. Nothing about this game screams upset to me. Justin Fields and the Buckeyes stroll to 13-0 and will be bickering with LSU over who should be the #1 overall seed in the playoff.

48-24 Ohio State

Bonus Round!

Here are some rapid fire quick hitters of the non-Power Five championships in chronological order and how they could matter for Baylor:

Sun Belt Championship: #21 Appalachian State vs. Louisiana

Saturday, December 7th 11:00 AM CT, ESPN

Why it matters: If #21 Appalachian State (11-1) loses, they would likely drop out of the Top 25, giving room for Kansas State to move in the Top 25, providing Baylor with another ranked win. There is a slim chance Louisiana (10-2) could move into the rankings but that would just be a wash then. App State is a 6.5 point favorite and beat Louisiana 17-7 in their first meeting.

24-17 Appalachian State

MAC Championship: Miami (OH) vs. Central Michigan

Saturday, December 7th 11:00 AM CT, ESPN2

Why it matters: It doesn’t, at least for Baylor and the playoff. Neither Miami (OH) (7-5) or Central Michigan (8-4) would get ranked with a win. Central Michigan is a 6.5 point favorite.

39-38 Miami (OH)

Conference USA Championship: UAB vs. FAU

Saturday, December 7th 12:30 PM CT, CBSSN

Why it matters: It probably doesn’t, although I suppose the winner of this game could sneak into the Top 25, with either team getting to 10-3 after a win. That could block Kansas State. But I don’t think it’s very likely the winner would get ranked by the committee. Florida Atlantic (9-3) is a 7.5 point favorite over UAB (9-3).

30-26 FAU

AAC Championship: #17 Memphis vs. #20 Cincinnati

Saturday, December 7th 2:30 PM CT, ABC

Why it matters: The loser of this game could very well fall out of the Top 25, giving Kansas State another opportunity to sneak into the Top 25 and boosting Baylor’s resume. Also, if Baylor loses the Big 12 Championship but still makes a NY6 bowl, they might end up in the Cotton Bowl and would likely play the winner of this game as the highest ranked G5 team. #17 Memphis (11-1) is favored by nine points and just beat #20 Cincinnati (10-2) last weekend, 34-24.

38-27 Memphis

Mountain West Championship: #19 Boise State vs. Hawaii

Saturday, December 7th 3:00 PM CT, ESPN

Why it matters: By now you should have noticed a trend with these games. If Hawaii (9-4) wins, they could knock #19 Boise State (11-1) out of the Top 25, giving Kansas State yet another opening to slide into the rankings. Hawaii would still likely be unranked even with a win. Even if they did get ranked, it’s another scenario where it’s a wash and doesn’t hurt Baylor. Boise State is a 14 point favorite and won the last meeting with Hawaii 59-37.

52-24 Boise State