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Which Conference Championship Game Are You Looking Forward to the Most?

College Football Playoff spots are on the line this weekend. Our writers discuss which game they’re clearing their schedules to watch.

Some semblance of change is finally due for a College Football Playoff that has generally featured the same four teams: Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Alabama. Those four schools account for 20 of 28 total playoff appearances.

Would-be first-timers No. 2 Michigan and Group of 5 darling No. 4 Cincinnati have the chance to crack the playoff with wins on Saturday. Top-ranked Georgia has made one playoff appearance in seven years, which resulted in a 2019 national championship loss to No. 3 Alabama. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide has been held out of the playoff just once.

All four teams are playing in their respective conference championships this weekend. A win all but secures a playoff berth and a loss eliminates any of the top four, save for Georgia, maybe, from consideration.

No. 5 Oklahoma State is on the outside looking in hoping for any team not named the Bulldogs to lose and open up a spot. That is, if the Cowboys can beat No. 9 Baylor for the Big 12 title.

There’s the chance something strange happens—it’s college football after all. Notre Dame, which is idle with no conference championship, can end up in the playoff for the third time in program history, albeit without its head coach. And the rest of the Top 10 are holding out hope for mayhem to unfold.

Some of Sports Illustrated's biggest College Football fans discussed which conference championship they’re most looking forward to with a lot on the line this weekend. Before they give their picks, here is the schedule for the Power 5 conference championship games as well as the AAC’s.

Pac-12 Championship Game

  • No. 10 Oregon (10-2) vs. No. 17 Utah (9-3)
  • Friday, 8 p.m. ET
  • Spread: Utah -2.5

Big 12 Championship Game

  • No. 9 Baylor (10-2) vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State (11-1)
  • Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
  • Spread: Oklahoma State -5

SEC Championship Game

  • No. 3 Alabama (11-1) vs. No. 1 Georgia (12-0)
  • Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
  • Spread: Georgia -6

AAC Championship Game

  • No. 21 Houston (11-1) vs. No. 4 Cincinnati (12-0)

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  • Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
  • Spread: Cincinnati -10.5

ACC Championship Game

  • No. 16 Wake Forest (10-2) vs. No. 15 Pittsburgh (10-2)
  • Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
  • Spread: Pittsburgh -3

Big Ten Championship Game

  • No. 13 Iowa (10-2) vs. No. 2 Michigan (11-1)
  • Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
  • Spread: Michigan -10.5
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates on the sideline after beating Ohio State Buckeyes 42-27 in a NCAA College football at Michigan Stadium at Ann Arbor, Mi on November 27, 2021. Osu21um Kwr 34

SI Betting's Richard Johnson’s :

I'm definitely tempted to say the SEC championship game, but that's not the big one in my mind because either way both of those teams have been in the dance. But the Big Ten championship game is just absolutely fascinating to me because of the Michigan angle. They just got over the most major hump. There's no chance of a letdown here .... right?

The pick: Big Ten

SI College Sports' Molly Geary’s :

Cincinnati has a chance to make history, but unless all hell breaks loose, it's only doing that with a win on Saturday. Houston hasn't lost since the opening week of the season and is in prime position to play the ultimate spoiler to something few thought possible: a Group of 5 team making the playoff.

The pick: AAC

Jan 8, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban shakes hands with Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart before the 2018 CFP national championship college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

SI Betting's Frankie Taddeo’s :

92. That's the number. 92 straight times Alabama has been the betting favorite. The last time they were listed as underdogs by oddsmakers? 2015 versus Georgia. Alabama taught the oddsmakers a lesson to never doubt Nick Saban as the Tide won 38-10 as Calvin Ridley and Derrick Henry led the way to a victory over Nick Chubb and the Bulldogs. Well that line was only +1, a virtual toss up. We are far from a toss up this weekend as this line opened at -5 and has subsequently been bet up to -6.5. I jumped all over the opener and I will not look back. The Bulldogs are the most complete team in the country and have rewarded bettors with an 8-4 ATS mark. Look for that record to improve after the SEC Championship as Georgia will become even stronger prohibitive favorites to win the National Championship. Roll Tide will be Roll Tears after the Bulldogs hand Alabama their second loss of the season. However, a loss should not eliminate the Tide from the College Football Playoffs in my opinion, as they are a far superior team that has played a much more difficult schedule than Cincinnati. Hopefully the committee gets it right next week.

The pick: SEC

SI Betting's  Bill Enright’s:

We’ve seen Alabama lose a few times in the last few years, heck, we even saw them lose this year, but they haven’t been an underdog in six seasons. There’s just something unsettling about seeing the +6.5 next to the Crimson Tide. Like seeing snow in July, it’s just unnatural. So while I do expect Georgia to win, I’m not so sure about them covering. This is less about the Bulldogs being crowned SEC Champions and more about Alabama potentially losing two games in the same season.

The pick: SEC

SI Betting's Matt Ehalt’s:

Alabama-Georgia is the game with the biggest implications, but I'm more intrigued to see how Michigan fares against Iowa. Jim Harbaugh secured the biggest win of his Michigan coaching tenure by beating Ohio State, but that opens the door for a potential letdown this week. Michigan should win, but that same energy that allowed it to bully the Buckeyes may not be there. Michigan losing would also open the door for another team to enter.

The pick: Big Ten

SI Fantasy's Craig Ellenport’s:

Seems to me that making Alabama anything more than a 3-point dog is a sign that the oddsmakers fully expect Georgia to be crowned SEC champ. At 6.5 points, they are begging you to take the Tide. And when the books beg people to take one side, you know what that means. And that's a shame, because nothing would excite me more than the prospect of a Bama victory sending the playoff selection committee into complete chaos. Fans of Cincinnati, Oklahoma State and Notre Dame are all rooting for Georgia this weekend. Assuming Michigan beats Iowa, an Alabama victory would create a virtual free-for-all for the final playoff spot. Would be great to see. Alas, it won't happen.

The pick: SEC

Cincinnati Bearcats wide receiver Alec Pierce (12) celebrates with Cincinnati Bearcats tight end Josh Whyle (81) after scoring a touchdown in the second half of the NCAA football game on Saturday, Nov...

SI News Writer Madeline Coleman’s Take:

The ACC Championship is interesting this season because it has been a topsy-turvy year for the conference, and the title game will feature two teams who historically have not competed frequently in the championship. At the beginning of the year, Clemson was the favorite to win the Atlantic, but Wake Forest, which has been a growing powerhouse led by Dave Clawson, reached its second 10-win season in program history, and is fighting for its third ACC conference title in program history. Meanwhile in the Coastal division, Miami and North Carolina were predicted to battle it out for the chance to play in Charlotte, but instead, Pitt dominated to a 7-1 conference record and is headed to its first conference title game since facing Clemson in 2018. The Panthers are led by quarterback Kenny Pickett, who has emerged as a Heisman Trophy contender.

The pick: ACC

SI Betting's Kyle Wood’s Take:

The Big 12 will crown a conference champion not named Oklahoma for the first time since 2014. Oklahoma State is hoping the title stays in the Sooner State, though. The Cowboys get Baylor, which won a share of the last non-Oklahoma conference title, and a team they beat by 10 points earlier in the season. A trip to the playoff would complete quite a year for Oklahoma State, which saw Oklahoma leave the conference for greener (financial) pastures. The Cowboys beat the Sooners to keep OU out of the conference title game and Lincoln Riley departed for a new job. This game should be interesting, especially with a low point total of 46.5, a stark change from the scoring-happy image of the Big 12 that still lingers.

The pick: Big 12

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