December 03, 2014

The College Football Playoff selection committee will need to stay up late Saturday night.

The last game to kick off on championship Saturday is the Mountain West title game between No. 22 Boise State and Fresno State.

The Broncos (10-2) are 22nd in the latest playoff rankings, the only team outside the Big Five conferences, putting them in position to earn a guaranteed bid to the New Year's Day bowls associated with the playoff.

The selection committee must pick the best champion from the so-called Group of Five conferences, which also includes the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Sun Belt and Mid-American Conference.

If Fresno State (6-6) pulls the upset, the committee is going to have to find another team.

American Commissioner Mike Aresco is not shy about touting his conference, particularly Memphis (9-3).

The Tigers have already earned at least a share of the conference title in an impressive turnaround season. Cincinnati (8-3) and UCF (8-3) also can earn a share of the conference crown this weekend. Memphis beat Cincinnati but didn't play UCF.

All three played at least two nonconference games against teams from the Big Five. UCF also played BYU. Boise State played one against the Big Five (Mississippi) and BYU. The Sagarin ratings have the Mountain West's Mountain division, which includes Boise State, Utah State and Colorado State, rated significantly ahead of the American. The computer rating also gives Boise State a big edge in strength of schedule against Memphis.

Aresco sees it differently.

''What troubles me is I think unfortunately right now we're almost paying the price for playing such really tough schedules, which we've all been asked to do,'' Aresco said.

Memphis lost 42-35 at No. 16 UCLA, and lost 24-3 at No. 13 Mississippi in a game that was 7-3 in the fourth quarter.

''(The Tigers) were at Oxford, they didn't play them on a neutral field,'' said Aresco, referring to Boise State's 35-13 loss to Ole Miss at the Georgia Dome the opening weekend of the season.

The Tigers might want to stay up late, too.

The picks:


No. 3 Oregon (minus 13 1/2) vs. No. 8 Arizona, Pac-12 championship at Santa Clara, California.

Ducks QB Marcus Mariota can just about wrap up the Heisman with one more big game; Winner goes to the playoff? Maybe ... OREGON 42-28.

Northern Illinois (minus 6 1/2) vs. Bowling Green, Mid-American Championship at Detroit.

Fifth straight MAC title game appearance for Huskies. They are 2-2 in previous four ... NORTHERN ILLINOIS 30-21.


No. 1 Alabama (minus 14 1/2) vs. No. 14 Missouri, SEC championship at Atlanta.

Tigers upset could leave SEC out of first College Football Playoff ... ALABAMA 31-14.

No. 2 Florida State (minus 3 1/2) vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech, ACC championship at Charlotte, North Carolina.

Seminoles won't drop with another win, but winning won't be easy; then again, it never is for `Noles ... FLORIDA STATE 28-27.

Iowa State (plus 33 1/2) at No. 4 TCU.

Horned Frogs have easiest weekend of playoff contenders, though a close call against lowly Cyclones could be costly ... TCU 58-14.


No. 9 Kansas State (off) at No. 5 Baylor.

Baylor QB Bryce Petty (concussion) says he's ready to roll; Coach Bill Snyder's Wildcats can bail out the selection committee with a victory ... KANSAS STATE 35-24.

No. 6 Ohio State (plus 4) vs. No. 11 Wisconsin, Big Ten championship at Indianapolis.

Buckeyes try to make one last statement with a backup quarterback ... OHIO STATE 31-28.

Oklahoma State (plus 20) at No. 18 Oklahoma.

Bedlam is pretty boring this season outside of Oklahoma ... OKLAHOMA 35-21.


Fresno State (plus 20) at No. 22 Boise State, Mountain West championship.

Bulldogs have won two straight MW championships ... BOISE STATE 45-17.

Louisiana Tech (plus 12 1/2) at Marshall, Conference USA championship.

Thundering Herd hoping Boise State loss sends them to New Year's bowl ... MARSHALL 56-42.


Last week: Record straight: 17-8; vs. points 11-13.

Season: Record straight: 194-64; vs. points 116-135-2.

Best bet: 6-8.

Upset special: 5-10.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at

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