The college football regular season has concluded as the attention now turns to the postseason, beginning with this weekend's conference championship games. Starting on Friday night, teams from all over the country will be playing for conference titles while some will also be looking to secure their spots in the College Football Playoff field.
The CFP stakes may just be centered around seeding, however, as I'm not sure any of the three unbeaten Power Five teams remaining can miss the playoff at this point. And judging by the point spreads in two of their games, we shouldn't expect them to lose this weekend, either.
Two teams with playoff hopes are expected to be in tight battles, however. So let's have a look at the opening lines for each conference championship game courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
SEC Championship Game -- LSU vs. Georgia (-16.5): There were a lot of people wondering if LSU would be the first two-loss team to reach the College Football Playoff if it found a way to beat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, but the Tigers blew that chance when they lost to Texas A&M Saturday night. Now the stakes in this game have been lowered because there's nothing that will keep Georgia from finishing in the top four, but let's not get stupid here. Winning the SEC is still winning the SEC.
Big Ten Championship Game -- Purdue vs. Michigan (-16): Michigan wrapped up its playoff berth when it beat Ohio State, and now it'll look to win its second consecutive Big Ten title. Not bad, considering the Wolverines lost their coordinators and Jim Harbaugh interviewed for an NFL gig on National Signing Day. In the Wolverines' way is an upstart Purdue that emerged from the scrum that is the Big Ten West holding the title belt. Not many are giving the Boilermakers a shot here, but how many gave them a chance to get here in the first place?
Big 12 Championship Game -- Kansas State vs. TCU (-2.5): TCU had a lot of close calls during the regular season, and its win over Kansas State was one of them. For those who don't remember, Kansas State starting QB Adrian Martinez left the game with an injury. Then backup Will Howard was knocked out of the game, too. Now Howard is the starter as the Wildcats are out for revenge. Will Kansas State finally be the team that knocks off the Horned Frogs, or should we accept that TCU is a team of destiny at this point?
Pac-12 Championship Game (Friday) -- Utah vs. USC (-2.5): The formula seems rather simple here. If USC wins and avenges its lone loss on the season against Utah, it seems unfathomable that the selection committee would leave it out of the top four. But if Utah gets its second win of the season over the Trojans? Well, that's when things get interesting.
ACC Championship Game -- North Carolina vs. Clemson (-8): It's the ACC Championship Game, so it means plenty, but this game lost a lot of its national appeal over the weekend. North Carolina lost to rival NC State and its fourth-string QB, while Clemson followed it up with a home loss to South Carolina. This game has no playoff implications, but the conference is on the line, as is a New Year's Six bowl game appearance.
Group of Five
AAC Championship Game -- UCF vs. Tulane (-2.5): It's hard to imagine the winner of this game won't be the Group of Five's New Year's Six participant, so there's plenty on the line outside of the AAC title. Still, an AAC title would be a nice prize for a Tulane team that hasn't won a conference championship since 1998 when it was in Conference USA. UCF has won the AAC four times, but this would be the first under Gus Malzahn.
Conference USA Championship Game (Friday) -- North Texas at UTSA (-8.5): Frank Harris, Jeff Traylor and the UTSA Roadrunners are looking to win back-to-back Conference USA championships. To do so, they'll have to beat a North Texas team looking to win its first conference title since winning the Sun Belt in 2004. The Mean Green last appeared in the C-USA title game in 2017 but lost to FAU 41-17.
MAC Championship Game -- Ohio vs. Toledo (-3.5): Jason Candle won the MAC at Toledo in his second season at the school in 2017, but this is their first trip back to Detroit since. The Rockets will face an Ohio team nobody expected to be here and one that hasn't won the MAC since 1968. They've appeared in the game four times (last in 2016) but are yet to win the big one.
Sun Belt Championship Game -- Coastal Carolina at Troy (-7): Jon Sumrall has performed one of the most impressive turnarounds in the country, taking over a Troy team that went 5-7 last year and going 10-2 to win the SBC West. The Trojans are a win away from their first Sun Belt title since 2017. They face a Coastal Carolina team that lost starting QB Grayson McCall to injury but won the league in 2020.
Mountain West Championship Game -- Fresno State at Boise State (-4.5): These have been the two best teams in the Mountain West all season, so it's no surprise they're meeting in the conference championship. Boise State hasn't lost a conference game this season, and it's looking to win its first MWC title since 2019. Fresno's lost only once, but that loss was a 40-20 defeat against the Broncos in Boise. If the Bulldogs exact revenge, they'll claim their first MWC title since 2018.