Saturday will be a huge day for college football, especially for the upcoming College Football Playoff.
The outcomes of games will go a long way toward deciding which teams make it into the CFP. Big teams like Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Ohio State—all competing for a chance to return to the Final Four—are not in the clear despite having incredible seasons.
No. 3 Notre Dame is the only top-six team that won't play Saturday so will surpass Week 14 unscathed and undefeated.
However, Notre Dame is not out of the woods, either. There are certain scenarios that could leave Notre Dame on the outside of the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight's playoff odds algorithm. However, there are only two situations that have Notre Dame out of the CFP: Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State all winning or all those teams bar Alabama winning.
In a season wherein we have seen unlikely teams upset high-ranked opponents and teams like Northwestern are playing in conference championships, it seems unlikely that all the higher-ranked teams playing Saturday will win their games. And with the Fighting Irish playing one of the most consistent seasons, putting away all their opponents no matter the ranking, they have seemingly earned their right to a CFP showing.
Clemson should be able to neatly handle a now-unranked Pittsburgh team that has surprised the nation this season. Despite struggling early on in the campaign, Pittsburgh turned things around with a series of surprising wins over Duke, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest before falling to Miami in Week 13.
The 24-3 blowout loss to a Miami team that has struggled to find consistency at quarterback did not see a single Panther touchdown.
The Tigers, on the other hand, have been dominat, putting up huge numbers, such as a 77-point performance against Louisville, 63 against Wake Forest and 59 against former college football powerhouse Florida State.
Led by Trevor Lawrence—who has 22 touchdowns and only four interceptions, boasting a 66.2 average completion percentage—Clemson has no trouble putting points on the board. He is joined by Travis Etienne, who has more than 1,300 rushing yards and a whopping 19 touchdowns on the season, making Clemson near impossible to stop on the ground.
Clemson should have no trouble against Pittsburgh and advance to the CFP.
No. 1 Alabama will be taking on No. 4 Georgia in one of the biggest matchups of the 2018 college football season. Alabama has been a powerhouse this season, and Tua Tagovailoa—who is leading the race for the Heisman Trophy—has continued to be a force to be reckoned with.
The Hawaii native boasts a 70.3 percent completion percentage, 36 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He has been unstoppable on the ground and is joined by five-star receivers and running backs.
While Georgia has had strong offensive performances and beat ranked teams early on in the season, it does not seem likely it has what it takes to beat the Crimson Tide. The Bulldogs lost to an LSU team that Alabama kept scoreless when it was ranked No. 3. If Georgia were able to pull off a win, both it and Alabama would move on to the CFP.
No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Ohio State are in interesting situations ahead of their respective conference championship clashes. The Sooners are coming off an incredible 59-56 win over Will Grier and West Virginia, and on Saturday, they are playing a Texas Longhorns team that beat them back in Week 7. Oklahoma has one of the worst defenses out of the top teams, coming in at a 42.1 defensive team efficiency.
While the team makes up for it with one of the most efficient offenses of the league, Texas poses a real threat. Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger boasts a 64.4 percent completion rate with 23 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has also run for a team-high 11 touchdowns, making him poised to keep up with Oklahoma's Kyler Murray, who has also run for 11 touchdowns as quarterback.
Texas has proved itself to be a dynamic offense, and with so much on the line for Oklahoma, look for the Sooners to fold under the pressure and lose in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Ohio State, on the other hand, should easily handle Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game. The game should be close, as the Wildcats have a strong defense that has kept them in the game with opponents all year. However, their offense is not comparable to that of a Buckeyes team, led by signal-caller Dwayne Haskins, that has thrown for 42 touchdowns on the season.
The Wildcats have a veteran quarterback in Clayton Thorson. However, Thorson is still dealing with the after-effects of the ACL injury he suffered in December 2017. The injury may have played a role in his 14-touchdown, 12-interception season. With such high turnover potential, it seems unlikely the Buckeyes will fall to the Wildcats.
If Ohio State wins its game and Oklahoma loses to Texas, the Buckeyes should secure a spot in the College Football Playoff, joining Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State
No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 3 Notre Dame