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OFD Viewers Guide: Conference Championship Week

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Get the scoop on all the conference championship (what's a conference anyway) action coming this weekend.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Friday Night

Game Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
MAC Championship Bowling Green Falcons Northern Illinois Huskies Ford Field (Neutral) 8:00 ESPN2 -12

Instead of it's usual Tuesday or Wednesday night spot, #MACtion moves to Friday this week, and is the night's only game. Bowling Green head coach Dino Babers was reported to have accepted the UCF job earlier in the week, but that has proved to be false since Scott Frost is headed to Orlando. Regardless of where he ends up, Babers, a former Art Briles assistant, will probably be coaching his last game for the Falcons this Friday. Northern Illinois found itself atop the crazy MAC Western Divison after winning the tiebreakers in a four-way tie at 6-2 with Western Michigan, Toledo, and Central Michigan. These teams didn't face each other in the regular season (which may have had something to do with why NIU is playing in the game). Although neither team will likely make a major bowl with a win, there are worse ways to spend your Friday night.

Noon Shift

Game Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
AAC Championship Houston Cougars Temple Owls TDECU Stadium (UH) Noon ABC -6.5
CUSA Championship Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Southern Miss Golden Eagles LT Smith Stadium (WKU) Noon ESPN2 -7.5
Big 12 Regular Season Baylor Bears Texas Longhorns McClane Stadium (BU) Noon ESPN -20.5

Temple's trip to Houston for the AAC title highlights the noon shift this Saturday. The winner will probably end up in a New Year's Six Bowl game, but there's a decent chance their coach will already be starting a new job by the time that comes around. Houston's coach Tom Herman has been linked to the Georgia and South Carolina openings, but he's apparently considering signing an extension to remain with the Cougars. Temple's coach Matt Rhule has been linked with the Missouri job among others. Regardless of where these two coaches end up, their teams are excellent and should provide an interesting strength vs. strength matchup between the Cougar offense and Owl defense. In the Conference USA title game, Western Kentucky hosts Southern Miss. Former Oklahoma State Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken has turned the Southern Miss program around in his third season in Hattiesburg. After a 1-11 season in his first season, and 3-9 in his second, the Golden Eagles sit at 9-3 with two of those losses coming to P5 programs Mississippi State and Nebraska. Jeff Brohm had an easier job at WKU, but he has the Hilltopper program at the highest point they've ever been. These two are also prime candidates to end up at a bigger program during the next few weeks. Finishing up the early slate is Texas's trip to Baylor. The Longhorns have little to play for having already been eliminated from contention for a bowl game. Baylor, on the other hand, can reach the Sugar Bowl with a win due to the Big XII's strange tiebreaker process that may have cost them a playoff spot last year.

Afternoon Shift

Game Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
SEC Championship Alabama Crimson Tide Florida Gators Georgia Dome (Neutral) 3:30 CBS -17
Big 12 Regular Season West Virginia Mountaineers Kansas State Wildcats Bill Snyder Family Stadium (KSU) 4:30 FS1 -6.5

The SEC Championship has been exciting in many recent years, but few expect Florida to give Alabama much trouble in this season's edition. The Gators have been anemic on offense since the suspension of Will Grier. The Gators haven't scored 30 points since Treon Harris took over the QB spot. Alabama's offense has been the Derrick Henry show, and has been very effective. The junior running back picked up 271 yards on an incredible 46 carries against Auburn last week, and he may be the front runner for the Heisman. Florida's defense has been stout despite their offense putting them in terrible spots, but they'll need to be incredible if the Gators are to deny the Tide a place in the playoff. If Bama runs away with the SEC title early, West Virginia's trip to Manhattan, Kansas is another viewing option. Bill Snyder's team needs a win to reach bowl eligibility while the 'Eers quietly sit at 7-4 with their only losses coming to the Big 12's ranked teams.

Primetime

Game Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
MWC Championship San Diego State Aztecs Air Force Falcons Qualcomm Stadium (SDSU) 7:30 ESPN2 -4
PAC 12 Championship Stanford Cardinal Southern Cal Trojans Levi Stadium (Neutral) 7:45 ESPN -4.5
ACC Championship Clemson Tigers North Carolina Tar Heels Bank of America Stadium (Neutral) 8:00 ABC -5
Big Ten Championship Michigan State Spartans Iowa Hawkeyes Lucas Oil Field (Neutral) 8:00 FOX -3

Saturday night has enough action to demand a second screen. The appetizer out west is the Mountain West Conference Championship between SDSU and Air Force. The Falcons feature one of the best rushing attacks in the country; they rank second in rushing yards per game. SDSU is more balanced than the Falcons, but they still average over 30 points per game. The Aztecs also have the 9th best scoring defense in the country. While the other game out west may not have major playoff implications unless other games have very unexpected results, the PAC 12 title game features a rematch of two Irish opponents. Since this is basically a lose-lose scenario, we'll just ignore it. Moving on, Clemson needs a win over UNC to complete their undefeated season. The Tigers' QB Deshaun Watson is a Heisman contender and hasn't been matched by anyone they've faced this season. UNC's signal caller Marquise Williams is no slouch, however, and former Irish commit Elijah Hood has been battering defenses all season. This has all the makings of a shootout, and could be the game of the night. Lastly, Michigan State and Iowa face off in a playoff quarterfinal. The Hawkeyes just completed their first ever 12-0 season that pretty much no one in the nation expected. Sparty finished atop the Big Ten West having knocked off both Ohio State and Michigan earlier in the season. Connor Cook returned to action last week in their blowout win over Penn State, so expect both teams to be at their best Saturday night with the conference and a playoff spot on the line.