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Sports >  NCAA football

Five things to watch on college football’s championship weekend: SEC play-in; Kyler Murray’s Heisman push

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 30, 2018

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa  looks up into Mercedes-Benz Stadium during an open practice Friday, one day ahead of the Southeastern Conference championship  game against Georgia in Atlanta. (Joshua L. Jones / AP)
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looks up into Mercedes-Benz Stadium during an open practice Friday, one day ahead of the Southeastern Conference championship game against Georgia in Atlanta. (Joshua L. Jones / AP)
By Ralph D. Russo Associated Press

College football closes its regular season with championship weekend, leading to selection Sunday when the playoff is set and the bowl matchups are finalized.

This is the first season in FBS in which each of the 10 conferences has a championship game, but as a bonus there are some regular-season games sprinkled in to the slate. Teams such as Virginia Tech, Iowa State and North Carolina State are playing to make up for games canceled during the regular season by severe weather. Stanford and Cal are playing their big rivalry game, which was postponed because of wildfires in California.

It is the last real college football Saturday until next Labor Day. Enjoy it.

Best game

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

A rematch of last season’s national championship game with playoff implications. But what kind exactly? It’s certainly possible both teams could get in if Georgia wins and Alabama finishes 12-1. A close game combined with losses by Oklahoma and Ohio State in their championship games could get Georgia into the playoff even with a loss.

Georgia will try to slow Alabama’s explosive offensive and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Heisman Trophy front-runner.

It’s also round two between Alabama coach Nick Saban and Georgia’s Kirby Smart, the Tide’s longtime defensive coordinator. Saban has never lost to one of his former assistants, going 13-0.

Heisman watch

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Murray has put up numbers better than Baker Mayfield’s when he won the Heisman for the Sooners last season. The junior has thrown for 3,674 yards and 37 touchdowns and run for 853 yards and 11 scores.

Murray and the fifth-ranked Sooners look to avenge their only loss of the season against No. 9 Texas in the Big 12 championship game. Oklahoma’s porous defense has made Murray have to be both good and clutch. The Sooners have allowed at least 40 points in each of their last four games, winning them all behind the best offense in the country, led by Murray. He’s chasing Tagovailoa in the Heisman race and has one last chance to overtake him.

Numbers to know

4 – Clemson is trying to become the second Power Five conference team to win four straight league title games since Florida did it in the SEC from 1993-96. The second-ranked Tigers face Pitt in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

30-1 – No. 6 Ohio State’s record against No. 21 Northwestern since 1972. The Wildcats are in the Big Ten championship game for the first time.

24 – No. 8 UCF’s winning streak heading into the American Athletic Conference championship game against Memphis. The Knights could become the 27th team in major-college football history to win 25 straight games.

Off the radar

Virginia Tech will play Marshall at home, trying to extend the longest active bowl appearance streak to 27 years.

The Hokies gave themselves hope to extend the streak last week by rallying in the fourth quarter and beating rival Virginia in overtime.

Hot seat

Terry Bowden, Akron

Hard to be on the hot seat and playing on championship weekend, but Bowden has been at Akron for seven years and at 62 years old he has 35-51 record with the Zips. Akron faces South Carolina in one of those make-up games. A loss would drop Akron to 4-8 on the season, and there has been some speculation that the school and Bowden might be looking to move on.

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