The time has come for the final football Saturday of the year. Not even a full football Saturday, more like three-fourths of one, but I'll take that over any of the Saturdays staring us in the face over the nine months to come.
Unlike Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports, I like championship weekend. Would I have a problem eliminating it or folding it into an expanded playoff field? Nope. But I don't find these current games meaningless even if they're not all Alabama-Georgia in terms of national clout.
So, as good citizens of the college football community, let's look at those games quickly even though there's no direct impact on Nebraska football.
Buffalo v. Northern Illinois (Friday, 6 p.m., ESPN2)
I'm much more interested in this game than the other one tonight because I'm much more interested in the rise of Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold. The Bulls made a bold choice hiring him from the DIII ranks and it took a while to get the program up and running, but it is now. (He's also spent time as an assistant at Doane, Nebraska, and Nebraska-Omaha, so there's a local link.) Bonus track: You can get some advance scouting in on NIU, which visits Lincoln in Week 3 next year.
Utah v. Washington (Friday, 7 p.m., FOX)
Good for the Utes. The Pac-12 South has been a strange division for its entire existence and you could make the argument that Utah has been the most consistent team of the group. For them to finally get to the conference championship game feels a bit like Northwestern making it out of the West this year –– a delayed reward that was more than earned. I just wished Utah would have its starting quarterback, Tyler Huntley, available. Without him, Washington probably grinds out a win here in front of a small crowd on a Friday night. (Everything there minus Washington winning is a problem for the Pac-12.)
All of the games below are on Saturday as is good and proper.
Oklahoma v. Texas (11 a.m., ABC)
Quite a lot at stake in this one, in addition to it being another Oklahoma-Texas game. If the Sooners win, avenging their only loss of the season, it would be hard for me to keep them out of the playoff if Alabama beats Georgia in typical fashion. If the Longhorns win? Well, then Tom Herman has a conference title in his second season at Texas despite maybe not actually being that good and if you're not fond of burnt orange that'll be pretty annoying.
Appalachian State v. Louisiana (11 a.m., ESPN)
Ahhh, my beloved Sun Belt. It's going to be tough to pull away from Red River II too often, but this game feels like a potential passing of the torch. If some mid-tier team doesn't hire Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield now when most of the power programs are sitting out this particular spin on the coaching carousel, they'll regret it. Louisiana, on the other hand, was probably better than it had a right to be in Year 1 under Billy Napier. Good sign for the Ragin' Cajuns going forward, but perhaps not in this game. Your time is coming, Louisiana.
UAB v. Middle Tennessee State (12:30 p.m., CBSSN)
These two just played a week ago and MTSU handled the Blazers to secure the rematch. UAB coach Bill Clark got my Coach of the Year vote, but Rick Stockstill's no slouch himself. The cat-and-mouse game here of having to run this game back, essentially, is the most interesting part.
Memphis at UCF (2:30 p.m., ABC)
No McKenzie Milton here is absolutely terrible if you're a football fan, but I think the Knights still have a good chance to win on their home field and continue forcing the issue of G5 teams getting a legitimate playoff shot (which is all I really want). Darriel Mack Jr., a Scott Frost signee, will take the snaps again in Milton's absence.
Alabama v. Georgia (3 p.m., CBS)
A pre-playoff, playoff-worthy matchup. I expect Alabama to win here, so the biggest question for me is can Georgia do anything in a loss that would merit it holding on to the No. 4 spot in Sunday's rankings? Probably not if there are two one-loss teams nipping at the Bulldogs' heels at the end of the day.
Fresno State at Boise State (6:45 p.m., ESPN)
Maybe the third-best game of the day and it gets a strange time slot. Why is this game kicking off at 5:45 local time? It needs to kick off at 8 p.m. Mountain time –– the Broncos do it all the time –– because . . .
Clemson v. Pittsburgh (7 p.m., ABC)
. . . this game is going to get out of hand early. I know Pitt has a history under Pat Narduzzi of playing spoiler, but not here. Clemson messed around with South Carolina last week, but I fully expect Tigers to maul Panthers here. That could be OK from a viewership perspective because . . .
Northwestern v. Ohio State (7 p.m., FOX)
. . . the Big Ten title game kicks off at the same time. But, all due respect to Northwestern, I don't expect this game to be much better. The Wildcats are going to get Urban Meyer in murder mode. The Buckeyes have to state their case and, regular-season shakiness aside, probably will barring something bizarre.
Which is why we, the general college football observers this week, need Fresno-Boise to kick off at about halftime of those two games. I want to stay up until about 1 a.m. watching football on a Saturday at least one more time in 2018.
The Grab Bag
- Nebraska had its first departure of the offseason as Guy Thomas is leaving the program.
- Jacob Padilla previews Nebraska’s tournament match against Hofstra. Also, sights and sounds from the Huskers’ Thursday practice.
- Lot of good recruiting info in this week’s Big Red Recon from Greg Smith.
- Nebraska women’s basketball hung around but eventually fell to No. 5 Louisville last night.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.