Nov 30, 2018

Big Ten & SEC Week 14 Preview: SEC, Big Ten titles to be decided this Saturday

In the final week of the college football season, conference championship games take center stage. The Florida Citrus Sports Team Selection Committee will be watching the SEC and Big Ten title games and analyzing the trickle-down effects of the results on the bowl selection process.

Here’s a closer look at the Big Ten and SEC title games and what they could mean for the VRBO Citrus Bowl:

Big Ten Championship

No. 21 Northwestern (8-4, 8-1 Big Ten) vs. No. 6 Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) – 8 p.m. on FOX

Northwestern and Ohio State will meet Saturday in Indianapolis to decide the Big Ten Championship. This will mark the 77th meeting in a series the Buckeyes have controlled in recent years; Ohio State has won its past six matchups with the Wildcats and 30 of the last 31 overall.

The Wildcats are making an appearance in the Big Ten Championship game for the first time in program history after sweeping their divisional opponents (another program first). Ohio State, on the other hand, enters Saturday’s game seeking its 37th Big Ten title and its third in the past five seasons.

The Buckeyes are paced by a high powered offense that currently ranks second in the country in yards per game (543.9) and seventh in the country in points per game (43.3). Individually, quarterback Dwayne Haskins averages 340.1 passing yards per game (third in the nation) and has passed for 42 touchdowns (first in the nation).

As such, Northwestern figures to need a big game out of a defensive unit that comes in allowing 372.7 total yards and 21.7 points per game.

The winner of the Big Ten title will earn a spot in the Rose Bowl, unless the winner is selected for the College Football Playoff. In that case, the Rose Bowl will select the next-highest-ranked Big Ten team. Currently, Ohio State is ranked No. 6 in the CFP poll and would presumably need No. 4 Georgia to lose to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship to have a chance of leapfrogging No. 5 Oklahoma (which plays No. 14 Texas in the Big 12 championship) for the final playoff spot.

If Northwestern wins and secures a spot in the Rose Bowl, No. 12 Penn State could potentially become available for the VRBO Citrus Bowl — as could the Buckeyes, depending on their final ranking following a hypothetical loss in Indy — due to a lack of at-large bids among the New Year’s Six.

If Ohio State wins and secures a spot in the College Football Playoff, the higher-ranked team of Penn State or No. 7 Michigan would be invited to the Rose Bowl with the other’s fate determined by the other conference championship results and the final CFP rankings. Both the Nittany Lions and Wolverines are idle this weekend.

Should Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State all end up in New Year’s Six bowls, the next highest-ranked Big Ten teams available in the pick window would likely be Northwestern and Iowa.

SEC Championship

No. 1 Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC) vs. No. 4 Georgia (11-1, 7-1 SEC) – 4 p.m. on CBS

Alabama and Georgia will meet for the 69th time on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to decide the SEC Championship.

The Crimson Tide defeated Georgia 26-23 in overtime in the 2018 CFP title game — the most recent meeting between the teams. The Bulldogs will be trying to win their first back-to-back SEC crowns since they won three straight from 1980-82.

Georgia’s Kirby Smart, who was an assistant under Nick Saban at Alabama from 2007-2015, will meet his former boss for the second time. Saban is 15-0 all-time against his former staffers during his tenure at Alabama.

Alabama has been one of the most impressive teams in the country this year on both sides of the ball. The Crimson Tide’s defense ranks third nationally in scoring defense, allowing 13.8 points per game, and is also 15th in rushing defense at 114.0 yards per game and tenth in passing defense at 168.2 yards per game. The ‘Bama offense has been equally impressive and ranks second nationally in scoring offense (49.0 points) and fourth in total offense (538.0 yards).

The Bulldogs defense will look to slow down the Bama offense with a unit that is ranked tenth nationally in scoring defense (17.2) and allows only 303.5 yards per game (12th in the nation). On the offensive side, Georgia will rely heavily on its rushing attack, which comes in averaging 259.8 yards per game (11th in the nation).

With a win Saturday, No. 1 Alabama would complete a perfect season and lock in a spot in the CFP semifinals, while Georgia would most likely drop from the Top 4 and become the SEC’s representative in the Sugar Bowl. Behind Georgia, No. 9 Florida and No. 10 LSU are currently in line for at-large bids to New Year’s Six bowls, however the results of other conference championship games could cause shifting in the rankings.

Should Alabama, Georgia, Florida and LSU all remain in the NY6 lineup, No. 13 Kentucky would be the highest-ranked SEC team remaining, followed by No. 18 Mississippi State and No. 19 Texas A&M.

Meanwhile, if Georgia wins on Saturday, Alabama would either remain in the Top 4 or would claim the SEC’s spot in the Sugar Bowl, depending on its placement in the final poll. If a one-loss Tide team reached the playoffs, then the higher-ranked team of LSU and Florida would become the SEC representative for the Sugar Bowl, with the other potentially available for an at-large bid for another New Year’s Six bowl.

Here’s a look at the rest of the Big Ten and SEC schedule this week:

Akron (4-7, 2-6 MAC) at South Carolina (6-5, 4-4 SEC) – 12 p.m. on SEC

Click here to check out previews of games from earlier this season.

 

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