College Football Championship Weekend picks up and the QB exchange portal shuffle begins

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We have a busy weekend ahead of us. Make sure you sleep today! Here’s what’s happening in college football through Saturday (and Friday night)…

Championship previews

Power 5 matches

Barring a major upset in Las Vegas (point spreads are via BetMGM) I’ll pick the favorites here.

ACC: NO. 14 Louisville (10-2) vs. No. 4 Florida State (12-0), Saturday at Charlotte (ABC), 8 p.m.

  • A College Football Playoff team does not leave out an undefeated Power 5 conference champion. But it will be easier for Florida State to win without star QB Jordan Travis. How about Jeff Brohm? He has his alma mater in the ACC Championship Game since 1st year. Pick: Florida State (-2.5)

Big 12: No. 18 Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. No. 7 Texas (11-1), noon Saturday at Arlington (ABC)

  • It wasn’t quite the matchup we were hoping for, but the Big 12 certainly had an excuse to name Mike Gundy its coach of the year instead of Steve Sarkisian. Last week, Texas played some of its best football in a 57-7 rout of Texas Tech, while the Cowboys looked mediocre in a 40-34 win over 5-7 BYU. Pick: Texas (-14.5)

Big Ten: No. 2 Michigan (12-0) vs. No. 16 Iowa (10-2) Saturday at Indianapolis, 8 p.m. (FOX)

  • I fully expect Jim Harbaugh’s welcome-back party to be thrown in our faces all day. After the Wolverines continued their dominance against Ohio State last week, this looks to be one of the more predictable outcomes of the weekend. Former Michigan men Kate McNamara and Eric All (both transferred to Iowa, but injured) were unable to see play. Pick: Michigan (-23.5)
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Pak-12: No. 5 Oregon (11-1) vs. No. 3 Washington (12-0), Friday at 8 p.m. Las Vegas (ABC)

  • A national championship-caliber game in the SEC will be exciting, and in my book it has the next biggest star. A rematch between these two Pac-12 powers feels more important than when they played in October. From a playoff berth to a possible Heisman Trophy to a last (??) Pac-12 title, there’s so much at stake. Pick: Washington (+9.5)

SEC: NO. 1 Georgia (12-0) vs. No. 8 Alabama (11-1), Saturday at Atlanta, 4 p.m. (CBS)

  • Bama was eliminated after the loss to Texas, but the Crimson Tide is right in the CFP mix. Meanwhile, the Dawgs are three wins from a three-peat, an FBS record not seen in this game since the 1930s. It’s another win-in contest. Pick: Georgia (-5.5)

Carson Beck and the Georgia Bulldogs need three more wins for the program’s third straight national title. (James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Group of five matches

AAC: SMU (10-2) No. 22 at Tulane (11-1), Saturday 4 p.m. (ABC)

  • SMU has one of the top offenses in the nation, but quarterback Preston Stone won’t play after suffering a broken leg in the regular-season finale against Navy. That’s not a reason to dismiss the Mustangs, who rank first in the AAC in total defense and passing defense. A New Year’s Six bowl berth is also on the line. Selection: SMU (+3.5)

Conference USA: New Mexico State (10-3) No. 24 at Liberty (12-0), Friday at 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

  • The Liberty are one of five FBS teams to finish the regular season undefeated. Credit Jamie Chadwell for getting the Flames going in his first season. Both programs are making their first appearance in this game. Pick: Liberty (-10.5)
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MAC: Miami (Ohio) (10-2) vs. Toledo (11-1), noon Saturday at Detroit (ESPN)

  • Toledo won 27-17 when these teams met in October, but Miami was able to rally the Rockets from a 21-3 halftime deficit in the second half. Brett Gabbert, the Redhawks’ starter, left that game with a right leg injury. Toledo is looking for its second title for the RedHawks for the first time since 2019. Pick: Toledo (-7.5)

Mountain West: Boise State (7-5) at UNLV (9-3), Saturday at 3 p.m. (FOX)

  • It’s odd that Boise State is in the game while in the middle of a coaching search (the Broncos fired Andy Avalos on Nov. 12), but here we are. Meanwhile, UNLV is in stark contrast while flourishing under first-year coach Barry Odom. Choice: UNLV (+2.5)

Sun Belt: Appalachian State (8-4) at Troy (10-2), Saturday 4 p.m. (ESPN)

  • The Mountaineers are coming off another upset after knocking off undefeated James Madison in overtime two weeks ago. App State has won its last five games against Troy. The Trojans are tough, boasting the 11th-ranked defense in the nation at 4.74 yards allowed per play. Selection: Application Level (+6.5)

Fun fact: The six teams that play in the championships are led by coaches in their first or second year as captains of their respective programs. (Year 1: Louisville, Liberty, UNLV; Year 2: New Mexico State, SMU, Troy). It’s no wonder that coaches have so little time in these jobs.

Indiana rents

Good job Hoosiers! Indiana hired Kurt Cignetti from JMU Yesterday its coach.

After cutting Tom Allen’s $20.8 million buyout (the third largest in CFB history) to $15.5 million, IU hired a coach who was 52-9 at his previous stop. Cignetti’s 11 wins this season at JMU are more than Allen and the Hoosiers combined over the past three seasons.

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Cignetti, 62, released a statement, a real tear-jerker, in which he said he planned to retire from JMU and said, “It’s very hard to leave, but sometimes you have to make tough decisions and be uncomfortable. To grow again, and I’m too young to stop growing.” We have entered a new era in Bloomington.

QB shuffle

Translocation Portal Primer

The portal officially opens on Monday, but many players have already announced their intentions to enter. Just yesterday, UCLA’s Dante Moore and Oregon State’s DJ Yuakaleli joined Duke’s Riley Leonard and others in the portal’s QB sweepstakes. At least 10 QBs who started at some point this season Entered or announced intentions to enter a Power 5 program gateway.

Check back on Saturday for rankings, analysis, new spots and more as the portal drama continues next week.

Quick photos

And listen to Championship Weekend Predictions And selection On top of that Until the Saturday podcast. can Georgia Even with a loss, a playoff is available Alabama?

Justin Williams ranks every conference championship game Meaning to do SEC.

As is tilted Michigan-Iowa Feel free to fit in…anything is possible. I really enjoyed this story by Scott Dochterman, which looks at Iowa’s stunning 2016 upset of the Wolverines.

What is the X-Factor for winning a conference championship? It can be tight ends.

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(Top image: Brandon Slaughter/Sports Image/Getty Images)

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