Notre Dame is set to play in the BCS championship game, but the opponent is yet to be determined. That, and other BCS bowl games, will be narrowed down as the conference championships are played this week.
MAC Championship Game: Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Northern Illinois Huskies
Odds: Northern Illinois -5
This game could have an effect on the BCS bowl picture. The final at-large spot in the five-game BCS pool will come down to one of these teams: Oklahoma, Boise State and the winner of this game in Detroit. Kent State and Northern Illinois need to finish in the top 16 of the BCS standings, and they’re just outside the top 16 at the moment. Boise State could finish ahead of either team, but the Broncos play Nevada in the season finale and might not enjoy much of a strength-of-schedule boost as a result. Boise State might therefore drop in the rankings and give an opening to the winner of this game. If Oklahoma loses to TCU this Saturday, the odds would increase that the MAC champion could crash the party.
Pac-12 Championship Game: UCLA Bruins vs. Stanford Cardinal
Odds: Stanford -9
In 2012, Stanford has managed to dethrone the Oregon Ducks as the champion of the Pac 12 North Division. UCLA represented the Pac 12 South Division in last year’s inaugural Pac 12 championship game, but the Bruins have surprised everyone by overcoming USC to win the Pac 12 South this season. Unlike the other power conferences in college football, the Pac 12 stages its conference title game on the campus site of the team with the better conference record. UCLA could have hosted this game if it had beaten Stanford last week and Oregon State had beaten Oregon. But Stanford beat UCLA to earn the right to host this contest, and the winner goes to the Rose Bowl and will become the first team other than USC or Oregon to win the Pac 12’s primary championship since Washington State won the league and reached the Rose Bowl in the 2002 season.
Texas Longhorns at Kansas State Wildcats
Odds: Kansas State -11.5
This is a huge game in the Big 12 Conference for two reasons. First, Kansas State needs to win to lock up the Big 12 championship. If the Wildcats do indeed polish off Texas, they will go to the Fiesta Bowl to play the Oregon Ducks, which would create one of the most attractive matchups of the 2012 bowl season. If Kansas State loses, Oklahoma would go to the Fiesta Bowl as the Big 12 champion, so this game means everything to the KSU football family.
The second reason why this game is so big is that Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein will get one last chance to make a play for the Heisman Trophy. Klein has been outperformed the past few weeks by the current favorite, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Klein needs a strong outing and a Kansas State victory to give his candidacy a final push. He and his team are in the spotlight this weekend.
SEC Championship Game: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Georgia Bulldogs
Odds: Alabama -7.5
This is the biggest game of the weekend — a game that will not only crown the champion of the SEC but will also send the winner to the BCS national championship game against the Notre Dame on Jan. 7 in Miami. Georgia has backed up its 2011 SEC East Division title with another East crown in 2012. Head coach Mark Richt has quickly and decisively quieted the noise that surrounded him and his program in the early stages of the 2011 season, when Georgia was 0-2 and headed for a possible tumble off the cliff in the SEC East. Georgia is coming off a 32-point win over Georgia Tech, meaning the Bulldogs have a lot of momentum and are playing their best ball of the year.
Alabama has won the SEC West title for the first time since 2009. The Tide want to reclaim the SEC championship and get their shot at a repeat national title, which they would be able to play for if they took on Notre Dame in a month and a half. Head coach Nick Saban was able to rest a lot of players against Auburn on Nov. 24. The ease of Alabama’s 49-0 win could pay dividends for the Tide against Georgia.