The theme of the 2023 college football season: highly entertaining chalk. We spent much of the season thinking the sport's ruling powers were more vulnerable than usual. Georgia thought hard about losing to South Carolina and Auburn; Ohio State's offense was far more flawed than normal; Alabama lost in Week 2 and spent most of the season with an all-touchdowns-or-sacks offense; and while Michigan was mostly dominant, the Wolverines were dealing with both two suspensions for their head coach and an acute case of Ain'tPlayedNobodyItis.
Through it all, though, the top teams kept winning. The top four teams in the preseason polls (Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama), plus Florida State (eighth), Texas (Big 12 favorite) and Washington and Oregon (two of three Pac-12 favorites), have gone a combined 92-4 -- 3-3 against each other and 89-1 against everyone else. The only loss to an outsider: Texas' late defeat against No. 12 Oklahoma. Not exactly humiliating.
Only four of these teams will make the final four-team College Football Playoff, however, and we'll find out who those teams are after one last weekend. Will we get one more round of delightful chalk? Might we have a long-awaited upset or two in store? And what the heck happens if we do?
Here's everything you need to follow during college football's championship weekend.
Jump to a section:
Pac-12 rematch showdown | Can OSU ruin Texas' Big 12 finale?
SEC: The CFP nightmare
Does FSU finish undefeated? | Michigan vs. Iowa's offensive abyss
Tulane-SMU-Liberty trio | G5 titles
Best bets | Small-school showcase
We'll attack the power conference championship games in chronological order.
Friday night's Pac-12 championship is pretty straightforward: The winner's almost certainly in, and the loser's almost certainly out. And if we're lucky, the game will hit the same levels as the first time these two played in 2023.
Washington's 36-33 victory in Seattle might have been my favorite game of the regular season. It was certainly the most optimistic -- both teams just went for it. The average 2023 game has featured about 1.5 plays in which the in-game win probability, per the FPI, shifted by 13% or more. Oregon-Washington had five such plays in the fourth quarter alone, and none were the fourth-down Oregon failures that we talked about so much at the time.
7:26 left: Dillon Johnson 1-yard run on third-and-goal from the 2 (+18.5% for Oregon). The Huskies failed on fourth down, too, giving another 8.1% to Oregon.
2:11 left: Penix 35-yard pass to Ja'Lynn Polk (+22.9% for Washington). That put the Huskies on Oregon's 18, and ...
1:44 left: Penix 18-yard touchdown pass to Rome Odunze (+42.6%).
All that happened, and Oregon still had a field goal to force overtime. It was as even as could be, but Washington did what it has done all year: come through in the clutch. The Huskies are 6-0 in games decided by one score.
Oregon has gone the opposite route. The Ducks lost by three to UW, beat Texas Tech 38-30 in Lubbock and won 10 other games by an average of 47-7. A run of recent blowouts has bumped them from sixth to fourth in SP+, while Washington's obsession with late-game drama has made the Huskies less predictively reliable and dropped them from fourth to 11th. SP+ projected Washington by 2.2 the first time around and nearly nailed it. This time it has Oregon by 8.4.
Here are my two main questions for this one: