The craziness that has defines the 2020 college football season meets the lunacy that seems to happen every season during Championship Week. Most of the FBS conferences are in action over the weekend looking to stake claims at berths in the College Football Playoff, New Year’s Six and other top-tier bowl games. There are about seven teams competing for those four playoff spots, all of whom are in action Saturday.
The games begin Friday with No. 13 USC in the spotlight against Oregon, a replacement for Washington, in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Trojans are looking to finish the regular season undefeated, which few of their fans likely thought was possible this season under embattled coach Clay Helton.
Everything kicks into gear Saturday as No. 4 Ohio State and No. 14 Northwestern open the day competing for the Big Ten title with the Buckeyes focused on a playoff spot despite only playing six games this season. The Big 12 is up next with No. 6 Iowa State and No. 10 Oklahoma looking to salvage their campaigns despite both losing a couple of games early in the season. Will the Cyclones or Sooners earn the league’s New Year’s Six bid and take that momentum into 2021?
The two most intriguing games of the weekend wrap up the day. No. 3 Clemson looks for revenge on No. 2 Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game after a regular-season defeat. The Tigers and Fighting Irish can both wind up in the four-team CFP field, but Saturday’s result will go a long way to determining whether that happens and — if so — where they will be ranked. Nothing is guaranteed for lemson in a loss.
The SEC Championship Game serves as the nightcap with No. 1 Alabama and No. 7 Florida going head-to-head as the most familiar bedfellows in this title clash. The Crimson Tide are looking to wrap an undefeated season and maintain their No. 1 spot in the playoff, while the Gators need a miracle to get in the field after suffering a surprise upset against LSU last week. Florida is in position to play in the CFP if absolutely everything goes its way, but it all will start with a strong defeat of Alabama, a 17-point favorite.
What will the CFP Rankings look like on Sunday? We will soon find out, but while winning is all that matters for the standings, we care about whether these teams will cover their spreads. Be sure to stick with CBS Sports throughout the day for college football coverage from the opening kickoff on Saturday to the final whistle. Let’s take a look at our expert picks for Championship Week.
Odds via William Hill Sportsbook | All times Eastern
Big Ten: No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 14 Northwestern
The instinct here is to lay the points with Ohio State because the Buckeyes will be looking to make a point. If you want to do that, I say go for it. Me? I’m going to be on the Wildcats. I don’t think Northwestern has a good chance to win this game, but I can sense that they’re going to be able to muck it up. It’s just a perfect storm of everything Northwestern loves. Nobody thinks it has a prayer. All the talk is about Ohio State’s playoff case. Its athletic director is leaving to take over the ACC. Its long-time defensive coordinator is retiring after the season. There are even rumors — as spurious as they likely are — that Pat Fitzgerald could be in line to coach the Chicago Bears. We’re going to get Northwestern’s absolute best effort here. It’s probably not enough to win, but it will be enough to keep it within three touchdowns. Pick: Northwestern (+20.5) — Tom Fornelli
Big 12: No. 6 Iowa State vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
The lone hiccup in Oklahoma’s winning streak was a 27-14 win over Baylor. The Bears’ defense had the Sooners confused, showing that, yes, it’s still possible to make this group look human. Iowa State has some excellent defenders at all three levels and got the best of Oklahoma the first time around. Win or lose here, Iowa State has been playing well enough on both sides of the ball to keep Oklahoma guessing again. Pick: Iowa State +5.5 — Ben Kercheval
ACC: No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Clemson
This line is just rude to Notre Dame, a team that has been playing at a high level on a week-in, week-out basis for nearly the entire season. The Fighting Irish were 5.5-point underdogs when they won in South Bend, Indiana, earlier this year and now find themselves as double-digit dogs in the rematch? Red zone defense is a great way to cover spreads, so while I do think Clemson wins, it won’t be by more than a touchdown. Pick: Notre Dame +10.5 — Chip Patterson
SEC: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 7 Florida
Not only is Alabama going to beat Florida, it’s going to beat it like a drum. I’m talking about the victory lap of all victory laps. The Gators were going to have an issue anyway considering the best way to slow down the Crimson Tide offense is to have a strong running game, which would keep Mac Jones. and Co. on the sideline. Florida isn’t that team. Throw in the hangover from the LSU loss, and this is going to get ugly. Pick: Alabama (-17) — Barrett Sallee
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 16, and which team will pull off a shocking upset in a conference title game? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned over $3,500 in profit over the past four-plus seasons — and find out.