College football games to watch: Georgia-Alabama, Michigan-Iowa

Conference championship week has arrived in college football, and that means the playoff is the dominant topic of conversation. OK, it usually is anyway, but the final lineup is far from decided. As such, there are contests on the championship slate that will be of interest not just to the participants but to other teams as well, some of whom aren’t even playing this weekend.

Then there’s the sport’s highest individual honor, and for the first time in years the Heisman race is far from settled. Several contenders will get to present one last argument before ballots are due.

Bearing all that in mind, here are the Saturday games in order of importance for your viewing prioritization:

SEC: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 2 Alabama

Atlanta, 4 p.m. ET, CBS

Why watch: It goes without saying – but we’ll say it anyway – that the winner of this contest will be in the College Football Playoff, likely as the top seed. What isn’t as clear is the playoff fate of the runner-up. Alabama would be a longshot at best with a second loss given that no twice-beaten team has yet made the top four under the current format, but there are enough variables this year that it wouldn’t be entirely out of the question. Most playoff pundits believe Georgia is in win or lose. Though the Crimson Tide have survived since their lone setback at Texas A&M, their recent performances haven’t made resounding statements. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, haven’t been threatened since their season-opening slog against Clemson, though that lack of second-half drama could become an issue if the game is within shouting distance for Alabama QB Bryce Young and Co. The Tide’s struggles against Auburn, however, don’t bode well for the offensive line’s ability to handle DT Jordan Davis and the Bulldogs’ even more accomplished front. Georgia RB Zamir White is going to need some air cover from either QB Stetson Bennett or possibly J.T. Daniels, and LB Will Anderson, Alabama’s disruptor-in-chief, will try to make sure the aerial game stays grounded.

Why it could disappoint: It’s hard to see this becoming a blowout, though even the Tide’s high-powered offense can struggle under pressure. As mentioned, Georgia has not needed to be in comeback mode, and it remains to be seen how effective it is should Alabama manage to jump in front.

Big Ten: No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 12 Iowa

Michigan Wolverines running back Hassan Haskins (25) stiff arms Ohio State Buckeyes safety Bryson Shaw (17) in the second half at Michigan Stadium.

Indianapolis, 8 p.m. ET, Fox

Why watch: The Wolverines flipped the script on their recent history with archnemesis Ohio State and are in prime position to claim a playoff berth. All that remains is this date with the Hawkeyes, the somewhat unlikely winners of the West Division who needed help on the final day of the regular season to get here. There are too many teams ahead of Iowa to swipe a top-four slot, but a trip to the Rose Bowl is a desirable goal. The Wolverines were able to keep things remarkably simple on offense against the Buckeyes as RB Hassan Haskins ran wild. He might actually have a harder time getting around Hawkeyes’ LB Jack Campbell and S Jack Koerner, so QB Cade McNamara might have to test the deep waters a bit. Iowa QB Spencer Petras has regained the starting job after helping lead last week’s comeback at Nebraska, but Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson and LB David Ojabo will make his job difficult.

Why it could disappoint: The Hawkeyes have found creative ways to win for much of the season, but their lack of offensive consistency will be hard to overcome this time. If Michigan builds a multiple-score advantage by intermission, it might be over.

SEVEN SCENARIOS: Here's how Saturday's games could play out - and what that means

Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) returns a blocked field goal for a touchdown in the second half of the NCAA football game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, NC, on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Cincinnati Bearcats defeated East Carolina Pirates 35-13.

American: No. 16 Houston at No. 4 Cincinnati

4 p.m. ET, ABC

Why watch: The AAC champ will be in line for a major bowl bid, but the Bearcats are hoping for more. The fact that the Cougars enter the game ranked should help the argument that Cincinnati would have a playoff-worthy résumé should it get to 13-0. UC has been all business over the last couple of weeks with decisive wins against SMU and East Carolina, with QB Desmond Ridder looking sharp and LB Joel Dublanko leading a dominant defense. The Cougars will counter with QB Clayton Tune, who often strikes the right notes with primary WR Nathaniel Dell, and CB Marcus Jones, who has a team-high five interceptions and can be a game changer on special teams.

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