College football’s version of the Final Four will be finalized this weekend, with the College Football Playoff Selection Committee announcing the playoff semifinal pairings at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on ESPN after Saturday’s enticing slate of conference championship games.
But first things first. UNLV takes on No. 15 Oregon at the MGM Grand Garden today on ESPN2, and the National Finals Rodeo will be broadcast from the Thomas & Mack Center on the CBS Sports Network at 7 p.m. today through Dec. 12.
Here are the best five things to watch this weekend:
No. 15 Oregon vs. UNLV (8 p.m. ESPN2): The Rebels (6-1) will try to knock off a nationally ranked team for the second time this season after beating then-No. 13 Indiana 72-69 at the Maui Invitational. UNLV junior Ben Carter played his first two college seasons for Oregon (6-0) before transferring to UNLV after the 2013-14 season. Carter, a Bishop Gorman High School product, scored 12 points off the bench for the Ducks in an 83-79 win over then-No. 18 UNLV in the schools’ most recent meeting on Nov. 23, 2012. Carter has scored 26 points off the bench for the Rebels in their past two games.
Big Ten Championship, No. 5 Michigan State at No. 4 Iowa (5 p.m., Fox): In what amounts to a CFP play-in game, the winner of this one is all but guaranteed a spot in the four-team playoff. Iowa (12-0) finished its regular season undefeated for the first time since 1922, but Michigan State (11-1) is a 3½-point favorite. The Spartans’ loss was a 39-38 heartbreaker at Nebraska in which they were on the wrong end of a questionable call at the end of the game. Michigan State, which has beaten Michigan and Ohio State this season, won the last meeting with Iowa 26-14 in 2013 in quarterback Connor Cook’s coming-out party.
Atlantic Coast Conference Championship, No. 10 North Carolina at No. 1 Clemson (5:05 p.m., ABC): The Tigers (12-0) are 5-point favorites in this matchup of North Carolina’s explosive offense against Clemson’s stout defense. The Tar Heels (11-1) have scored at least 38 points in eight of their 12 games. The Tigers have dominated the series in recent years, winning seven of the past nine meetings and scoring 109 points in the past two meetings. Clemson beat North Carolina 50-35 last season.
Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings (10 a.m., Fox): Minnesota (8-3) rebounded from a 30-13 home loss to Green Bay with a 20-10 win at Atlanta on Sunday. The Vikings have won six of seven to reclaim sole possession of first place, a spot they haven’t held this late in a season since 2009, when they won their division. Seattle (6-5) has won four of five, exploding for 100 points in its past three games and scoring a season-high point total in Sunday’s 39-30 win over the Steelers. The Seahawks moved above .500 for the first time and are tied with Atlanta for the NFC’s second wild-card spot, but lost tight end Jimmy Graham for the season.
Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers (5:30 p.m., NBC): Ben Roethlisberger has been cleared to return from a concussion for Pittsburgh after throwing for 456 yards against Seattle. Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will start in place of the injured Andrew Luck for the third straight game. Hasselbeck, 40, will try to improve to 5-0 as a starter. The three-time Pro Bowler has joined Brett Favre and Warren Moon as the only Super Bowl-era starters to win four straight starts in their 40s.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33