College Football conference championship games


The national championship picture could become crystal clear on Saturday after the top teams attempt to capture conference titles in marquee matchups.

The biggest game of the day figures to be the SEC Championship Game, which is also likely to be a de facto BCS national semifinal contest. No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama, both 12-0 this season, will square off in Atlanta in a rematch of last year's SEC title game, where the roles were reversed, as the second- ranked Gators knocked off the top-ranked Crimson Tide, 31-20, en route to their second national title in three years. Alabama will be making its seventh appearance in the SEC Championship Game since its inception in 1992, and the Crimson Tide have faced Florida in all seven of those contests, going 2-4 thus far. Alabama is seeking its first SEC title since 1999, while Florida is going for its third conference championship in the last four seasons.

The winner of the Florida-Alabama game could meet Texas in the BCS National Championship Game if the undefeated and third-ranked Longhorns are able to beat 21st-ranked Nebraska for the Big 12 Championship. Texas, despite its constant status near the top of the national rankings for the better part of this decade, has not captured a conference title since 2005, as Oklahoma had won the past three championships. The Cornhuskers can throw off the entire BCS picture if they are able to pull off the upset, and it would give head coach Bo Pelini a conference title in only his second year with the school. Nebraska has not captured the Big 12 title since 1999, and it has not participated in the championship game since 2006.

Despite the fact that the Big East doesn't have an annual conference championship game, fifth-ranked Cincinnati and 14th-ranked Pittsburgh will face each other for the league's automatic BCS berth. The Bearcats have taken the country by storm this season, going 11-0, including a perfect 6-for-6 in conference play. It is not entirely out of the question that Brian Kelly's team could play for the national championship should it get past a feisty Pittsburgh squad, which is coming off a loss to West Virginia in the annual Backyard Brawl. The Panthers are looking for their first BCS bid since going to the Fiesta Bowl in 2004, while the Bearcats are going for their second straight conference title.

One more team trying to wrap up a perfect season is sixth-ranked Boise State, which will face a 3-9 New Mexico State squad that has just one conference victory. The Broncos figure to be heavy favorites at home, where they haven't lost since 2001.

The ACC Championship Game will have a first-time winner on Saturday, as 12th- ranked Georigia Tech and 25th-ranked Clemson are set to meet at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a tough loss to state rival Georgia, while the Tigers also lost to their state rivalry game last week to South Carolina. Georgia Tech hasn't won an outright conference title since 1990, while Clemson's drought dates back to 1991.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick announced Friday the Fighting Irish will not accept a bid to a postseason bowl game. The Irish are without a head coach after Swarbrick revealed earlier in the week that Charlie Weis' unsuccessful five-year reign was over following another 6-6 regular season. Notre Dame qualified for a bowl bid just eight games into the season (6-2), but a four-game losing streak to end the year cost Weis his job and the team a prestigious postseason contest. Notre Dame ended a nine-game losing streak in bowls last year with a 49-21 thumping of Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl.