Home/Sports News/It’s down to the weekend that decides the college Division 1 Final Four, with undefeated LSU, Ohio State and Clemson sure things and Georgia, Utah and Oklahoma seeking the fourth and final spot when the SEC, Big 10, ACC, PAC 12 and Big 12 conference championships kick off Friday and Saturday
It’s down to the weekend that decides the college Division 1 Final Four, with undefeated LSU, Ohio State and Clemson sure things and Georgia, Utah and Oklahoma seeking the fourth and final spot when the SEC, Big 10, ACC, PAC 12 and Big 12 conference championships kick off Friday and Saturday
By Arnie Leshin
Jalen Hurts, who transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma for his eligible fifth year, returns to A T & T Stadium in Arlington, Tex., which is sometimes referred to as Jerry Jones Palace and where then-freshman Hurts, in 2015, played his first game as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback.
“Big place, great atmosphere,” Hurts said, “and I was only 18.”
Now four years later, he has grown into the 6th ranked Sooners’ quarterback and Saturday morning he will return to the site for the BIg 12 football championship against 8th ranked Baylor (11-1). He has put together a magical season in the footsteps of Baker Mayfield and Kylee Murray, the back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 college draft picks who called the shots for Oklahoma in 2017 and 2018.
If Hurts and the friends and former teammates he left behind at Bama envisioned a playoff matching the Sooners against Alabama, they can forget it. Oklahoma, which lost only to Big 12 rival Kansas State by four points, can sneak in if it can turn back the once-beaten Bears, but Alabama (10-2) will be on the outside looking in after it slipped to 12th place in the polls following the tough SEC setback at state-rival Auburn. Nick Seban team’s other loss was to LSU.
Both setbacks were a big blow to Saban’s program, which lost to Clemson in last year’s championship game, but if Oklahoma was counted out after the Big 12 loss to K State, it has found its way back with the help of a program-record comeback win at 12th ranked Baylor, and last Saturday’s impressive triumph at 22nd ranked state rival Oklahoma State. Same with Utah, whose lone setback was to PAC 12 foe Southern California.
Three schools have been penciled in as the probable Final Four, and they are undefeated LSU and Ohio State, both at 12-0 and ranked No. 1 in the two most recognized polls, and unbeaten Clemson (12-0) with one spot up for grabs. And that brings Utah and Oklahoma into the picture, with both at 11-1 and the Utes playing 13th ranked Oregon Friday nightfor the PAC 12 title in Santa Clara, Calif.
It’s not a certainty though, but if the Sooners can again get past 8th ranked Baylor (11-1), it might not matter what Utah does against 13th ranked Oregon, for strength of schedule would in Oklahoma’s favor. Then there’s 4th ranked Georgia (11-1), which could be in or out after Saturday afternoon‘s SEC title tilt with the Bayou Tigers. A win here would be a guarantee, a loss could knock the Bulldogs out of the top four.
Then there’s the Buckeyes lining up against 10th ranked Wisconsin (10-2) in Indianapolis, and win or lose Ohio State will advance to the Final Four, while the Badgers might not even crash the party if they can win this one. And that’s where Oklahoma and Utah block the way.
In the ACC championship tussle played in Charlotte, N.C., Clemson is a 28-point favorite over 22nd ranked Virginia (9-3), and is a lock win or lose, but not the same for the Cavaliers, who have too many teams ahead of them and it would be mighty difficult to jump any of them.
Odds to gain the first four spots have Ohio State with a 98-percent chance (39.7 percent to win the championship); Clemson with a 94-percent shot (29-percent to win the championship); LSU with a 92-percent chance (19-percent to win the championship); Georgia with a 53-percent chance (8 1/2 percent to win the championship); Oklahoma with a 37-percent shot (3-percent to win the championship); Utah with a 9-percent chance, Baylor at 8-percent, Wisconsin at 5-percent, and Florida at 3-percent, with the Utes, Bears, Badgers and Gators all with 1-percent chances to win the championship.
Now if Baylor and Oregon slip by, one would have to leap past Georgia if the Bulldogs lose, but no way for Wisconsin and Florida.
Meanwhile, the Ute are favored by 6 1/2 over the Ducks. Oklahoma a 9 1/2 point pick over Baylor, LSU a 7-point choice over Georgia, Clemson a whooping 16 1/2 point favorite over Virginia, and Ohio State picked by 16 1/2 over Wisconsin.
And that’s that. No designated home team, they all have to travel, and hope for big turnouts. Georgia is the only school that gets to play in its home state.