The SEC Championship kicks off Saturday afternoon, and assuming favorites in the other conference championships live up to their billing, it’s the SEC that will have the only real drama for the weekend and the playoff. You know the basics at work here: LSU’s bullet-train offense meets Georgia’s rebar-infused defense. But with so many playoff options beyond this game still in play, which way should you direct your rooting interests? Here’s a handy guide.
If you’re an LSU fan
Obviously, you’re going to want a win here, even though LSU is almost assuredly in the college football playoff regardless of Saturday’s outcome. (Duke is trying to get this framework instituted for the NCAA basketball tournament.) But there’s a second element at play here: who gets matched up against Clemson in the first round of the playoffs. LSU, currently ranked No. 2, will need a dominant performance combined with a lackluster Ohio State one to vault over the Buckeyes and set up a first-round matchup against Utah or Oregon — far more palatable opponents than Clemson.
If you’re a Georgia fan
Beat LSU. Do that and the Bulldogs are in. Don’t and they’re not. Simple in theory, not so much in practice.
If you’re a Clemson fan
Putting aside Dabo Swinney’s goofy “they don’t want us in there” nonsense — the playoff committee ought to bounce Clemson just to watch Dabo’s head explode — Clemson needs to root for both LSU and Ohio State to lose, so that it can leap into the No. 1 slot. Barring that, Clemson matches up a bit better with Ohio State. Note: we don’t include “beat UVa” in Clemson’s to-do list, because if the Tigers can’t do that…
If you’re an Ohio State fan
Ohio State’s going to be rooting for LSU to win, but not by too much. Here’s why: a Georgia win likely drops LSU to No. 4, and that’s not exactly a favorable first-round matchup for OSU. An LSU blowout might force Ohio State into a first-round No. 2 vs. No. 3 battle with Clemson. If the top 3 rankings Tuesday look like they do heading into the weekend, Ohio State will be just fine.
If you’re a Utah/Oklahoma fan
LSU victory. That’s it. The only way Utah or Oklahoma gets in is if a hypothetical two-loss Georgia gets cleared out of the way. Theoretically, Clemson could get bounced by losing to Virginia, but Georgia’s definitely out the door with a loss. [UPDATE: Sorry, Utah fans. You’re out.]
If you’re an Alabama fan
If you’re a Bama fan, you’re not even watching this game. You’re too busy filing restraining orders against the playoff committee for even considering passing over Alabama.
If you’re sick of the SEC
You want an LSU win, dismissing Georgia and any hope of two teams from one conference. Sorry, at least one of the good ol’ boys is getting in.
If you’re a fan of order
While two SEC teams in the playoff yet again isn’t particularly orderly, having Georgia win and fill out an LSU-Ohio State-Clemson quartet will keep disorder at bay, and will spare the playoff committee of much-deserved scrutiny.
If you’re a fan of chaos
Aside from the obvious — Ohio State and Clemson losing — the true chaos would come if Georgia wins with an overtime field goal (what a twist!) and Oklahoma and Utah just absolutely blow the doors off in their games. Who gets in then? (Probably still Georgia.)
If you want an eight-team playoff
This is beyond the scope of just the SEC Championship, but the best way to get change is to get powerful people on your side. So if you want to see change, you want Dabo and Saban advocating on your behalf. You want Clemson out and Utah in. It ain’t happening, but that’s the only way.
If you’re a fan of the Dr Pepper challenge
Chest passes are just fine. Like we said this time last year: Go get that money. Because the athletes sure can’t.
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