By Brad Carroll
Championship Week means just a little bit more this season than in year's past, as there won't be just two college football teams seeking to play for a national championship, but rather four. The first ever College Football Playoff has changed the sport forever and after this weekend, with one big game Friday and eight more Saturday, the first ever final four will be set.
Up first Friday night is the Pac-12 Championship game, which very well could be a play-in game to the national semifinals. No. 2 Oregon is in with a win, that's a guarantee. No. 7 Arizona, the Ducks opponent at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, won't be in for sure with a win over Oregon, but it will certainly make the College Football Playoff Committee think hard about including it in the final four.
If Arizona wins it would be its second victory over the Ducks this season, which would be more impressive than anything any other team in college football has accomplished. But to get into the top four, the Wildcats would have to jump two of the three teams ahead of them right now, TCU (not likely since the Horned Frogs are No. 3 and play Iowa State Saturday), Ohio State (which could happen if the Buckeyes lose the Big Ten title game with a backup quarterback or aren't impressive in victory), and Baylor (which has a tough game against Kansas State). If Oregon loses this game, it would have no shot at playing for a national title.
Oregon, however, is a two-touchdown favorite for a reason and it would be a major upset if the Wildcats upset the Ducks for the second time in a few months. Arizona has Oregon's number, though, winning two straight games in the series, a 42-16 rout last year and a 31-24 victory this year on the road. Oregon is 0-2 against the Wildcats the past two years and 22-1 against everyone else. That mental edge goes to Arizona, as it knows it can win this game.
Quarterback Anu Solomon and the Wildcats are also playing their best football of the season, winning four straight games and beating then-No. 17 Utah and then-No. 14 Arizona State the last two weeks. Solomon has passed for over 3,400 yards with 27 touchdowns. He has thrown seven interceptions, though.
Oregon is led by everyone's Heisman trophy favorite, quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has thrown for over 3,400 yards with 36 touchdowns against just two interceptions. He's also rushed for 636 yards and 11 touchdowns. Mariota doesn't have one notable thing on his resume, however, and that's a conference title, which is noteworthy considering how good Oregon is year in and year out.
In this battle of great quarterbacks, Mariota has the edge, but Solomon has closed the gap considerably over the last few weeks. Still, this is Mariota's and Oregon's game to win. But who will win Friday night? All four of our college football experts agree, it's the Ducks. But for purposes of the spread, it's a split.
The race for the College Football Playoff reaches its epic conclusion this week and we have you covered the whole way. Follow us on Twitter for all of our college football analysis and picks right here. Check back in the coming days for our full breakdown and picks of Saturday's games. We'll also have a full breakdown of the major bowl games Sunday night.
Pac-12 Championship Game
No. 7 Arizona vs. No. 2 Oregon at Santa Clara, Calif., 9 p.m., FOX
The Spread: Arizona +14; Oregon -14
Brad's Score: Oregon 42, Arizona 31
Craig's Score: Oregon 41, Arizona 24
Glenn's Score: Oregon 48, Arizona 31
Matt's Score: Oregon 42, Arizona 38
Brad Last Week: 7-13 (spread), 11-9 (straight-up), 1-4 (upset picks)
Brad Season: 83-92-1 (spread), 126-50 (straight-up), 11-12 (upsets)
Craig Last Week: 9-11 (spread), 15-5 (straight-up), 1-1 (upset picks)
Craig Season: 80-95-1 (spread), 123-53 (straight-up), 9-12 (upsets)
Glenn Last Week: 9-11 (spread), 12-8 (straight-up), 1-4 (upset picks)
Glenn Season: 95-80-1 (spread), 124-52 (straight-up), 13-17 (upsets)
Matt Last Week: 9-11 (spread), 13-7 (straight-up), 0-2 (upset picks)
Matt Season: 85-90-1 (spread), 127-49 (straight-up), 9-10 (upsets)