Pasquali’s Pix: Dawgs to be tested before improving to 13-0

Crimson Tide photos by Evan Pilat / Alabama coach Nick Saban and quarterback Bryce Young are interviewed following last December’s 41-24 win over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

The days of the four-team College Football Playoff are numbered.

That much we know.

Whether the approved 12-team format can be implemented as early as 2024 or doesn't start until 2025 or 2026 will be determined in the not-too-distant future, but will an expanded field impact the magnitude of conference championship games?

"That is not a concern for me for the SEC," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said earlier this week. "I don't have a concern for that, because if you go back in history and look at the game, the game has been extremely important to the universities that play in it. There's a certain level of respect that goes to the SEC champion. You are playing for the championship of your conference, and I think that is a big deal.

"If you look over the last 10 years, somebody this week would be playing for maybe a bye, somebody would be playing maybe for a home field, or somebody might be playing to play themselves into the 12-team field. Every year it could change with the expansion. I don't worry about the relevance of the game with the state of football or the way it is in the SEC."

This week does not present the greatest conference championship lineup in the sport's history, as every Power Five title pairing has one participant with at least three losses: North Carolina (9-3) in the Atlantic Coast, Kansas State (9-3) in the Big 12, LSU (9-3) in the Southeastern, Utah (9-3) in the Pac-12 and Purdue (8-4) in the Big Ten.

Where the importance of conference championship contests could be enhanced greatly in the years ahead — you can decide whether this is for the better of the game or not — would be in the case of this season's Purdue.

Did you see where the Boilermakers were listed Tuesday night in the College Football Playoff rankings? They weren't.

Purdue has a three-point loss to a 7-5 Syracuse, an 11-point loss to a 6-6 Wisconsin and a 21-point loss to a 7-5 Iowa. The Boilermakers have no chance of making the College Football Playoff with a 100-point win over Michigan this Saturday, yet in the 12-team field in which all Power Five conference champions are guaranteed a spot, a one-point victory by Purdue over the Wolverines would do the trick.

Could you imagine a 12-team field this season that included Purdue and UNC, which hasn't won since Nov. 12 due to home losses to Georgia Tech and N.C. State?

Some may find that would create excitement, while others would scoff at undeserving teams bumping more deserving teams out of the race. Either way, CFP head honchos will continue to adjust their platinum underwear, and conference championships should still maintain their relevance.

Even if the actual celebration of a conference crown becomes secondary to the almighty playoff.

"I'm not really that concerned about it," LSU coach Brian Kelly said. "I think the conference championships still carry such a high regard in college football and in how they're perceived. When I think in particular of the SEC championship game, I think of that as such a big game and how it's celebrated.

"I think that's always going to carry its place in college football."


Pasquali's Pix

Utah vs. Southern California: This is a rematch of a thrilling 43-42 game won by the Utes, but how fun would it be to watch a battle of the USCs right now? Trojans 34, Utes 27.

TCU vs. Kansas State: USC quarterback Caleb Williams is the Heisman Trophy favorite with his 34 touchdown passes and three interceptions, but TCU's Max Duggan has 29 touchdowns and three picks and this one last stage to state his case. Horned Frogs 27, Wildcats 23.

Georgia vs. LSU: If SEC title game history decided this outcome, the Tigers would win, but I would rather rely on the here and now. Bulldogs 30, Tigers 17.

Michigan vs. Purdue: The Boilermakers are a bit more balanced this season after ranking fifth in passing and 127th in rushing a year ago. Wolverines 38, Boilermakers 19.

Clemson vs. North Carolina: Not exactly the Momentum Bowl taking place Saturday night in Charlotte. Tigers 24, Tar Heels 20.

Last week:

Winners — 14

Kyle Field stormings — 9

Pasquali is 247-76 overall (76.5%) this season.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.