Preview Thursday: Week 14 

Jalen Milroe Alabama

There are five ranked matchups set for conference championship week. 

In fact, all five ranked matchups this week come in the Power 5 conference championship games. Two of those contests will be previewed later. 

PODCAST: Week 13 almost had all-out chaos

As a result of the close of the regular season, there will be five ranked teams that will play as the designated “road team.” Both No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Michigan are considered the road teams in the Southeastern and Big Ten conference championships. 

Here are several games to watch this week. 

New Mexico State vs. No. 24 Liberty 

Among the five remaining unbeaten teams left in college football, No. 24 Liberty has a chance to capture history on Friday. 

The Flames are 12-0 for the first time in program history, and they have a chance to win the Conference USA Championship in their first season in the conference. 

Liberty running back Quinton Cooley leads the Conference USA with 1,251 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s been a big reason why the Flames average 498.5 yards and 40.1 points per game. 

Cooley and Liberty already have one win over New Mexico State this season, coming in 33-17 fashion in Week 2. 

The Flames have found abundant success under first-year head coach Jamey Chadwell, who said Liberty’s success stems from its team chemistry. 

“I think one as we’ve gone on through the season, we’ve gotten to know our team better,” Chadwell said. “It’s our first year, and so early on in the season you’re trying to figure out what can we do, who can do it, when can we do it, and as you get along and get to know your team better, they get to know you better. And I think that’s why we’ve gotten better throughout the season because we’ve started to understand more the strengths of our players and how to interact with them and to get them to play at the highest level. And secondly, I think they’ve done a fantastic job, the players have done a fantastic job, of believing in each other and believing in what we’re doing. And each week, they’ve just built off the previous week and have not been satisfied and they’ve stayed hungry to continue to get better. And when you do that, good things can happen.” 

No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 3 Washington 

The top-10 rematch that many have been waiting for. 

READ: Big Board: Week 14

Both No. 3 Washington and No. 5 Oregon met in Week 6 in Seattle with the Huskies coming out on top 36-33. 

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. outdueled Oregon’s Bo Nix with 302 passing yards and four touchdowns to Nix’s 337 yards and two scoring throws. 

However, Nix may be heating up at the right time. 

Nix has been responsible for 19 touchdowns in his last four games, including a pair of six-touchdown performances against Cal and Arizona State. 

Penix, meanwhile, is trailing Nix closely behind in a number of passing categories. Nix and Penix are No. 1 and 2 in passing yards, and the former has 37 passing touchdowns to the latter’s 32. 

Oregon head coach Dan Lanning is out for revenge. He said the sting of the loss to Washington earlier in the season is still there, and he thinks the Ducks will be ready. 

“We didn’t finish, didn’t win the game last time, so that’s the kind of thing that sticks with you,” Lanning said. “But our coaches have been working extremely hard as soon as our game was over with as far as getting prepped and so were our players so we’ve had some really good days of practice here so far.” 

No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 8 Alabama 

Perhaps the game with the biggest College Football Playoff implications will take place in Atlanta. 

No. 8 Alabama has been on the fringe of entering the CFP top-four ever since its loss to No. 7 Texas in Week 2. Since, the Crimson Tide have been on a 10-game winning streak. 

READ: Washington rises to No. 3, Buckeyes fall to No. 6 in 5th CFP rankings 

No. 1 Georgia, however, is riding a 29-game winning streak that dates back to the 2021 SEC Championship game. The Bulldogs lost to Alabama that year in the conference title game, but still made the CFP and defeated Michigan and the Crimson Tide in the national championship. 

Georgia appears most likely to make the CFP with a loss, and if Alabama loses then it’s more likely the Crimson Tide will be eliminated from Playoff contention. 

Both Alabama and Georgia have first-year starting quarterbacks in the Bulldogs’ Carson Beck and Crimson Tide’s Jalen Milroe. 

The stakes are stacked together and couldn’t be higher, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban knows what’s on the line. 

“Having the opportunity to play in the SEC championship game is, you know, I’m very, very proud of this team for the progress that they’ve made, the work that they’ve done to give themselves an opportunity to play in the SEC championship game,” Saban said. “This is one of the most competitive, best venues in college football, and we’re obviously playing one of the best teams in college football, if not the best team in college football.”