The top four of the College Football Playoff rankings has remained the same for the past two weeks, and the path to the four-team playoff appears to be quite straightforward.
However, there's the element of chaos that could come from an upset in one of the conference championship games. We asked our panel of experts which team is likeliest to play spoiler in this weekend's conference championship games.
Here are their answers.
- Lance Zierlein NFL.com
Dual-threat QB an X-factor for Tar Heels
I believe North Carolina to be a very live underdog against Clemson this weekend. Dual-threat quarterbacks are often X-factors in these types of games, and Marquise Williams has the potential to strike quickly through the air or on the ground. What I like most is that Williams is doing a nice job of taking care of the ball lately. The combination of Williams and red-hot Elijah Hood is going to be tough for the Clemson defense to slow. Dashaun Watson needs to bring his A-game once again in this one.
- Gil Brandt NFL.com
Improved defense gives UNC a shot to spoil
I think North Carolina has the best chance of playing spoiler. The last two times they played Clemson, the Tar Heels gave up 59 and 50 points. UNC scored 38 and 35 in those games. I think the Tar Heels are much better on defense this season because of the addition of defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. They return 10 offensive starters and 7 defensive starters from last season. Running back Elijah Hood and quarterback Marquise Williams are very good. They have a big offensive line blocking for them. Outside of a debacle against South Carolina, UNC has played very well.
- Chase Goodbread College Football 24/7
Did South Carolina expose some Clemson shortcomings?
South Carolina is a bad football team, and played Clemson within one score last week in a rivalry game. Did the Tigers make the mistake of overlooking a rivalry game? Or did the Gamecocks expose some things that an 11-1 North Carolina team can expose better? We'll go with UNC as Saturday's team to watch. Florida's offense should be in for a long night in the SEC title game, so don't expect an upset there, and the Pac-12 game doesn't set up well for underdog USC, either. The Trojans are a mistake-prone team facing an opponent in Stanford that knows how to capitalize on them.
- Bucky Brooks NFL.com
Tar Heels can wreck the CFB Playoff
North Carolina is the most likely spoiler this weekend. The Tar Heels have won 11 straight games behind a red-hot offense and an opportunistic defense. They are capable of competing in a shootout with one of college football's most explosive offenses. While this game will ultimately come down to stops, the Tar Heels have shown the ability to play solid defense in critical moments (third down, red zone and two minute). If Marquis Williams doesn't undermine the Tar Heels' effort with turnovers and silly mistakes, North Carolina could wreck the CFB Playoff by knocking off the No. 1 seed in the ACC Championship Game.
Clemson is the team with the most to be worried about this weekend. North Carolina's defense could give them problems and keep this game close in the fourth quarter. However, I believe both Alabama and Clemson end up with big wins on Saturday, thus locking up playoff spots.
- Charles Davis NFL.com
Hawkeyes are not to be underestimated
As crazy as it sounds, Iowa. The Hawkeyes are undefeated, yet universally seen as the team that everyone else would like to play in the playoff. Those teams that spend the entire year under the radar are often the most dangerous as they spend months getting better and improving each week ... and, continuing to feed from the "We don't get any respect" trough.
I expect them to play a heckuva a game Saturday versus favored Michigan State (I have picked Michigan State to win), and never underestimate a team that has found a way to win every game during the season. It's not all luck when that happens.
Either way, the Big Ten wins!