Conference championship games: What to watch for in all nine

Championship Saturday in college football presents one last chance for each team with national championship hopes to impress the committee, but viewing these contests simply as play-in games for the playoff would be a big mistake. On one hand, not every game has playoff implications (looking at you, #MACtion). But more importantly, there are so many delightful tidbits that get lost if your narrow your focus to the postseason.

As Ferris Bueller so eloquently said: “Championship Sunday is filled with plenty of notable non-playoff storylines. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Here’s one storyline to keep in mind for each game as you plant your bottom on the couch for 12 consecutive hours of college football on Saturday (not to mention four hours on Friday). The focus of this will be the games themselves rather than their playoff implications; Should you desire a more playoff-oriented preview, our Chris Johnson has you covered.

Pac-12: No. 10 USC vs. No. 12 Stanford – 8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN

Two of the nation’s best running backs will be on display at Levi’s Stadium.

Stanford’s Bryce Love has received a ton of national attention and will be a Heisman finalist, all deservedly so. Love has rushed for 1,848 yards and 16 touchdowns on an absurd 8.6 yards per carry, and he’s been held below 100 yards rushing just once this season. But Love isn’t the only stud back who will be on the field in Santa Clara. USC’s Ronald Jones III has flown under the radar this year, but his numbers speak for themselves: 1,346 yards, 16 touchdowns, 6.3 yards per carry. Both players ate when these teams met in Week 2, a game USC won 42-24; Love ran for 160 yards and a score, while Jones managed 116 yards and two touchdowns. And over each team’s last four games, Jones III has actually been the more productive player (674 yards, eight touchdowns vs. Love’s 461 yards, five touchdowns), though Love has dealt with a sprained ankle. Look for both teams to involve their workhorses early and often.

AAC: No. 20 Memphis at No 15 UCF – 12 p.m. ET, ABC

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