It’s the most wonderful time of the year for fans of American football, as the college and the NFL playoffs are about to jump off. Let’s take a look at what’s happening with the NCAA and NFL pigskin programs.
HBCU Celebration Bowl Game
The biggest post-season game for HBCU teams is the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and televised live on ABC. North Carolina A&T (10-2) of the MEAC defeated Alcorn State (9-4) of the SWAC 24-22 on Saturday, December 15, 2018. This amazing matchup of college talent from two black colleges resulted in a third win in four tries for the NCA&T Aggies, who are now arguably the reigning dynasty of Black college football.
The national championship game for the NCAA’s large colleges is Monday, January 7, 2019, following a semi-final round of playoff games that will be played this Saturday, December 29, 2018. Notre Dame (12-0) and Clemson (13-0) will fight it out in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas at 3:00 p.m. Reigning champion Alabama (13-0) faces Oklahoma (12-1) in the Capitol One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla. at 7:00 p.m., with both games televised live on ESPN.
The Alabama / Oklahoma game will be the one I want to watch closely, as it matches the team (Oklahoma) led by this season’s Heisman Award winner Kyler Murray against the team (Alabama) led by the player many (including me) assumed would win the award, Tua Tagovailoa. The winners of the two games will meet to determine the national champion in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Monday, January 7, 2019. That game will also be televised live on ESPN.
NFL / Titans
In the National Football League, when the Tennessee Titans bested the Washington Redskins 25-16 in Nissan Stadium on Saturday, December 22 they took control their destiny for a Wild Card playoff spot. The Indianapolis Colts are also in the hunt, with a loss by the Houston Texans opening the door for a wild finish in the AFC South.
The Titans and the Colts face off in the final game of the 256-game regular season on Sunday, December 30 in Nissan Stadium; the winner goes to the playoffs while the loser goes home. It’s basically like the first game of the playoffs, and due to it’s importance, has been ‘flexed’ to the NBC Sunday Night Football spot, which kicks off locally at 7:20 p.m. on NewsChannel 4 in Nashville, and on radio at 104.5 FM.
So, with a Titans win and a Texans loss to Jacksonville Sunday, the Titans would win the AFC South division and possibly even host a playoff game the following week as a number three seed. If the Titans win and the Texans lose, they could host the fifth seed Los Angeles Chargers on January 5th or 6th. If the Titans win and the Texans win, the Titans would likely go on the road as a sixth seed to face the Texans in Houston.
Also in the AFC playoff picture, the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4), the New England Patriots (10-5), the Los Angeles Chargers (11-4) are definitely in. The Texans (10-5), Baltimore Ravens (9-6), Colts (9-6), Titans (9-6), and Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1) are all still ‘in the hunt’ battling for the final three spots.
In the NFC playoff picture, the New Orleans Saints (13-2), Los Angeles Rams (12-3), Chicago Bears (11-4), and Dallas Cowboys (9-6) are all in, each as its division’s champion. The Seattle Seahawks (9-6) clinched the fifth spot with a thrilling 38-31 home victory against the KC Chiefs (11-4) on Sunday night, a matchup of two great young quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes. The Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1) or the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) will claim the sixth and final NFC playoff spot on Sunday.