Everything you need to know about conference championship games

We'll have to wait four more days to learn the identity of the four teams that will compete in the third edition of the College Football Playoff.

But between Friday and Sunday, we'll get a good idea of how things are going to shake out -- or at least we hope we will. No. 4 Washington and No. 8 Colorado play in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night, followed by the SEC, ACC and Big Ten championship games Saturday.

Here's a closer look at what's at stake in all of the conference championship games -- and the annual Bedlam game between No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 10 Oklahoma State -- and which players to watch:

MAC: No. 17 Western Michigan (12-0, 8-0) vs. Ohio (8-4, 6-2)

Friday, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2 & ESPN App
(at Ford Field in Detroit)

What's at stake for Western Michigan: With a victory over the Bobcats, the Broncos can finish 13-0 and probably punch their ticket to the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. By finishing undefeated, the Broncos would likely be the highest-ranked champions from a Group of 5 conference, ensuring them a trip to a New Year's Six bowl game. Western Michigan is seeking its first MAC title since 1988.

What's at stake for Ohio: The Bobcats would love to spoil Western Michigan's undefeated season. Ohio, which has won four of its past five games, is seeking its first MAC title since 1968. The Bobcats would also greatly enhance their chances of playing in the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, with an upset win.

Who to watch for Western Michigan: Zach Terrell ranks seventh among FBS quarterbacks with an 84.5 Total QBR, completing 228 of 318 passes for 3,086 yards with 30 touchdowns and only one interception. He's on pace to break the FBS single-season record for lowest interception rate among quarterbacks with at least 350 pass attempts, set by Boise State's Kellen Moore (three interceptions in 431 attempts) in 2009.

Who to watch for Ohio: Kicker Louie Zervos has kicked 25 field goals this season, which tied the NCAA record for most in a season by a freshman. He ranks third among FBS kickers with 2.08 field goals per game and 31st in scoring with 106 points.

Matchup to watch: Western Michigan OT Chukwuma Okorafor vs. Ohio DE Tarell Basham

Okorafor, a 6-foot-6, 333-pound junior, didn't start playing football until after his family moved to the U.S. from the Republic of Botswana in 2010. He'll have his hands full blocking Basham, who set an Ohio record with 29 career sacks and tied a school record with 11 sacks this season.

Prediction: Western Michigan 34, Ohio 21

Pac-12: No. 8 Colorado (10-2, 8-1) vs. No. 4 Washington (11-1, 8-1)

Friday, 9 p.m. ET on Fox
(at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California)

What's at stake for Colorado: The Buffaloes, who went 2-25 in Pac-12 games in coach Mike MacIntyre's first three seasons, can complete their improbable turnaround by winning their first Pac-12 championship. Colorado hasn't won a conference title outright since winning the Big 12 in 2001, and a victory over the Huskies would earn them their first trip to the first Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual.

What's at stake for Washington: The Huskies are right in the thick of the hunt for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff, and beating Washington State and Colorado in back-to-back games would make it difficult for the CFP selection committee to leave them out. A loss to the Buffaloes might drop the Huskies to the Cotton Bowl or even the Valero Alamo Bowl. The Huskies are trying to win their first outright Pac-12 title since winning a national championship in 1991.

Who to watch for Colorado: Quarterback Sefo Liufau has been the catalyst for the Buffaloes' resurgence. The senior will leave as Colorado's all-time leader in passing yards and total offense. This season, he has passed for 2,150 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions, while rushing for 483 yards with seven scores.

Who to watch for Washington: Washington quarterback Jake Browning leads the FBS in touchdown rate with a score on every 12.2 attempts. Last week, Browning became the third Pac-12 quarterback to throw 40 touchdowns in a season; he needs four more to break former Cal star Jared Goff's record of 43 set last year.

Matchup to watch: Colorado CB Chidobe Awuzie vs. Washington WR John Ross

Ross and Huskies receiver Dante Pettis have combined to catch 30 touchdowns this season, but the Buffaloes are allowing the third-fewest yards per pass attempt (5.4) in FBS, behind only Michigan and Ohio State. Even better, the Buffaloes have allowed only a 29 percent completion percentage on throws of 10 yards or longer, lowest among Power 5 schools.

Prediction: Washington 28, Colorado 24

American: Temple (9-3, 7-1) vs. No. 19 Navy (9-2, 7-1)

Saturday, noon ET on ABC & ESPN App
(at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland)

What's at stake for Temple: The Owls can win 10 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history and win a conference championship for the first time since 1967. Temple has won six games in a row and allowed only 10 points combined in its past three.

What's at stake for Navy: The Midshipmen can remain in the hunt for a New Year's Six bowl game (though they might need Western Michigan to lose) with a victory over the Owls; otherwise they're headed to the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. Navy also can win its first conference championship; it was an independent for 134 years before joining the American in 2015. Navy has won its past 15 home games, which is tied with Houston for the longest active streak in the FBS.

Who to watch for Temple: Quarterback Phillip Walker has broken school career records for pass attempts (1,385), completions (787), passing touchdowns (70), passing yards (10,074) and victories by a starting quarterback (27). He is also seventh among active FBS players in total offense (10,901).

Who to watch for Navy: Since taking over for injured Tago Smith in the opener, quarterback Will Worth has been spectacular, compiling 2,544 yards of total offense (1,181 rushing and 1,363 passing) with 33 touchdowns (25 rushing and eight passing). With Worth leading the way, Navy's offense has scored on 34 of its past 38 possessions, including 33 touchdowns.

Matchup to watch: Temple NT Averee Robinson vs. Navy C Maurice Morris

Temple's defense knows exactly what Navy's offense is going to try to do -- over and over again. Robinson has to blow up the middle of the offensive line to take away Worth's first option in the triple-option offense. Temple's defense has forced three-and-outs on 33 percent of opponents' possessions this season, the fourth-highest rate in FBS.

Prediction: Navy 34, Temple 31

Conference USA: Louisiana Tech (8-4, 6-2) vs. Western Kentucky (9-3, 7-1)

Saturday, noon ET on ESPN & ESPN App
(at L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Kentucky)

What's at stake for Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs can win at least nine games for the third straight season and claim their first conference championship since winning the WAC in 2011. Louisiana Tech seems to be headed to the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl, so the game's outcome probably won't affect its postseason destination.

What's at stake for Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers can win at least 10 games for the second consecutive season and claim back-to-back Conference USA titles. The Hilltoppers seem to be headed to the Boca Raton Bowl, regardless of the outcome of the championship game.

Who to watch for Louisiana Tech: Bulldogs receiver Trent Taylor ranks No. 2 in the FBS with 113 receptions and No. 4 with 1,462 receiving yards. He had 10 catches or more in six of 12 games and more than 100 receiving yards in nine contests.

Who to watch for Western Kentucky: Mike White, a USF transfer, has continued WKU's amazing run of prolific passers, throwing for 3,606 yards with 31 touchdowns and five interceptions. He ranks 15th in the FBS in Total QBR (77.0) and has thrown 11 touchdowns with no interceptions in his past four games.

Matchup to watch: Louisiana Tech WR Carlos Henderson vs. Western Kentucky cornerback De'Andre Simmons

Henderson torched Western Kentucky's secondary in the team's earlier meeting, catching eight passes for 232 yards with three touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 55-52 win on Oct. 6. The Hilltoppers nearly rallied from a 49-24 deficit in the third quarter before falling.

Prediction: Western Kentucky 45, Louisiana Tech 38

Big 12: No. 10 Oklahoma State (9-2, 7-1) vs. No. 9 Oklahoma (9-2, 8-0)

(Editor's note: The Big 12 does not have a conference championship game, but the Bedlam winner will finish as league champion.)

Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on Fox
(at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma)

What's at stake for Oklahoma State: The Pokes will be aiming for their second straight win in Norman (they won 38-35 in overtime in 2014) and their third victory over OU in the past six meetings. With a win over Oklahoma, the Cowboys would return to the Allstate Sugar Bowl for the second straight year, after losing to Ole Miss 48-20 after the 2015 season.

What's at stake for Oklahoma: With a victory over the Cowboys, the Sooners can win back-to-back Big 12 titles for the first time since winning three in a row from 2006-08. A win over OSU would secure OU a trip to the Sugar Bowl (its chances of making the playoff seem to be very remote). The Sooners have won 11 of their previous 13 meetings with Oklahoma State, falling to the Cowboys in 2011 and 2014.

Who to watch for Oklahoma State: Pokes quarterback Mason Rudolph played only one possession in a 58-23 loss to OU in 2015 because of a foot injury. He has been very good this season, completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,591 yards with 25 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Who to watch for Oklahoma: Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting last year, and he's making a late push to earn an invitation to New York for the ceremony this season. Mayfield ranks among the top two nationally in completion percentage (72.0), yards per attempt (10.9) and Total QBR (91.0). The last FBS player to finish a season in the top three in each of those categories was Wisconsin's Russell Wilson in 2011.

Matchup to watch: Oklahoma WR Dede Westbrook vs. Oklahoma State CB Ramon Richards

No one has slowed down Westbrook during the past two months, and Richards figures to need help if he's to even try. Since Oct. 1, Westbrook leads FBS receivers in touchdown catches (15), receiving yards (1,200), 20-yard receptions (23) and yards after catch (602). When an OSU fan suggested on Twitter earlier this week that Westbrook should pack his bags because "there's no getting off Ramon Richards Island," Westbrook responded, "Who's Ramon Richards? Just wondering." Ouch.

Prediction: Oklahoma 42, Oklahoma State 31

SEC: No. 1 Alabama (12-0, 8-0) vs. No. 15 Florida (8-3, 6-2)

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET on CBS
(at Georgia Dome in Atlanta)

What's at stake for Alabama: By winning its 25th consecutive game, Alabama can secure its fourth SEC title in five seasons and the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. A victory over the Gators would probably put the Crimson Tide back in Atlanta for the CFP semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on New Year's Eve. Tide coach Nick Saban is trying to improve to 10-0 against his former assistants (Florida's Jim McElwain was his offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 2008-11); the Tide won each of the previous nine games by 14 points or more.

What's at stake for Florida: The Gators are trying to avoid losing back-to-back games to Florida State and the Tide for the second year in a row. If the Gators upset the Crimson Tide, they'll win their first SEC title since 2008 and play in the Sugar Bowl. If the Gators lose, they might fall to the Outback Bowl.

Who to watch for Alabama: Jalen Hurts, the first freshman to start at quarterback for Saban, has been spectacular, completing 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,454 yards with 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also has rushed for 840 yards with 12 scores.

Who to watch for Florida: If Florida is going to pull off an upset -- or even keep the score close -- it's probably going to have to force a couple of turnovers. Cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson have combined for seven interceptions, and they'll try to force Hurts into a few mistakes.

Matchup to watch: Alabama DE Jonathan Allen vs. Florida OT David Sharpe

Alabama's defense didn't allow an offensive touchdown in four games in November and Allen is a big reason for that success, totaling 52 tackles, 11½ tackles for loss, seven sacks and 13 quarterback hurries.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Florida 13

MW: San Diego State (9-3, 6-2) vs. Wyoming (8-4, 6-2)

Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET on ESPN & ESPN App
(at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyoming)

What's at stake for San Diego State: The Aztecs can win back-to-back MW championships and earn their first trip to the Las Vegas Bowl Presented by Geico since 1998. They also can avenge a 34-33 loss at Wyoming on Nov. 19, in which the Cowboys stopped a two-point conversion attempt with no time left.

What's at stake for Wyoming: After enduring four straight losing seasons, including a 2-10 mark last season, the Cowboys can finish 9-4 and win their first MW championship.

Who to watch for San Diego State: Aztecs tailback Donnel Pumphrey ranks second in the FBS in rushing yards (1,908) and rushing yards per game (159) and third in all-purpose yards (2,119), despite not playing in the fourth quarter of four of the past six games. His 1,908 rushing yards have broken his single-season school record set in 2014 (1,867).

Who to watch for Wyoming: Junior tailback Brian Hill has rushed for 1,674 yards with 21 touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He had 100 rushing yards or more in nine games, including the past six. He ran for 131 yards with two touchdowns in the earlier meeting with San Diego State.

Matchup to watch: Pumphrey vs. Wyoming safety Marcus Epps

Epps had 12 tackles in the Cowboys' earlier win over San Diego State, and Wyoming's defense held Pumphrey to 76 yards on 17 carries, his second-lowest rushing total of the season. He had 53 yards in last week's 63-31 loss to Colorado State.

Prediction: Wyoming 38, San Diego State 35

ACC: No. 3 Clemson (11-1, 7-1) vs. No. 23 Virginia Tech (9-3, 6-2)

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on ABC & ESPN App
(at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida)

What's at stake for Clemson: The Tigers are trying to win back-to-back ACC titles for the first time since 1987-88, and a victory over the Hokies would probably earn them a second straight berth in the playoff. If the Tigers fall to the Hokies, they'd probably still be in contention for a New Year's Six bowl, but might fall to the Russell Athletic Bowl.

What's at stake for Virginia Tech: The Hokies are trying to win 10 games in a season for the first time since 2011, which would be quite an achievement in coach Justin Fuente's first season. Virginia Tech hasn't won an ACC championship since 2010 and an upset victory over the Tigers would earn them a trip to the Capital One Orange Bowl.

Who to watch for Clemson: Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson has been a lot more efficient in the second half of the season, and the emergence of big-play threat Mike Williams is a big reason. Williams caught three of Watson's six touchdowns in last week's 56-7 rout of South Carolina and he had 100 receiving yards or more in three of the past four games.

Who to watch for Virginia Tech: Louisville's Lamar Jackson and Watson have overshadowed Jerod Evans for much of the season, but he has been the catalyst in Tech's unexpected success. Evans, a junior-college transfer, has completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 3,045 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions (nine fewer than Watson has thrown). Evans also has rushed for 713 yards with eight scores (twice as many as Watson).

Matchup to watch: Clemson DE Christian Wilkins vs. Virginia Tech OT Jonathan McLaughlin

If the Hokies are going to stay within striking distance of Clemson, they'll have to protect Evans and it won't be easy. McLaughlin will have the unenviable task of trying to block Wilkins, a Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalist, who has 50 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 3½ sacks.

Prediction: Clemson 31, Virginia Tech 20

Big Ten: No. 6 Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2) vs. No. 7 Penn State (10-2, 8-1)

Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on Fox
(at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis)

What's at stake for Wisconsin: With a victory over the Nittany Lions, the Badgers can win their first Big Ten title since winning at least a share of three in a row from 2010-12. Wisconsin has won six games in a row and a seventh straight would earn them at least another trip to the Rose Bowl, and possibly a spot in the playoff, if chaos breaks out in the other league championship games.

What's at stake for Penn State: At the very least, Penn State can win its first outright Big Ten championship since 1994 and earn its first trip to the Rose Bowl since 2008. But a victory over the Badgers also would put the CFP selection committee in a serious dilemma. Would the committee select Ohio State over Penn State, even though the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten and defeated the Buckeyes during the regular season? Or would the committee pick both Big Ten teams in that scenario?

Who to watch for Wisconsin: Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook suffered a concussion in last week's 31-17 win over Minnesota and he's questionable to play on Saturday night. If Hornibrook can't play, backup Bart Houston will get the start. Hornibrook and Houston were rotating during the past six games anyway, and Houston has completed 17 of 24 passes for 283 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the past four.

Who to watch for Penn State: Nittany Lions star tailback Saquon Barkley left last week's 45-12 win over Michigan State with a right ankle injury, but he's expected to play against Wisconsin. Barkley has rushed for 1,219 yards with 15 touchdowns on 228 carries. He hasn't been nearly as effective behind Penn State's banged-up offensive line lately, running for fewer than 100 yards in each of the past three games.

Matchup to watch: Wisconsin LB T.J. Watt vs. Penn State OT Chasz Wright

The Nittany Lions have lost three offensive tackles for the season and right tackle Brendan Mahon has missed the past three games with an undisclosed injury. That might spell trouble against Watt, who leads the Badgers with 13 tackles for loss and 9½ sacks. The younger brother of Houston Texans star J.J. Watt figures to move around a lot to create mismatches.

Prediction: Wisconsin 21, Penn State 20