It’s the last weekend for teams to prove to the College Football Playoff committee that they deserve to be in the Top 4. For those that don’t have a chance at a playoff spot, it’s time to play spoiler. Let’s look at the conference championship games this weekend, including the two that happened last night:
MAC Championship – Northern Illinois vs. Buffalo (Friday, Nov. 30)
This game came down to the wire. NIU quarterback threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver DJ Brown with 1:09 left to go to take the lead and overcome a 20-point deficit. Buffalo failed to convert a 4th and 10 on the following drive, and NIU happily took a knee to run out the clock.
Final: NIU 30 BUFF 29
Pac-12 Championship – #17 Utah vs. #11 Washington (Friday, Nov. 30)
Each offense only scored three points. The deciding factor was an interception returned for a touchdown by Washington’s Byron Murphy. Utah’s Jason Shelley’s pass hit Siaosi Mariner in the hands, but he couldn’t hold onto the ball and it bounced up into the air right into Murphy’s hands.
Final: Washington 10 Utah 3
Big 12 Championship – #14 Texas vs. #5 Oklahoma (Today, Dec. 1, 12pm)
The first Red River Rivalry this year was a shootout, and Texas took home the win 48 to 45. Like any Big 12 game, there was a lot of offense and very little defense, but the difference in the game was the three turnovers by Oklahoma. Kyler Murray had two of those turnovers. If the Sooners play of avenge their only loss this season and hope to have a chance to play in the playoffs, they have to hold onto the ball and not make dumb mistakes. It is also Murray’s last chance to earn his spot in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. We know Sam Ehlinger and the rest of Texas’ offense will show up, but whose defense will make that one game-changing play?
AAC Championship – Memphis vs. #8 UCF (Today, Dec. 1, 3:30pm)
Memphis gave UCF a real scare when they faced each other in October. UCF won that game 31 to 30 because one of the best quarterbacks in the country, McKenzie Milton, ran in for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. It’s going to be a different story this time. Milton suffered a season-ending, and possibly career-ending, knee injury in last week’s game against USF. The Golden Knights took the ball out of freshman Darriel Mack Jr.’s hands and ran for 391 yards. Memphis has a real shot to pull the upset if they can stop the running game.
SEC Championship – #1 Alabama vs. #4 Georgia (Today, Dec. 1, 4pm)
What could be the best game of the day is a rematch of last year’s National Championship Game and has the biggest playoff implications. If Bama wins, they secure the #1 spot, and Georgia falls out. If Georgia wins, they could be #2 or 3, and it is uncertain where Bama falls. This will be the biggest challenge for Alabama. It could be a struggle after what they’ve shown the last few weeks. I doubt many thought that they would be tied with The Citadel at halftime. Georgia’s defense was stronger last season, with players like linebacker Roquan Smith, and they couldn’t stop Tua’s attack in the championship. Saban will continue to stay undefeated against his former assistants if the the Tide team that played LSU shows up today.
ACC Championship – #2 Clemson vs. Pitt (Today, Dec. 1, 8pm)
I could throw a punch of stats at you, but I think the most intriguing one is that Pitt has never lost to Clemson. Pitt went into Clemson and upset the #2 team in the country in 2016 and look to do it again. The Tigers are taking the Panthers seriously this time. Pitt relies on its ability to run the ball, but they’ll have to find another way because the Tigers’ defense allows less than 85 rushing yards a game. Clemson also knows that if they win by the projected amount (27.5 points) and Bama loses, they’ll move up to #1.
Big Ten Championship – #21 Northwestern vs. #6 Ohio State (Today, Dec. 1, 8pm)
Everything last week looked like the Michigan Wolverines were going to be the Big Ten East team in this game until the Buckeyes took over The Game in the second half and embarrassed Michigan. Now, with a convincing win, Ohio State has a chance to slip into the #4 seed. They may have struggled against lower-ranked teams, but Northwestern has lost to Duke and Akron. With that being said, Pat Fitzgerald’s defense has been able to stop some really good offenses over the last few seasons. Ohio State’s Dwayne “Screen Pass” Haskins struggles when pressured. I believe this game will either be closer than the 14.5 points that the Buckeyes are favored by.