Perhaps not the best, but certainly the most important weekend of the college football season is upon us. Championship weekend will clear up the College Football Playoff picture. For the first time in the history of the playoffs, Alabama will not be part of the final four. Georgia, Utah, Oklahoma, Baylor, and perhaps even Florida are all alive for the fourth spot in the playoffs. Maybe a bigger question is if LSU and Ohio State already have their tickets punched with or without a victory. Let’s take a look at the big matchups in our championship weekend college football watch guide.
Memphis, Cincinnati, Appalachian State, and Boise State all still have a chance at the New Year’s Six Bowl Game from the Group of Five. Memphis certainly has the inside track at this point, but in championship weekend, it’s wide open. Let’s preview the championship games as we look at our championship weekend college football watch guide.
Note: All game times are in central standard time
Championship Weekend College Football Watch Guide
PAC-12 Championship Game
(5) Utah vs (13) Oregon
The first championship game is one of the most important ones. Levi’s Stadium plays host to a College Football Playoff and Rose Bowl impactful game between the Utes and the Ducks. For Utah, they are looking for their first PAC 12 Championship in program history and the first outright conference championship since 2008. And, for Oregon, they will be looking for their first conference title since 2014 and a trip back to the Rose Bowl.
Utah comes into this game one of the hottest teams in the country. They are winners of eight in a row after a late September loss to USC. Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss lead a very efficient offense that doesn’t beat itself. They will play ball-control offense and play to their strength which is one of the best defenses in the country. Meanwhile, Oregon brings in a loaded offense behind Justin Herbert. Herbert did not play particularly great in the Civil War game but has 31 touchdowns and just five interceptions on the season. The new trend is that great offense beats good defense will be tested in this one.
An incredible game within the game matchup will be what many consider as the best defensive line in the country against the best offensive line in the country. Strap in, this is going to be a four-quarter slugfest.
Big 12 Championship Game
(6) Oklahoma vs (7) Baylor
It’s a been there done that feeling for the Oklahoma Sooners. After a midseason loss, they have battled their way back into the playoff discussion and in position for a fifth straight Big 12 Championship. Baylor is playing with house money at this point but is one of the most physical teams in college football and the Bears could play themselves into a playoff appearance themselves.
The Sooners finally put a complete game together last weekend in their 34-16 victory over Oklahoma State. After struggling to one possession wins in the last three, the Sooners dominated the second half of play against the Cowboys and held them to their lowest scoring output of the season. Meanwhile, the Bears bludgeoned Kansas to the tune of 61-6 in their tune-up game. Defense in the Big 12? Well, Oklahoma has only allowed three touchdowns in their last two games and Baylor has only allowed two.
Both teams feel like they have something to prove after their head to head matchup in Waco. The Sooners feel like they played their poorest half in many years against Baylor and the biggest comeback in program history wouldn’t have been required if they had a pulse in the first 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Baylor feels like they let one get away and if they could have just made a play or two in the second half then things would have been different. Arlington, get ready for a war.
Sun Belt Championship Game
(21) Appalachian State vs LA-Lafayette
The Mountaineers are looking for their second straight Sun Belt Championship after defeating the Rajun Cajuns a year ago in this game by a score of 30-19. The Mountaineers also topped Louisiana earlier this year by a 17-7 count. Appalachian State is holding out hopes of a possible New Years Six appearance with a win and some help.
The Mountaineers play reminds you of Utah. They are very efficient in the passing game behind Zac Thomas with his 24 touchdowns and only six interceptions. And, then they also rely on the speedster Darrynton Evans who comes in with 1,250 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. Now, Lafayette might be a little more explosive on offense. Quarterback Levi Lewis has thrown 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions. But, they do most of their damage on the ground with three running backs that have over 2,500 yards combined and 31 scores.
The motives are clear on both sides. Appalachian State needs to win and win big and hope for a Memphis loss to Cincinnati. Meanwhile, the Rajun Cajuns are looking for revenge and to play the spoiler role. The Mountaineers have the edge with the game being played in Boone but this will be a competitive game.
American Athletic Championship Game
(17) Memphis vs (20) Cincinnati
Same bat time and same bat channel for these two. Memphis and Cincinnati will play each other in the rare back-to-back game scenario. It’s simple for Memphis. Win and you’re in a New Year’s Six Bowl. For Cincinnati, it’s a little more complicated. Win and be more impressive than Boise and Appalachain State or hope for upsets.
Memphis has an incredible offense led by Brady White with 32 touchdown passes on the year. He threw two of those last week in the 34-24 victory over Cincinnati. Brady will look early and often for wide receiver Damonte Coxie who had 145 yards and a score last week. For the Bearcats, they will look to freshman quarterback Ben Bryant to have a better game this week. He threw two interceptions and fumbled once in the second half last week. The Bearcats will continue to lean on Michael Warren II as he amassed 122 yards against Memphis.
This is another classic good offense versus good defense. Turnovers were a big part of this game in the second half for the Bearcats. There’s so much on the line for both teams in this game, expect some nerves to start for both teams. Whichever team can take care of the ball should come out on top.
SEC Championship Game
(2) LSU vs (4) Georgia
Coming into the season, most pundits would have certainly favored Alabama or Auburn to potentially be in this position rather than LSU. But, the Tigers have been one of the most impressive teams in the country this season. Meanwhile, Georgia, who was left for dead after the South Carolina loss have redemption on their mind. Georgia will certainly have the crowd advantage in their corner for this one.
We’ve given credit to the LSU offense all year, and with good reason. Joe Burrow is the clear Heisman leader. Ja’Marr Chase might be the Biletnikoff winner. And, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is one of the most well-rounded running backs in the country. But, it’s the defense that has improved as of late. They only gave up a couple of garbage scores late against Arkansas and only one score to Texas A&M last week. For Georgia, they have relied on what might be the best defense in the country. They haven’t given up more than 20 points in a game all season, but have not played a team of LSU’s caliber. They will need a great effort from Jake Fromm in this game.
Georgia may come in with the attitude of just trying to survive the first half. D’Andre Swift is a little banged up and George Pickens will be out for the first half so if the Bulldogs are close heading into the fourth, they will have the advantage. The question still remains as to whether LSU could still make the playoffs with a loss.
Mountain West Championship Game
(19) Boise State vs Hawaii
As we continue with our championship weekend college football watch guide, we look at the Mountain West. One is expected and the other is the cinderella. This will the third straight Mountain West championship game appearance for Boise State who feels familiarity within this position. Meanwhile, Hawaii is making its first appearance in the championship game overall. They are also looking for their first 10-win season since 2010.
Boise has had a successful year in going 11-1 with just the lone loss to BYU by three points. It’s been a bit of an adventure at the quarterback position for the Broncos as three different players have manned the position. But, now Jaylon Henderson is under center and has played well with nine touchdowns and just one interception. He also brings the added element of a dual-threat at the position. Meanwhile, for Hawaii, they have had two quarterbacks play as well with Cole McDonald and Chevan Cordeiro for 37 touchdown passes on the season.
This game may come down to whether or not Hawaii can get enough stops to win this game. In their earlier meeting, Boise State scored 59 points and had over 500 yards of total offense. The Warriors were also victimized by four turnovers in that game. Hawaii will relish the spoiler role while Boise still has a New Years Six bowl game aspirations with a win.
ACC Championship Game
(3) Clemson vs (23) Virginia
Clemson comes into this game as the biggest favorite of any team this weekend with a four-touchdown pick to defeat Virginia. It almost feels as if Virginia won the battle to become the sacrificial lamb coming into the Clemson slaughter. The distance between Clemson and the rest of the league is astounding, but if Virginia could somehow come up with the upset this would shock the college football world.
Clemson has hit their stride in the back half of the season and has won their past six games by at least 35 points. The biggest reason is the improved play by Trevor Lawrence. In his last five games, he’s thrown 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. And, Travis Etienne has been phenomenal once again this season with 1,386 yards and 16 touchdowns. Conversely, for Virginia, it’s been an up and down season. They struggled to lose three out of four in the middle of the season. But, they’ve won three in a row to close the season. The Cavaliers’ success centers around how well Bryce Perkins plays. His mobility gives Virginia a punchers chance.
With the exception of the close call against North Carolina, the Tigers have been relatively untested this year. How will Clemson react if they get punched in the mouth? As much as we all want to see them challenged, it won’t happen here. Clemson will name the score again and prepare for the playoffs.
Big Ten Championship Game
(1) Ohio State vs (8) Wisconsin
Ohio State has been the most dominant and complete football team this season and the head into the Big Ten Championship Game attempting to continue that dominance into a top seed in the College Football Playoffs. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has played well towards the end of the year and was very impressive in getting this second shot at the Buckeyes.
Justin Fields has been the most efficient individual player in the country this season. He’s thrown 37 touchdown passes against only one interception. But, as we mentioned, Ohio State is a complete team on both sides of the ball. From J.K. Dobbins 1,600 yards rushing to a defense that has made 49 sacks on the season it’s difficult to find a weakness on this team. For the Badgers, their key to success is clear. Rely on the powerful running of Jonathan Taylor, get just enough in the passing game from Jack Coan, and turn the game over to their stifling defense.
The wildcard in this game could be the health of Fields. If he’s anywhere close to 100%, the Buckeyes will likely roll to another conference championship. If not, it leaves the door open for Wisconsin. It’s important to note that this was a three-point game in Columbus midway through the third quarter until Ohio State opened the floodgates. If Wisconsin can have some success early, they can make this interesting into the second half. But, Ohio State likely has too much firepower for the Badgers to handle.