It’s hard to believe that we have a Championship Weekend without Oklahoma, Ohio State, or Clemson. But, in this renaissance season of 2021, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected. With only one playoff spot solidified, it could be another crazy weekend. Will Georgia finally find a way to beat Alabama and knock the Tide out of the playoffs? Can Michigan ride their wave of momentum into their first-ever playoff appearance? Does Cincinnati simply just have to win to get in? And, can Oklahoma State make their way into the playoffs with a win with Notre Dame waiting in the wings? We’ll look to answer those questions and much more as we look at the best weekend of the season in our 2021 Championship Weekend College Football watch guide.
Note: All game times are in central standard time
2021 Championship Weekend College Football Watch Guide
Conference USA Championship Game
Western Kentucky outscored Marshall 47-7 on its way to a Conference USA Championship clinching win. Bailey Zappe might be the best quarterback in the country you’ve never heard of. He’s thrown for over 4,600 yards with 48 touchdowns and only nine interceptions on the season. Meanwhile, UTSA was cruising to an undefeated season until they were hammered by North Texas on Saturday. After the perfect season is over, can they get off the mat and beat a red-hot Hilltopper team for the second time this year?
PAC 12 Championship Game
Just a couple of weeks after Utah throttled Oregon by 31 points and ended the Ducks’ chances at a playoff berth, these two meet again. The big story from the previous meeting was that Utah was able to establish the run and Oregon was not. Utah had 208 yards on the ground compared to 63 from the Ducks. The team that can run the ball most effectively will come out on top.
Big 12 Championship Game
Before the season started, this was would have been the most unlikely of matchups with Baylor coming off of a two-win campaign and the Cowboys picked in the middle of the pack. However, the Cowboys can make a strong claim with a win here and an Alabama loss. Comparatively, Baylor looks fairly secured in a New Year’s Six game regardless of the outcome. This could be the most physical, defensive struggle championship game of the weekend.
MAC Championship Game
The Huskies are living right in making the MAC Championship Game with their largest margin of victory in conference play coming by only eight points. However, they have been a surprise team in the league after many picked them in the middle of the pack. Conversely, Kent State has been up and down this season but won in overtime against Miami, Ohio to get here. In the previous meeting, the Golden Flashes won a tight 52-47 affair.
Mountain West Championship Game
The Aztecs were on the ropes against Boise State trailing 16-3 in the first half. However, a quarterback change ignited them and they won going away. Utah State is a nine-win team this year behind the right arm of Lance Bonner who has thrown 32 touchdowns this season. These two teams are very different and that’s what makes this game so intriguing. Can the ground and pound style of San Diego State win the day or can the Aggies get this game into a shootout?
Sun Belt Championship Game
These two teams have combined to win 17 straight football games coming into this matchup. For Louisiana, they have reeled off 11 straight wins after that opening weekend loss to Texas. But, will the distraction of coaching moves prove to be too much? For the Mountaineers, they have rebounded to win six straight following Louisiana’s 28-point win over them in October. Two very similar styles will match up with teams that rely on the running game and a quarterback to make just enough plays.
SEC Championship Game
Georgia is likely in the college football playoffs whether they win or lose this game. However, this is an opportunity for them to change the narrative in this rivalry as of late. The Bulldogs continue to be the most dominant team in the country, particularly on the defensive side. Comparatively, Alabama is continuing to find ways to win. Three consecutive one-possession victories in SEC play have the Tide looking mortal. It’s a simple win and you’re in scenario but that’s easier said than done against the best team in the country.
AAC Championship Game
The Bearcats get the fortune of hosting the American Championship game while most other teams are on a neutral field. However, Cincinnati is poised to be the first team from the Group of Five to make the playoffs. In order to do so, they will have to beat a very game Houston team. The Cougars are undefeated in conference play and have also won 11 straight games. With everything there for the taking for the Bearcats, can Houston spoil the party?
Big 10 Championship Game
It’s hard to imagine any team playing a more complete game than what Michigan did on Saturday against Ohio State. The Wolverines slayed the giant and now they have one final step before they can call themselves a playoff team. Michigan has admittedly poured themselves into this Ohio State win, will they have any fatigue against Iowa? The Hawkeyes have not been particularly impressive down the stretch but their defense is solid against the run. Can they score enough to pull off the upset?
ACC Championship Game
Perhaps the biggest surprise of them all is not seeing Clemson in this game. Be that as it may, we have two teams that will undoubtedly light up the scoreboard in Charlotte. Kenny Pickett and Sam Hartman have combined to throw for 67 touchdown passes on the season. With both teams not particularly dominant on the defensive side of the ball, it’s hard to believe that shootout won’t be on the horizon.