The 2018 college football regular season flew by, as they all tend to do. However, conference championships can make or break a team’s chances of cracking it into the top four and getting a berth in the College Football Playoff. This weekend is one of my favorites all year, up there with last weekend’s rivalry week. It pits the best teams in each conference against each other, duking it out for at least 60 minutes for not only bragging rights, but also for bowl and potential playoff berths. Here is a preview of the Power 5’s championship games coming up this weekend.
PAC-12 Championship – 17 Utah vs. 11 Washington – 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 30; Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California; FOX
Have you ever played Madden (or NCAA Football, may it rest in peace) and adjusted the game-time weather to “heavy snow”? Apparently, that’s what the Cougars of Washington State did last weekend, as they were upset by the Washington Huskies by a score of 28-15. The victory by the Huskies won them the PAC-12 North, which means they will face off against the Utah Utes this weekend with a chance to take the PAC-12 crown back to Seattle. It seems as if Jake Browning has been quarterback of Washington for 100 years, and after making the playoff a few years back, it still seems as if the team is poised to make some postseason noise this year.
A win in the PAC-12 Championship would likely give the Huskies a birth in the “Granddaddy of Them All”, the Rose Bowl, but they will have to fend off the Utes of Utah in Santa Clara. After watching Washington go into Pullman and dismantle Wazzu, my money is on the Huskies, but anything is possible out West.
Big 12 Championship – 14 Texas vs. 5 Oklahoma – 12 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1; AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas; ABC
Red River Rivalry rematch. Try saying that ten times fast. Texas got a last-second win via a field goal in October against the Sooners, but I believe Oklahoma has played their best football, particularly on offense, since that loss. Texas comes in with a 9-3 record, with losses to Maryland, West Virginia and a somewhat stunning close loss to Oklahoma State. However, Tom Herman’s Longhorns will be fired up for this game, as they had Oklahoma’s number in their regular season matchup.
Oklahoma is in the thick of CFP conversations, and if they are to win convincingly enough, they will likely find themselves in a serious argument as a top four team. However, Texas stuck with them at the Texas State Fair and got the win, so this game will be very interesting. As I said about the Oklahoma-West Virginia game last weekend, time out your bathroom and snack breaks for this one. It will be a shootout, and as the late, great Keith Jackson would say, a “barnburner.”
SEC Championship – 1 Alabama vs. 4 Georgia – 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1; Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia; CBS
This, to me, will be the game of the weekend. As CBS likes to remind us, their SEC coverage is “the best matchup from the best conference.” This certainly is the best matchup from the two best teams in the best conference. It’s also a rematch of a thrilling National Championship Game from last season, where it looked like Georgia was going to take down the empire of Alabama, until Tua Tagovailoa got involved and showed us he is, as Dick Vitale would say, a “prime-time performer.”
This game could go either way, although Georgia has lost some key pieces from last year’s team, and dare I say, Alabama has gotten even stronger. This will be the toughest game for both teams all season, and I believe it will be an instant classic. The question surrounding this game is, if Alabama loses, do they still make it to the playoff? Everyone has their own opinion, but I let the game do the talking. This is the conference championship game with the highest stakes with so much on the line for both teams, and with two great coaches like Kirby Smart and the incomparable Nick Saban, it will be one for the ages.
ACC Championship – 2 Clemson vs. Pittsburgh – 8 p.m., Saturday Dec. 1; Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina; ABC
The Clemson Tigers match up against the team that handed them their lone regular season loss last year, the Pittsburgh Panthers. The upset-minded Panthers will be ready to foil the Tigers’ playoff plans this year, but I question the firepower they have (or lack thereof) on both sides of the ball. Clemson has had what some would call a cakewalk schedule in 2018, which is why they come into this game with an unblemished record.
This will be a test for Clemson, and I know Dabo Swinney will have his players fired up and ready, and they will not overlook Pittsburgh. I expect Clemson to win handily, march into the playoff and send Pittsburgh home on Swinney’s “Rest of Y’all” bus.
B10 Championship – 21 Northwestern vs. 6 Ohio State – 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1; Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana; FOX
The Buckeyes put on a clinic in The Game last weekend, decimating Michigan 62-39. Now, they find themselves in the driver’s seat to clinch another conference championship and possibly another playoff berth. Northwestern has played tough all year and have been close in
most games they’ve played, which is why my opinion is that they’re are a better team than their 8-4 record says they are.
Ohio State had been somewhat off-track all season. Their defense was a mess (particularly their linebackers) and for the last six weeks, their two-headed rushing attack of Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins could not run the ball as successfully as Urban Meyer-led teams are accustomed to doing. I think the monstrous win over Michigan was what the Buckeyes needed to get themselves back on track and to recall who they are. Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins has had a record-setting season, look for him to torch the Wildcats’ defense with his superior passing prowess. Northwestern may hang around early, but I expect the Buckeyes to pull away late. If the Bucks have a game plan and play like they did against the Wolverines, Northwestern doesn’t stand a chance. At that point, if they do win in dominant fashion, the question becomes, will the Buckeyes have done enough to make the playoff? Tune in Sunday at 12 p.m. on ESPN for the final CFP rankings show to find out if they did.
High stakes. Win or go home. Now, maybe you see why conference championship weekend is one of my favorites. Whatever happens this weekend, it will be exciting, must-see TV and is sure to have major playoff and bowl implications.