Our College Football Preview – Championship Week edition will get you up to speed with what you need to know heading into some huge games for the Power 5.
Pitt @ Wake Forest
Offence. That’s what we should see in abundance at 1:00 am on Sunday morning. With an over under currently sitting at 71.5 there should be plenty of points scored by both teams. Pitt are slight favourites to walk away from Bank of America Stadium but only by -3. One thing is for sure, the yardage won’t be by the Running Backs. Pitt and Wake rank 126th and 101st in the nation in Rushing yards per game with 156.1 and 169.2 yards respectively. However, both teams are top 20 in the nation in the Passing yards per game metric. Pitt are 11th and Wake 20th throwing for 356.7 and 315.5 yards respectively again.
Both Quarterbacks have had lights out seasons. Pitts’ Kenny Pickett has thrown 40 touchdowns. Whilst Wake’s Sam Hartman has thrown 34 touchdowns. Both guys have been slinging it and it’s shown in how they have won games for their teams. As I mentioned on this week’s podcast (link to pod) Wake plays at a blistering pace and whilst Pitt can also sling the ball around I’m not sure they have the stamina to keep up with The Deacs for 60 minutes.
A Tiger-less affair
This is the first time since 2014 that Clemson won’t be making an appearance in the Championship game and the first time since 2014 that they won’t have won it. However, even without the all-powerful Tigers this is the first time ever in ACC Championship history that both teams come into the game averaging more than 40 points each per game. Wake and Pitt are 3rd and 4th in the nation in this category with 42.9 and 42.8 respectively. So now you can see why this is such a coin flip.
Kenny Pickett can set the new single-season touchdown record held by Deshaun Watson if he throws for two or more scores. That’s something he is surely going to be chasing and I wouldn’t put it past him as he looks to shine ahead of the NFL Draft in April. Wake Forest however have a trick of their own up their sleeve having played at Bank of America Stadium in 2020 in a bowl loss to Wisconsin. Knowledge of the battle ground is key and seeing as it’s a neutral field, will certainly help The Demon Deacons.
Pass Catchers Dream
The weapons that these two Quarterbacks have to throw to is a pairing that will both grace the NFL at one time or another. Pickett has Jordan Addison, a Sophomore who has balled out this year. 85 receptions, 1,353 yards and a monster 17 touchdowns means he will be Picketts go-to guy when he’s chasing that record early Sunday morning. Hartman has AT Perry, another Sophomore who has provided Hartman with a huge release valve. 56 catches for 1,112 yards and 13 scores sees him firmly set as the big play guy for Wake Forest.
For me though it comes down to Hartmans sneaky short yardage touchdown threat and the pace of play set by Wake. This thing gets wild quickly and Pitt has to chase a Wake team who are very good at keeping teams at an arm’s length when they get ahead. Wake Forest win 45-35!
Written by Stocks @5yardcollege
#9 Baylor (10-2 – 7-2) v #5 Oklahoma State (11-1 – 8-1)
Dave Aranda’s Baylor Bears and Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys will face off for the BIG XII title this Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
For the first time since the BIG XII title game was brought back in 2015, the match won’t feature the Oklahoma Sooners. It is a redemption shot for Baylor after they were beaten by the Sooners 30-23 in this game in overtime in 2019. Aranda was LSU’s defensive coordinator at the time of that loss, so I don’t imagine it will have any effect on his preparation.
This will be the Cowboys’ first BIG XII Championship game appearance since joining the conference at its formation in 1996. If they can beat Baylor this Saturday, they should be in line for their first College Football Playoff appearance as well.
Baylor come into the game with a strong running game that most of their wins have been built around. Blake Shapen looks to be the starter as Gerry Bohannon is still yet to be declared fully fit. If that is the case, Trestan Ebner and Abram Smith will need to have their best games of the season against the Cowboys defence. Jim Knowles’ unit are currently ranked third in the country in total defence and led by bruising linebacker Malcom Rodriguez. Rodriguez number four overall in FBS with 238 career solo tackles, and number six overall in FBS with 386 career tackles.
Cowboys Defence is built tough
Oklahoma State have zero questions about their defence. However, there have been moments where their offence has stalled out this season. That was not the case last week against the Sooners. Sanders had a huge game on the ground and was clutch through the air, both traits he will need to have on display against Baylor. The Bears defence boasts one of the best defensive backs in the country in Jalen Pitre. He is the only defensive player in the nation to record 3+ forced fumbles, 3+ fumble recoveries and 2+ interceptions. Running back Jaylen Warren faces a similar task to Ebner and Smith, though he will have the running threat of his quarterback to make life a little easier. Receiver Tay Martin is the guy the Bears must stop on the outside, his connection with Sanders this season has been extremely fruitful.
It’s going to be great just to watch a BIG XII title game that doesn’t involve Oklahoma. Not only that, but the game features two teams that are very closely matched. The Bears are seeking redemption from 2019 but also from earlier this season, suffering a loss at the hands of the Cowboys. Oklahoma State are seeking national glory. They can smell the college football playoff but need to keep their focus on a long awaited BIG XII title, first. Oh, and…. expect a close one.
Oklahoma State 33-24 Baylor.
Written by Jake @dyanstybrit
Michigan v Iowa
The Big Ten conference titles went right to the wire last week. Michigan were victorious in a winner-takes-all battle for the East with Ohio State, and Iowa claimed the West thanks to a helping-hand from Minnesota. The Hawkeyes handled their business, beating Nebraska on Friday night and leapfrogging Wisconsin in the standings. The Badgers then fell on Saturday to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, stamping Iowa’s ticket to the Championship game. All that sets up an enticing game in Indianapolis.
These 2 teams embody what the Big Ten is all about. They both have hard hitting, dominating defenses. Both love to win in the trenches. They both want to run the ball over and over again. Both have stand out performers on special teams. This should be a heavyweight clash where you cannot afford to give your opponent any kind of opening, or they’ll knock you out.
Michigan will be riding as high as you can get. They got the schools first win over Ohio State for 10 years and did so in style. They put up 42 points and held the Buckeyes at arms length for the whole of the second half. The offensive line and running backs have been stars all season and are excelling down the stretch. Hassan Haskins scored 5 touchdowns last week and Blake Corum has had another week of practice, allowing him to get back up to speed. They are a scary 1-2 punch. On defense the Wolverines have a pair of pass rushers frightening the life out of quarterbacks. Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo lead the Big Ten with 13 and 11 sacks respectively and will aim to give Spencer Petras absolutely zero time in the pocket as he returns as starting QB.
Hitting his stride just in time
Iowa have a top ball-carrier of their own. Tyler Goodson is hitting form at the right time after a tough stretch in the middle of the season. That corresponds with the team’s mini-dip following their stellar start to the year, but the Hawkeyes have won 4 in a row and certainly don’t see themselves as the underdogs that Vegas is making them out to be! Their ball-hawking defense leads the nation in interceptions with 22. If they can force the Wolverines to throw the ball, watch out for a few more INTs on Saturday! Iowa are out to prove they deserved their top 2 ranking earlier in the year.
Neither team concede many points, both averaging under 18 per game. The Big Ten is for the football purists. You tune in for tight, gritty battles and learn to appreciate the fine details of the game that can make all the difference. There’s a reason so many Big Ten graduates are lighting up the NFL, especially on the defensive side of the ball. That’s what we should get in Indy.
Michigan should win this. They have the superior talent and better offense. Jim Harbaugh is coaching his best season for the Wolverines and won’t let his players get ahead of themselves, but a playoff spot appears to have their name written on it already. You can bet all your marbles Iowa’s coaching staff are using that national narrative to motivate their guys. They have been struck off as no-hopers already, but that’s a disastrous assumption for Michigan’s players to buy into it. Can the Hawkeyes get back their early season swagger? It would be a huge shock to me, but I’d love to see this game still on the line late in the 4th.
Written by Jack @JackCDCTT
Oregon vs Utah
The first game of Conference Championship weekend will be the PAC-12 match-up between Oregon and Utah. The kick off will be Saturday 1am (GMT) and will take place at the brand spanking new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The Ducks and Utes met recently as week 12 of the regular season, where Utah blew away Oregon 38-7. Oregon who were the road team, couldn’t stamp there mark in the run game that has been the main reason why they won 10 games this season.
What Oregon could not do, Utah did well. Utah managed to run the ball against a good Ducks run defence. The offensive line moved the Oregon defensive line where they wanted and even neutralised the threat of top defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. 14 points in the last 27 seconds of the first half also knocked the wind out of Oregon, going into the half 28-0 down.
A stern talking to, Cristobal style
Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal I am sure would have sat down with his team and addressed what they need to do better before the rematch. Utah might try to start the same way they did last time but expect a change in tactics if the game does not have the same outcome. Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham will expect an opposition looking for vengeance, after the loss blew any chance of Oregon making the play-offs. Whittingham’s future is still up in the air, with reports of his retiring after the season.
A win for Utah would see Whittingham and Utah win their first PAC-12 Championship. A win for Oregon would make it three titles in a row for Cristobal. The winner will also get a coveted spot in the Rose Bowl against Big Ten opposition, perhaps Ohio State. It looks to be written for an Oregon-Ohio State rematch, Utah will be hoping to spoil the renewal plans on Saturday. What is for sure is that PAC-12 Championship games usually deliver drama, so don’t miss it.
Written by Jordan Merritt @Jordm87
Georgia v Alabama
All season it has looked like we have been heading towards this clash between reigning champions Alabama and the number #1 ranked and unbeaten Georgia. The winner of the game will not only take the SEC title, but likely grab the number 1 seed in the College Play-offs. Alabama need the win more, with a loss making it uncertain if they make it in. Unlike Georgia who should be in the top 4 no matter the result. The first thing that stands out about this game is can the Bama offence move the ball frequently against this stubborn Georgia D. Over the 12 regular season games the Bulldogs have limited opposition to just 6.9 points and just over 230 offensive yards per game.
Bryce Young and the offence are coming off a bad game against Auburn in the Iron Bowl last weekend. Another performance like that and it will be hard to see them get a victory in this game. The Crimson Tide run defence is playing well though and will have to again. Georgia have a trio of running backs who can run the ball well. Bama have to limit them as much as possible, putting the ball in quarterback Stetson Bennett’s hands on 3rd and long.
The way the season has played out, it’s hard to see anything other than a Georgia win. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has been here plenty of times before, so don’t write them off just yet. This game kicks-off on Saturday at 9pm (GMT) and it is really going to be a spectacle. Can Georgia stay unbeaten? Will Saban reign supreme again? If you watch one game this weekend, make sure it’s this one.
Written by Jordan Merritt @Jordm87