– Houston @ Cincinnati
The first game in our Group of Five Conference Championship Game Preview sees Cincinnati and Houston will battle it out for the American Athletic Conference On Saturday. With the Bearcats having a lot more to lose than the ACC title. Cincinnati sit at number #4 in the CFB ranking and will have every chance of a playoff berth, making them the first AAC team to break into the playoffs since it began eight years ago. The Cougars aren’t here just to be a part of that potential history. Houston have won their last 11 games, with their only loss coming in week 1 against Texas Tech.
They have one of the top defences in the FBS, ranking sixth in yards allowed. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder has been hot the last few weeks and if he’s on that type of form again Saturday, it should be a fun battle. One big factor is that the game is being played at the Bearcats home stadium, as the AAC Championship game gets played at the home stadium of the top seed. This is due to them winning the tie breaker of being a higher ranked team, with both teams having an 8-0 conference record. Favourites are 6-1 in the last 7 AAC Championship games, with Houston 10.5 point dogs. Can Cincinnati finish unbeaten and make those playoffs?
– Utah State @ San Diego State
The Mountain West championship will be a battle between San Diego State and Utah State at the Aztecs adopted home of soccer team LA Galaxy. San Diego State have been excellent this season, showcasing an early season win over PAC-12 South champions and Aggies rivals Utah. Utah State have surprised many getting to the MW title game, with many tipping them for a below par year in pre-season predictions. Again the Aggies will not be favoured in this game but that hasn’t stopped them proving people wrong in most games finishing the season 9-3.
One thing they must do in this game is stop the San Diego State ground game. Averaging 178 rushing yards a game, the Aztecs have powered past everyone bar Fresno State this season. San Diego State quarterback Jordan Brookshire is expected to get the start after Lucas Johnson went out in last week’s game with a knee injury. While Aggies QB Logan Bonner will hope for another good game after last week’s top performance. Special mention to San Diego State punter Matt Araiza, who is on pace to break the FBS punt average of 50.98 yards. It will be tough for Utah State but can they grab their first Mountain West title? Or will the Aztecs make it 22?
– Appalachian State @ Louisiana
Louisiana welcomes Appalachian State to Cajun Field to decide the Sun Belt title. It will be the third time in four years these two teams have met in the Sun Belt Championship game, with the Mountaineers winning both previous games. Since losing their opener against Texas, the Ragin’ Cajuns have won 11 straight games to capture the Sun Belt West title. The Mountaineers took the East with a 10-2 record, one of the losses to Saturday’s opponents. It was a 41-13 beat down from Louisiana, but App State look a different team to the one with just 211 offensive yards and 4 turnovers since that game especially.
Quarterback Chase Brice and the offence is exciting to watch, averaging 439,9 yards and 35.8 points a game. They can attack you through the air and on the ground, just like their opposition. Louisiana themselves are averaging 406.6 yards and 31.3 points a game. Both teams have good defences, with the game likely decided on who can keep each team’s potent offence quieter. Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Billy Napier will be departing for Florida at the end of the season. Can he and Louisiana depart with a Sun Belt title?
– Western Kentucky @ UTSA
In a surprise C-USA Championship match-up, it will be Western Kentucky traveling to Texas to play UTSA. This will be the first game of Conference Game weekend, kicking off at Friday midnight (GMT). The Roadrunners finished the season 11-1, with their only loss coming in the last game against North Texas. Likely they had one eye on this game and even pulled some of their starters out halfway through the game. Western Kentucky secured the East division beating Marshall in the last game of the regular season.
These two teams met earlier in the season, with UTSA coming out victorious in an exhilarating 52-46 win. Both teams have an offensive weapon that is flying up draft boards. Hilltoppers quarterback Bailey Zappe makes this offence tick. Zappe is 32 yards shy of reaching 5000 passing yards on the season and has 52 touchdowns on the season, ranking number 1 in both categories. UTSA have running back Sincere McCormick who is the spearheaded of the Roadrunners offence with 1275 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Whichever way this game goes, expect fireworks on offence.
– Kent State vs Northern Illinois
Ford Field in Detroit will be the setting for the MAC Championship game between Kent State and Northern Illinois. The Golden Flashes took an entertaining 52-47 win earlier in the season, with both teams going off with over 650 offensive yards each. Both teams rank low on defence, with the Huskies giving up 34.6 points per game and the Golden Flashes giving up 34.5 per game. That’s not where either of these teams win games, it’s all done on offence.
Kent State has quarterback Dustin Crum who is a problem with his arm and with his legs, rushing for 565 yards and 11 touchdowns, as well as 15 touchdowns through the air. The Huskies mainly run their offence via the ground but also can attack you through the air. Wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph has 827 reception yards on the year, with 309 of those coming in the Kent State game. Expect this game to be another high scoring affair but the result being close. Northern Illinois will be looking for their fifth MAC title in 11 years. Kent State hasn’t been to a Mid-American conference championship game since 2012, their only ever visit which they lost to Saturday’s opponents. Strap yourself in for this one.
Written by Jordan Merritt @Jordm87