College Football Forecast: Conference Championship Weekend

It has been a rollercoaster ride of a season, to say the least in college football this year. Some teams were lucky enough to complete their entire schedule of games, while others scrapped together rescheduled matchups and five games seasons.

Somehow someway college football has reached its conference championship weekend with several questions still unanswered within the College Football Playoff Rankings, as they look to be solved by Saturday’s end.

This week there will be six featured matchups that have enormous implications for the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six Bowls.

6.) Oregon at No. 13 USC - Pac-12 Championship Game

This game is slated in the six-hole for my matchups to watch due to the shortened season the Pac-12 endured, the more than likely minimal impact on the College Football Playoff, and the absence of North Division champs the Washington Huskies.

With all that said, there are still high stakes for both programs entering this matchup.

USC will look to claim its first Pac-12 Championship since 2017 as they are the only South Division team to win in the championship game since its inception in 2011.

The Trojans are riding into this game with the only unbeaten record in the Pac-12 following a regular-season finale win over UCLA, 43-38.

Kedon Slovis led the charge once again as he threw for 344 yards and five scores, connecting with Amon-Ra St. Brown twice as they continue to heat up over the course of the season.

For the Ducks, they look to defend their conference championship win from last season when they took down Utah handly, 37-15.

Oregon began the season strong as they went 3-0, but they have dropped their last two against underwhelming opponents in Oregon State and Cal.

If the Ducks want to compete in this contest, quarterback Tyler Shough has to have better ball security and awareness following back-to-back weeks with a costly fumble, along with two interceptions against the Beavers.

USC is known for its dominant offense, but if they want to find a balanced approach and control the game they have to establish their run game early as it has been lackluster the past few weeks. For Oregon, they can score as well, so it will come down to who can hold the strongest on defense.

Prediction: USC wins 41-35

5.) No. 23 Tulsa at No. 9 Cincinnati - AAC Championship Game

Cincinnati enters their second straight AAC Championship game looking to avenge last season’s 29-24 loss to Memphis. There’s a lot on the table for Cincinnati in this matchup as they are hoping to sneak into the College Football Playoff. For that to happen they need an all-around phenomenal game.

It is no question that the Bearcats can score as they are averaging 40.9 points per game on the hot hand of Desmond Ridder. The ever so dangerous Ridder is a force against any defense with his dual-threat ability. Along with his 1,821 yards threw the air, the junior has run for 526 yards as well. He has combined for 27 total touchdowns.

The Bearcats like to spread the ball around as three other rushers have over 100 yards, including their leading rusher, Gerrid Doaks who has also been extremely reliable this season with seven scores. Ridder shares the ball in the passing game as well with eight different receivers over 140 yards.

While mentioning playing a strong all-around game, the Bearcats have one of the best overall teams riding an extremely stout defense as they only allow 15 points per game placing them fifth in the nation. They also have been able to force turnovers with 17 on the season, which could be a big focal point in this matchup.

The no. 23 ranked Tulsa Golden Hurricane enter this matchup finishing the season 6-1 with their only loss to then-ranked no. 11 Oklahoma State. Tulsa saw three of their regular-season games get canceled leaving a chip on their shoulder to finish off their conference campaign strong.

Last time out, the Golden Hurricane took care of Navy, 19-6. The Midshipmen are a run-heavy team, but Tusla’s defense stood tall limiting any chances for them as they failed to score a touchdown.

Along with the solid run-stop defense last game, Tulsa all season has been tough against the run ranking within the top 15 in run defense.

On all the mind’s of Tulsa players, they are focusing on an upset as they hope to come out victorious against a powerful Cincinnati team, however, the Bearcats will withstand any storm sent from the Golden Hurricane.

Prediction: Cincinnati wins 40-20

4.) No. 14 Northwestern vs. No. 4 Ohio State

It’s all about the Buckeyes in this matchup as they hope to come out guns-a-blazing against Northwestern in order to quiet all the critics on whether or not they deserve to make the CFP.

Justin Fields and company possess a top-five offense, averaging 532.4 yards per game as they took care of Michigan State in their last contest posting 52 points in their effort.

The Buckeyes completed their regular season with a 5-0 record, three games short of their intended schedule. Their most recent canceled matchup was set to be a massive game against a lowly Michigan team. With that game erased from their schedule, Ohio State is now short-handed in terms of a lengthy resume of games. USC is in the same boat with only playing six total games, therefore making the argument against a six-win Buckeyes team making the Playoff.

In order for Ohio State to solidify their spot they have to win against no. 14 Northwestern, but in my personal opinion, it has to be a dominating performance. There is no question that they cannot do it, but the Wildcats will be waiting with upset on their mind.

The Buckeyes are favored by 18.5 points as this is their game to lose. Counteracting Fields’ electric offense, Northwestern owns the second-highest ranked defense in the land in terms of points per game allowed with only 14.6.

Quarterback Peyton Ramsey has also done a quality job in leading this team’s offense, including a statement win against then no. 10 Wisconsin. The running attack has been their most potent unit on the offense, scoring 13 times over their seven-game schedule.

It is going to be a tall task for Northwestern in this one as Ohio State overall has the better squad. Look for the Huskies to remain close, but the Buckeyes will pull away late.

Prediction: Ohio State wins 34-20

3.) No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 6 Iowa State

Another extremely significant matchup for the CFP, Iowa State aims to secure a gigantic victory against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship.

Iowa State is three points away from a one-loss season, which would put them in prime position to make the College Football Playoff, however, that’s not the case as they are on the outside looking in.

Running back Breece Hall has taken the nation by storm this season as he has rushed for 1,357 yards giving him the most in that category. Hall is an elusive runner and has found the endzone a combined 19 times this year.

For the Cyclones, Brock Purdy has done a remarkable job leading this offense with 2,272 passing yards and 17 touchdown passes. He has spread the ball around, hitting eight different receivers for over 100 yards.

Iowa State’s defense has been relatively sound all season, which was put on display in their regular-season finale against West Virginia holding them to six points and only 54 yards on the ground.

Oklahoma will look to exploit the Cyclones defense with Spencer Rattler’s capabilities. The Sooners are riding a six-game win-streak that began following their seven-point loss against Iowa State earlier this season.

Like always, OU has been explosive in the passing game thanks to Rattler’s 24 touchdown throws, seven of which have been completed to standout receiver Marvin Mims.

The Sooners defense has also been solid this season as Purdy may be under pressure all game with Oklahoma’s ability to get to the quarterback after recording 33 sacks this season.

This game will be full of momentum shifts as these two teams will compete to the very end with a potential final game-winning drive at stake.

Prediction: Oklahoma wins 38-35

2.) No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 7 Florida

Alabama has put on one of the most dominant season performances in recent memory as week after week they continue to impress. Most recently, they cakewalked over Arkansas 52-3.

Bama’s offense is nearing 50 points per game with Mac Jones leading the charge with 3,321 passing yards and 27 touchdown passes. Jones, along with star receiver DeVonta Smith, have created a lot of buzz at the top of the Heisman watch. Smith has been outstanding all year with 15 touchdown receptions.

Najee Harris has also brought balance to the Crimson Tide offense with his 22 rushing touchdowns leading all of college football. Harris can be a game-changer in the SEC Championship game.

Although Alabama shut down the Arkansas offense, they have remained towards the middle of the pack in terms of defensive efficiency, which is unusual for a Nick Saban squad.

Florida will look to avenge their tough loss the LSU last week. The 37-34 route practically eliminated them from CFP contention unless they pull off the miracle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Gators will have to rely on Trask’s arm all game long and the ability to connect with his receiver, especially tight end Kyle Pitts. Kadarius Toney can also be another game-changer for the Gators in this matchup.

Historically, the Crimson Tide have rolled over the Gators, winning the last six contests dating back to 2008.

Alabama has nothing to lose in this game as they are a lock as the only thing they look to achieve is clinching the number one seed. Whereas the Gators hope to spoil Bama’s perfect season and potentially for them to become the first two-loss team in the Playoff.

Prediction: Alabama wins 31-26

1.) No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 2 Notre Dame

It’s a rematch like none other this season as there is a lot of storylines heading into this game.

The ACC looks to send two teams to the CFP for the first time, Trevor Lawrence looks to avenge their loss against Notre Dame last time out, and Notre Dame aspires to keep their perfect season alive.

For Clemson, they have put together another exceptional season with a roster full of NFL talent.

Although missing a handful of games due to COVID-19 reasons, Lawrence has played some of the best football in his Clemson career, recording 2,431 passing yards with 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Travis Etienne has had a record-breaking season on the ground in his final year with the Tigers as he has found the endzone 14 total times.

Besides Amari Rodgers, Cornell Powell has broken out this season at the receiving position giving Lawrence another reliable pass-catcher and a deep threat.

Notre Dame will look to break through once again on a solid defense that has registered 38 sacks throughout the season, including two in their overtime loss to the Fighting Irish.

Ian Book has continually improved as the season progresses. In the front half of their schedule, the Fighting Irish saw some games closer than they would have liked, but lately, they have been dominant, including that noteworthy win over Clemson.

All-around, Notre Dame has one of the best team’s in the nation. Book has an excellent pocket presence with the ability to read pressure and scramble when need be. At running back, Kyren Williams has exploded for a 1,000 plus yard season and at the receiving core has been phenomenal all year. The offense is protected by one of the best lines in the country and the defense has only allowed 17.1 points per game.

Clemson has won the last five ACC championship games as they look the take care of the new kid on the block this time around. However, Notre Dame has matured as the season has gone on and will impress once again in this contest, leaving Clemson’s chance at a CFP berth in limbo.

Prediction: Notre Dame wins 26-24