Let’s have some fun looking into the conference title games while making predictions as to what will happen. Certainly, there are several interesting games as well as games that seem one directional.
Looking into the conference title games
Central Florida (11-0) vs Memphis (8-4)
Location: Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, FL
Date/Time: Saturday, December 1st at 2:30 pm CT
Series history: UCF leads 12-1 having won 12 straight in the series that dates back to 1990, which was the lone Memphis win. Earlier this season, UCF won 31-30 in Memphis.
Key player for each team: Defensive Tackle Joey Connors for UCF, Running Back Darrell Henderson for Memphis
Notes: This is a matchup of the nations fifth-ranked offense (UCF) against the sixth-rated offense (Memphis). Unfortunately, UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton suffered a dramatic knee injury against USF, which means freshman Darriel Mack takes over. UCF’s defense has stepped up in recent weeks, especially against Cincinnati along with USF. Meanwhile, Memphis ended the regular season on a four-game win streak to win the West division. Undoubtedly, whichever defense can come up with the most stops or force a couple of turnovers will win this one.
Prediction: UCF 35-30
Clemson (12-0) vs Pittsburgh (7-5)
Location: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC
Date/Time: Saturday, December 1st at 7:00 pm CT
Series history: Pitt actually leads the series 2-0. Pitt upset Clemson in 2016 by a score of 43-42 while also winning the first matchup in 1977.
Key player for each team: Running back Travis Etienne for Clemson, Defensive End Rashad Weaver for Pittsburgh
Notes: It is hard to imagine Pitt being able to hang in this game as they are outmatched across the board. Clemson’s dominant defensive line should be able to assert their will, despite Pitt being a strong running team led by Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. Clemson’s main weakness seems to be pass defense, as they have a tendency to give up big plays from time to time. Kenny Pickett will have to find a way to hit on big passing plays, otherwise, this will be a long day. In fact, the Tigers defense ranks seventh nationally, however, the passing defense ranks 35th. Clearly, this is a poor matchup for Pitt’s 69th ranked defense, as dynamic as Clemson’s offense is.
Prediction: Clemson 44-14
Ohio State (11-1) vs Northwestern (8-4)
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN
Date/Time: Saturday, December 1st at 7:00 pm CT
Series history: Ohio State leads the all-time series 61-14-1, having won six straight. The last Northwestern victory came in 2004. Prior to that, the last time the Wildcats won a game in the series was 1971.
Key player for each team: Linebacker Malik Harrison for Ohio State, Defensive End Joe Gaziano for Northwestern
Notes: Ohio State just destroyed the nation’s number one defense, so Northwestern’s 48th ranked defense theoretically should not present an issue. Simply put, Northwestern will have to score a boatload of points in order to win. The 67th ranked Ohio State defense will give them opportunities, but the Wildcats have struggled to produce offensively this season, failing to reach 25 points in their last four games. In fact, they only hit 30 points four times this season with a high of 34. Dwayne Haskins and the Buckeye offense should roll to another victory in this one.
Prediction: Ohio State 42-17
Oklahoma (11-1) vs Texas (9-3)
Location: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX
Date/Time: Saturday, December 1st at 11:00 am CT
Series history: Texas leads 62-46-5 which includes the highest scoring game in series history this season. Texas won that game 48-45 after being up three touchdowns entering the fourth quarter.
Key player for each team: Cornerback Parnell Motley for Oklahoma, Defensive Tackle Charles Omenihu for Texas
Notes: Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger has shown great poise along with good decision making this year, which has made all the difference in the Texas offense. However, the defense has had its issues throughout the season. Certainly, we all know how dynamic Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma offense is. This game figures to be another shootout. The difference is, OU is seeking revenge for their only loss of the season. However, with the nations 111th ranked defense, will they make enough stops to be able to win the game? OU did manage to score two defensive touchdowns against West Virginia, which catapulted them to victory and into the Big 12 title game. They will need a repeat performance in order to win the conference championship.
Prediction: Oklahoma 51-45
UAB (9-3) vs Middle Tennessee (8-4)
Location: Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, TN
Date/Time: Saturday, December 1st at 12:30 pm CT
Series history: MTSU leads the series 4-3, including a win just last week. MTSU has won 3 of the last 4 matchups since 2013.
Key player for each team: Quarterback A.J Erdely for UAB, Quarterback Brent Stockstill for MTSU
Notes: Neither offense is all that particularly impressive, but MTSU was effective last week against UAB in their 27-3 win. UAB boasts the eighth-ranked defense in the country, which seems surprising. MTSU still possesses a top 50 defense. This game will likely come down to who runs the ball more effectively. Quarterback Brent Stockstill from MTSU is one of the most underrated at his position nationally. Former MTSU quarterback A.J Erdely has been steady overall for UAB. Keep in mind, it is hard to beat a team twice in a row. Plus, UAB already knew their spot was secured and likely were much more conservative in last week’s matchup.
Prediction: MTSU 24-17
Buffalo (10-2) vs Northern Illinois (7-5)
Location: Ford Field in Detroit, MI
Date/Time: Friday, November 30th at 6:00 pm CT
Series history: NIU leads the series 11-1 including winning 11 straight. Buffalo won their only game in the series in 1968. Last year, NIU won a defensive struggle, 14-13.
Key player for each team: Linebacker Khalil Hodge for Buffalo, Defensive End Sutton Smith for NIU
Notes: The two best defenses in the MAC square off in this matchup as NIU ranks first in the conference while Buffalo ranks a close second. Buffalo has a clear advantage offensively with weapons like Anthony Johnson at wide receiver and Tyree Jackson at quarterback. NIU has one of the most putrid offenses in the nations coming in ranked 125th overall. Certainly, NIU’s best chance to win this game is by forcing turnovers and limiting Buffalo’s big plays. One thing is certain, this is likely to be a low scoring game.
Prediction: Buffalo 21-10
Fresno State (10-2) vs Boise State (10-2)
Location: Albertsons Stadium in Boise, ID
Date/Time: Saturday, December 1st at 6:45 pm CT
Series history: Boise State leads the series 15-6 including a win earlier this year. Boise defeated Fresno to win the MWC title last season after Fresno won the regular season matchup.
Key player for each team: Linebacker George Helmuth for Fresno State, Running Back Alexander Mattison for Boise State
Notes: Fresno State is loaded with offensive playmakers, however, they rank just 44th in total offense. Certainly, quarterback Marcus McMaryion will need to be efficient and take care of the football against Boise’s strong, opportunistic defense. Brett Rypien is an elite quarterback and paired with running back Alexander Mattison, form a dangerous combination. In fact, Boise ranks 18th in total offense nationally. Fresno State’s defense will give them a chance in this game, however, the Bulldogs will need to kick their offense into high gear, particularly with the running game. Expect another slugfest between the two on the blue turf.
Prediction: Fresno State 23-17
Utah (9-3) vs Washington (9-3)
Location: Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA
Date/Time: Friday, November 30th at 7:00 pm CT
Series history: Washington leads the series 11-1 with Utah’s only win coming in 2015. Washington beat Utah 21-7 earlier this year. The first meeting between the two took place in 1949.
Key player for each team: Linebacker Chase Hansen for Utah, Quarterback Jake Browning for Washington
Notes: Utah lost quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zach Moss to injuries, yet won their last three games of the season anyway to seal the Pac-12 South. Washington seems to have fixed some of their offensive woes with Myles Gaskin back in the flow while quarterback Jake Browning played better down the stretch. Meanwhile, both of these teams are in this game due to their prowess on defense. Washington has the best defense in the Pac-12 with Utah a close second. In fact, both teams rank in the top 15 nationally defensively. Expect these defenses to fly around and make plays while the offenses struggle, which means either team can take this one.
Prediction: Washington 24-14
Alabama (12-0) vs Georgia (11-1)
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA
Date/Time: Saturday, December 1st at 3:00 pm CT
Series history: Alabama leads the series 39-25-4. Alabama has won four in a row including the National Championship Game last season.
Key player for each team: Defensive Tackle Quinnen Williams for Alabama, Wide Receiver Mecole Hardman for Georgia
Notes: Certainly, this should be loads of fun. Georgia will be the first team that Alabama has faced that can actually challenge them on both sides of the ball. Georgia gets the job done in the running game as we know, rushing for nearly 260 yards per game. Additionally, Jake Fromm is very efficient in the passing game, especially with weapons like Mecole Hardman. Georgia needs to throw the ball in the flat, but also attack Alabama deep, which is their weakness that nobody has yet exploited. In addition, Georgia has a nasty defense that can give the Alabama offensive line problems. However, Alabama has the best offense they have had under Nick Saban with an elite receiving corps and this guy named Tua at quarterback. Expect this game to be tighter than what some would think.
Prediction: Alabama 27-23
Appalachian State (9-2) vs Louisiana (7-5)
Location: Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, NC
Date/Time: Saturday, December 1st at 11:00 am CT
Series history: App State leads the series 5-0. They have played each of the last five seasons with App State winning earlier this season.
Key player for each team: Running Back Darrynton Evans for Appalachian State, Running Back Trey Ragas for Louisiana
Notes: Certainly, Appalachian State has overcome the loss of star running back Jalin Moore by rolling through the Sun Belt this year. Both offenses average over 440 yards a game. Surprisingly, App State’s defense is fourth in the entire nation while Louisiana sports a sub-100 defense, which clearly gives the Mountaineers an edge. Louisiana took advantage of a weak division along with a victory over Arkansas State to get here. Hard to imagine App State not finding a way to pull this one out.
Prediction: Appalachian State 38-20
College Football Playoff Final Projection
To finish looking into the conference title games, let’s take a look at what the CFP will look like once the dust clears from the weekend.
1) Alabama vs 4) Oklahoma
2) Clemson vs 3) Notre Dame
5) Ohio State
Now that we are done looking into the conference title games, how will everything play out? We shall find out this weekend.
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