Written by LaShawn Encarnacion aka The Dark Knight of Sports
With the regular season officially finished in college football, it is time for the remaining four of the five Power conferences to play their respective championship games. Games that will decide who gets to play in major bowl games, individuals to make one final Heisman case for some and one more chance to add one more victory and clinch your case if your bordering on a college football playoff spot. So lets breakdown what looks to be one very exciting day of college football.
SEC Championship #18 Florida Gators vs #2 Alabama Crimson Tide (Georgia Dome in Atlanta GA at 4 PM EST):
The big bad wolf of college football that is the SEC has what looks to be the most lopsided of the championship game match ups. Most experts are not giving much chance to the Gators of Gainesville. The quarterback tandem of Will Grier and Treon Harris allow the Gators to mix up their offensive game-plan which could pose a problem for Nick Saban and his defensive game planning for this particular game. Gators running back Kelvin Taylor also gives the Gator offense very much-needed balance at the position for rushing for 13 touchdowns to date.
On the other side, its run Derrick Henry run. The Heisman trophy front runner made school history in his final regular season game. Carrying the ball a record 47 times for over 240+ yards rushing, gets one more shot to impress the Heisman committee. But the team is not just about Henry, it also relies on the stability and accuracy of quarterback Jake Coker, who looks to finally have a grasp as the leader of the Crimson Tide offense. While the numbers of Coker may not be lighting up college football like A.J. McCarron, Coker just needs to continue to protect the football and allow the game to come to him.
X-Factor: Field position and Special Teams will be the key for this game. The defenses on BOTH squads are physical, strong and very smash-mouth. This game will come down to who can make big plays on special teams and who can keep the penalties on the low side of the count.
MWC Championship Air Force vs San Diego State (Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA at 7:30 PM EST):
While this game may not have college football playoff implications, it is still apart of the Power Five conference configuration on which the college football playoffs was originally drafted. Air Force with their unique “wishbone offense” style of play finished the MWC first in the Mountain Division with a simple formula, run the ball down their opponents throats. It most certainly shows as their starting quarterback, Karson Roberts, has more interceptions than touchdowns going into this game (10 interceptions to 9 touchdowns thrown).
On the other side, the Aztecs of San Diego State seem to have a more balanced offensive attack. Leaning on the legs of their work horse and potential NFL prospect Donell Pumphrey, who finished the regular season with 1,464 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Quarterback Maxwell Smith also has performed well throwing for 1,529 yards with 13 touchdowns to just two interceptions. The issue with the Aztecs has always been turning the ball over but this season has proven to not be as much of an issue as they finished 9-3 in the MWC Pacific Division with an undefeated 8-0 divisional record.
PAC-12 Championship Game #20 USC Trojans vs #7 Stanford Cardinal (Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, CA 7:45 PM EST):
With the recent news of USC head coach Clay Helton now becoming the permanent coach, the sons of Troy can put all their efforts in the spoiler role to their bitter rival to the north, the Stanford Cardinal. There is much balance with the Trojans running game with three running back have at least five touchdowns recorded this season. Quarterback Cody Kessler , who was once a Heisman favorite, is not an after thought in that discussion but should not be taken lightly tonight in Santa Clara. His 3,127 yards passing with 27 touchdowns to just six interceptions proves that he still can be a viable threat under center.
On the other side, its one particular player’s time to make his Heisman candidacy push. Running back Christian McCaffrey may not have the stats compete with Derrick Henry but this game could very well be a statement game if his performance is memorable, that “Heisman Moment” type of night. McCaffrey has 1,640 yards rushing with seven touchdown but he also has thrown a touchdown pass this season. IF McCaffrey is to leap frog Henry for the Heisman, Coach Shaw is going to have to consider that special aspect and put into the game plan against the Trojans tonight.
X-Factor: Defense is the key for these two teams. At times their defenses can stifle ANY opponent. Then they have games where defense could be considered “Optional” and its a scoring frenzy.
BIG Ten Championship #5 Michigan State Spartans vs #4 Iowa Hawkeyes (Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN 8:00 PM EST):
The match-up that is being dubbed the “Win and you’re IN” game is the other match up that is expected to be hard hitting and intense. Most did not think the Iowa Hawkeyes would make it this far, expecting a collapse of the #4 ranked team in the nation for that has been its troubled past.
The balanced rushing attack of Iowa has given new life to the program. Running backs Jordan Canzeri and LeSean Daniels Jr. have combined for 20 touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback C.J. Beathard has played within his skill-set to limit his mistakes. Throwing for 2,354 yards with 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Its all apart of the overall game-plan for the Hawkeye team and that is why they are undefeated to this point.
Speaking of undefeated, if not for one bad call for the Spartans of Michigan State, this BIG Ten championship match-up would be a battle of undefeated BIG Ten teams. The tandem backfield of LJ Scott and Gerald Holmes to combine for 18 touchdowns on the ground. This balance allows quarterback Connor Shaw to continue to excel within the offense of the Michigan State Spartans. Shaw’s efficiency is uncanny, throwing for 2,730 yard with 24 touchdowns to just four interceptions. May not be Heisman numbers but definitely are being considered top five NFL quarterback prospect numbers and tonight is a big stage to make a big NFL statement as the eyes of the scouts will be on Lucas Oil Field.
X-Factor: Turnover margin is going to be the key. Both teams are at the top of the BIG Ten in this stat. Also Beathard moving the ball on key downs is crucial. IF Sparty can hold him to three-and-outs often, it will be a long night for the Hawkeyes offense.
ACC Championship Game #10 North Carolina vs #1 Clemson (Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, NC 8:00 PM EST):
The battle of two Heisman hopefuls end Championship Saturday as Sophomore DeShaun Watson takes on fellow Heisman candidate, Tarheel Senior Marquise Williams.
The North Carolina Tarheels have made their case a strong one, not just relying on their Heisman candidate, but lead the ACC in team defense as well, allowing an average of 23 points per game. Granted the performance of Williams does put the Tarheels in a great position, they will need to find other ways to score as their opponents run a very similar style and there for can defend.
Speaking of similar offenses, just take a look at the other side of the ball. Its like you are looking into a mirror with the concept. Watson has thrown for more touchdowns, he also has more interceptions than Williams.
X-Factor: Running Backs and turnovers are the two primary keys to this game. Field position and special teams is the secondary underline factor. The Tarheels have the advantage as their running back, Elijah Hood has scored 16 touchdowns to Williams 10 touchdowns. Watson equals his touchdown count at nine to his running back teammate Wayne Gallman.
By the end of tonight, there can be two outcomes. Complete solution to the College Football Playoffs OR there is chance for complete and total chaos if two games end in the opposite directions most are projecting them to go. The one DEFINITE thing is that regardless of what happens, the Oklahoma Sooners, who are the Big XII champions, are not being left out this year. They are IN officially … no question about that one.
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