4-Down Territory: Championship Weekend Games & The 120th Anniversary of the First Big Ten Champi
It is Championship weekend and we are full of information as well as a history lesson of the first Big Ten Conference Championship game played 120 years ago....more on that later.
1st Down: The Twelves: Pac-12 #5 Utah vs #12 Oregon: Before the season Utah was a trendy playoff pick until an early-season loss to USC made everyone forget them. All they’ve done since is win eight-straight games with a defense that has yielded less than 10 points per game in that stretch. Oregon will need a great game from QB Justin Herbert and a veteran Oregon offensive line to overcome Utah's defensive front. Watch Utah DE Bradlee Anae who has racked up 8.5 sacks the last five games and has 12.5 for the year. Will the Pac 12 get back in the playoff game if LSU wins and Utah wins? It is an intriguing possibility which brings us to……..The Big 12 #7 Baylor vs #6 Oklahoma: Unlike the Pac-12 match-up this is a rematch. Baylor had the regular season game locked up before a huge Oklahoma comeback. As Baylor’s offense started to struggle their defense was on the field for a huge chunk of the second half. As they started to wear out Oklahoma went into hyper-speed. One wildcard will be the presence of explosive OU WR CeeDee Lamb who did not play against Baylor. Assuming LSU and Utah both win, the Utah vs Big 12 argument will be fun….it’ll be even more fun if Baylor wins.
2nd Down: The ACC: #23 Virginia vs #3 Clemson: Amid all Ohio State and LSU talk Clemson feels like a forgotten defending National Champion with the Nation’s longest win streak. Teams have no control over their conference schedule, but do control their non-conference schedule. To Clemson's credit they scheduled two games against SEC teams Texas A&M and South Carolina.This is a Clemson team with an excellent defense, explosive speed at RB and WR and a QB that makes plays throwing and with his feet. Virginia relied on the running of QB Bryce Perkins early against Virginia Tech which opened up the passing game. He totaled 311 yards passing and 164 yards rushing. On a historical note in 1990 UVA was 0-29 all-time versus Clemson before snapping that losing streak. Since that day Clemson is just 9-8-1 against UVA including the last three. UVA QB Bryce Perkins can give them a chance if he has another monster day. The feeling nationally is that Clemson needs to win to stay in the playoff.
3rd Down: The SEC: #4 Georgia vs #2 LSU: Popular opinion is that LSU is in the playoff win or lose. So would the SEC benefit from an LSU loss? Georgia’s defense may be up to the task of slowing down the LSU offense. Auburn held LSU to just 23 points despite allowing 508 yards. Can Georgia bend but not break as well? The other element to slowing down the LSU offense resides with the Georgia offense. They have been a team that runs the ball and gets clutch passing on third downs and holds the ball. Holding the ball means more sideline/spectator time for LSU QB Joe Burrow. It reduces the total number of possessions for the Tigers. Alabama got back in the game with that formula after falling way behind versus LSU. The key for Georgia will be to start well and not have to play catch-up.
4th Down: The Big Ten: #8 Wisconsin vs #1 Ohio State: If the conferences were stocks the Big Ten might be over-valued. The Big Ten’s marquee non-conference wins have been Iowa over Iowa State, Ohio State over Cincinnati and Michigan over Notre Dame. This is another rematch conference title game. Ohio State won the previous game 38-7. The Buckeye defense smothered Wisconsin keeping them from getting their running game going. But Wisconsin also Badgered Buckeye QB Justin Fields for 5 sacks and held him to just 167 yards passing. And with 12:08 to go in the 3rd quarter Wisconsin scored to make it a 10-7 game before the Buckeye explosion. The key for anyone playing OSU is to weather the streak of momentum that will show up. As with LSU this game appears to be a formality for the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes which are likely etched in stone…or at least very durable wood.
College Football Relic 1: A University of Virginia helmet from the 1991 Tie game played at Clemson, the only tie in the series between these two ACC Rivals.
College Football Relic 2 The First Big Ten Conference Championship Game: A page from Amos Alonzo's Book describing what was essentially the first Big Ten Conference Championship game between Wisconsin and The University of Chicago on December 9, 1899 in Madison, Wisconsin. Chicago took the battle of unbeatens by a 17-0 score.