4 Down Territory: Lots of Intrigue Left on League Championship Weekend
1st Down: First Up: Friday Night: Pac-12 Championship Oregon at #13 USC: The USC Trojans are undefeated and disrespected at #13. This is a talented offensive football team with a quarterback, Kedon Slovis, who has shown that he is a clutch performer. He has led three game-winning drives that scored touchdowns with 0:25, 1:25 and 0:16 left in the game. In a year when there have been few meaningful non-conference games the top-4 conference champions should be headed to the playoff…..Saturday Noon: Big Twelve Championship: #10 Oklahoma vs #6 Iowa State: One of this year's most meaningful non-conference games was in week one when Louisiana beat Iowa State at home 31-14 and it wasn’t even that close. Here we are weeks later and Iowa State at 8-2 is #6 and Louisiana at 9-1 is ranked #19. Iowa State and Oklahoma are both playing well but with two losses each do either of them really merit the playoff?.....Friday Night Undercard: Nebraska at Rutgers: In year one Greg Schiano has Rutgers at 3-5 and just two plays from being 5-3. He certainly has done as good a job as anyone in the Big Ten this year. As for struggling Nebraska, in their 10th year in the Big Ten they’re still looking for their place in this conference. Maybe the Big Ten and Big 12 could make a Nebraska for West Virginia trade. Geographically it makes a hell of a lot more sense.
2nd Down: More Undercard Action: #19 Louisiana at #12 Coastal Carolina: Coastal’s undefeated season and possible New Year’s 6 game hopes are on the line. This is a rematch of a 30-27 Coastal win earlier this year. In that game the teams played as close a game as possible with Coastal kicking the game-winner with :04 on the clock. Coastal gained 414 yards while Louisiana gained 413…….#23 Tulsa at #9 Cincinnati: A win here puts undefeated Cincinnati in a New Year’s Six Bowl game. The playoff committee has shown zero respect for the Bearcats. After moving 2-loss Iowa State ahead of them and keeping 2-loss Florida ahead of them, the Cincinnati playoff hopes are just about gone…..Illinois at Penn State: Illinois wants to run the ball because they are good at it and they are bad throwing it. Penn State’s defense should load up on the run. One thing that is intriguing about Illinois has been their ability to get turnovers as they are +7 in turnover margin. If they continue that trend against Penn State (-9 turnover margin) they can make this one interesting and maybe even pull the upset.....#5 Texas A&M at Tennessee: The Aggies playoff hopes are alive and well. Their defensive line may prove to be too much for the Vols. The Vols snapped a six-game losing streak last week by beating Vanderbilt, but this is a very different opponent this week.
3rd Down: More Title Tilts: Big Ten Championship #14 Northwestern vs #4 Ohio State: Ohio State may be missing some key players due to Covid issues but as long as QB Justin Fields is on the field they should win this one. The Northwestern defense is good but they will have a hard time slowing down the Buckeye offense. With that being the case it is up to their offense to outperform expectations because they will need to score a lot to keep pace.…..SEC Championship #1 Alabama vs #7 Florida: The Gators offense can score. But can they keep up with Alabama and all of their offensive firepower? The LSU Tigers pulled the upset over Florida last week partly because Florida had some Red Zone trouble on offense. This week Florida red zone trips must result in touchdowns for the Gators to beat Alabama. As for the Alabama defense they've made great improvement all year, but this will be their toughest test of the season.
4th Down: The Game of The Week: ACC Championship #3 Clemson vs #2 Notre Dame: This is a rematch…partly. Clemson’s defense is healthier than they’ve been and QB Trevor Lawrence will play in this Tigers/Irish game. These teams boast excellent offenses and defenses. But in the earlier match-up this season both offenses outperformed the defenses. This is a different and better Notre Dame team than any since Brian Kelly got there. QB Ian Book has proven he can make plays running and passing, while the Irish offensive line can control the line. The biggest difference has been Notre Dame’s defense. Last week as UNC piled up 62 points against Top Ten Miami one had to remember that Notre Dame held that same UNC unit to just 17 points. As for Clemson Trevor Lawrence at QB makes a tremendous difference. He is the obvious “X” factor in this rematch. If he can avoid the three costly turnovers that cost Clemson in the last meeting the Tigers could be back in the college football playoff.