It's finally here. The most exciting time in college football. Conference Championship week. Teams will have their last opportunity to impress the college football playoff committee and prove they're worthy of being one of the four teams. With three spots likely already secured, that means there will be a dog fight for the final spot. Will Georgia beat LSU at the Georgia Dome and put themselves in prime position for the last spot? Or will a team like Utah or Oklahoma, both who had a tough regular-season loss to unranked teams, do enough to secure one of the four spots. It will surely be a fun weekend, so let's go ahead and preview it and make some picks.
PAC 12 Championship: Oregon vs. Utah
Oregon had a disappointing start to the season, losing a game they should've won against a quality team in Auburn. Then they got extremely hot, rattling off nine straight wins and looking like a legitimate CFP contender. Then Arizona State happened. The Ducks went into Tuscon and simply got outplayed by Herm Edwards and his young freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels. That ruined any possible chance at making the playoff. Oregon will be looking to play spoiler against the Utes, and knock them out of playoff contention.
I'm going to take a paragraph to talk about how much I dislike Justin Herbert. He's terrible. I'm sorry, I had to say it. Shout out to my boy Kyle Zyck for the Blaine Gabbert comp. That's who he is. Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert put up great numbers in college. Sucked in the NFL. Justin Herbert put up pretty good numbers in college. Probably will suck in the NFL. If you need a quarterback, please do not take this guy. I'm warning you.
Alright, Ice let's get back on track here.
Utah was a popular pick by many to reach the college football playoff. They have a lot of good qualities that you usually see out of a championship-caliber team. Great defense, which happened to be third in scoring defense just behind Clemson and Georgia. They also run the shit out of the ball, led by talented senior running back Zack Moss. Utah's only blemish this year was a seven-point loss at USC, where Moss was missing.
The key for Utah is quarterback Tyler Huntley. He was extremely efficient this year and needs to do the same if Utah hopes to win against Oregon and potentially play in the playoff. If he can make just a few quality throws a game, while being able to limit his turnovers, this makes Utah extremely dangerous and a team that can give a major challenge to one of the blue blood programs.
I don't think Oregon is motivated for this game at all. They're not really playing for anything, which honestly could play in their favor, but ultimately, I think Utah's stifling defense, along with their strong ground game will end up being the difference in a low-scoring battle. Utah Wins and covers. Hammer the under.
Prediction: Utah 23 Oregon 14
BIG 12 Championship: Baylor vs. Oklahoma
Baylor came out of nowhere this year and was one good half of football away from going 12-0. Instead, they went 11-1 and are looking to get revenge on the only team that beat them this year. Baylor's strong on both sides of the ball. On offense, they're led by Charlie Brewer at quarterback, who's likely to go on day two or three of the NFL draft. He's an accurate passer and also has the ability to use his legs. They should be able to put up points fairly easily against an Oklahoma defense that has struggled all year.
The key for Baylor though is their defense. They have quality at all three levels. First, the pass rush, led by James Lynch, who led the Big 12 in sacks this year with 10.5. In the middle, Terrell Bernard led the team in tackles with 95 and provides a solid force in the middle. In the secondary, Grayland Arnold was aggressive and opportunistic which led him to snatch six interceptions. These guys are going to have to play their best games of the season to have a chance of winning.
Oklahoma gonna Oklahoma. We know what they do. Their offense is unreal. Heisman candidate and future Chicago Bears quarterback Jalen Hurts played fantastic under offensive genius Lincoln Riley, accumulating a total of 50 touchdowns. He also has the luxury of having Cee Dee Lamb, one of the best receivers in college football. This offense is going to put up points, there's no doubt, they just need a little help on defense.
This brings me to the key to the game. Defense defense defense. To be fair, Oklahoma's defense has looked better recently, holding an explosive Oklahoma State team to under 20 points. Kenneth Murray, a likely day one or day two pick, is going to have to carry the defense from his linebacker position. Expect him to be all over the field, making a big impact.
Oklahoma and Baylor played a thriller in their regular-season matchup. Baylor went up 28-3, but Oklahoma stormed all the way back and eventually won the game. They didn't have Cee Dee Lamb in that game. They have him in this contest though and I think he shows out and goes for over 150 yards and two touchdowns. I have Oklahoma winning this one pretty handily.
Prediction: Oklahoma 37 Baylor 21