NCAA Conference Championships Define Playoff Picture
The NCAA regular football season is at end. The only thing standing in the way of the top teams from the CFP are the conference championship games. Each of the 4 major conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12) have significant playoff implications. The conference championships are considered must-win games for these teams.
The ACC Championship features #1 Clemson v. #7 Miami. The defending champions are looking for the opportunity to win back-to-back titles, while Miami is attempting to capitalize on its best season since 2003. They also have not won an ACC title since that same year. Miami was undefeated and in the CFP heading into rivalry weekend, but they choked against unranked Pittsburgh and dropped 5 spots in the rankings. A win against Clemson would certainly put them back into the Playoff conversation. If Clemson lost, they may still be in the top 4, but that remains to be seen.
Miami has to bounce back off a humbling loss, while Clemson only needs to maintain their dominance. UM QB Malik Rosier has been playing well throughout the season, save for the loss to Pittsburgh. If he can find his vintage form, the Canes may have a chance. For the Tigers, it all comes down to cancelling out Miami’s run game. Luckily for them, DL Christian Wilkins is pretty good at doing just that. Clemson is favored to win this matchup and if they win, they’ll win their third consecutive ACC title and ride into the postseason at #1.
The SEC Championship sees #2 Auburn v. #6 Georgia. This is a rematch of an earlier regular season game where Auburn knocked Georgia out of their #1 spot. Auburn got back into Playoff contention by taking down another #1 team in Alabama. The Bulldogs have lost 2 SEC title games in the past; they haven’t won since 2005. Georgia can certainly get back into the CFP conversation with a win over the Tigers. Meanwhile, an Auburn victory would cement their spot in the top 4 and a shot at the National Championship.
Georgia QB Jake Fromm must lead his team to victory, which shouldn’t be hard as he’ll be looking to make up for his poor performance against the Tigers where he completed 46% of his passes and was sacked 4 times. Auburn’s strength is in their RB Kerryon Johnson. While Johnson is nursing a shoulder injury, most expect him on the field for the biggest game of his life. He leads the SEC in rushing yards. Auburn is projected to win this game, but it will likely be closer than their previous 40-17 blowout against the Bulldogs.
The Big Ten Championship is an interesting matchup between #4 Wisconsin and #8 Ohio State. The Buckeyes are always that team that everyone expects to be in the Playoffs but fall short, which has been frustrating for coach Urban Meyer and QB J.T. Barrett. Ohio State should be out of contention, but thanks to Alabama’s loss they could sneak back in with a win over Wisconsin. It would also be their first conference title since 2014. For the Badgers, many believe while undefeated, they didn’t have the best schedule in terms of justifying a playoff spot. Beating Ohio State would silence the doubters and guarantee them a shot.
J.T. Barrett is the ultimate weapon for Ohio State. He wants to end his run at Ohio State with a championship. Unfortunately, he aggravated a knee injury in last week’s game against Michigan. Whether this affects his play against the Badgers remains to be seen. Wisconsin is the only undefeated team left, so they must be doing something right. RB Jonathan Taylor is a threat, and a strong performance from him would free up QB Alex Hornibrook to make more plays. The Buckeyes are favored to win, but an injured J.T. Barret would change everything.
The last major game is the Big 12 Championship with #3 Oklahoma v. #11 TCU. While TCU is a phenomenal team, they seem to always miss the Playoffs. Unfortunately, at #11, they may be too far back to reach CFP selection with a win over the Sooners, but a Big 12 Championship would be a step in the right direction. The Sooners will be playing for their third straight Big 12 title. A victory would lock in their spot at the Playoffs and likely seal the Heisman for QB Baker Mayfield.
This game will likely be an offensive showcase, with 2 of the best offenses in the country. TCU QB Kenny Hill will have to keep up with Mayfield if his team stands a chance. The Horned Frogs lost to Oklahoma earlier this season, so it is time for redemption. The Sooners have QB Baker Mayfield, arguably the best player in the league right now. Mayfield has been lighting up defenses all season long and will look to continue doing so in this game. Oklahoma is favored to win and TCU has their backs against the wall with this one.
If you are looking to place a bet on any of these games, you can find legal betting options through licensed offshore sportsbooks that provide betting lines for the NCAAF Playoffs. These sites feature odds, spreads and analysis into all of the big games this weekend. Lock your bets in now before it’s too late.