It’s Conference Championship Weekend!

, , , , , ,

Let’s see if I can go 5-for-5 with this year’s predictions.

At least one Power Five conference champ always gets left out of the equation–there are only four playoff spots. That means there’s no margin for error in this weekend’s conference championship games.

ACC: Miami vs. Clemson

Clemson has reigned supreme in the ACC over the past couple of years. The Tigers are seeking their third straight conference championship. The one-loss Tigers is also looking to defend a national championship. To do that Clemson can’t afford to suffer a loss in Charlotte.

Courtesy: DWRI Sports

But Coach Mark Richt and Miami (FL) might have other ideas for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers. The Hurricanes saw their hopes of a perfect season thwarted after a 24-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Friday, but they can still make the College Football Playoff with a win in Charlotte.

In order for Clemson to win, the Tigers can’t let the Hurricanes win the turnover battle. Miami enters the game as the nation’s leader in turnover margin. The ‘Canes have forced 29 turnovers while committing just 12 this season.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes will need to make big plays on both sides of the ball. Clemson is definitely the better-rounded team of the two, but Miami can win the ACC and punch its ticket to the Playoff if it forces turnovers on defense and goes deep early and often against the Tigers’ secondary.

Prediction: As long as QB Kelly Bryant is smart and maintains possession of the pigskin, the hardware will remain in South Carolina. Clemson 38, Miami (FL) 28.

Big Ten: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin

Alabama’s loss to Auburn on Saturday may have been the worst possible thing for Coach Urban Meyer and his 10-2 Buckeyes. Well, that and getting run over by the Iowa Hawkeyes, 55-24, in Iowa City. So a Big Ten title may not be enough to send OSU to the CFP.

Courtesy: Ohio State Alumni Sports Travel

The story is quite different for Wisconsin, though. The undefeated Badgers control their own destiny. The Badgers rank first in the nation in total defense, yielding an astonishing average of just 237 yards per game. Unfortunately, the UW offense is not quite on the same level as OSU. The Badgers still score a lot (34.8 a game), but they score about nine points per game less than the Buckeyes.

Ohio State is led by standout quarterback J.T. Barrett, who has completed 217-of-328 passes for 2,728 yards and 33 touchdowns. He has rushed for an additional 672 yards and nine scores.

Prediction: As much as I want Wisconsin’s remarkable run to continue, I have to go with the more talented team…and that’s OSU. Ohio State 27, Wisconsin 21.

Big 12: TCU vs. Oklahoma

If Oklahoma were playing any team other than TCU, the first Big 12 title game since 2010 would be a good old-fashioned Wild West shootout. But the Sooners are meeting an adversary capable of keeping them in check.

OU’s Mayfield to Anderson (photo, Sporting News)

TCU fell to Oklahoma in Norman, 38-20, on Nov. 11, but that’s the most points TCU has given up all season long. The Big 12’s best defense allows just 15.7 points per game.

Still, though, the Horned Frogs will have to contain senior quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Heisman frontrunner is the piston that drives the nation’s best offense. This season he has completed 247-of-326 passes for 4,097 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Prediction: TCU will slow down Mayfield and OU in the first half, but the Sooners will ultimately prevail. Oklahoma 41, TCU 28.

Pac-12: Stanford vs. USC

Southern California running back Ronald Jones II, top center, jumps over Stanford cornerback Alameen Murphy for a touchdown during the second half on Sept. 9, 2017 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

No College Football Playoff slot is on the line when 11th-ranked USC and 21st-ranked Stanford meet in Santa Clara on Friday night. But plenty of animosity will be on display as in-state rivals meet for the second time this year. The Trojans won the first encounter, 42-24.

An interesting sidelight going into the game will be “the Notre Dame factor.” The Cardinal cruised to a 38-20 home victory over the Fighting Irish, while the Trojans were dismantled, 49-14, in South Bend.

The Trojans enter the game with a prolific passing attack led by Sam Darnold. The sophomore quarterback has completed 260-of-411 passes for 3,462 yards and 24 touchdowns. Junior RB back Ronald Jones II (1,346 yards; 16 touchdowns) is another major part of the USC offensive arsenal.

The Cardinal are led by sensational running back Bryce Love. The junior Heisman candidate has accumulated 1,848 yards and 16 touchdowns on 215 attempts.

Prediction: Love will have a record-breaking game as the Cardinal get revenge. Stanford 28, USC 24.

SEC: Auburn vs. Georgia

Earlier this year the talk was that Gus Malzahn would be getting the boot. Those days are gone! The Tigers dominated archrival Alabama last Saturday and are in the SEC title game this weekend.

Courtesy: Saturday Down South

The Tigers will face a familiar foe, the Georgia Bulldogs. Coach Kirby Smart and the Dawgs will be chomping at the bit to win and–in the process–get back at the War Eagles for destroying them 40-17 a couple weeks ago. UGA was ranked #1 at the time.

The key for Auburn is playing remarkable defense. The last time they played UGA, AU held standout running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to a combined 48 yards. On the other side of the ball, the Tigers will need a great game from Kerryon Johnson, who rushed for 167 yards in the teams’ first meeting.

To win, Georgia must win the battle of the trenches, a requirement to clear the way for the north-south running of Michel and Chubb. The Dawgs won’t be able to exploit the perimeter against a fast and agile Tiger defense. A couple of well-timed play-action passes from freshman quarterback Jake Fromm is also essential for Georgia to keep Auburn guessing.

PREDICTION: The Tigers will top the Bulldogs to become the first two-loss team to make the Playoff. Auburn 24, Georgia 20.


REACH Cameron Brown at


About Cameron Brown

Cameron Brown is sports columnist with The Journal-Enterprise, Providence, Kentucky and winner of the Kentucky Press Association “Best Sports Column of the Year” award. Cameron has a passion for basketball–like so many others in his home state of Kentucky. He played basketball for his high school in rural western Kentucky and enjoys other sports, including college football and Major League Baseball. His dream is to have a job in sports.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *