• Travis Tyler

College Football Week 16: Conference Championship week

Conference USA

UAB (5-3) vs Marshall (7-1)

Details: Friday December 18, 7 PM ET

TV: CBS Sports Network


Last time Marshall took the field, it lost for the first time this season. The Thundering Herd didn't manage a single score against Rice after scoring at least 35 points in five games this year. They have a great offense, led by freshman QB Grant Wells and junior RB Brenden Knox. UAB hung around a good Miami team earlier this season and held that lethal offense to 31 points. It was one of just four games in which the Blazers gave up more than 20 points. In college football, that's outstanding. While there are inconsistencies in the Blazers' offense, a defense like that gives UAB a chance.


Mid-American Conference (MAC)

Ball State (5-1) vs Buffalo (5-0)

Details: Friday December 18, 7:30 PM ET

TV: ESPN


Ball State won a wild game over Western Michigan to get in this game. Quarterback Drew Plitt leads the offense and is 3rd in the conference in passing. Buffalo will be a tough task for the Cardinals. The Bulls have the nation's eighth-leading rusher in Jarret Patterson on offense-- who had a 409 yard , 8 TD performance earlier this season-- and the MAC's top defensive unit. Ball State will need to try to make QB Kyle Vantrease beat them with his arm, while Buffalo will need to great against the pass.


PAC-12

Oregon (3-2) vs No. 13 USC (5-0)

Details: Friday December 18, 8 PM ET

TV: FOX


Oregon is now playing for the PAC-12 Championship because division champ Washington is dealing with some COVID issues. The Ducks were the preseason favorite in the North division, but suffered back-to-back losses to end the regular season. Last week's game against Washington was cancelled, giving the Huskies the division title by winning percentage. USC had many question marks heading into the season. The Trojans were the only PAC-12 South team ranked in the initial AP rankings. Three of their five wins have come by five points or less against teams that had bad seasons. They needed comebacks in several games, and Oregon's explosive ability on offense can make this a difficult matchup.


Big Ten

No. 14 Northwestern (6-1) vs No. 4 Ohio State (5-0)

Details: Saturday December 19, 12 PM ET

TV: FOX


After an alteration to the Big Ten's rules for this unprecedented season, Ohio State has been cleared to play in the Big Ten Championship. The Buckeyes went 5-0 and won the Big Ten East over Indiana, giving them a chance to make the playoff field and win fourth straight (and fifth overall) Big Ten Championship. Northwestern has won the Big Ten West for the second time in the past three seasons. The Wildcats have been one of the pleasant surprises this season after finishing 2019 with a 3-9 record. Northwestern has gotten exemplary play from its defense this year and found some stability at quarterback from grad transfer Peyton Ramsey. We'll see if that defense can hang with the elite Buckeye offense.


Big 12

No. 10 Oklahoma (7-2) vs No. 6 Iowa State (8-2)

Details: Saturday December 19, 12 PM ET

TV: ABC


The Cyclones and Sooners met up in Ames back in October. Iowa State pulled off the then-upset 37-30, thanks to a 24-point second half. Both teams have had to "right the ship" so to speak this season and have rebounded nicely. Now, a playoff spot MAY be on the line-- depending on what the top five teams do this weekend. I'd expect this game to be very similar to their first meeting, and Oklahoma to be more ready for the second half.


Sun Belt

No. 19 Louisiana (9-1) vs No. 12 Coastal Carolina (11-0)

Details: Saturday December 19, 3:30 PM ET

TV: ESPN

Update: This game has been cancelled.


ACC

No. 2 Notre Dame (10-0) vs No. 3 Clemson (9-1)

Details: Saturday December 19, 4 PM ET

TV: ABC


The first time these teams met provided a thrilling double overtime finish. Clemson was missing several players, including star QB Trevor Lawrence, and will be looking to show it is the better team. Notre Dame will be trying to finish the season undefeated and win its first conference championship (The Irish usually play as an independent). The winner will cement a spot in the College Football Playoff, while the lose will have to await the committee's decision on Sunday.


Mountain West

Boise State (5-1) vs No. 24 San Jose State (6-0)

Details: Saturday December 19, 4:15 PM ET

TV: FOX

San Jose State is another surprise this season. After years near the bottom of the conference, the Spartans are undefeated and made their College Football Playoff Committee ranking debut at No. 24. Boise State's only loss was to No. 17 BYU on November 6. The Broncos have dominated most of their other games and are the favorite to win this one. A key matchup in this one is the Spartans' defense against the Broncos' offense. Both teams average over 30 points per game, but SJSU only gives up 17.5 per game. Boise showed some struggles when playing against some good defenses this year and will have to execute offensively.


SEC

No.1 Alabama (10-0) vs No. 7 Florida (8-2)

Details: Saturday December 19, 8 PM ET

TV: CBS


There were times I thought Florida's offense could make this a game, but that's no longer the case. Since a close win in which the defense did not play well against Ole Miss, Alabama has been on fire. The Crimson Tide is one of the most complete teams in the nation and excels at playing complementary football. Florida's offense has had one hell of a season, but its defense ruins the Gators' chances. In their two losses this year, the Florida defense has failed to get key stops late in the game. If this game ends up being close, Florida will have a hard time getting those key stops with all the firepower Alabama has on defense.


American

No. 23 Tulsa (6-1) vs No. 9 Cincinnati (8-0)

Details: Saturday December 19, 8 PM ET

TV: ABC


Cincinnati has been a popular pick to crash the College Football Playoff this season, but its current ranking makes that unlikely. Still, the Bearcats can finish off their season with a conference title, an undefeated record, and a possible New Year's Six bowl game. Tulsa has had a great season as well--only losing at No. 22 Oklahoma State in the season opener. The Golden Hurricane program has fought hard in many games and deserves a ton of credit for getting to this point. The Cincinnati defense can be tough to score on, so Tulsa will have to get creative, take care of the ball, and take advantage of its opportunities.


Bonus game

No. 5 Texas A&M @ Tennessee

Tennessee will finish the season with a losing record even if the Vols can pull of the upset in this game. This matchup is all about Texas A&M's playoff hopes. The Aggies are currently the highest ranked non-playoff team and are in a prime position to steal a spot if one of the top 4 teams should fall out. If Texas A&M loses this game, it opens up opportunities for other teams.

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