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Draft prospects to watch for 2017 conference championship games

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We highlight and profile the conference championship games as well as 2018 NFL draft-eligible prospects.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Conference championship week in College Football! With some of the best teams and players in action this weekend we are guaranteed to have a thrills, unexpected momentum shifts, and some classic college football chaos. As the College Football Playoff committee looks to set their four team bracket, let’s take a closer look at the teams in action, and the top five players to keep a close eye on this championship Saturday.

The San Francisco 49ers currently hold the number two overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. After acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots in exchange for a second round pick, chances are likely that the 49ers will not be selecting a quarterback. Of course, anything and everything is possible! For now, my prediction is that the team will look to trade down from the pick and look to acquire more draft capital as general Manager John Lynch, his front office, and Kyle Shanahan continue to rebuild the roster.

TV Schedule

AAC Championship Game
No. 20 Memphis vs. No. 14 UCF
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Location: Spectrum Stadium - Orlando, FL
Where To Watch: ABC
Notes: Winner most likely receives invite to New Year’s Six Bowl.

Big 12 Championship Game
No. 11 TCU vs. No. 3 Oklahoma
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Location: AT&T Stadium - Dallas, Texas
Where To Watch: Fox
Notes: Oklahoma wins and they are in the College Football Playoff. TCU wins and Chaos!

SEC Championship Game
No. 6 Georgia vs No. 2 Auburn
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Location: Mercedes Benz Stadium - Atlanta, Georgia
Where To Watch: CBS
Notes: Win-And-You’re In applies to both teams. This is a play-in game!

ACC Championship Game
No. 7 Miami vs. No. 1 Clemson
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Location: Bank of America Stadium - Charlotte, North Carolina
Notes: Win-And-You’re In applies to both teams. This is a play-in game!

BIG 10 Championship Game
No. 8 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Wisconsin
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium - Indianapolis, Indiana
Notes: Wisconsin wins and they are in. Ohio State wins and chaos!

Mountain West Championship Game
No. 25 Fresno State vs. Boise State
Time: 4:45 p.m.
Location: Albertsons Stadium - Boise, Idaho
Notes: A win by either team can mean a finish in the final Top 25 rankings for 2017.

MAC Championship Game
Toledo vs. Akron
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Location: Ford Field - Detroit, Michigan
Notes: Both teams seeking conference bragging rights.

Conference USA Championship Game
North Texas vs. Florida Atlantic
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Location: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida.
Notes: Lane Kiffin has the opportunity to end his first season at FAU on a high note.

Top 5 Players To Watch

Note: I decided to focus on positions of need for the 49ers when compiling this list.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Denzel Ward - CB - Ohio State
5’10” - 191 lbs.

The 49ers desperately need to upgrade their secondary, especially at cornerback. Keep a close eye on Ward tomorrow against the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers. While he might not be the best corner in the nation, he is the best one suiting up on Saturday. His blend of speed, ball skills, and ability to knock a receiver off his routes make him one of the most intriguing draft eligible corners.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Billy Price - Guard/Center - Ohio State
6’4” - 315 lbs.

In order to protect Jimmy G the 49ers must commit to improving their offensive line. Billy Price’s arrow continues to point up, and thanks to his ability to line up in the guard position and at center only increases his value. While Price may not be a first round pick, expect him to go no later than round 3. The 49ers would benefit greatly from selecting an offensive lineman within the first few rounds of the draft.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Chubb - Running Back - Georgia
5’10” - 220 lbs.

For now, Carlos Hyde’s future in red and gold remains a mystery. If Hyde does move on in free agency, the 49ers will most likely be addressing the running back position via the draft. While most mocks currently have the 49ers selecting Saquon Barkley in the first round, it would not be at all surprising for the team to pass or trade down down. If that is the case then perhaps Nick Chubb can be an option. Since a devastating knee injury in 2015, Chubb seems to finally be returning to elite status. Definitely keep a close eye on the physical, fast runner against Auburn. In addition, keep a close eye on another Bulldog running back, Sony Michel.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clelin Ferrell - DE - Clemson
6’5” - 265 lbs.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Bryant - DE - Clemson
6’4” - 265 lbs.

Be sure to check out both Ferrell and Bryant in the ACC title game against Miami. The 49ers lack a true pass rusher and perhaps Clemson can offer two different options at the position. While Bryant’s stat sheet is more significant than Ferrell’s, it is Ferrell who is creating multiple opportunities for other defenders along the line of scrimmage. Both players at them moment have the opportunity to be first round selections.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Wisconsin Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Fumagalli - TE - Wisconsin
6’5” - 234 pounds

Like with other portions, tight end seems to be a mystery at the moment for the 49ers. Perhaps George Kittle is the answer. However, if he is not, there will be some options coming up in the draft. I don’t see the 49ers selecting a tight end with their first round selection. However, drafting Two Fumagalli in the third round might be intriguing. For the season he has 38 catches for 471 yards, and 4 touchdowns. He can block efficiently, and has the capabilities of being a three down tight end at the next level.

Again, this top five is based on 49ers team needs, and only involves prospects who are in action on this championship Saturday.

Who are YOU excited to see in action during this championship Saturday? Please share in the comments below!