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College football open thread: Previewing all of today’s big championship games

Today we take a closer look at all the conference championship games. We also have player spotlights on 2020 NFL draft-eligible prospects, score predictions for each game, your latest Heisman watch, and the final CFB Playoff Projections.

Texas A&M v LSU Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images


Greetings Faithful! Welcome to Conference Championship Weekend! Today we have an exciting lineup of games that will feature many 2020 NFL Draft prospects. Also, each of these games will have major College Football Playoff implications. At the moment, the top four consists of #1 Ohio State, #2 LSU, #3 Clemson, and #4 Georgia. It’s simple for these four teams…win, and you are in. However, if college football has taught us anything, it’s that chaos has a way of turning the college football universe upside down. Speaking of upsets and broken dreams, the PAC 12 Championship Game was played and won by the Oregon Ducks, defeating the Utah Utes 35-17. This ends Utah’s and the PAC 12’s hopes of participating in the College Football Playoff.

The San Francisco 49ers will enter week 14 with a 10-2 record. The team continues their road trip out east visiting the New Orleans Saints. The Niners currently sit in the fifth spot of the NFC Playoff Picture, and the showdown with the Saints could determine which team has a potential first-round bye.

For today, we will preview each of the conference games and feature a prospect who is expected to be in action. With few opportunities remaining, the prospects of the 2020 NFL Draft will look to showcase their talents to scouts and evaluators in bowl game and championship atmospheres. Let’s see who is going to impress when the lights are brightest.

Sun Belt Championship Game

Louisiana-Lafayette (10-2) vs #21 Appalachian State (11-1)

9:00 a.m. (PT) - ESPN

Appalachian State v South Carolina Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

A rematch of last year’s title game. I expect this game to be closer than people think. The pressure is on Appalachian State with a possible trip to a New Year’s 6 Bowl at stake. If Appalachian State can contain the Cajuns run game and take care of the football they should be able to edge past their conference rivals.

Score Prediction: Appalachian State 27, Louisiana-Lafayette 24

Player Spotlight:

Ja’Marcus Bradley, WR, No. 2 – Louisiana-Lafayette
Height: 6’1” – 195lbs.
2019 Stats: 48 Receptions, 760 yards receving, 15.8 AVG, 7 Touchdowns

Ja’Marcus Bradley has good speed and is a fluid runner who has demonstrated his ability to catch the football at all three levels on the field. It can be dangerous in the open field and gain yards after the reception. Bradley is still developing his route tree and has plenty of room for growth at the next level. He is looking like a late day three prospect and perhaps a player that a team drafts for depth purposes with the hopes that he can earn his way onto a 53-man roster. The athleticism is there, and now he needs to put it all together at the pro level.

BIG 12 Championship Game

#7 Baylor (11-1) vs #6 Oklahoma (11-1)
9:00 a.m. (PT) – ABC

TCU v Oklahoma Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Well, well, well, this game all of a sudden, is a pretty big deal. With Utah losing last night, and a possible Georgia loss later, this is looking like a play-in game for the College Football Playoff fourth spot. Oklahoma needed a historic comeback to defeat Baylor a few weeks back on the road in Waco, Texas. Baylor is going to have revenge on their minds. Baylor gave Oklahoma everything they could handle, and an upset wouldn’t shock me here. However, I believe Oklahoma has the better athletes, and if Jalen Hurts can protect the football, then Oklahoma should prevail and take the crown and most likely the final spot in the college football playoff.

Score Prediction: Oklahoma 34, Baylor 24

Player Spotlight:

Kenneth Murray, LB, No. 9 – Oklahoma
Height: 6’2” – Weight: 243 lbs. – Projected 40: 4.65
2019 Facts: 85 Tackles, 3 Sacks, 3 Passes Deflected.

Kenneth Murray is a physical freak, which utilizes proficient sideline-to-sideline speed to make a strong presence on the field. He has natural football instincts and a knack for putting himself in a position where the play is occurring. On tape, Murray is flying all over the field. His horizontal speed is what will have the attention of scouts and evaluators, and what should help with the transition to the pro level. At times Murray can get overly-aggressive, which can place him out of position. Murray has demonstrated his ability to defend against the run and the pass. He is a clean tackler in the open field, often finishing quickly and not allowing the ball carrier to gain additional yards. In a notoriously poor defense, Murray is one of the few shining lights. Murray has played his way into the first round.

AAC Championship Game

#20 Cincinnati (10-2) vs #17 Memphis (11-1)
12:30 p.m. (PT) – ABC

Cincinnati v Memphis Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images

This is a rematch of last week’s showdown between these conference rivals, and I expect much to be the same. Memphis will be hosting this game, and while both teams should score aplenty, Memphis has the more complete roster, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Much like they did last week, I expect the Tigers to simply outrun and outscore the Bearcats.

Score Prediction: Memphis 42, Cincinnati 28

Player Spotlight:

Josiah Deguara, TE, No. 83- Cincinnati
Height: 6’3” – Weight: 240 lbs.
2019 Stats: 30 Receptions, 424 Yards, 7 Touchdowns.

The senior out of Cincinnati had another productive season for the Bearcats. While he is a bit undersized for the next level, he made his major contributions as a receiver. He was particular efficient in the red-zone and made his presence known there. It will be interesting to see how teams scout and evaluate him. He may be able to transition to that H-Back position to find further success at the pro level. Deguara is a day three pick at the moment.

SEC Championship Game

#2 LSU (12-0) vs #4 Georgia (11-1)
1:00 p.m. (PT) – CBS

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Texas A&M at LSU Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

High-Powered Offense vs Elite Defense. Something has to give. Can Jake Fromm make some critical throws and keep Georgia in the game? Can the Georgia defense get enough stops against the best quarterback and probable Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow? If Georgia can check off those two boxes this game could tip in the Bulldogs favor. I believe we see more scoring than we think. However, LSU should score enough to pull away from Georgia in the later stages of the game.

Score Prediction: LSU 30, Georgia 24

Player Spotlight:

Grant Delpit – S - #9 – Junior - LSU
Height: 6’3” – Weight 208 lbs.
2019 Stats: 53 tackles, 2 Interceptions.

The tall, lengthy, and physical safety fits the mold in what the 49ers seek in their secondary. Delpit has a superb football IQ and excellent instincts and anticipation for where the play is going to occur. For his size, Delpit has excellent straight-line speed and can track down and keep up with the speediest receivers at all three levels on the field. He will run fluidity through his hips, with natural strides. He is not afraid to fight for contested jump balls with receivers in one to one opportunity: his combination and blend of size and speed top off his elite playmaking abilities.

ACC Championship Game

#23 Virginia (9-3) vs #3 Clemson (12-0)
4:30 p.m. (PT) – ABC

Clemson v South Carolina Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Virginia has come a long way, and head coach Bronco Mendenhall should be applauded for the program that he is building in Blacksburg. However, this seems to be a mismatch across the board. What we have learned about Clemson these last few years is that by November they enter championship phase football, and by December they are playing at a championship caliber. Clemson should play a complete game on both sides of the ball and claim their fifth consecutive ACC Championship, and 28th consecutive victory. Fun Fact: Clemson hasn’t lost a game since January, 2018 (23 Months and Counting!).

Score Prediction: Clemson 42, Virginia 14

Player Spotlight:

Travis Etienne, RB, #9, - Clemson
Height: 5’10” - Weight: 200 lbs.
2019 Stats: 1,386 rushing yards, 8.3 AVG, 16 Touchdowns, 289 receiving yards, 28 receptions, 2 Touchdowns.

Travis Etienne is an explosive, versatile, and elusive tailback in the Clemson rushing attack. Etienne’s ability to break and evade tackles and continue to gain yards after initial contact has been consistent with Etienne throughout much of his college career. Etienne has incredible leg drive and forward motion. He can drive the ball beyond the edge and find holes along the offensive line. Something Etienne will look to improve upon this season is his ability as a receiver. He has improved as a receiver and has shown to be a dual-threat weapon on the field. He well may be a first-round lock in 2020.

BIG 10 Championship Game

#8 Wisconsin (10-2) vs #1 Ohio State (12-0)
5:00 p.m. – FOX

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

This game could be very entertaining. Especially if Jonathan Taylor can find some holes and running lanes. Possession time is going to be key for Wisconsin. Can anyone stop Chase Young? That will be a major matchup to watch along the trenches. Turnovers are always vital moments in games like these. Ohio State has an elite roster and will play a complete game and remind the nation why they are the number one team in the country.

Score Prediction: Ohio State 35, Wisconsin 17

Jonathan Taylor, RB, #23 – Wisconsin
Height: 5”11 – Weight: 219 lbs.
2019 Stats: 1,761 yards receiving, 6.3 AVG, 20 Touchdowns, 22 Receptions, 201 receiving yards, 5 Touchdowns.

Jonathan Taylor has had a successful collegiate career thus far. Taylor has the capabilities, frame, and makeup to be a three-down, pro-ready bruiser at the next level. His legs constantly churn and his contact and power balance allow Taylor to push for additional yardage after initial contact. Taylor has patience and vision along the line, with careful ball security. Taylor is a fringe first-round prospect.

Mountain West Championship Game

Hawaii (9-4) at #19 Boise State (11-1)
1:00 p.m. (PT) – ESPN

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Hawaii at Boise State Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Boise State enters this game as 14 point favorites, and while they handled Hawaii with ease earlier this season, I expect a much more prepared and ready Rainbow Warriors squad. Yes, the game is played on the blue turf, and this is another road game for Hawaii, however their passing plays and packages may give Boise fits all day long. Boise has the more complete roster on both sides of the football, and while I expect them to win, I think Hawaii will cover the spread. Expect scoring, and a lot of it. Expect the home team to win and potentially punch their ticket to the Cotton Bowl.

Score Prediction: Boise State 45, Hawaii 38

Player Spotlight:

Johnathan Hightower, WR, No. 16 – Boise State
Height: 6’2” – Weight: 172 lbs.
2019 Stats: 45 receptions, 859 yards, 7 touchdowns.

Johnathan Hightower has good size for his position with plenty of athleticism and burst off of the line of scrimmage. He has the ability to stretch the field and become a vertical threat. Hightower can be dangerous in the open field and will often gain additional yards after the reception. Hightower still needs to become a more polished route runner and raise his level of physicality. Hightower runs fluidly through his hips, and has been reliable catching the football and moving the chains for Boise. At the moment, Hightower is a day three selection.

Heisman Watch: (Projected Finalists)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Sacred Heart at Penn Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Joe Burrow, QB – LSU

Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

Justin Fields, QB – Ohio State

Jalen Hurts, QB – Oklahoma

College Football Playoff Projection (Final Predictions):

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 31 CFP Semifinal - Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State v Clemson Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl – (1) Ohio State (SEC) vs (4) Oklahoma (BIG 12)

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl – (2) LSU (SEC) vs (3) Clemson (ACC)

National Championship Game – (1) Ohio State (SEC) vs (3) Clemson (ACC)

Who are YOU excited to see in action during Conference Championship Weekend? Please share in the comments below!