2020 College Football Conference Championship Preview - The Power Five Edition
The year 2020, will be remembered as one of the most unpredictable and tumultuous years in history. Yet throughout all the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fact we have reached the conference championship is a victory in itself.
Even with the many changes that have taken place, what has not changed as some of the teams participating in this year's conference championships. To get you prepared, here is a breakdown of each Power 5 conference games.
SEC Championship Game - Florida vs Alabama
This contest will be a clash between two dynamic, high-powered offenses, led by two Heisman Trophy potentials; Florida quarterback Kyle Trask and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. Based on what we know about both teams offensively, the key to victory will be which defensive unit can neutralize the other's offense.
Florida's defensive secondary has been a concern for the team all season. The question pending, can Florida's cornerbacks handle the Alabama's wide receiver trio of Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, and John Metchie III? On the other side, Alabama's defense will have their hands full with Florida's trio of Trevon Grimes, Kadaius Toney, and Kyle Pitts. This should be the type of contest decided by the team with the last possession.
Big 12 Championship Game - Oklahoma vs. Iowa State
The season did not start the way head coach Lincoln Riley envisioned for his Oklahoma Sooners. Yet since October 3rd, Oklahoma has not lost a single game, leading leading into this year's Big 12 Championship game. Ironically, the last team to defeat Oklahoma, happens to their opponents, Iowa State. Yet, since the return of standout defensive lineman Ronnie Perkins and running back Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma has looked strong on both sides of the ball.
Iowa State on the other hand, has a secret weapon; his name is Breece Hall and he happens to be the nation's leading rusher. On defense, Iowa State finished in the top 20 in team sacks, led by team sack leader Will McDonald and Iowa State's all-time sack leader, JaQuan Bailey. On offense, Oklahoma freshman quarterback Spence Rattler, finished with 24 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Iowa State's Brock Purdy finished with 17 passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns.
ACC Championship Game - Notre Dame vs. Clemson
Back on November 7th, Notre Dame handed Clemson their first regular season loss in over two years. Yet, one can point out the absence of star quarterback Trevor Lawrence as a key point to their loss on that day. For this contest, both teams should be fully equipped in what could potentially be the ACC's biggest championship game in conference history. For the undefeated Notre Dame unit, it all begins with dual-threat quarterback Ian Book, who finished the season with 15 passing and 8 rushing touchdowns. What defines this team is their offensive line, considered by many as the best in college football. As a group, they helped paved the way for running back Kyren Williams to rush for over 1,000 yards this season.
For Clemson, Lawrence should be back, which means their offensive should be working on all cylinders. For All-American running back Travis Etienne, he will be looking to redeem himself for his performance in their first meeting. Clemson's "fab freshman" on defense, Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee should be in full-gear mode to make life uncomfortable for Book in the pocket. All signs point to this game being one for the ages, between two teams who could potentially be playing in this year's National Championship.
Big Ten Championship Game - Northwestern vs. Ohio State
Perhaps no team this season, endured the type of schedule inconveniences as Ohio State did in 2020. Even though they played just five games, they were clearly the best team in the Big Ten conference. The key to this game is simple; can Northwestern's defense neutralize gifted quarterback Justin Fields?
Northwestern's stout defensive unit, led by linebacker Paddy Fisher and defensive lineman Andrew Leota, surrendered only 102 points against opposing offenses this season. In addition to these two, Ohio State will be need to be aware of defensive back Brandon Joseph, who ranked among the nation's leaders in interceptions with five.
Northwestern's defense on the other hand, will need to stop the running back tandem of Master Teague and Trey Sermon, in addition to the receiving tandem of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson; if they have any hopes of winning this game. A talent offense versus a stout defense, which one will prevail?
PAC-12 Championship Game - USC vs. Washington
The first thing that comes to mind is USC quarterback Kedon Slovis and his offense. Despite just playing five games, they averaged an impressive 35.2 points per game, for a total of 176 points scored this season. To beat this undefeated USC team, Washington will need to neutralize their talented receiver trio of Drake London, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Tyler Vaughns. In a very short period of time, USC established themselves as on of the most dynamic offensive units in college football.
The Washington Huskies were equally as potent on offense, finishing with an average of 30.2 points per game, while only surrendering 100 points. Their underrated rushing attack featuring running back Sean McGrew should pose some problems for USC's defense. Speaking of defense, linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui should be a handful for the USC's offensive line; if they fail to stop him, it could be a long day for Slovis.