It is the most magical time of the year.
As the season transitions into Bowl games and the National Championship playoffs, the conference championships give a chance for each team involved to lay claim of the best in their respective conference. This year's version was full of incredible individual performances and dramatic endings. Even for the teams on the receiving end of defeat, their performances should bode well for next season.
What Did We Learn From Conference Championship Weekend?
This year's SEC Championship game was what many expected it to be, a clash between two "titans" on offense. It certainly did not look that way at first, as Alabama's offense came alive and dominated Florida. The second half was a different story, as Florida's offense awoke and started to score point at a furious pace. The result was an offensive heavyweight bout between two teams that could not stop scoring.
To put this game into perspective, both teams combined for 98 points, 61 first downs, and 1,067 total yards of offense. In the end, Alabama's offense came out on top and carried them to victory. With an offensive display such as the one seen on this night, can any team stop them from winning this year's National Championship?
For Notre Dame, they learned the difference between playing a true freshman quarterback, versus playing against Trevor Lawrence. In their first meeting back in November, Lawrence was sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19; Notre Dame took full advantage of his absence. In this year's ACC Championship game, Lawrence was back and in full force.
By halftime, Clemson held a 24-3 lead and you knew from that point, Notre Dame had no answers in stopping him. In all, Clemson dominated Notre Dame in such a fashion that is is unlikely they can beat them again this year. Clemson is peaking at the right time, which is bad news for all the teams in this year's Playoff.
Ohio State owes a debt of gratitude to senior running back Trey Sermon.
The first half looked bleak offensively for Justin Fields and his offense, as Northwestern's defense gave them all sorts of problems. In the second half, Sermon rose to the occasion and carried the offense on his back, rushing for a record 331 yards and two touchdowns, to lead Ohio State to victory. Heading into this year's playoffs, their chances of winning a National Championship will diminish if they are without star receiver Chris Olave. For now, they are this year's Big 10 Conference champions.
If it is any consolation for Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough, NFL rookie sensation Justin Herbert struggled in last year's PAC-12 Championship game. Oregon's defense, led by this year's game MVP Kayvon Thibodeaux, guided them to this victory, overcoming their mediocre offensive production. Overall, USC had the best individual stats, but did not do enough to win the game. With this loss, it is almost assured that once again, no team from the PAC-12 Conference will find a spot in this year's National Championship playoffs.
In the first half of the Big 12 Championship game, everything went Oklahoma's way offensively and defensively. In the second half, Iowa State fought back and gave it everything they could. In the end, Oklahoma won their sixth straight Big 12 title. Considering the disastrous start of their season, their success down the stretch and this title win, is a testament to the greatness of Lincoln
Riley as a coach.
Other Conference Championship Winners
UAB Running back Spencer Brown helped carry his team to victory over Marshall in this year's Conference USA Championship game.
Kicker Cole Smith's 34-yard field goal put Cincinnati over the top against Tulsa in this year's American Conference Championship game
San Jose State overcame Boise State to win this year's Mountain West Conference Championship. They will go on to face Ball State in this year's Sun Bowl.
Conference Championship Honor Roll
- Offense -
Trey Sermon - Running back - Ohio State
Mac Jones - Quarterback - Alabama
Najee Harris - Running back - Alabama
Nick Starkel - Quarterback - San Jose State
Trevor Lawrence - Quarterback - Clemson
Kyle Pitts - Tight End - Florida
Spencer Brown - Running back - UAB
Tre Walker - Wide Receiver - San Jose State
Trea Shropshire - Wide Receiver - UAB
DeVonta Smith - Wide Receiver - Alabama
Travis Etienne Jr. - Running back - Clemson
Brock Purdy - Quarterback - Iowa State
Amari Rodgers - Wide Receiver - Clemson
Antonio Nunn - Wide receiver - Buffalo
Alec Pierce - Wide Receiver - Cincinnati
Kadarius Toney - Wide Receiver - Florida
Marvin Mims - Wide Receiver - Oklahoma
- Defense -
Kayvon Thibodeaux - Defensive line - Oregon
Talanoa Hufanga - Safety - USC
James Skalski - Linebacker - Clemson
Will Anderson Jr. - Linebacker - Alabama
Myjai Sanders - Defensive End - Cincinnati
Brandon Joseph - Cornerback - Northwestern
Cade Hall - Defensive End - San Jose State
Treyvon Reeves - Linebacker - Tulsa
Tyrece Woods Jr. - Defensive Tackle - Buffalo
Nik Bonitto - Linebacker - Oklahoma
Malcolm Greene - Safety - Clemson
Ezekiel Noa - Linebacker - San Jose State