An emotional weekend, filled with heartfelt tributes to loved ones who have passed away, dramatic endings, and head coaches realizing their dream of being called 'conference champion'.
This year's conference championship games seemingly had more stakes than in years past. The results of these games only add to the intrigue of which four teams have solidified National Championship playoff spots.
Power Five Conference Championship Recap
Big Ten Championship Game - Michigan vs. Iowa
Final Score: 42-3, Michigan wins
With Jim Harbaugh's squad, what you see is what you get; an old-school, smash mouth-type offense that is predicated on a strong run game. All season long, Michigan has beaten teams by winning in the trenches on both sides of the ball. This game against Iowa was no exception, as they relegated them to just 250 yards of total offense. Star pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson recorded his 14th sack of the season, further solidifying his first-round status in the upcoming NFL Draft. Michigan running back Blake Corum led all running backs with just 74 yards, which was all they needed in this contest. The best part of their win against Iowa was the fact they scored 42 points while wearing the #42 patch on their jersey in honor of Oxford High School football star and hero, Tate Myre.
ACC Championship Game - Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest
Final Score: 45-21, Pittsburgh
In many ways, it was a bittersweet win for Pittsburgh, which could have made a strong case for a playoff spot had it not been for losses to Western Michigan and Miami. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett had another impressive showing with three touchdowns (2 passing, one rushing). Yet, this day belonged to junior defensive back Erick Hallett II, who accounted for two interceptions, one of which he took back for a touchdown. For Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman, it was a promising season that did not end the way he envisioned. Assuming he returns, Wake Forest could be the favorites to win the title next season.
SEC Championship Game - Alabama vs. Georgia
Final Score: 28-41, Alabama wins
At this point, we should never underestimate any team coached by the great Nick Saban. Coming into this game, many believed that Alabama did not have a chance against Georgia's legendary defensive unit. One thing we forgot is that even Superman had his weaknesses.
For instance, this season Georgia's defense allowed an average of 231 total yards of offense; before the end of the half, Alabama had gained 365 yards of total offense on them. What made this victory so impressive was the ease in which Alabama was able to score against a Georgia defense which somehow finished the game with no sacks.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young dissected their defense methodically with his partner-in-crime, star receiver Jameson Williams. On the other hand, Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett did his best but failed to produce any consistent offense against a physical Alabama defense. Young's performance in this game may have sealed his case for this year's Heisman Trophy.
Big 12 Championship Game - Baylor vs. Oklahoma State
Final Score: 21-16, Baylor wins
In the first half, everything went Baylor's way. On offense, quarterback Blake Shapen accounted for three touchdown passes. On defense, they relegated Oklahoma State's offense to just two field goal. Everything was going Baylor's way, until cornerback Korie Black field goal block near the end of the first quarter. From that point, Oklahoma State's fortunes changed, Baylor missed field goals and made costly mistakes on special teams.
A once commanding lead was just a memory and Oklahoma State had a real chance to win this game.
In the end, this game will always be remembered for what could have been for Oklahoma State if running back Dezmon Jackson had stayed inbounds on the last offensive play of the game. Baylor safety Jairon McVea made arguably the most important tackle in the program's history, stopping Jackson inches from crossing the goaline. For an ugly game, the ending made this game memorable.
Pac-12 Championship Game - Oregon vs. Utah
Final Score: 38-10, Utah wins
Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd's pick-six in the first quarter, in many ways embodied of the type of night Oregon had in this year's Pac-12 Championship game.
While the Oregon offense could get nothing going, their defense did their best to fulfill their end of the bargain with three turnovers. For Utah, their victory was a collective effort on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Cameron Rising confused the Oregon defense with his mobility, while making the right throws at the right time. Their defense collected four sacks and two interceptions. In all, Utah was just too much for Oregon on this night, as they won their first ever PAC-12 Conference Championship. This one was for you Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe.
Other Conference Champions
Cincinnati running back Jerome Ford rose to the occasion in the AAC Championship game, as he ran for 187 yards and two touchdowns against Houston's defense. Cincinnati's win not only gave them back-to-back conference titles, but it may end up solidifying their playoff spot.
If a team produces a quarterback with 577 passing yards, two receivers with 100+ receiving yards, and five touchdowns in a game, that team generally wins, correct? This should have been the case for Bailey Zappe and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. The problem is that their defense had no answers for stopping UTSA running back Sincere McCormick from rushing for over 200 yards and scoring three touchdowns, in addition to the two passing touchdowns from their quarterback, Frank Harris. In a game that saw a total of 1,124 yards of total offense between both teams, UTSA came out on top, collecting their 12th win in a season for the ages. The only thing that could make this season sweeter would be landing a spot in a New Year's Six bowl game.
2021 ALL Conference Championship Team
QB Bryce Young- Alabama
WR Jameson Williams - Alabama
RB Sincere McCormick - UTSA
DB Erick Hallett II - Pittsburgh
RB Jerome Ford - Cincinnati
QB Bailey Zappe - Western Kentucky
DE Aidan Hutchinson - Michigan
RB Blake Corum - Michigan
LB Nakobe Dean - Georgia
LB Joel Dublanko - Cincinnati
QB Logan Bonner - Utah State
LB Noah Sewell - Oregon
WR Jerreth Sterns - Western Kentucky
WR Brandon Bowling - Utah State
TE Brock Bowers - Georgia
LB Will Anderson - Alabama
WR Nathaniel Dell - Houston
DE Byron Vaughns - Utah State