Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports
Following are predictions for Saturday’s conference championship games by our college football fanatic.
Big 12: Oklahoma vs. TCU
This will be the first neutral championship game since 2010, when Oklahoma stunned Nebraska, 23-20. This game will have national title implications. If Oklahoma wins, the Sooners will clinch a bid for the College Football Playoffs. If TCU wins, the Horned Frogs would be a stretch to reach the playoffs but should receive an invitation to one of the six New Year’s Day bowl games.
Prediction: This game should be like the one in the regular season. Baker Mayfield will run over TCU’s defense like he did last month in Norman. To have a chance, the Horned Frogs will have to play perfectly on both ends of the ball to come out with a victory. Oklahoma 38, TCU 17.
Pacific 12: Southern California vs. Stanford
Neither team has a chance to make it to the playoffs with a victory, but both should receive bids to the New Year’s Six bowl games. Both teams have had up and down seasons. USC fell off the radar mid-season when the Trojans lost two crucial games against conference opponents. However, USC has slowly climbed back into the top 10 rankings. Stanford, on the other hand, looked more like an underrated team coming into the year. Even though the Cardinal also has two losses like USC, Stanford has come onto the scene at No. 12.
Prediction: This game will be close throughout. Expect both teams to come out quickly. USC will need to be comfortable on offense to keep up with its fast tempo against the stingy Stanford defense, which will try and slow the game into pro style. Sam Darnold will have to bring his A-game in order to win, but the mature Stanford defense will slow him and the offense down late in the second half. Stanford will pull away in the fourth quarter. Stanford 31, USC 27.
Southeastern: Auburn vs. Georgia
These teams have played top-notch football the second half of this year, especially Auburn. Auburn has beaten the No. 1 team twice this year, including Georgia. Georgia, however, will come to play in Atlanta. The winner of this game will receive a bid to the College Football Playoffs. The loser will go to one of the better New Year’s Six bowl games.
Prediction: Auburn has been on fire recently and looks like it will not come to a stop anytime soon. Georgia will know what to expect when the Bulldogs play against this red-hot Auburn team. This game will be close throughout. Both defenses will play their best and the score will be relatively low. Georgia 23, Auburn 17.
Big Ten: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
This game will finally answer the question of whether Wisconsin is a candidate for the College Football Playoffs. Wisconsin is one of the few undefeated teams coming into Championship Weekend. The Badgers have one of the nation’s best defenses, which has shut down every single opponent this year. They will face the momentum-filled Buckeyes right after their victory against archrival Michigan. J.T. Barrett has once again come into the Heisman Trophy race. He has outdueled every opponent late into the season. The winner of this game will most certainly reach the playoffs.
Prediction: With the Badger defense, this will be a low-scoring game. We will see whether Barrett can perform in the clutch. The Badgers’ weak point is their offense and Ohio State will take full advantage. Ohio State 28, Wisconsin 10.
Atlantic Coast: Clemson vs. Miami
Both teams have performed at a high level all year. Their defenses, offenses and special teams have been superior. Miami has the turnover chain and Clemson knows not to relinquish the ball against Miami. Miami feeds off the turnovers and tends to play with a lot more fire. In order for Clemson to win, the Tigers will have to limit or create no turnovers on their offensive side.
Prediction: These teams are both great on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, so this game should be pretty close throughout. The Clemson offense will get into a groove in the second half and pull away. Clemson 35, Miami 24.
Heisman Trophy watch
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has outplayed everyone all year, especially in big games against Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Texas. Mayfield has piled on the statistics in a tremendous way. He has thrown for more than 4,000 yards and has thrown 37 touchdown passes with five interceptions. This race is between Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and Mayfield, but, with the latest stats, the Sooner has taken the lead.