We’ve officially reached the postseason of the college football season. This may be one of the best conference championship weekends in recent memory with one of the more wide-open playing fields for the College Football Playoff in recent memory — with each of the Power 5 championship games having direct tie-ins with playoff implications. Let’s discuss each of the five matchups from the weekend with one already concluding.
CFB Conference Championships Weekend
PAC-12 Championship — Washington 34, Oregon, 31
One of the pivotal games of the weekend already kicked off on Friday night for the PAC-12 Championship game between No. 3 Washington and No. 5 Oregon in Las Vegas. The Huskies were nearly 10-point underdogs heading into the game despite beating the Ducks in the regular season, but they looked determined to remain perfect from the kickoff. The Ducks survived the first punch, but it wasn’t enough to bring them back to a victory. Washington came up swinging to the tune of a 20-3 victory before the Ducks scored to make it respectable going into half. With the win, the undefeated Huskies have punched their ticket to the College Football Playoff. Oregon looked like a team heading into the game that should have been favored as they were rolling teams with Washington seemingly just holding on for dear life week to week.
Big 12 Championship — Saturday, Noon EST (ABC)
Seventh-ranked Texas and unlikely foe No. 18 Oklahoma State are set to clash in Dallas for the Big 12 title. Texas has taken care of business ever since their heartbreaking last-second loss to Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry early this season. That loss could prove to be the difference from playoff entrant or not. The Longhorns will need some help in front of them in order to participate. Additionally, they’ll likely have to blow out the Cowboys if they’re to jump from No. 7 to the top four. Oklahoma State looked like a complete train wreck to start the year. They got back on the rails after back-to-back losses in the first month of the season that included a blowout loss to South Alabama.
SEC Championship — Saturday, 4 p.m. EST (CBS)
It’s becoming chalk year in and year out for Alabama and Georgia to meet in the SEC Championship. Georgia sits atop the rankings at No. 1 with Alabama in an unusual spot at No. 8. The Tide lost to the aforementioned Texas, which has kept them behind the Longhorns in the rankings since that matchup occurred. The Tide can make a big statement for the CFP Committee with a statement win over the undefeated two-time defending national champions. But it might not be enough. Georgia has looked like a force over the second half of the regular season with their offense firing on all cylinders. The Bulldogs have it all and the Tide aren’t going to defeat the ‘Dawgs easily — even with the exponential improvement of Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe. There’s going to be NFL talent all over this field.
Big Ten Championship — Saturday, 8 p.m. EST (FOX)
The least exciting of all of the Power 5 matchups is No. 2 Michigan taking on No. 16 Iowa in the Big 10 Championship. The Wolverines are coming off an emotional victory at home against Ohio State just a week ago. Iowa has survived all season on the back of incredible defense and timely plays on special teams. It’ll be difficult to keep that trend up for the Hawkeyes while missing their linchpin on defense in Cooper DeJean who is out with injury for the remainder of the season. Michigan is a three-score favorite. That’s likely a fair line considering how Iowa’s offense has played all season long.
ACC Championship — Saturday, 8 p.m. EST (ABC)
Within that same time frame, No. 4 Florida State takes on No. 14 Louisville for the ACC title. Louisville has never been to the ACC Championship game since they joined the conference in 2014. Florida State has been a number of times in their history but it’s been nearly a decade since a visit in their own right. This game has an added intrigue due to the fact that Florida State has been forced into playing a backup quarterback the remainder of the year after star quarterback Jordan Travis went down with a gruesome leg injury a couple of weeks ago. This matchup is sure to be drawing the eye of Ohio State, the loser of Washington-Oregon, Texas, and perhaps Alabama.
Great games between quality teams tends to equal a multitude of high-level player matchups within the championship games. Money can certainly be earned and lost with the various performances this weekend. Let’s discuss prospect matchups to keep an eye on.
Georgia OT Amarius Mims vs. Alabama EDGEs Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell
Offensive tackle Amarius Mims is just a sapling when it comes to playing college football on the biggest stage. He first became a full-time starter this year, but he was forced to undergo tightrope surgery early on due to a severe high ankle sprain received in a Week 3 game against South Carolina.
Mims is back at full manning his starting right tackle spot. Simply put, he’s one of the most naturally talented tackle prospects in college football and is heading solidly into first-round status despite a severe lack of starting experience.
It’s going to be a great opportunity to put good tape together when he gets to face two future NFL pass rushers in Alabama’s Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell. Both players have the opportunity to be first-round selections in the coming draft.
Turner is a player who wins with athleticism. He has plenty of ability to turn the corner on offensive tackles and has proven that in the SEC. Turner is likely to be a high level tester at the NFL Scouting Combine in March. Of course, teams love to fall for traits. But he has the production (8 sacks in 2023) to boot.
Across from him, Braswell isn’t quite as twitchy as Turner but he’s got plenty of athleticism in the tool shed. Braswell plays with more oomph behind his pads and he’s relentless in pursuit to bring opposing quarterbacks to the ground. Braswell has equaled Turner’s eight sacks in 2023.
Florida State WRs Keon Coleman & Johnny Wilson vs. Louisville CBs Quincy Riley & Jarvis Brownlee
The quarterback position is up in the air for No. 4 Florida State heading into their primetime matchup against No. 14 Louisville in Charlotte. The Seminoles have already lost their star signal caller for the season after a lower leg injury has shelved him. Now, FSU is faced with a potential third-string true freshman starting in a huge moment after Tate Rodemaker went down late in the game with an apparent head injury.
Enter two star receivers Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson who have been a huge part of the success of Florida State in 2023. They’re going to need to step up big time in this game regardless of who’s at quarterback.
Coleman has been a catalyst for some of the most exciting plays in college football in 2023, while Wilson has freaky catch radius and has been a steady presence with an even larger route tree than years’ past.
Louisville corner Quincy Riley is a freaky athlete in his own right and he owns one of the best “speed scores” of any cornerback over the past several seasons, according to Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy.
Louisville's Quincy Riley (@QuincyRiley03) with top speed score in 2024 class (96.7) per our partners at @NextgenProspect.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) November 23, 2023
Only other DB with 96+ speed score past three drafts? Seahawks Pro Bowler (and @seniorbowl alum) Tariq Woolen (96.2).#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/sIPUScRMfo
Overall, Riley has top-flight ability as an athlete and cover corner to be successful in the NFL. He’s going to have a couple of tough assignments to deal with Saturday night.
Brownlee is a fun story line because not only is he a quality player, but he’s also formerly a Florida State Seminole. The Cardinals’ other top corner has been quality all year long despite missing a couple of games with a lower body injury. Brownlee has a big test against his former team, which looks a lot different now than when he left a couple of years ago. Brownlee is feisty at the point of attack — which is what you’ll need if you’re hoping to stop Coleman and Wilson.