Preview: College Football Championship Weekend


Joseph Giovinco

Fans look forward to many exciting games on college football championship weekend

While COVID-19 has completely morphed the college football season, the long-awaited championship weekend is finally near. On the night of Friday, Dec. 18, the conference championships will commence. On headlining night, one of the highly anticipated games is the Pac-12 championship between No. 13 USC and unranked Washington. The Trojans enter this primetime matchup as undefeated 7-point favorites over the Huskies, while also coming off a thrilling comeback 43-38 win over in-state rival UCLA. Last week, Washington’s scheduled matchup with the Oregon Ducks was cancelled due to increasing COVID-19 cases in the program, leaving the Huskies in a tough situation. Considering the performance of USC this season, and the lack thereof from Washington, it is safe to say that the Trojans will take the Pac-12 title this year.

Most of the marquee championship matchups will take place on Saturday, Dec. 19, leaving college football fans with an exciting Saturday. The long schedule of games begins at 12pm with the Big Ten and Big 12 championship games. In the Big Ten, No. 15 Northwestern takes on the powerhouse No. 1 Ohio State. Shockingly, both teams claimed their places in the game on a week that their games were cancelled due to COVID-19 issues. The undefeated Buckeyes are a whopping 21.5-point favorite and are expected to steamroll over the Wildcats, while Northwestern has impressed by only tallying one loss to unranked Michigan State. Lead by Heisman competing quarterback Justin Fields, the Buckeyes intend to continue their winning ways in the Big Ten championship and solidify their rightful place in the college football playoffs.

In another power-five matchup at noon, No. 8 Iowa State battles No.12 Oklahoma for the Big 12 title. Despite being seeded four places higher, the Cyclones are a 5.5-point underdog. The Sooners suffered a 37-30 loss to Iowa State in early October. Of all the championship contests this weekend, this may be the biggest tossup. Historically, Oklahoma should be the clear-cut winner, posting a 76-7-2 record in head-to-head matchups against the Cyclones. Despite the historical advantage of the Sooners, Iowa State is an imposing threat with an excellent running game lead by Breece Hall, who has over 1,350 yards on the season and 17 touchdowns in rushing alone. To pair with their impressive, high-powered running game, the Cyclones have only allowed 21.3 points per game. Considering both teams’ advantages, Iowa State could take advantage of their underdog role and defeat the Sooners for the Big 12 championship.

While it is not normally a greatly covered game, the Sun Belt Championship features one of the most beloved teams in college football. The shocking No. 9 Coastal Carolina has been a fan favorite since the start of the season and posts a remarkable 11-0 record. At 3pm, The Chanticleers take on No. 17 Louisiana who are currently 9-1. Earlier in the season, Coastal Carolina defeated the Rajin’ Cajuns by a narrow margin of just three points in a tight 30-27 win. The Chanticleers are currently a 3.5-point favorite over Louisiana after handing them their only loss of the season. After defeating No. 14 BYU two weeks prior to the Sun Belt championship matchup, it should be expected that Coastal Carolina remains undefeated and gets the championship win.

The ACC championship game at 4pm features two of the highest-ranked teams in the country, with both being in playoff contention. The No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will face the No. 4 Clemson Tigers in a matchup for the ages. When these two powerhouse programs faced in November, the Fighting Irish took the win, 47-40, in an incredible double overtime win. Despite losing the early season game, the Tigers are a 7.5-point favorite. This is largely due to the presence of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The provisional first pick in the upcoming NFL draft is considered one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks in college football history. It’s hard to pick against Lawrence, but Notre Dame’s defense offers a strong threat and could lead them to a second consecutive victory over Clemson. If the Fighting Irish are able to pull off the upset, they could possibly knock the Tigers out of playoff contention. Whoever it may be that comes out on top, the winner of this ACC championship game will definitely be present in the playoff picture.

To end championship weekend, a primetime SEC championship game will take place between No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Florida, who recently dropped five seeds due to an unexpected loss against the unranked LSU Tigers. The Crimson Tide are now 16.5-point favorites following the Gators’ loss in week 15. After a 52-3 win by Alabama over the Arkansas Razorbacks, it is expected that their offense, lead by quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris, and receiver Devonta Smith, will decimate Florida’s shaky defense which has shown a lot of holes and did not play well against an underwhelming LSU offense. Jones recently took the top spot in the Heisman race, dethroning Florida quarterback Kyle Trask. This intriguing quarterback matchup will not only have SEC championship implications but will also have a sway in the Heisman trophy decision. Trask leads a high-powered Gator offense, along with receiver and running back Kadarius Toney. This tandem is a threat to any defense, even the blueprint Crimson Tide, and could lead to a huger upset. Ultimately, Alabama should be expected to win this SEC championship game, but it should be an offensive shootout, so anything can happen.

Despite the roadblocks created by COVID-19, championship weekend should continue as expected and entertain its fans. This weekend has a ton of potential upsets, and several undefeated teams such as Alabama, Notre Dame, Coastal Carolina, and USC could see their perfect season fade away. The weekend is definitely shaping up to be an exciting one, and it will be interesting to see how the championship games turn out.