Conference Championships, and their playoff implications
This Saturday sees most college conferences holding their championship games, which means we’re about to be treated to some of the best games of the year. The Big-12 contest between No. 5 Oklahoma State and No. 9 Baylor will feature….two solid defenses, as surprising as that may be. The Big Ten matchup will be all about No. 2 Michigan’s defensive line facing down Iowa’s talented offensive line. The ACC title game lacks a bit of hype seeing as how it features two lower-ranked teams in No. 15 Pitt and No. 16 Wake Forest, but don’t sleep on their quarterbacks. Then finally, the Alabama-Georgia SEC title game looks like another sure-fire classic.
So, let’s talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy the weekend!
Keep your eyes on:
QB Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh)
Playing the veteran role this game—at least when compared to the Deacons’ sophomore quarterback Sam Hartman—Pickett has spent the season throwing 40 touchdown passes to only seven interceptions. The Panthers’ quarterback has a good frame (6’3”, 220 lbs), solid athleticism and is a mechanically natural thrower. He’ll be looking to cement his legacy this game, and eventually possibly propel himself into the Senior Bowl. He should be able to rack up yards, as Wake Forest’s defense has shown its fair share of weaknesses against teams like Army and North Carolina.
Other players to watch:
RB Hassan Haskins (Michigan)
Fresh off a dominant game against Ohio State, the senior rusher finished with 28 carries for 169 yards, averaging six yards a carry and turning in five touchdowns. He even started to earn some Heisman notoriety due to last week’s performance. We’ll see if he can repeat that effort against Iowa, with particular attention to his pass-catching abilities. It would also serve him well to catch some passes out of the backfield, to demonstrate that’s not a weakness of his game—something like the five receptions he had against Penn State.
EDGE Myjai Sanders (Cincinnati)
This season has to be labeled as a disappoint for Sanders, who was seen as a very talented prospect coming into the season, but needed to prove he could take the next step in capitalizing on his athletic gifts. With only two sacks this season though, the senior never fulfilled that expectation. Still, if he can prove disruptive in the AAC title game against a vulnerable Houston offensive line, it will go a long way in countering some of that disappointment.
S Tre Sterling (Oklahoma State)
Recently returning to the field after a wrist injury, Sterling should be able to play full time this week in the Big-12 title game against Baylor. Given that he had a limited amount of time to make his mark this season, the senior will be looking to be impactful against the Bears, particular when facing running back Abram Smith. Smith is an upright runner and Sterling loves to lay out offensive players.
Game of the Week
No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 3 Alabama
Saturday, 4:00 p.m. EST
The two titans of the SEC finally get to square off, although this time its the Bulldogs who are the favorites. As you would expect, there will be NFL talent all over the field for both teams.
Offensively, Zamir White has a good amount of talent, but the recent return of wide receiver George Pickens from injury should have scouts watching. Meanwhile, Georgia’s defensive talent in the front seven includes linebackers Nakobe Dean and Channing Tindall along with defensive tackle Jordan Davis. Then on the back end there’s safety Lewis Cine and cornerback Derion Kendrick.
Alabama offense has the potential to match Georgia’s defense, with their version of the triplets in massive tackle Evan Neal, running back Jameson Williams and wide receiver John Metchie III. Defensively, it’s all about the linebacker Christian Harris and Tennessee transfer Henry To’o To’o.