The regular season is officially done, and conference championship games are the only thing that is standing in the way from knowing who the final four that will set up the College Football Playoff for the national championship are. With that in mind, these conference championships could be critical in terms of setting the final four as all eight of the top teams will be in action.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at those games and news from around the NCAA:
No. 7 Baylor Bears vs. No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners
In one of several matchups around the country that could have an impact on the final four, the Big 12 championship will be decided when Baylor (11-1) and Oklahoma (11-1) square off. Baylor is led by quarterback Charlie Brewer (2,935 yards, 20 touchdowns, six interceptions) and wide receiver Denzel Sims (61 catches, 945 yards, 11 touchdowns).
The Sooners are led by quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has thrown for 3,347 yards, 31 touchdowns and six interceptions. Hurts also leads the team in rushing with 1,217 yards and another 18 touchdowns. Could one of these two teams jump into the top four with an impressive win? Both will definitely be trying.
No. 5 Utah Utes vs. No. 13 Oregon Ducks
With Georgia and LSU having to square off, Utah (11-1) might be in a spot to sneak into the Playoff if it can get an impressive win over Oregon (10-2). Utah is led by quarterback Tyler Huntley (2,773 yards passing, 16 touchdowns, two interceptions) and standout running back Zack Moss (1,246 yards rushing, 15 touchdowns).
Oregon will look to quarterback Justin Herbert (3,140 yards passing, 31 touchdowns, five interceptions) and running back CJ Verdell (963 yards rushing, five touchdowns) to pull off the upset.
No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs vs. No. 2 LSU Tigers
This might be the most interesting matchup of the weekend. Can the loser hold their spot as a top-four school, or will they give way to another team that jumps up? Needless to say, this is a must-win for both schools.
Georgia, in particular, has to win this to have a shot at the national championship. If the Bulldogs drop to two losses, they likely would be out. They will look to quarterback Jake Fromm (2,385 yards, 21 touchdowns, three interceptions) and running back D’Andre Swift (1,203 yards, seven touchdowns) to lead the way.
It won’t be an easy task for the Bulldogs to win the SEC championship, though. LSU, which is undefeated at 12-0, features the best quarterback in college football in Joe Burrow (4,366 yards passing, 44 touchdowns, six interceptions) and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (1,233 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns) leading its offense.
No. 3 Clemson Tigers vs. No. 23 Virginia Cavaliers
Obviously, undefeated Clemson would love to easily take care of Virginia and coast into the Playoff, but even a loss might not be the end of the road for the Tigers. They have arguably been one of the best teams all year long and are led by last year’s hero Trevor Lawrence under center. Even though the quarterback has struggled compared to last year (2,970 yards, 30 touchdowns, eight interceptions), he still has Clemson knocking on the door of another championship.
Virginia will look to quarterback Bryce Perkins (2,941 yards, 16 touchdowns, nine interceptions) to try to pull off the upset in this ACC championship.
No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers
The Big Ten Championship Game features the best team in the nation in undefeated Ohio State going against the No. 8-ranked Wisconsin Badgers. Like Clemson and LSU, Ohio State might be in regardless of win or loss, but it certainly would like to pad its status as the top team in the nation.
To do so, the Buckeyes will look to quarterback Justin Fields to get them there. This year, Fields has thrown for 2,654 yards, 37 touchdowns and just one interception. Even more impressive has been running back J.K. Dobbins, who has rushed for 1,657 yards and 19 touchdowns.
As good as Dobbins has been, Wisconsin’s running back Jonathan Taylor has been better. On the year, he has 1,761 yards rushing for 20 touchdowns. If the Badgers have a chance of taking this one, Taylor and quarterback Jack Coan (2,309 yards, 17 touchdowns, four interceptions) are going to have to be outstanding.
Washington Coach Shockingly Steps Down
In a shocking announcement earlier this week, Washington coach Chris Peterson announced that he would be retiring. Essentially, Peterson has said that he is burnt out and wants a break from coaching. He will finish out the season and the bowl game, but after that, defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake will be taking over the program.
While speculation went crazy about whether he would look to another program or even the NFL, Peterson is saying for now that he just wants a break and will be taking over an advisory role with the college. In his career, at both Boise State and Washington, he finishes with a combined record of 146-38.
While it remains to be seen how long he is on the sidelines for, it appears for the time being that there are no hidden motives or agendas in regards to the surprise resignation. Again, though, in the world of coaching, things can change in an instant.
Tennessee Wide Receiver Receives Suspension
The SEC has determined that Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings committed a flagrant personal foul when he stepped on the head of Vanderbilt’s Justice Shelton-Mosley (after Shelton-Mosley’s helmet had come off). As a result, Jennings is going to have to sit on the sideline for a while during Tennessee’s bowl game, which will be Jennings’ last game.
In fact, the SEC has determined that he has to sit out the first half of that contest before becoming eligible to play in the second half. On the season, Jennings has played in 12 games and has been good for 57 receptions for 942 yards and eight touchdowns. He has also rushed 12 times for 46 yards and another touchdown.
While he has been a productive player for Tennessee this season, he won’t be able to help out for the first half of their bowl game, which has yet to be announced.
Will Tua Enter Draft?
Tua Tagovailoa really seems like he is in a no-win situation right now. His hip injury has ended his season for Alabama, and the uncertainty of his recovery could put a damper on his draft stock. He was an almost certainty to be a top pick prior to the injury, but there is concern that he may not be the same player after he recovers, and it is possible that he could slide down the first round as a result (if not into the second round).
Still, that would be a nice payday and position for most players, but he might want more. So, if he were to forego the draft and come back to Alabama, he runs a lot of risks as well. Maybe he isn’t the same player, it is noticeable, and then he isn’t even drafted next year (or possibly falls further down the draft board).
On the flip side, he could regain his skills and reclaim his position as an elite prospect. These are the uncertainties that lie ahead of Tagovailoa, and he is certainly in an unenviable position. This season, prior to his injury, he went 180 for 252 for 2,840 yards, 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
The question now is whether he can regain that form and, if so, will he be doing it for a college team or a professional team next year.