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College Football Week 16: Championship Weekend

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Who will be college football’s division champions?

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Louisiana State Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning New York Giants fans, and a happy Saturday to you!

After the excitement of last week’s rivalry games, this weekend almost seems anticlimactic... That is until you realize that the division champions and the four College Football Playoff teams will be decided.

Things got started last night with the Pac-12 Championship, and 13th ranked Oregon overcame 5th ranked Utah for a dominant 37-15 win.

Usually I pick three games to highlight each week, but this week I’m going to take the time to check in on each of these games. Not only are these the best teams in each of their respective divisions, these young men have worked all year to get to where they are, I want to give them the respect they deserve.

And one final note before we get started: I don’t get to do this often, so I want to give a shout out to my SUNY Albany Great Danes for making the second round of the FCS Playoffs for the first time in school history! They’ll be taking on Montana State on ESPN 3 at 3:30 this afternoon.

Big XII Championship - Baylor (7) at Oklahoma (6)

ABC - Noon

One of the unique things about the Big XII is that everyone plays everyone. So this is the second time these two teams have faced off in less than a month. Last time the two teams met, Oklahoma pulled off the come from behind victory, powered by some great play by Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts.

There are layers of intrigue surrounding this game off the field as well. To start with, both Baylor head coach Matt Ruhle and Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley are expected to be hot names on the NFL’s coaching carousel. Will this be the last game for either coach at the collegiate level?

The next layer is that both of these teams are positioned to get in to the College Football Playoffs. Assuming the top four teams win, neither of these teams has a road to the Playoffs. However, if there is an upset later in the day, the winner of this game has a chance to be one of the top four teams.

Players To Watch

Baylor

  • Denzel Mims (WR)
  • James Lynch (iDL)

Oklahoma

  • Jalen Hurts (QB)
  • CeeDee Lamb (WR)
  • Trey Sermon (RB)
  • Creed Humphrey (OG)
  • Neville Gallimore (iDL)
  • Kenneth Murray (LB)

Sun Belt Championship - Louisiana-Lafayette at Appalachian State (21)

ESPN - Noon

This game likely won’t get a fraction of the attention that the other noon game will receive today. That being said, these are two double-digit win teams, each with a 7-1 record in their respective division, so this should be a hard-fought match-up between two teams that deserve to be in the championship game.

We won’t see any top prospects on the field — though Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network pegs App State LB Akeem Davis-Gaither as a sleeper in the mold of Darius Leonard. Davis-Gaither will be at the Senior Bowl this winter.

Players To Watch

LA-Lafayette

  • Raymond Calais (RB)
  • Ja’Marcus Bradley (WR)
  • Chauncey Manac (LB)

App State

  • Akeem Davis-Gaither (LB)
  • Darrynton Evans (RB)

AAC Championship - Cincinnati (20) at Memphis (17)

ABC - 3:30 p.m.

The AAC Championship has a slight edge over the Sun Belt Championship in that while it is pitted against a marquee match-up in the same time slot, it gets to start a half-hour before the SEC Championship.

And even if you’re planning on watching the 4pm game, I would suggest starting this match-up and flipping back whenever possible. Memphis isn’t a powerhouse school yet, but they have been putting players in the NFL and have some intriguing prospects this year.

Players To Watch

Cincinnati

  • Perry Young (LB)
  • Josiah Deguara (TE)
  • Michael Warren (RB)

Memphis

  • Bryce Huff (EDGE)
  • T.J. Carter (CB)
  • Damonte Coxie (WR)

SEC Championship - Georgia (4) at LSU (2)

CBS - 4 p.m.

This might be the one game everyone watches today, including the winner of the Big 12 Championship. Both of these teams are in the College Football Playoffs, and assuming that nothing changes with the seeding, this would be a preview of their bowl game match-up.

This game features two of the best quarterbacks in the draft, first with Georgia QB Jake Fromm, who doesn’t have elite arm talent, but is an experienced passer with a quick processing and a quick release. Then there’s LSU QB Joe Burrow, who has exploded onto the scene after LSU transitioned from an offense that could best be described as “Run first, run second, run some more, then — if you get desperate — try to throw a pass or two” to a modern spread attack. Burrow only has one year of real production, but he hasn’t just been good this year, he has been producing at a historic rate.

But while the quarterbacks will play a big role in setting the draft board, the players surrounding these two signal callers will be of significant interest to Giants fans.

Georgia left tackle Andrew Thomas, LSU S Grant Delpit, and EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson could all be targets in the first or second rounds.

Players To Watch

Georgia

  • Jake Fromm (QB)
  • Andrew Thomas (OT)
  • D’Andre Swift (RB)
  • Monty Rice (LB)
  • Richard LeCounte III (S)
  • J.R. Reed (S)

LSU

  • Joe Burrow (QB)
  • Grant Delpit (S)
  • K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE)
  • Kristian Fulton (CB)
  • Rashard Lawrence
  • Justin Jefferson (WR)

Mountain West Championship - Hawaii at Boise State (19)

ESPN - 4 p.m.

There is a third championship on in the afternoon, as Boise State hosts Hawaii for the Mountain West Conference championship.

While I’m sure Boise State is proud to be in the game and hosting, I wonder if the students lobbied to let Hawaii host. I’ve never been, but I have to imagine that would be more pleasant than Idaho in December.

Formerly known as the “BCS Busters” for forcing their way into the conversation with the top schools in the Power 5, Boise State should win this game and they will have most of the NFL prospects on the field. And there are a few, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines. Most notably, Boise State EDGE Curtis Weaver could find himself drafted as early as the first round with a good draft process. At the very least he could be in consideration for the Giants at the top of the second round.

Players To Watch

Hawaii

  • Cole McDonald (QB)
  • Cedric Byrd (WR)

Boise State

  • Ezra Cleveland (OT)
  • Curtis Weaver (EDGE)
  • John Hightower (WR)

ACC Championship - Virginia (23) at Clemson (3)

ABC - 7:30 p.m.

Another game the winner of the Big XII will be watching. The ACC Championship is Clemson’s to win, which they likely will with a massive advantage in talent — not to mention very good coaching. Most eyes will be on QB Trevor Lawrence, but he isn’t draft eligible as a sophomore. Instead, Giants fans should keep their eyes on LB Isaiah Simmons and WR Tee Higgins.

Giants fans might recognize Virginia QB Bryce Perkins, the younger brother of former Giants’ running back Paul Perkins. The younger Perkins is a “dual threat” quarterback with athleticism to hurt defenses with his legs as well as his arm. Perkins had a total of 475 yards and 3 touchdowns (1 passing, 2 rushing) in Virginia’s win over Virginia Tech to reach the title game. He might be a player to watch over the draft process as teams look to emulate the Arizona Cardinals or Baltimore Ravens.

Cornerback Bryce Hall, meanwhile, is Virginia’s top prospect and is expected to be an early day 2 pick. He brings prototypical size, elite football IQ, and a very competitive attitude to the field that is sure to earn fans among defensive coaches.

Players To Watch

Virginia

  • Bryce Perkins (QB)
  • Bryce Hall (CB)
  • Charles Snowden (OLB)

Clemson

  • Isaiah Simmons (LB)
  • A.J. Terrell (CB)
  • Travis Etienne (RB)
  • Tee Higgins (WR)

Big 10 Championship - Ohio State (1) at Wisconsin (8)

Fox - 7:30 p.m.

The last time these two teams met (10/26) there wasn’t much of a contest. OSU won 38 - 7 and Chase Young wrecked the Badgers’ whole day with a ridiculous 6 tackle, 4.0 sack performance.

Wisconsin will surely be looking for some payback, and if they manage to get the upset victory, it could upset the standings for the College Football Playoffs. But wanting payback and completing the upset are easier said than done against an Ohio State squad that is stacked with NFL talent. The Buckeyes have future NFL players at just about every level of their defense and many positions on their offense.

That isn’t to say that Wisconsin doesn’t have their share of promising prospects either. Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor needs just 68 yards to become the first FBS player to ever gain 6,000 rushing yards in three seasons. But even so, he might have his work cut out for him against this Ohio State defense.

This is going to be one of those “go-to” games for scouts over the coming months

Players To Watch

Ohio State

  • Chase Young (EDGE)
  • Jeffery Okudah (CB)
  • Shaun Wade (CB) *red-shirt sophomore
  • Damon Arnette (CB)
  • Malik Harrison (LB)
  • Baron Browning (LB)
  • Robert Landers (iDL)
  • J.K. Dobbins (RB)
  • K.J. Hill (WR)

Wisconsin

  • Tyler Biadasz (OC)
  • Cole Van Lanen (OT)
  • Jonathan Taylor (RB)
  • Quintez Cephus (WR)
  • Zack Baun (EDGE/LB)
  • Chris Orr (LB)