Conference championship week — What to watch in college football’s biggest Week 16 games

7:27 AM ET

  • David M. Hale


Editor in Chief ESPN

    • ACC rapporteur.
    • ESPN since 2012.
    • A graduate of the University of Delaware.
  • Harry Lyles Jr.

It’s championship week, whatever that means in this crazy year. Oregon won his division? No, but the Ducks are playing for the Pac-12 championship. Has the state of Ohio played enough games to qualify for the title game? No, but rules are made to be broken. Clemson and Notre Dame? The JRC gave them an extra week to prepare, because why not?

The season has been full of surprises, so we might as well have another week of surprises. To find out everything, we go deep into the plots of the best Champion’s Week games and find one thing about each game that we are most passionate about.

The Big Ten Northwest vs. Ohio

The frustrated potential of the Northwest Battle of Rese Davis…

The Wildcats were renamed after ESPN analyst Joey Galloway shared his thoughts on Northwestern in November prior to the game against Wisconsin. He said that, frankly, they have a bunch of Rece Davises walking around, alluding to a sporting disadvantage of Pat Fitzgerald’s team. Galloway’s game can be even harder against an Ohio State team that is arguably one of the most talented in the country. If any of the title games at the conference were to come as a surprise, that would be the biggest game.

ACC: Clemson v. Our Lady

2 Connected

The flash of Kieren Williams

Okay, it’s not the sexiest thing to look at in the best game of the day, but there is something very elegant about the way Williams handles his role in difficult times. Notre Dame’s comeback was impressive when he had the ball in his hands this season (1,011 yards, 13 TD), but that’s what he does when he’s not carrying the stone, which sets him apart from the rest. In the first match between these two teams, Williams was 11-11 on the blitz, and the main blocks he delivered helped Ian Book move the bag, expand play and pick up critical yards on the designs. There are many unsung heroes on this year’s Irish team, but Williams’ work can surpass them all.

Large 12: Iowa v. Oklahoma

Coronation of the best team with two defeats in America (not according to the SEC).

Both teams were virtually eliminated from the playoffs in the second week of October, but after losing the national audience in the Big 12, Oklahoma and Iowa State still managed to win. After a 1-2 start, the Sooners have won six times in a row, including three 50-point victories, and want revenge on the Cyclones, which they defeated three times. October is beaten. After an embarrassing loss to Louisiana Earlier this week Iowa State ended the Big 12 game 8-1, with a three-point loss to Oklahoma State being the only blemish on the record. Neither team is on its way to the preliminaries, but both are entitled to one of the hottest programs in the country at the moment.


For Heisman.

There’s more at stake than just a championship – this game is likely to determine the winner of the Heisman (sorry, Trevor Lawrence). Quarterbacks Mack Jones and Kyle Trask have been at the top of the Heisman race for weeks, but DeVonta Smith has been strong for the Crimson Tide lately, finishing first in the latest ESPN Heisman Watch. Historically, large recipients have also had to play special teams to win the Heisman (Desmond Howard, Tim Brown). Smith did it last week with a TD point-return, and if he can make another big move on Saturday, he can reduce the equipment to 5. January to take home.

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Desmond Howard explains why DeVonta Smith of WR Alabama deserves to be part of the Heisman Trophy conversation.

Pac-12: Oregon v. USC

Elijah Griffin plays cornerback for the Trojans.

Here is an absolutely amazing but true statue: Griffin has been one of the top players of the Pac-12 since he joined USC in 2018, but it was only a week since he was first intercepted. How is that possible? Last season he had nine broken passes and led the league in terms of defensive goals, but none of the 43 goals he encountered resulted in an ejection. It was as good as in 2020 (second in percentage of completion and number of meters allowed per target), and finally managed to catch its first interception, against the state of Washington. With Oregon’s strong passing game and QB Tyler Shaw leading the Pac-12’s passing rankings, he’ll add to that number. Oh, did we mention that Griffin is rapper Warren G’s son? If the TV show Regulate doesn’t use at least twice as a bumper ad, that’s a disappointment.

Sunband: Louisiana v. Coastal caroline

Just the crowning of a champion for the best season of the Sun Belt so far.

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Louisiana and Coastal Carolina are both two of the best stories in college football this season. The Cajun Ragin’ Cajuns entered the season as one of the favorites and faced many challenges, from the coronavirus pandemic to the death of offensive line coach D.J. Looney during off-season practice. Coastal Carolina should be ready by the end of the conference. But the Chanticleers (11-0) have the best record in the history of the Sun Belt team. The game should be tight, like it was in mid-October. But this time there’s something more at stake.

CAA: Tulsa v. Cincinnati

How many spots will Cincinnati lose in the playoff standings if she wins?

OK, we’re a little ironic, but the committee was clear: they have no respect for the Bearcats, who don’t have a record in the top 25 (but do have victories over four teams 6-3 or more). For two weeks now, the committee has been beating Cincinnati in the standings, while the Bearcats haven’t played a single week. How will the playoffs affect Cincy’s approach? Perhaps the realisation that the first four are out of reach will reduce the importance of winning the American conference. Maybe his already ferocious defense got sour anyway. Anyway, it would be a nice story to explain the result.

Underwater radar game of the week

Lyles: State of Arizona v. State of Oregon.

National College Football Championship presented by AT&T
Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, FL)
11. January: 20:00 PM ET on ESPN

Semifinal of the University Football Playoffs at the Rose Bowl
Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA)
January: 5pm ET on ESPN and the ESPN application.

Sugar Bowl
Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans)
January 20:45 Student football semifinal. AND about ESPN and the ESPN application.

Both teams have delivered some remarkable performances in a short and unpredictable Pac-12 season. First, the State of Oregon defeated Oregon in one of the biggest rival games of the conference, with the RB Jermar Jefferson beavers rushing for 226 yards. Meanwhile, the Herm Edwards Sun Devils scored 70 points against Arizona a week ago, which led to the firing of Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin. This game takes place at night when you’re on the East Coast But you should have a coffee or drink of your choice at the end of the day and look at it – it will be worth it.

Hale: Texas A&M in Tennessee

If games other than championships are held, none have more stakes than this one. This is Texas A&M’s last chance to impress the College Football Playoff committee. The Aggies are currently fifth in the poll, but they have better victories, more races and perhaps a stronger argument than nr. 4 Ohio State in the playoffs. So what happens if A&M gets a large number of posts against Tennessee and the state of Ohio a shiny victory against Northwestern? Can we convince enough committee members that the Aggies can make the playoffs?

Moreover, even a good performance by Tennessee will mean a lot to the current management team. Many fans are frustrated by the lack of progress – at least in terms of victories and defeats – led by Jeremy Pruitt. While he continues to recruit well, the season will end with a spectacular victory – or at least an offensive performance that shows some direction – going a long way to change the overall situation.

Reader to view

Lyles: Clemson RB Travis Etienne

Etienne was at the heart of the Heisman race when Clemson played Notre Dame over a month ago. This game gave him the opportunity to increase his stock and he became shorter, with 28 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. At Tuesday’s press conference, he said he may not be in the best shape right now. He must have heard that he hasn’t made any progress in the only loss of the Tigers this season, and if he feels as good as he says he does, I expect he’ll have a great game if Clemson wants to win another CCA title.

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Clemson RB Travis Etienne takes over and walks into the end zone for a touchdown.

Hale: Florida QB Kyle Trask

What do we know about the Alabama defense? Mack Jones, Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith made it impossible to ignore Tide’s attack, but the other side of the ball went largely unnoticed as the D was not really disputed. Of the 10 games Alabama has played, only three teams are in the top 64 in terms of points per disc or 75 in terms of touchdowns per disc played.

The high-flying attack on Trask and Florida has just suffered an embarrassing loss in which the Gators’ star QB may also have lost control of the Heisman. It is legitimate to question Florida’s motivation now that their hopes of reaching the play-offs are as good as dashed. But even if the Gators don’t win, the way Alabama deals with Trask, the return of Kyle Pitts and this attack will tell us a lot about how the playoffs will unfold.

Malfunction of week

Lyles: Louisiana above Carolina

Billy Napier’s team has a 9-1 record, the only loss is to the Chanticleers. South Carolina comes up close and wins tight from Troy. Louisiana feels that these teams have played a lot on the field the last two times and now have a second chance to win. I’m going with Louisiana to a match that will be just as close, if not closer, than the first match.

Hale: The state of SAN JOSE on the state of Boise

The Broncos are 5-1, and he may be about to score a touchdown here, but it’s the Spartan receivers that seem to be the real threat. Boise State has only seen two winning teams this year, a loss for BYU and a victory against Air Force Middle, which is not a good defensive performance. The state of San Jose, meanwhile, kept the Air Force on just six points and won an impressive victory over Nevada, where QB Nick Starkel took the average of more than 10 meters per shot.

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