2020 Conference Championship Games Preview (Power Five)

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2020 Conference Championship Games
SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - NOVEMBER 07: Running back Kyren Williams #23 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish stiff arms safety Nolan Turner #24 of the Clemson Tigers on his way to a touchdown in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium on November 7, 2020 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Matt Cashore-Pool/Getty Images)

Let’s just exhale for a second. Somehow, someway, the college football season is nearing its end and we are actually going to be able to (at least) crown Conference Champions. It’s been an exciting, albeit bumpy ride. We have three undefeated Group of Five teams and three Power Five teams remaining. The College Football Playoff field will be decided this weekend. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 2020 Conference Championship games.

Here, you can find a breakdown of the “Group of Five” 2020 Conference Championship games.

2020 Conference Championship Games Preview (Power Five)

SEC: (1) Alabama vs (7) Florida

Alabama leads all-time series 25-14
Last matchup: SEC Championship Game, December 3, 2016, Alabama won 54-16

Even if this matchup had some of its CFP implications thrown away like it was an LSU shoe, it’s still a massive matchup. Alabama is rolling and I feel sorry for anyone who is getting in their way. However, Florida managed the heist of the century. They lost at home to a terrible LSU team…and only fell one spot. Make it make sense.

Mac Jones. Najee Harris. Devonta Smith. Alex Leatherwood. Dylan Moses. Jordan Battle. Christian Harris. Malachi Moore.

On offense, the Tide averages 49.5 points per game off of 537.8 yards.
On defense, the Tide allows 16.8 points per game off of 340.1 yards.

Florida has its own long list of talent. Kyle Trask has had a Heisman-worthy season thus far thanks to guys like Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney, and Trevon Grimes catching passes. Brenton Cox and Ventrell Miller lead the way on defense and will try to make Jones’ life hectic.

Unfortunately for them, the Gators fell at home against an LSU team with a true freshman quarterback and a decimated roster. Even this loss does not truly eliminate them from CFP contention, even if it should.

All year, this game was hyped to be a play-in game for the CFP. Heck, there was plenty of talk if Florida won, both would make it. This is (likely) no longer the case. Look for Alabama to replicate their 2016 performance. Even if Trask and the Florida offense have been able to move the ball at will, the Bama defense is too good. Alabama is favored by 16.5 points.

They will cover and earn the top seed.

ACC: (2) Notre Dame vs (3) Clemson

Clemson leads all-time series 3-2
Last matchup: November 7, 2020, Notre Dame won 47-40

When Notre Dame won the regular-season matchup, it was a thriller. Despite this win, not to mention the dominating fashion they’ve plowed through their ACC slate, they are a 10-point underdog. Why?

Trevor Lawrence. What a year this has been for the Clemson quarterback. He could have opted out and still went first overall in the NFL Draft. instead, he suited up and only gave us 2431 yards and 20 touchdowns.

With how the NFL has de-valued running backs, who knows if Travis Etienne will be the first back off the board. In all reality, he should be. With over 1,200 total scrimmage yards and 14 touchdowns, Etienne can do it all.

The defense has taken a step back, considering they allow 300+ yards per game. They are a solid unit, but they will have to be better against a Notre Dame team that went off for 47 points and 518 yards.

377 of those yards came from quarterback Ian Book. Book is an enigmatic quarterback, but he’s the best Notre Dame quarterback in a long time. He takes chances, pushed the ball downfield, and is willing to use his body to get extra yards. His job is made significantly easier by running back Kyren Williams. Williams has nearly 1300 scrimmage yards and 13 touchdowns. Dude is only a sophomore.

D.J. Uiagalelei was a serviceable quarterback in his two starts, but he’s not Lawrence. This will be another phenomenal game, but I expect Trevor Lawrence to continue to add to his illustrious legacy. When Clemson wins this, it’s going to cause some conversations regarding Notre Dame’s CFP future. Barring a nuclear meltdown, the Fighting Irish should still be able to make the CFP with a loss. This will likely be the most hotly-contested of the 2020 Conference Championship games.

Big Ten: (4) Ohio State vs (14) Northwestern

Ohio State leads all-time series 63-14-1
Last matchup: October 18, 2019, Ohio State won 52-3

For the future, for 2020 and beyond, we will be back. I guarantee that.” Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald did not mince words at the end of his team’s disappointing 2019 campaign. Turns out, they are indeed back.

The Wildcats won their way to a 5-1 mark the only way Northwestern could: running the ball and stingy defense. At 14.5 points per game and 313.9 yards allowed, Northwestern is best and third-best in the B1G, respectively.

On offense, they are led by Indiana transfer quarterback Peyton Ramsey. At only 1218 passing yards and a 9:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he will not the best signal-caller the Buckeyes have faced. However, Ramsey has not had to do everything because Northwestern has Isaiah Bowser and Cam Porter.

Ohio State, despite only playing five games, is one of the most talented and best teams in the nation. Justin Fields will likely be a top-two pick in the NFL draft. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson have developed into a one-two punch at wideout that Buckeye fans haven’t seen in a while. Ohio State averages 532 yards per game. Something will have to give and talent will win the day.

On defense, the Buckeyes have been criticized for their secondary. It’s a fair criticism if you only looked at the box score for the Indiana game, but their strength in run defense. Tommy Togiai and Haskell Garrett have been monsters on the interior. The linebacker corps is experienced, smart, and athletic with Tuf Borland, Pete Werner, and Baron Browning. Each of these guys will be playing on Sundays in 2021.

The spread for this game is astronomical. As long as Ohio State plays their game, they should be able to take care of the Wildcats with ease. Even if some don’t believe so, Ohio State is almost guaranteed a CFP berth with their fourth-consecutive B1G title.

Big XII: (6) Iowa State vs (10) Oklahoma

Oklahoma leads all-time series 76-7-2
Last matchup: October 3, 2020, Iowa State won 37-30

In the surprise of the year, the CFP committee inexplicably ranked a two-loss Iowa State team above an undefeated G5 team. Naturally, it should be noted that one of those losses was at home by 17 to a Sun Belt team.

Either way, the Cyclones are a good football team. Led by quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Breece Hall, ISU went for 417 yards and four touchdowns in their 37-30 win earlier this year. As is the way with Big XII offenses, Purdy has quite a few options. Eight different players have recorded at least one touchdown for the Cyclones.

Interestingly enough, two of the top three defenses in the conference are featured here. Now, that doesn’t really say much considering ISU and OU allow an average of 322.3 and 338.1 yards and 22.0 and 21.3 points per game, respectively. The over/under is set at 58 points. *Insert GIF of Pat McAfee smashing the over*

Oklahoma started about a poorly as you could. The Sooners dropped each of their first two Big XII games against Kansas State and this Iowa State team. Since then? Six straight wins with an average score of 46-20. Sophomore quarterback Spencer Rattler has finally grown into his own, spreading the wealth (not unlike Purdy) to 18 different receivers.

Historically, Oklahoma has owned this matchup. That tends to happen when it’s a blueblood vs a mid-tier conference foe. As of now, the Sooners are favored by six. ISU +6 is easy money, but can they win outright?

Tune into this game. It’s going to be face-paced, high-scoring, and exciting. Give me the Cyclones to win this one narrowly. Even if they are more than likely not in the CFP, a win here would guarantee an NY6 bowl for either team.

PAC-12: (13) USC vs Washington Oregon

USC leads all-time series 38-21-2
Last matchup: November 2, 2019, Oregon won 56-24

The final matchup in this 2020 conference championship games preview features the conference everyone wrote off from the get-go. Initially, all of the conference’s hopes seemed to lie with Oregon. Fast-forward to today, USC is 5-0 and the only unbeaten west coast team, was originally slated to play Washington, but now ends up playing Oregon.

USC has not dominated anyone on their schedule. Three of their five wins were by one-score and needed last touchdowns. Kedon Slovis is clutch, there is no denying. But it should be noted that this Trojans team could very likely be 2-3 with losses to winless Arizona and their hated rival UCLA.

Regardless, good teams find ways to win. Only in passing yards does USC lead the PAC-12. Defense is middle of the pack. Rushing attack is towards the bottom. In a normal year, USC would have been smashed by Alabama and would have dropped at least one conference game.

Oregon has underachieved in 2020. Their best player, Penei Sewell, opted out of the season in order to prepare for the NFL draft. They started off 3-0, but dropped their final two games. Quarterback Tyler Shough is a duel-threat with 1,389 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air and 256 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. CJ Verdell is the lead running back with 285 yards and three touchdowns.

The defense is a bit suspect, of course. They allow 419.8 yards and 28 points per game. On two occasions, they allowed over 260 yards on the ground alone. Additionally, they’ve only forced four turnovers.

USC is on its way back. This season is about as crazy as it gets, but the cream rises to the top. Oregon had massive expectations, but they’ve faltered. Not to mention the fact they lost their final two games plus they were not even supposed to be in this game, so they backed their way into the championship. Is USC a good team? Not really. Are they good enough to win this game? Yes.

It’s Finally Time For The 2020 College Football Conference Championship Games

Three of the five “Power Five” conferences have CFP hopes on the line. These are the first major hurdles for all of the programs participating. Each year, winning the conference is the goal. Each of these matchups should prove to be good games and great showcases of talent.

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