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2021 Conference Championship Game Previews

(Image credit: Cam Gaskins / WGXA News)

Written by: Joseph Yun

It’s Championship Weekend! Much will be on the line as conference titles are decided on Friday and Saturday before the CFP rankings are unveiled Sunday. Who will rise above the coaching carousel chaos and take home their respective conference titles? Are there field storming upsets to be had or will we see chalk?

Friday, December 3rd

Pac-12 Championship

Location: Allegiant Stadium (home of the Las Vegas Raiders) 8 PM ABC

#10 Oregon vs. #17 Utah

-- A grudge match between the Ducks and Utes and a repeat of the 2019 conference title game. Oregon will be out for revenge after Utah lambasted them in Salt Lake City a couple of weeks ago in a title bout preview. While Oregon likely won’t sneak into the playoff due to its losses being what they were, a third consecutive New Year 6 bowl berth is on the line. Utah will surely look to keep its physical edge in the South over the oncoming Trojans under the newly hired Lincoln Riley. Can the Ducks get their revenge and secure a spot in the most hallowed of big bowls, Rose Bowl once again? Oregon and Utah are probably two of the most physically dominant teams out West. It will be interesting as an appetizer for Saturday’s action.

Prospects to Watch


1. Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE

- The premier EDGE prospect in the class and possibly the best overall prospect as a result. The former five-star recruit has had his ups and downs in Eugene but he has more than lived up to his billing. He’s a no-brainer top-five selection at worst and is the heavy favorite to go first overall.

2. Devon Williams WR

- A woefully underutilized receiver transfer from USC who has come on as of late to help the Ducks’ struggling passing game along to be mediocre. He’s a dog that competes every rep so teams will love that even if he has shown tangible disappointment in his horrifically poor quarterback.

3. Mykael Wright CB / KR

- A true junior who could have intentions to go pro early with two great years. He’s also the Ducks primary returner so there’s special teams value. Seemingly the only healthy option for the Ducks in the secondary at times this season.

4. Verone McKinley III S

- While he’s not in Jevon Holland’s athletic class, McKinley profiles as the best safety prospect in the class due to his versatility and plus instincts. Without him on the field, the defense in totality suffered a drastic dropoff in play. Has experience moving around in a variety of roles in the secondary including some corner play. You can tell that he’s been well-coached and has plus experience when he plays.


1. Devin Lloyd LB

- Star linebacker who can play both the run and pass with equal aplomb. He’s one of the best linebacker prospects in the class, regardless of on or off-ball designation. Utah is a known developer of defensive standouts and he could be one of the better ones to come out in a long time there. Expect him to surge up the boards during the offseason if he hasn’t already.

Saturday, December 4th

Big 12 Championship

Location: AT&T Stadium aka Jerry World NOON ABC

#9 Baylor vs. #5 Oklahoma State

- Oklahoma State got in the title picture by virtue of beating Oklahoma in Bedlam last week. Baylor was steady all year along under second-year man Dave Aranda (who has been subject to intense coaching carousel rumors but opted to stay put in Waco). Both teams are well-coached defensively with interesting pro-level prospects on either side. Baylor has some injury issues at quarterback while State’s Spencer Sanders has bouts of inconsistency. Barring some serious chaos from the teams above them in the rankings, both teams could use a win but aren't expected to seriously challenge for a playoff spot as of press time. The Big 12 title game could be a defensive struggle, which is a far cry from yesteryear’s offensive theatrics.

Prospects to Watch


1. Raleigh Texada CB

- A super senior who has stood out for the Bears on the backend. Texada is a familiar name to some in Big 12 country as his brother played for TCU with some success. Athletic guy who can play both slot and on the outside. Won’t feature as CB1 but will make a good CB2 or 3 at the next level.

2. Jalen Pitre S

- He’s probably the best safety prospect that hardly anyone is talking about. A versatile chess piece that Dave Aranda uses in and out of the box. He could play a little bit of a Honey Badger/dime linebacker hybrid if it comes to that. Outstanding talent that could rise as we move along in the process.

Oklahoma State

1. Spencer Sanders QB

- Inconsistent passer but when he’s on, it’s good. He hasn’t been asked to do too much this season. Sanders profiles as a long-term developmental backup type at the next level. Dual-threat.

2. Kolby Harvey-Peel S

- He has been in the program a long time and has seen a lot as a result, good or bad. Experience in both free and strong safety positions so the versatility is a plus. Could’ve come out last season but elected to return.

SEC Championship

Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (home of Atlanta United and Atlanta Falcons) 4 PM CBS

#1 Georgia vs. #3 Alabama

- The showdown in Atlanta between the immovable object and a sometimes flashy offense is upon us. Georgia’s defense has been rampant this season, flustering all of its opponents with a historically dominant showing. Alabama’s offense has been muddling about at times while going nuclear at others. Which unit will put on a show of force that will likely determine a playoff berth and a Heisman for precocious Bryce Young? Can King Kirby and Georgia shake the horrific bogeyman that Nick Saban presents and make the final leap over the final boss, Alabama? Lots of people expect a blowout by Georgia but when these two teams get together, it’s always enticing. Georgia’s offense ain’t too shabby to look at either, especially with the earlier-than-expected return of star wide receiver George Pickens from an offseason knee injury.

Prospects to Watch


1. James Cook RB

- Dalvin’s younger brother is a good prospect in his own right. Part of a back by committee but is the more developed and well-rounded of the pair of star backs. While he likely won’t go as high as his brother, he will be a Day 2 selection at the least.

2. Zamir White RB

- He got next? White has been at Georgia forever it seems like and he has progressed every year into the star he is and can be at the next level if he can stay healthy. Look for him to have an immense offseason to separate himself from the pack.

3. George Pickens WR

- Pickens was slated to be one of the more impressive prospects in the class until he suffered an ACL tear during the offseason. He just returned for the rivalry game against Georgia Tech so his fitness levels might not be where it needs to be just yet. When healthy, he’s very good. If medicals check out, he’s no worse than a fourth-round selection.

4. Jordan Davis IDL

- Davis might be the best defensive lineman in the country. He certainly is the best interior prospect in this year’s class. A physical freak at his size that has delivered for the vaunted Georgia defense in spades. He’s a surefire first-round selection after the season.

5. Devonte Wyatt DL

- Davis’ friend is no slouch on the interior himself. He’s a force to be reckoned with. A pure run stopper with a little bit of pass-rushing juice when asked. Expect his name to get called earlier than some expect.

6. Nakobe Dean LB

- Simply put, he’s the best off-ball linebacker in all of college football, bar none. A first-round lock.

7. Lewis Cine S

- The glue guy that holds everything together in a much-talented secondary. Cine has seen a ton of things throughout his career. He’s a really talented free safety prospect that could see his stock elevate into the second-round range when things are accounted for.


1. John Metchie III WR

- The breakout star last season has had a good season but has steadied somewhat into being what he is. He’s still one of the best receivers in the class but breaking in a new QB (even if that QB is a Heisman contender) has at times hampered him. He’s certainly headed for a Day 2 selection.

2. Jameson Williams WR

- The speed merchant transferred in from Ohio State and has made an instant impact for the Tide. He’s playing the Devonta Smith role perfectly for Nick Saban this season. Williams has vaulted himself into the first-round conversation with his immense production.

3. Jahleel Billingsley TE

- A toolsy type of tight-end prospect that has yet to fully realize his potential. He’s a modern-day tight end with great receiving skills and athleticism for days. The tight end class is a relatively loaded class so he will have to stand out should he declare. Grades right now as a middle Day 2 selection.

4. Evan Neal OT

- OT1 in the class, no question. He’s a versatile chess piece in the event that tackle doesn’t work out. Has experience at guard and both tackle spots. Neal has an interesting match-up with the powerful Georgia defensive line this weekend. If he holds up as projected, you can take that top 15 to the bank and forget about it.

5. Phi Mathis DL

- The key cog for this year’s Tide defensive line. He’s finally put it together in his final season. Can he elevate his game to keep Alabama in it against a growing menace that is Georgia’s offense? He’s a Day 3 selection for now.

6. Henry To'oTo'o LB

- The transfer from Tennessee has had a good season as expected. He has all the traits to make an impact in the league should he declare for the draft. Teams will salivate over them but the instincts aren’t quite there yet. Probably needs one more season in Tuscaloosa.

7. Josh Jobe CB

- Jobe is the next star man in the Tide’s secondary that will go high. While he isn’t Patrick Surtain, Jr, he is an impressive prospect. He’s played a ton of big-time games and rather well every time. Excellent in all facets of the pass and run game like most Alabama secondary players. He’s a first-round selection.

Big Ten Championship

Location: Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Indianapolis Colts) 8 PM FOX

#2 Michigan vs. #13 Iowa

- Michigan really had to earn their way to the Big Ten East title after blowing out archrival Ohio State and losing to Michigan State. It’s a win-and-in scenario for the resurgent Wolverines. The Hawkeyes backed their way into Indianapolis, relying on Wisconsin to lose to Minnesota last weekend. However, Iowa has the horses on offense and defense to muck it up for the seemingly inconsistent Wolverines offense. This will be a traditional staid classic Big Ten battle in the trenches and timely quarterback play in which both sides are equally capable and incapable of. Can the Wolverines keep their eye on the ball and make their way to a playoff spot? Or will the always consistent Hawkeyes play spoiler to those dreams?

Prospects to Watch


1. Hassan Haskins RB

- Haskins has been ultra-productive this season for the powerful Michigan run game alongside co-host Blake Corum. He really put the hammer down on hated rival Ohio State with a devastating five touchdowns last weekend. He’s a bigger back that can pound between the tackles but has some burst on the perimeter to make it interesting. While it’s not likely that he won’t get to first-round status but he’ll get drafted in the latter stages of Day 2.

2. Aidan Hutchinson EDGE

- The 1B to Kayvon Thibodeaux’s most heralded 1A status as the best edge prospect in the entire class. Hutchinson has been magnificent this season, posting double-digit sacks and being a menace all over the line. While I won’t compare him to JJ Watt just yet, he has a ton of potential at the next level. A surefire top ten pick in April.

3. David Ojabo EDGE

- Hutch’s running mate Ojabo has been a force as well. He has been productive and will likely get drafted on Day 2 as a result. He’s accepted a Senior Bowl invite so the showcase in Mobile could vault him into Round 1 conversation a bit.

4. Daxton Hill DB

- Hill has been in Ann Arbor forever it seems, playing a variety of roles in the secondary. He’s a corner by trade and has stuck there this season for the most part. NFL teams will love his versatility to play in different schemes and positions. He could be an underrated draft steal for an enterprising team on Day 2.


1. Tyler Goodson RB

- Goodson is the engine that makes the Hawkeyes go on offense like most typical Iowa backs. He’s been there in the system for a while and served as a capable backup until seizing the starting role this season. Unknown at this time if he will declare or not.

2. Tyler Linderbaum C

- The nation’s most dominant lineman in the class. He’s the best center by far. The gulf in class between him and the next center is shocking. Just scratching the surface in terms of potential as he’s a convert from defensive tackle recently. Day 1 selection in the mold of Travis Frederick back in the day.

3. Jack Campbell LB

- Iowa’s star linebacker. He’s a tackling machine who can do the perimeter stuff very well due to plus instincts. A sneaky prospect who could surprise some folks by going higher than expected.

ACC Championship

Location: Bank of America Stadium (home of the Carolina Panthers) 8 PM ABC

#15 Pittsburgh vs. #16 Wake Forest

- Raise your hand if you predicted these two teams to represent the conference in Charlotte. If offensive shootouts are your cup of tea, then this one's for you. Both teams are adept at surrendering points as they are capable of scoring them. It’s as if the Big 12 and ACC switched bodies this season. Wake Forest has been the more explosive of the two but doesn’t sleep on Pittsburgh’s offense either. In fact, the Demon Deacons’ staff are all the talk of the college football world, with teams looking to poach personnel or copy some ideas. The Panthers offense is guided by super senior and Heisman-worthy candidate quarterback Kenny Pickett. Wake reached the dizzying heights of the top ten this season before ultimately falling down late. Expect a lot of fireworks on the turf that Cam Newton and Christian McCaffery roam on Sundays.

Prospects to Watch


1. Kenny Pickett QB

- Pickett has improved massively this season and should be invited to New York as a result. He doesn’t have one physical trait that makes people go wow but is kind of a jack of all trades type of passer. He’s likely draftable based on this year’s results.

Wake Forest

1. Jaquarii Roberson WR

- The beneficiary of the Deacs’ offensive explosion? Roberson has come on like gangbusters this season and is a legitimate prospect that could get drafted early on Day 3. The past two years have been good to him as the primary threat.


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