College Football Championship Week: The Pre-Playoff

John Keen, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY

College football’s regular season has come to its end, but this weekend’s conference championship games are still vitally import in determining who will reach the College Football Playoff.

Four of the five major conferences, excluding the Big 12, participate in conference championship games with three of the Power Five conferences having teams in the top four of the rankings.

The ACC’s championship game features a Saturday night clash between Clemson and Virginia Tech. Clemson comes into Saturday’s action ranked fourth in the nation, while Virginia Tech, unranked, looks to upset the Tigers.

Clemson’s high-powered offense, ranked top five nationally in passing offense, led by quarterback Deshaun Watson and offense coordinator Tony Elliot will try and overwhelm Virginia Tech’s stingy secondary, ranked 17th nationally in total passing yards allowed.

If Clemson emerges victorious, they punch their ticket to the College Football Playoff. However, a Virginia Tech upset opens the door for a two-loss Penn State, Wisconsin or Colorado.

While the conference’s premier team, the Ohio State Buckeyes, is left at home watching due to their mid-season loss at Penn State, the Big Ten championship game between the Nittany Lions and Wisconsin Badgers still has major Playoff implications.

With two defenses ranked top 20 nationally, this game promises to be a low scoring affair with the winner having a shot at the final playoff spot.

Not only would a Clemson loss benefit the Big Ten Winner but a Colorado victory over Washington in the Pac-12 Championship would raise an interesting debate: Who is the more deserving team — the Big Ten winner or Colorado?

Wisconsin, Penn State and Colorado all have losses to Michigan. Wisconsin also lost to Ohio State, a Playoff lock; Colorado lost to USC, a much-improved team during the season’s second half; and Penn State also lost to instate rival Pittsburgh. Will a win for any of these three teams help them enough to slide into the top four?

With everything being equal and assuming all three teams only have two losses and are conference champions, Wisconsin would be the most deserving team, followed by Colorado then Penn State.

With that being said, Colorado still has to beat Washington for any of that to matter. Colorado comes into the Pac-12 championship with a slightly better defense than Washington, while Washington sports a slightly better Offense. These two evenly matched teams square off this Friday with much more than Pac-12 Championship hopes on the line.

Finally, the SEC championship game features Alabama, consensus number one overall team and only undefeated team in a Power Five conference against Florida.

Even if Alabama happens to lose Saturday, their Playoff spot is still secured and at worst they would drop to second behind Ohio State for the number one overall seed.

With major Playoff implications still remaining, this year’s college football championship week is shaping up to be one to remember.