College football conference championship week is in the books. After every week fans can take away things from what happened on the field. Here are five things learned from college football week conference championship week.
1. The Pac-12 has no Elite Teams
On Friday night, USC had a chance to finish undefeated in the Pac-12 Championship. They were taking on Oregon, who only got the invite to the game because Washington had to miss it because of COVID. The Pac-12 successfully beat themselves up this whole season and that continued in the Pac-12 Championship.
In typical USC fashion, they started slow and allowed Oregon to take an early lead and were never able to recover. The loss moves USC out of contention for the College Football Playoff and a New Year’s Six Bowl. With more time and games played, the Pac-12 could’ve had more teams be in contention at the end of the season.
2. Ohio State Looked Sloppy
Although Northwestern came into the Big Ten Championship with just one loss, many expected Ohio State to blow them out. That wasn’t the case, as Ohio State had a close game with the Wildcats for four quarters. The Buckeyes finally won the game 22-10.
Justin Fields specifically did not have a great game. He finished the game with 114 passing yards and two interceptions. The Buckeyes relied on running back Trey Sermon, who finished the game with an Ohio State record 331 rushing yards and two touchdowns. If the Buckeyes want to win in the playoffs, they won’t be able to run the ball, so Fields will need to play better.
3. Clemson is a Top Two Team in the Country
Clemson won the ACC Championship Game big time over Notre Dame. After losing to the Fighting Irish earlier in the year on the road, the Tigers needed the win to make the College Football Playoff. Now that they are fully healthy, they look fully ready to make a run at the championship.
The Tigers ran right through the ACC schedule other than their game against Notre Dame. They lost to Notre Dame when Trevor Lawrence was out. With him back, the result speaks for itself. Clemson and Alabama have separated themselves from the pack with their performances this year.
4. Notre Dame SHOULD be the Last Team in
Notre Dame will want to forget the ACC Championshp, but they did also beat Clemson this year. After sitting at number two in the rankings, their drop shouldn’t be too severe for losing to Clemson. People can say what they want about what the committee should do, but it would take some real mental gymnastics to find a team more worthy than Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish have one loss and also have the great win over Clemson. Texas A&M has one loss and their top win against Florida doesn’t look as good as it did a few weeks ago. Cincinnati was ranked ninth and Oklahoma was 10th. A jump ahead of Notre Dame seems like it is unlikely for any of these teams given their standing before this week. Therefore, Notre Dame should be expected to be the last team in the playoff.
5. Steve Sarkisian Needs a Lot of Credit
Last year, Alabama had Tua Tagovailoa, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Jedrick Wills leading the offense. All of those players were selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. That meant this season new stars had to emerge. This was especially the case after Jaylon Waddle went down with an injury. Alabama had three key players on offense step up and lead them to a conference championship: Mac Jones, Najee Harris and Devonta Smith.
It’s not often that three offensive players can stand out in a conference championship game. That’s exactly what happened for Alabama. Jones passed for 418 yards and five touchdowns. Harris had 245 total yards and five touchdowns. Smith had 15 catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns. While it is not likely, all three players deserve to go to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian deserves some credit for getting a lot out of the offense after so much roster turnover on that side of the ball.
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