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Five things we learned from conference championship week

Teams are preparing for bowl season or for next season depending on how their season finished. Heading into bowl games, more coaching carousel drama, here is what we learned:

1. Oklahoma locks up CFP, Baker Mayfield locks up the Heisman

Conference Championship week
Baker Mayfield (usatoday.com)

Oklahoma dominated in the Big 12 Championship, beating TCU 41-17. The Sooners were ranked third in the most recent College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings, so this win virtually locks up their CFP spot. With a record of 12-1 and a Big 12 Championship at hand, Oklahoma will be watching the selection show just to see who they are playing in the first round of the CFP.

On top of the Sooners winning the Big 12, their quarterback, Baker Mayfield, has cemented himself as the Heisman winner. In the Big 12 Championship Game, he threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns. With over 4,000 yards passing and 40 total touchdowns on the season, Mayfield is the obvious choice.

2. UCF has completed a great turnaround, but lose coach

Scott Frost was announced as the new head coach of the UCF Golden Knights after the 2015 season. UCF had just gone 0-12 and needed a lot of work. In his first season as head coach, Frost led the team to a 6-7 record, which included an appearance in the Cure Bowl. It was a great start to the turnaround, but Frost wasn’t done yet.

This season, UCF was not favored to win the conference, with teams like USF and Houston stealing the headlines. They were expected to take another step forward, however. They surprised everyone and ripped off 12 wins (one was cancelled due to a hurricane) and won the AAC Championship. The Golden Knights have earned the right to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl. The complete turnaround has been completed.

Unfortunately for UCF, Frost has reportedly taken the job at Nebraska. While it is a bittersweet moment for the Golden Knights, I don’t think they would trade the undefeated season and AAC Championship.

3. Georgia fans can relax….for now

Conference Championship week
D’Andre Swift (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

Georgia has been a team that looks like a contender early in the season, but nearly always blows it. The administration fired Mark Richt for his failures to compete at the highest levels. They hired Kirby Smart, who in his second season, has led the Bulldogs to a SEC Championship and the chance to win the whole thing.

The Bulldogs will be in the CFP and will be waiting to see how they play. They may have overcome the thought that they would choke, but they have to prepare for more big games if they want to win it all. Their wins over Auburn and at Notre Dame prove they can play with anyone in the country.

4. Clemson is battle tested

Clemson has put together another great season. They won the ACC Championship Game and are going to be in the CFP. Can the Tigers repeat as champs?

While the Tigers did lose to Syracuse, they beat a lot of good football teams this year. They won nine games against bowl eligible teams, including big wins over Auburn, Louisville, Miami, Virginia Tech and N.C. State. There were questions to start the season about Clemson, but they have answered most of those questions.

Does anyone want to play Clemson in the first round of the CFP?

5. J.T. Barrett is one of the toughest players of all time

J.T. Barrett re-aggravated a knee injury against Michigan and had to exit the game. Dwayne Haskins Jr. was able to take over and lead the team to victory. Barrett had surgery on his knee on the day after the Michigan game and was questionable to play in the Big Ten Championship.

He was able to start and play the whole game against Wisconsin. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but he once again got the job done and led the Buckeyes to victory. He had 271 total yards and three touchdowns while playing so banged up. While he may not go down as one of the greatest players in the history of Ohio State, he certainly is one of the toughest.

 

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