7 things to know for conference championship week

Titles and playoff implications are on the line. Here's everything you need to know ahead of college football's championship weekend.

| 2 days ago
(Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images)

7 things to know for conference championship week


Championship week is here.

From conference titles to bowl placements to playoff implications, there’s a lot at stake this weekend in college football. The last playoff rankings of the regular season were just released, but this weekend’s results have the potential to shake things up at the top. There are some great games on the docket for Week 14, so get yourself primed and ready to take it all in with these 7 things to know about championship week:

  1. Jake Browning vs Colorado secondary will be key battle in Pac-12 title game

With not only the Pac-12 title on the line, but a potential playoff berth as well, Colorado vs Washington should be one of the top matchups of the weekend. Perhaps the best battle in this game will be Washington quarterback Jake Browning (82.2) squaring off against the stout Colorado secondary. Browning has put together an outstanding sophomore campaign, ranking third in the nation in PFF QB Rating (105.86), fourth in deep ball accuracy (50.7 percent) and posting an impressive 73.8 adjusted completion percentage. He also has the privilege of throwing to receivers John Ross (83.0) and Dante Pettis (81.6) who each rank among the six best receivers in the nation in terms of wide receiver rating. Browning and the Huskies passing attack will have to be at their best this weekend, as Colorado’s defense leads the nation in pass coverage grade. Cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon (86.8) and Chidobe Awuzie (85.7) each rank among the nation’s top 17 cover corners while Tedric Thompson leads all safeties with his 92.8 coverage grade this season.

  1. Jordan Willis the player to watch in Kansas State versus TCU

When you think of college football’s top edge defenders, Myles Garrett, Derek Barnett, Tim Williams and several other players likely come to mind. Kanas State’s Jordan Willis probably isn’t one of those players. Overshadowed by bigger names at the position, Willis has quietly put together a ridiculously productive year and leads all edge defenders with his 94.6 overall grade. He currently has the third most total pressures in the country at 68 and ranks 13th with his 13.2 pass rushing productivity rating. Not only does Willis lead the nation in pass-rush grade, but he also has the second-best grade against the run making him possibly the most balanced edge defender in the country. Willis should put up a strong performance to finish the year against TCU this weekend as right tackle Aviante Collins has surrendered 23 total pressures this season.

  1. Two of the country’s top quarterbacks battle in Bedlam

If you’re a fan of the forward pass, you will not want to miss this weekend’s matchup between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. This year’s Bedlam rivalry features two of the hottest quarterbacks in the nation in Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph. Both players have been unstoppable over the last month with each ranking among the top four passers in the country over that span. Mayfield currently ranks first among Power-5 QBs with a 78.7 adjusted completion percentage, leads all passers with a 141.1 rating when kept clean and has the top grade among quarterbacks at 93.0 overall. Rudolph has been highly impressive in his own right, ranking third in overall grade at 91.8 and leading the country with a 122.3 rating on deep pass attempts. With two dynamic passers on display and the winner having an outside chance at the Playoff, this game should be an entertaining start to your Saturday.

  1. Top talent on display in Mountain West Championship Game

The Mountain West Championship Game may not be appointment television for you this weekend, but there will be plenty of talent on display making it worth tuning in for. San Diego State boasts a few standout defenders in lineman Alex Barrett (86.3) and linebacker Calvin Munson (86.9), but it’s running back Donnell Pumphrey who is the real headliner. Pumphrey currently ranks as the eighth best back in the country with his 83.7 overall grade and has been a dynamic runner for the Aztecs all season long. He leads all running backs with 33 runs of 15 yards or longer and ranks fourth in the nation with 61 forced missed tackles. Quarterback Josh Allen is the story for Wyoming as he currently ranks 21st in the nation with his 83.4 passing grade, ranks eighth with a 48.1 accuracy percentage on deep attempts and has displayed some outstanding tools that have scouts taking notice. It may not be the biggest matchup of the weekend, but this game will feature several players with tremendous upside.

  1. Deshaun Watson is on fire, but Hokies secondary awaits

After a relatively slow start to the year, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has been lighting it up as of late, ranking as the best quarterback in the nation over the last four games. Last week was his best game of the season as he led all quarterbacks with a 93.8 adjusted completion percentage. While Watson is hitting his stride at the right time, the Virginia Tech defense, and their secondary in particular, present one of the biggest challenges of the season for the Clemson offense. The Hokies rank third in the nation in pass coverage grade and have several standout players on the back end of their defense. Chuck Clark (83.9) has been the 14th-highest graded safety in the nation this year while cornerbacks Adonis Alexander (81.6) and Brandon Facyson (81.5) each rank among the top players at their position in coverage grade. If injured corner Greg Stroman (83.0) is able to return for this game it will be a big boost to an already impressive secondary.

  1. Saquon Barkley must perform against Wisconsin defense

Much like the Pac-12 title game, the winner of the B1G championship will have earned not only a conference title but an outside chance at being included in the Committee’s final four teams for the Playoff. Wisconsin and Penn State will square off Saturday night in what looks to be another classic B1G football game featuring strong defenses and powerful rushing attacks. The outcome of this one may largely depend on the performance of Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (81.6) against a strong Wisconsin front seven. Our 11th highest graded back this season, Barkley has been difficult to corral for opposing defenses, forcing 53 missed tackles on the year. This weekend may prove to be his toughest test yet though as the Wisconsin defense has been one of the best in the country this season and boasts possibly the top linebacker corps in college football. Their starting four linebackers have been sure tacklers all year, performing especially well against the run where they’ve missed just a combined 10 tackles all season.

  1. Bama pass-rush will make life difficult for Appleby and Florida offense

There’s a long list of reasons why this weekend’s matchup against Alabama will be the toughest challenge of Florida quarterback Austin Appleby’s season. The Bama pass-rush is likely at the very top of that list. The top graded pass-rushing unit in the nation by a wide margin, Alabama has a slew of NFL-caliber pass-rushers ready to be deployed. From Jonathan Allen (91.4) to Tim Williams (86.4) to Ryan Anderson (84.4), each rank among the best in the nation at getting after the passer. That doesn’t bode well for Appleby and a Florida offensive line who has a less than impressive pass blocking efficiency rating of just 81.9 this season. Appleby has also struggled when facing pressure, seeing his QB rating drop from 95.1 in a clean pocket to just 66.7 when under siege. The Gators will have to get creative in finding ways to neutralize the rush if they’re to have a chance of pulling off the upset on Saturday.

 



Vinnie joined PFF as an analyst in 2015. College football will be his primary focus throughout the season.