Nov 25, 2016; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Browning (3) throws a pass against the Washington State Cougars during the second half at Martin Stadium. The Huskies won 45-17. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

College Football Championship Weekend Has Arrived

This weekend in college football is commonly referred to as “championship weekend.” Set a week after “rivalry weekend,” this week’s games could have huge implications for the playoffs as three of the top four teams in the nation will each play for a chance to win their conference.

Pac 12

On Friday night, the Pac-12 Championship will be played in Santa Clara, California. This year will mark the first appearance in the title game for both Washington and Colorado, who have become two of the biggest surprises of the college football season.

The Colorado Buffaloes (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) went from being the worst team in the South Division to the best in just one year. Their only losses have come from USC and Michigan, early on in the season. Colorado will have to play tight defense against a Washington team that looks to capitalize on big plays.

The Washington Huskies (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) have also played unexpectedly well this season. They are led by Heisman-hopeful, sophomore quarterback Jake Browning. He has thrown 40 touchdowns this year and is ranked fourth in the country in passing efficiency (181.6 rating).

Unfortunately for Washington, a win does not guarantee them a spot in the top four of the College Football Playoff. Due to the performances by #2 Ohio State and #5 Michigan this season, they still have a chance to make the final top four rankings despite not playing in their conference title game, which could push the Huskies out.

SEC

The SEC Championship will pit the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide against the 15th ranked Florida Gators, which will be a rematch from last year’s championship game.

Alabama has not lost a game this season having played seven ranked teams this year. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has led the offense that has averaged 40 points per game. Saturday, they will face a Florida defense that has had its share of injuries.

The Gators (8-3, 6-2 SEC) offense this year has struggled to produce and they will have to find a way to outplay one of the top defenses in the country in the Crimson Tide. If Alabama were to lose to Florida, they still have a chance to make it to the College Football Playoff.

ACC

On Saturday night, the ACC Championship will feature No. 3 Clemson Tigers versus No. 23 Virginia Tech Hokies in Orlando, Florida.

Clemson (11-1, 7-1 ACC) will be playing for its second consecutive ACC title. Although the Tigers lost eight of their starting lineup on defense from last year, they have managed to rely on their standout quarterback Deshaun Watson who has thrown 34 touchdowns this season. Clemson’s offense has been able to blow out their opponents having averaged 40 points per game and scoring 50+ points in four games.

Virginia Tech (9-3, 6-2 ACC) is playing this season under new head coach Jim Fuente. He had been interviewed for the offensive coordinator position at Clemson by current head coach Dabo Swinney several years ago, but lost the job to Chad Morris. Now, Fuente has led the Hokies to win the ACC Coastal Division in his first year and will face Swinney for the ACC title.

A win for Clemson will almost guarantee a spot in the College Football Playoff for the second time in two years.

Big 10

The Big Ten Championship brings one of the closest matchups of the championship games.

The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers will face the No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions for the title.

Penn State (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten) has had its best season in recent years which was topped off with an upset win over Ohio State which allowed them their first ever appearance in the Big Ten title match. Their best offensive weapon is running back Saquon Barkley who suffered a right foot injury last week. He has rushed for 1,219 yards this season and scored 15 touchdowns.

Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) has played with one of the top defenses in the country. Their rushing defense averages 100.8 yards per game and they lead the nation with 21 interceptions. The Badgers use a two quarterback system and depend on running back Corey Clement who leads the team with 1,140 rushing yards.

The winner of this game has an opportunity for a berth in the College Football Playoff, but it will have to rely on losses from higher ranked teams as well.

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