College football’s regular season came to an end over the weekend of Dec 6-8 with a collection of conference championship games that offered very few surprises. Other than the PAC-12 title game, in which the No. 13 Oregon Ducks dismantled the No. 5 Utah Utes by a final score of 37-15, none of the featured match ups altered the landscape of the playoff picture in any significant way.
The Utes entered the weekend in prime position to put an end to the PAC-12’s three-year absence from the college football playoffs and, potentially, the conference’s 15-year drought in the national title game. Instead the Utes vaunted defensive line, that had dominated opponents all season, crumbled in the face of an explosive Oregon offense led by running back CJ Verdell.
Verdell gashed the Utes for 208 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns, including a 70-yard burst in the final minutes of the game that sealed the win for the Ducks. The victory gave Oregon their first PAC 12 title in five years and earned them a spot in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day where they will face the Wisconsin Badgers.
The Badgers find themselves in Pasadena after becoming the thirteenth team to lose to the Ohio State Buckeyes on Dec. 7 in the Big 10 title game. After holding the Buckeyes to a single first-half touchdown, Wisconsin allowed 27 unanswered points in the second half to see the game slip away by a final score of 34-21.
In a battle of strengths, LSU quarterback Joe Burrows solidified his bid for the Heisman Trophy with an incredible performance over the No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 7.
Burrows picked apart the Georgia secondary completing 74 percent of his passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns. Additionally, Burrows was the second leading rusher for the Tigers with 41 yards on 11 carries. He also snagged a reception for 16 yards to put the feather in the cap of his 13-0 senior year.
The loss pushed the Bulldogs out of the playoff picture and into the Sugar Bowl for the second consecutive season. After last year’s loss to the underdog Texas Longhorns, Georgia is hoping for better success against a tough Baylor Bears team that comes into the game after an overtime loss to No. 6 Oklahoma.
Down early in the Big-12 title game, the No. 7 Bears surged back to take a half-time lead over the Sooners. A wild second half, that saw two more lead changes and a last minute field goal, led to a 23-23 tie at the end of regulation A touchdown on the first overtime possession proved to be the difference, and the Sooners vaulted themselves into the playoffs with their second come from behind win against Baylor.
The least surprising result of the weekend came out of the ACC championship where No. 3 Clemson ran wild over No. 23 Virginia. The Cavaliers did score the first points of the game with a touchdown on their second drive, but the Tigers continued to show that they are playing on a completely different level, not only over the ACC but the rest of the nation, with a 62-point scoring frenzy that saw the team score two or more touchdowns in every quarter.
After the dust had settled and the final scores had been tallied the college football committee released their final polls of the season on Dec. 8.
LSU, on the strength of their overall schedule and the impressive win over Georgia, re-claimed the No. 1 spot in the final poll. Ohio State’s first half struggles against Wisconsin proved to be the difference as they were bumped to No. 2. Clemson remained locked at No. 3 while Oklahoma slipped into the No. 4 slot as a one-loss conference championship.
The four teams will be trimmed to two in a pair of playoff games on Dec. 28 when the LSU Tigers face the Oklahoma Sooners and the Ohio State Buckeyes go head-to-head with the Clemson Tigers in what me be the most anticipated game of 2019.