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Stan Becton | | November 30, 2021

The college football fan's guide to conference championship weekend

College football rankings: Michigan rises to No. 2 after win over Ohio State

Conference championship week of the 2021 college football season is here with conference titles and postseason positioning on the line.

Here are all of the conference championship games this week:

Conference Matchup
ACC No. 15 Pittsburgh vs. No. 16 Wake Forest
Big Ten No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Iowa
Pac-12 No. 10 Oregon vs. No. 17 Utah
SEC No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 3 Alabama
Big 12 No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 9 Baylor
American No. 4 Cincinnati vs. No. 21 Houston
Conference USA UTSA vs. Western Kentucky
MAC Northern Illinois vs. Kent State
Mountain West No. 19 San Diego State vs. Utah State
Sun Belt No. 24 Louisiana vs. Appalachian State

There is one additional game to the conference championship slate this week, with Southern California playing Cal in a makeup game. The final regular-season game will be Dec. 11 in the historic Army vs. Navy game.

FULL SCHEDULE: College football TV schedule and times

Conference championship week preview: Games to watch

This week's games to watch will focus on every conference championship game with College Football Playoff implications.

Big 12 Championship | No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State (AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX) | 12 p.m. | ABC

A thrilling Oklahoma State Bedlam victory was a gift to Baylor, as it gave the Bears a berth in the Big 12 title game. Oklahoma State won't get a thank you for its effort, but instead, the Cowboys will get to face the Bears this week. When the schools last met, Oklahoma State defeated Baylor 24-14 behind Cowboys running back Jaylen Warren's two touchdowns. However, Baylor forced three interceptions in the loss, giving the Bears something to build off of entering this game.

Players to watch: QB Gerry Bohanon (BAY), RB Abram Smith (BAY), WR Tyquan Thornton (BAY), LB Dillon Doyle (BAY), S Jalen Pitre (BAY), QB Spencer Sanders (OKST), RB Jaylen Warren (OKST), DB Kolby Harvell-Peel (OKST)

PLAYOFF: 2021-22 College Football Playoff schedule, dates, TV channel, sites

SEC Championship | No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 3 Alabama (Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA) | 4 p.m. | CBS

The top teams in the SEC will finally meet when Georgia takes on Alabama. Six of the last seven SEC championships have gone to one of the two schools. 

This go around, the Crimson Tide and the fifth-leading scoring offense will try to become the first offense to find consistent success against Georgia's historic defense. It's a matchup to watch with a likely berth to the College Football Playoff on the line.

Players to watch: QB Stetson Bennett (UGA), RB Zamir White (UGA), DT Jordan Davis (UGA), LB Nakobe Dean (UGA), LB Nolan Smith (UGA), QB Bryce Young (ALA), WR Jameson Williams (ALA), LB Christian Harris (ALA) LB Will Anderson (ALA)

AAC Championship | No. 21 Houston at No. 4 Cincinnati | 4 p.m. | ABC

The American Athletic Conference is a Cincinnati win away from likely having the conference's first College Football Playoff participant. However, Houston would love to play spoiler, winning its first AAC title since 2015. To do so, Houston's offense that averages 38.8 points per game will have to find a way to score against Cincinnati's top-3 scoring defense. 

Players to watch: QB Clayton Tune (HOU), WR Nathaniel Dell (HOU), LB Donavan Mutin (HOU), QB Desmond Ridder (CIN), RB Jerome Ford (CIN), DE Myjai Sanders (CIN), CB Ahmad Gardner (CIN), CB Coby Bryant (CIN)

PLAYOFFS: Here's how Cincinnati could reach the College Football Playoff

Big Ten Championship | No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Iowa (Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN) | 8 p.m. | FOX

Michigan plays Iowa in this year's Big Ten championship, meaning Ohio State's four-year reign as champion will come to an end. This comes after the Wolverines ended their losing streak to the Buckeyes last week. Yet, Michigan doesn't have time to celebrate its win over its rival with Iowa up next; the Hawkeyes were the second-ranked team in the country at one point this season. With Michigan and Iowa having the eighth and ninth-best scoring defenses, this game is shaping up to be an old-school Big Ten slugfest.

Players to watch: QB Cade McNamara (MICH), RB Hassan Haskins (MICH), RB Hassan Haskins (MICH), DL Aidan Hutchinson (MICH), LB David Ojabo (MICH), RB Tyler Goodson (Iowa), C Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa), DE Zach VanValkenburg (Iowa)

GO BLUE: How Michigan beats Ohio State for the first time since 2011

Big conference championship week questions

Who wins a wide-open Heisman race?

Ohio State's loss to Michigan last week kept the Heisman race wide open with one week left for voters. With Buckeyes C.J Stroud and TreVeyon Henderson at home, they won't have an extra week to boost their resume for the trophy. The same goes for Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III and Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral.

Meanwhile, quarterbacks like Alabama's Bryce Young, Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett and Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder all get an extra week to change any voter's minds. Defensive players like Alabama linebacker Will Anderson and anyone from the lauded Georgia defense could make a winning case for the award during a conference championship game too. 

There also could be a new candidate that builds off a Week 13 performance like Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson or Hassan Haskins. One thing is for sure, the Heisman voters have a tough decision ahead.

How will the New Year's Six end up?

While the College Football Playoff will get all the attention, the other New Year's Six bowl games are also up for grabs this week. The ACC and Pac-12 champions are sure to take New Year's Six spots this year, but teams without conference championships to their name still have a chance in one of the prestigious games. Teams like Ole Miss and BYU will sit at home this weekend, hoping the results from teams in front of them turn out just right so they can end up in a New Year's Six game.

Is this the year a two-loss team gets in the Playoff?

If this week gets crazy, there may finally be a two-loss team in the College Football Playoff. If Georgia, Michigan and Baylor win, but Cincinnati and Alabama lose, it could be chaos. While a one-loss Notre Dame would likely jump into the top four from its current spot, there would be one spot left open. 

What team would get the nod? In this scenario, Baylor could get the spot since it has a conference championship. Ohio State has an argument with its losses to the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions. After losing to the No. 1 team, Alabama might also still be alive. 

The Playoff committee could have its hands full. On the other hand, conference championship week could keep things simple with the higher-ranked teams winning.

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