Who will win? College football conference championship weekend

WASHINGTON — There’s another weekend before the bowls? Really?

Conference championships are decided Friday and Saturday with the area schools mostly idle-unlike last December when Virginia Tech was bettered by eventual national champ Clemson and Navy lost to Temple (ugh) at home (double ugh). At least we have James Madison (unbeaten and top ranked defending champ James Madison, that is) in FCS Playoff Action.

So even though one’s school might not be in action this weekend, you can still insert yourself into the conversation.


Pac-12 Championship — No. 10 USC (10-2) plays No. 12 Stanford (9-3), 8 p.m. (ESPN)
At stake
: Neither has a great shot at making the College Football Playoff, and with the Rose Bowl serving as one of the semifinal games the winner won’t even get a trip to Pasadena. Plus, this game is at 5 p.m. local time on a Friday? Even the MAC gets a Saturday kickoff.

Rematch? USC won 42-24 Sept. 10.

Who to Watch: Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold began the year as the Heisman favorite, and Cardinal running back Bryce Love is a strong contender for the honor. Both have nightmares of being drafted by Cleveland.

Notable Fact: Unlike the other leagues, the Pac-12 name actually reflects its membership number.

Presto’s Pick: Trojans triumph, 31-17.


AAC Championship — No. 14 UCF (12-0) vs No. 20 Memphis (10-1), noon (ABC)
At stake
: the right to be the really angry “group of five/Mid-Major” school left out of the playoff despite a conference title and a great record. Plus the winning coach takes a leap in the “hot coaching commodity contest.”

Rematch? UCF won 40-13 Sept. 30.

Who to Watch: UCF’s McKenzie Milton sounds like a shirt from Vineyard Vines, but the dual threat quarterback is averaging 326 yards passing per game this month and has run for a TD in five straight games. Tigers QB Riley Ferguson is just as impressive.

Notable Fact: Both teams beat Navy and the Knights routed Maryland in College Park.

Presto’s Pick: Knights tame the Tigers, 37-28.

Big 12 Championship — No. 3 Oklahoma (11-1) vs No. 11 TCU (10-2), 12:30 p.m. (FOX)
At Stake:
Sooners need a win or they’d likely slip behind Alabama and out of the playoffs. Horned Frogs need a win plus a measles epidemic to make the Final Four.

Rematch? Oklahoma won 38-20 Nov. 11.

Who to Watch: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is on his way to the Heisman Trophy, while TCU defensive linemen Ben Banogu and Ross Blacklock will try to keep him off-balance.

Notable Fact: The Big 12 is the only conference to have a championship game despite not having divisions, which is why the conference championship game was created in the first place.

Presto’s Pick: Sooners stumble, 44-38.

FCS Second Round — No. 1 James Madison (11-0) vs No. 10 Stony Brook (10-2), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)
At Stake
: A berth in the quarterfinals and bragging rights between conference foes that haven’t met since 2015.

Players to Watch: Bryan Schor led the Dukes to the National Championship last year and picked up where he left off this fall. Seawolves running back Donald Liotine led the CAA in scoring.

Notable Fact: Home teams went 5-3 last weekend in the first round of the tournament after going 17-5 in 2016.

Presto’s Pick: Dukes dominate, 34-16.

SEC Championship- No. 2 Auburn (10-2) vs No. 6 Georgia (11-1), 4 p.m. (CBS)
What’s at Stake:
Automatic berth for the winner, with the knowledge that Alabama will be sweating until Tuesday evening. Loser knows they had a chance and blew it.

Rematch? Auburn won 40-17 Nov. 11.

Who to Watch: Kerryon Johnson ran for 167 yards against Georgia three weeks ago, while Bulldogs tailback Nick Chubb was held to 27 yards on 11 tries.

Notable Fact: CBS announcer Brad Nessler used to call Atlanta Falcons games at their old stadium — not the Georgia Dome but Fulton County Stadium in the 1980s.

Presto’s Pick: Tigers by a nose, 23-20.

ACC Championship- No. 1 Clemson (11-1) vs No. 7 Miami (10-1), 8 p.m. (ABC)
At Stake:
The winner makes the Playoff while the loser should be cursing their loss to a sub-500 Syracuse or Pitt.

Rematch? No. Although in 2015 the Tigers torched the Hurricanes 58-0 in Al Golden’s final game as coach. Enter Mark Richt.

Who to Watch: Can Miami QB Malik Rosier bounce back from his subpar effort against Pitt? Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell had 8 sacks to finish second in the ACC and will have a say in Rosier’s play.

Notable Fact: This is Miami’s first-ever trip the ACC Championship Game — while Virginia Tech has been to the most (3-3 in six appearances).

Presto’s Pick: Tigers triumph, 30-22.

Big Ten Championship- No. 4 Wisconsin (12-0) vs No. 8 Ohio State (10-2), 8 p.m. (FOX)
At Stake:
 A Badgers win would lock up a playoff berth as well as quiet naysayers about their soft schedule. A Buckeyes victory would likely send Alabama to the Playoff, making Ohio State fans whine about not being included despite winning their league (a criteria ignored last year when they made the playoff and Penn State was excluded).

Rematch? They didn’t meet this year-but the Buckeyes butchered the Badgers 59-0 in 2014.

Who to Watch: Ohio State QB JT Barrett led the Buckeyes to the national title as a freshman — he’ll play Saturday despite having “minor” knee surgery this week. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is the league’s leading rusher, averaging 7 yards per carry and 150 yards per game.

Notable Fact: Maryland has as many conference championship game appearances as Michigan.

Presto’s Pick: Buckeyes blow up the bracket, 24-20.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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