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Championship Weekend Preview

On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff Committee set the stage for Championship Weekend.  3 teams get to play in what acts as play-in games.  If Clemson, Alabama, and Iowa win, the idea is that they will all remain in the top 4 and play in the 2nd annual College Football Playoff.  However, those teams will not have easy roads.  Here’s an Other Side preview for this upcoming weekend.

I use 6 criteria when previewing games that paint a complete picture of the opponents each team will face: 1st Downs Defense, 3rd Down Conversion Percentage Defense, 4th Down Conversion Percentage Defense, Kickoff Return Defense, Passing Efficiency Defense, and Rushing Defense.

1. Clemson (12-0) vs 10. North Carolina (11-1)

This match-up hosts 2 of the top dual threat QB’s in the NCAA.  UNC has no wins over any top 25 team, I’d argue Pitt should be #25 but that doesn’t exactly help their case.  Clemson, however, has beaten 2 top 10* teams in Notre Dame (8) and Florida State (9).  I didn’t come here to tell you stories, I came to give you stats.  So let’s go.

2 top Dual Threat QB’s?  Absolutely.

Deshaun Watson ranks 9th in Passing Efficiency and 5th in Rushing yards for a QB who’s not a converted WR with 756 yards on the ground.  36 total TDs (27 pass, 9 rush)
Marquise Williams ranks 14th in Passing Efficiency and 3rd in Rushing yards for a QB who’s not a converted WR with 786 yards on the ground.  28 total TDs (18 pass, 10 rush)
Both teams have a 1,000 yard rushers in Wayne Gallman (Clemson – 1145) and Elijah Hood (UNC – 1280)

Clemson notable defensive ranks:

  • 1DD – 1
  • 3DD – 1
  • 4DD – 36
  • KRD – 112 (2 TDs given up)
  • PED – 4
  • Rush D – 24

UNC notable defensive ranks:

  • 1DD – 103
  • 3DD – 91
  • 4DD – 117
  • KRD – 31
  • PED – 11
  • Rush D – 105

2. Alabama (11-1) vs 18. Florida (10-2)

Would you believe me if I told you Florida has the better quality win over Alabama in this matchup?
Florida beat #13 Ole Miss while Alabama’s best win is against #21 LSU (also lost to #13 Ole Miss).  Now, I know Florida looks different on offense now without Will Grier, which is why the only stats that matter in this game are defensive.  We all know about Derrick Henry and his Heisman potential year, but Kelvin Taylor would give Florida their first 1,000 yard rusher since 2012 with 33 yards on the ground.

Alabama notable defensive ranks:

  • 1DD – 4
  • 3DD – 8
  • 4DD – 18
  • KRD – 17
  • PED – 5
  • Rush D – 1

Florida notable defensive ranks:

  • 1DD – 7
  • 3DD – 10
  • 4DD – 98
  • KRD – 37
  • PED – 8
  • Rush D – 7

3. Oklahoma (11-1)

Oklahoma is the sole Big 12 champion.  They are idle this week, which gives them 1 more week of rest to get full strength over the other playoff teams.  Assuming the committee doesn’t hold the fact they don’t play a conference championship against them, OU appears to be a lock for the playoff.

4. Iowa (12-0) vs 5. Mich St. (11-1)

Iowa and Michigan State hold their destiny in their hands.  Whoever wins will play in the playoff.  Iowa’s most impressive win is a 40-10 route of #14 Northwestern.  Michigan State has 3 top 20 wins against Ohio State (6), Michigan (15), and Oregon (16).  Both teams have balanced offenses with Jordan Canzeri (Iowa RB 964 yards) and Connor Cook (Mich St. QB 2730 passing yards) highlighting what both teams do offensively.

Iowa notable defensive ranks:

  • 1DD – 52
  • 3DD – 43
  • 4DD – 83
  • KRD – 106 (1 TD given up)
  • PED – 12
  • Rush D – 6

Michigan State notable defensive ranks:

  • 1DD – 28
  • 3DD – 46
  • 4DD – 60
  • KRD – 68 (1 TD given up)
  • PED – 68
  • Rush D – 16

Honorable Mention:

7. Stanford (10-2) vs 20. Southern California (8-4)

Stanford needs help to get into the playoff, probably an Alabama loss AND a Clemson loss.  While highly unlikely, a trip to the Rose Bowl and a PAC 12 championship are still available for the taking and USC will want to stay home during bowl season.  Kevin Hogan ranks 5th in passing efficiency and Cody Kessler 14th.  This game could end up being a shootout.

Stanford notable defensive ranks:

  • 1DD – 39
  • 3DD – 56
  • 4DD – 111
  • KRD – 76 ( 1 TD given up)
  • PED – 59
  • Rush D – 44

Southern California notable defensive ranks:

  • 1DD – 96
  • 3DD – 30
  • 4DD – 11
  • KRD – 48
  • PED – 88
  • Rush D – 30

Georgia State (5-6) @ Georgia Southern (8-3)

Being a Georgia Southern alum, I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t my favorite game of the weekend.  “The Battle of the real GSU” takes it’s 2nd stage and it couldn’t play any better.  Georgia Southern, do to NCAA rules, qualified for a bowl in our first season in the FBS but were ineligible to play in the postseason.  The Panthers needs a win over their dreaded rival to qualify for their first postseason game in program history.  Being a Georgia Southern fan, I think I speak for all of us in saying, I’ll be damned if Georgia State makes their first bowl the same year we make our first bowl appearance.  I’d say Georgia Southern is going to win but once again I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.

Georgia State notable defensive ranks:

1DD – 94
3DD – 85
4DD – 107
KRD – 119
PED – 63
Rush D – 80

Georgia Southern notable defensive ranks:

1DD – 6
3DD – 20
4DD – 9
KRD – 2
PED – 42
Rush D – 25

The Winners according to these metrics:
Clemson big
Alabama in a low scoring game
Iowa close
Stanford in a high scoring game
Georgia Southern big in a high scoring game

Numbers don’t suit up on Saturdays, so this is why they play the game.  Everyone always starts 0-0 so it’s anyone’s game.  Enjoy the weekend.

*All rankings are according to the most recent college football playoff rankings provided by ESPN.COM
**All stats can be found on the official NCAA statistics website

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