This afternoon, FOX Sports lead college football game analyst Joel Klatt and studio analyst Robert Smith previewed conference championship weekend. Three conference champions are crowned this week on the FOX broadcast network, beginning with the Pac-12 Championship Game between No. 4 Washington and No. 8 Colorado. Pregame coverage begins at 8:00 PM ET. On Saturday, No. 9 Oklahoma hosts No. 10 Oklahoma State in “Bedlam,” which this year determines the winner of the Big 12. Coverage begins at 12:00 PM ET. Saturday night, beginning at 7:00 PM ET, the exciting weekend concludes with FOX’s presentation of the Big Ten Championship Game between No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 7 Penn State.
Robert Smith says the winner of the Big Ten Championship Game should be in the College Football Playoff, regardless of what else happens around the country:
“The winner of the Big Ten Championship should be in either way, if Washington wins or Colorado wins. Regardless of if it’s Colorado or Washington, I think the winner of Penn State-Wisconsin deserves that fourth spot, assuming Clemson wins.”
Joel Klatt says the winner of the Big Ten Championship Game should make the College Football Playoff ahead of Michigan:
“I don’t believe that you should penalize a team for wining their division, which is essentially what you would be doing to either Wisconsin or Penn State for having to play this extra game, and then just allowing Michigan to go in. So if Washington were to lose, I fully believe you should take the conference champion, even though Michigan would hold a head-to-head victory.
“The question should be more about Ohio State. They did not win their division. They did not win their conference championship. Even with one loss, I believe that if you’re going to talk about “deserving,” you need to talk about the conference champions first and then start whittling down. And then if there’s someone that’s unequivocally a better team, then maybe we should talk about them being included. But the whittling down process I think should only happen after you include the most deserving conference champions. If Washington were to lose, I certainly expect that the committee would include the Big Ten Champion.”
Smith says Bedlam, between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, should play a factor in determining the top four teams:
“I think people need to think about Bedlam, particularly if it’s Oklahoma State winning on the road in this game and losing a game against Central Michigan, in which the refs acknowledged that the last play of the game awarded to Central Michigan, which was the difference in the game – the reason that Oklahoma State lost – was a mistake, a misinterpretation of the rules. I have a problem, quite frankly, with Oklahoma State even being considered a two-loss team because of that.
“Oklahoma State is a more interesting case than Oklahoma, but I think either one of those teams would probably get deference over Michigan, although it would be interesting to see.”
Klatt says the most interesting matchup of the weekend will be between Penn State and Wisconsin:
“I’m thrilled to be in Indianapolis and to be doing the Big Ten game this week. I’m so interested in this game, as we all are, because of what it could mean for the Playoff – in particular with Ohio State sitting where they’re at and what the committee would do with the potential champion, in particular if that champion were to be Penn State. That’s obviously going to be a huge story line during the game.
“As far as in the game and what I’m most excited to see – there are a lot of matchups that I’m excited about, but the best one, or the one that I think would mean the most in terms of the results, would be Trace McSorley and the zone run game with Saquon Barkley against those two outside linebackers – those great players Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt from Wisconsin. That’s going to be the focal point of the Penn State run game, trying to get McSorley and Barkley going in the run game so they can get to their play-action pass and other stuff in their offense off of that. And then obviously those outside line backers Biegel and Watt are such good players and they’re so disruptive – as a lot of the coaches would say it they are game changers.”
Smith has his eye on Penn State’s defense:
“They’ve gotten so healthy and so good defensively – they’re sacking opposing quarterbacks almost 10 percent of drop-backs. People say that’s not a big deal against Wisconsin because they want to run the ball, but Penn State does a pretty good job at stopping the run. Over the last four or five weeks straight, Penn State has held opponents below three yards per carry. So, if Wisconsin can’t throw the ball – [Alex] Hornibrook has been in and out of the concussion protocol and Bart Houston has stepped in and at times has been good, but neither one of them has been great. I’ m really excited to see how this matchup works, because I don’t think either offense has a great matchup against the opposing defense.”
Klatt, a former Colorado quarterback, says he is surprised and happy by his alma mater’s success this season:
“It has been unexpected and shocking, and I don’t use those terms lightly. Even coming into this season, with a veteran-laden roster, they just hadn’t proven anything other than they lost some close games, and they lost a lot of them. This has been a real breath of fresh air to see not only an administration stick with a coach knowing where their program was, not thinking too highly of themselves, and they gave Mike MacIntyre the time he needed to build something. They also invested in the program and built the new Champions Center, and they did some things that made the kids feel like football was important – that it mattered to people not just inside the program, but outside the program. And then you’ve got to give a lot of credit to the seniors like Sefo Liufau who’s just been incredible. I am so happy for them.
“I have been so happy for those kids that they’ve been able to enjoy some success at the University of Colorado because it’s a special place. I couldn’t be more happy for them, and I think they’ve done it the right way.”
Klatt says Alabama is still the favorite to win the national title, but has not been tested yet this season:
“I’m certainly going to favor Alabama, and I’m going to pick them to win the national championship because I think they’re that good, but I do think it’s closer than people think, to this point. The margin that they’ve been given is probably too large compared to what they’ve been able to do against what I would categorize as a pretty soft schedule.”
Smith agrees that Alabama’s schedule is soft, and says Clemson or Ohio State are Alabama’s biggest threats:
“I would like to see USC in a rematch against Alabama right now, by the way.
“People say that running quarterbacks that can throw always give Alabama trouble, but they give everybody trouble. That’s why I put Ohio State and Clemson toward the top of that list because they do have dual-threat quarterbacks that can put defenders in conflict with run/pass options in particular, which gives every defense trouble. I am interested to see Alabama outside of the SEC because … the SEC is really, really bad this year.”