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CFB Championship Weekend Scouting Guide

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Fun things are happening in the college football world. Know who to watch.

MADISON, WI:  The Wisconsin Badgers offense lines up to run a play against the Ohio State Buckeyes defense at Camp Randall Stadium.
MADISON, WI: The Wisconsin Badgers offense lines up to run a play against the Ohio State Buckeyes defense at Camp Randall Stadium.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017-2018 College Football Playoff is still a month away, but we’ve got a strong weekend slate of conference title games before bowl season gets going. The New Orleans Saints scouts will be busy covering these games, and so should you. Here’s a breakdown of the games they’ve been reported to have visited so far this year. It means almost nothing in the long run but it’s a fun distraction for me:

To that end, I’m answering three questions nobody asked about each of the five biggest championship games; you can find broadcast details on all of the games being played this weekend by following this link to 506sports.com.

PAC-12 Championship Game: Stanford Cardinal (12) vs USC Trojans (10)

LOS ANGELES, CA:  Stanford Cardinal quarterback Keller Chryst (10) is sacked by Southern California Trojans linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (42) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
LOS ANGELES, CA: Stanford Cardinal quarterback Keller Chryst (10) is sacked by Southern California Trojans linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (42) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • When: Friday, December 1st, kickoff at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: ESPN
  • Who: The big names at first glance are USC quarterback Sam Darnold and Stanford running back Bryce Love, but they’re both underclassmen who may not declare early. Still, they’re fun players and worth your time. The guy I want to highlight most is Trojans senior pass rusher Uchenna Nwosu, who leads the nation in quarterback hits (20) and pass deflections (11) per Pro Football Focus. Nwosu is an alert defender and exactly the kind of blue-chip talent the Saints need at the second level. Also keep an eye on Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, who is disruptive as hell and leads the team in tackles for loss (14) by a wide margin.

Big 12 Championship Game: TCU Horned Frogs (11) vs Oklahoma Sooners (3)

NORMAN, OK:  Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) strikes a Heisman Trophy posewhile eluding TCU Horned Frogs linebacker Travin Howard (32) during a game at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
NORMAN, OK: Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) strikes a Heisman Trophy posewhile eluding TCU Horned Frogs linebacker Travin Howard (32) during a game at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
  • When: Saturday, December 2nd, kickoff at 11:30 AM CST
  • Where: FOX
  • Who: The obvious name to look for is Baker Mayfield. The Sooners quarterback is a popular connection to the Saints in mock drafts and in the thoughts of anonymous NFL executives. These two teams played just three weeks ago and Mayfield completed 18 of 27 passes for 333 yards and three scores, adding another 50 yards on 11 rushing attempts, so I’m not worried about how he’ll produce here. Instead, track how Oklahoma deploys tight end Mark Andrews: the six-foot-five, 254-pounder lines up outside often and leads the team in catches (51) while sitting second in yards (848) and touchdown receptions (six). He’s a surprisingly-nimble runner after the catch.

SEC Championship Game: Georgia Bulldogs (6) vs Auburn Tigers (2)

AUBURN, AL; Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Roquan Smith (3) closes in on Auburn Tigers running back Kerryon Johnson (21) during the third quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
AUBURN, AL; Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Roquan Smith (3) closes in on Auburn Tigers running back Kerryon Johnson (21) during the third quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
  • When: Saturday, December 2nd, kickoff at 2:30 PM CST
  • Where: CBS
  • Who: The Georgia defense is captained by a bad man named Roquan Smith. Smith makes every tackle for UGA (seriously, he’s doubled the guy in second place with 62 solo stops to J.R. Reed’s 31) and shows the smoothest flow-to-the-ball I’ve seen in a while. Your eyes should be locked on #3 if he’s in the frame. On the other side, Auburn sack artist Jeff Holland is looking to cap off his breakout year in a big way - he’s so far picked up nine sacks and four forced fumbles. Holland was unblockable when Auburn upset Georgia a month ago, leading the team with nine quarterback pressures. Both Smith and Holland are just juniors, but they have the traits to make some noise if they choose to enter the draft early.

ACC Championship Game: Miami Hurricanes (7) vs Clemson Tigers (1)

MIAMI GARDENS, FL: The Miami Hurricanes take the field during a game against the Clemson Tigers at Sun Life Stadium
MIAMI GARDENS, FL: The Miami Hurricanes take the field during a game against the Clemson Tigers at Sun Life Stadium
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
  • When: Saturday, December 2nd, kickoff at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: ABC
  • Who: Clemson wideout Deon Cain is the offensive player to watch in this game. He’s not very fast but runs very nice routes, and knows how to use subtle body movements to shake defensive backs and disguise his breaks. Cain’s volume yardage is down this year compared to last season as he’s taken on a larger role and is running a different route tree, focusing less on being a big-play threat on deep routes and working back towards the line of scrimmage more often. But the best player in the game is Clemson’s young destroyer of worlds, defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who has created more tackles for loss of yardage (28.5) than games played (25). Miami defensive backs Jaquan Johnson and Michael Jackson have each bagged four interceptions, and edge rusher Trent Harris has gotten better every year.

Big Ten Championship Game: Ohio State Buckeyes (8) vs Wisconsin Badgers (4)

MADISON, WI:  The Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate after the win over the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium.
MADISON, WI: The Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate after the win over the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium.
Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
  • When: Saturday, December 2nd, kickoff at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: FOX
  • Who: Go ahead and get ready for Buckeyes center/guard Billy Price to be the surprising offensive lineman picked in the first round by the Saints next year. Price is a team captain, already broke the school record in consecutive starts, has his degree in hand, and looks to test as an above-average athlete at the combine in a few months. He’s a model of consistency when the Buckeyes have the ball. When they don’t, look for Price’s counterparts along the talented Badgers offensive line to get tested by a number of defensive end prospects in Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard (five sacks each), linebackers Jerome Baker (51 tackles) and Chris Worley (49 tackles), and violent defensive back Denzel Ward (13 pass breakups).