Championship Weekend is here! Twenty teams across the country will be vying for conference supremacy while a handful of teams are contending for a spot in the playoffs. These great teams all have NFL Draft prospects who will be under immense pressure to perform at a high level. Here is a prospect to watch for each team who deserves particular spotlight this weekend. While these aren’t necessarily the best prospect on the team, they are the most uniquely important in the game.
Pac-12 Championship: Friday, 8 PM on ABC
Utah- Julian Blackmon, Safety: The senior defender moved from cornerback in the preseason to great success. He’s forced two fumbles this season and picked off four passes. His playmaking against Oregon could put Utah in contention for the playoffs.
Oregon- Troy Dye, Linebacker: Oregon’s leader on defense. The fast, physical linebacker will be crucial in slowing Utah’s potent running game. Dye is one of the best linebackers in the country and this is a great chance to shine.
Big-12 Championship: 12 PM on ABC
Baylor- Denzel Mims, Wide Receiver: Baylor’s explosive offense runs through Mims in the passing game. In a crowded class of gifted receiver, Mims can stand out on a huge stage.
Oklahoma- Kenneth Murray, Linebacker: The Sooners gang their hat on offense, but Murray is a notable defender. He has lived behind the line of scrimmage this year, compiling 13 TFLs so far. Murray will be crucial to slow down the Bears offense.
Sun Belt Championship: 12 PM on ESPN
ULL- Raymond Calais, Running Back: Despite not being the team’s leading rusher, Raymond Calais is integral to the Cajun’s offense. Calais is a spritely, agile runner who can create a big play on any touch. ULL will need his spark to take on Appalachian State’s formidable defense.
Appalachian State- Shaun Jolly, Cornerback: It’s rare a redshirt sophomore would declare for the draft from a mid-major school. However Shaun Jolly’s excellent season should keep him eying the NFL. The scrappy corner has five interceptions this season and a nation leading two brought back for touchdowns. He’s also physical against the run and a great special teams player. With another great game against ULL, draft murmurs could grow into hollers.
MAC Championship: 12 PM on ESPN2
Miami (OH)- Travion Banks, Cornerback: The number one passing defense in the MAC wouldn’t be what it is without Travion Banks playmaking for Miami. The senior ballhawk will have another chance to add to his impressive numbers this season.
Central Michigan- Sean Adesanya, Edge Defender: With 14.5 TFLs, Sean Adesanya is one of the more productive defenders in the country. The undersized defensive lineman has excellent snap anticipation and a great motor to force his way into the backfield. He deserves some attention as a legit sleeper.
C-USA Championship: 1:30 PM on CBSSN
UAB- Austin Watkins, Wide Receiver: Watkins isn’t a household name, but his big plays have made him a favorite of the Blazers this season. Austin, cousin of Rams receiver Sammy Watkins, is an underrated playmaker who has a great chance to build his resume against FAU.
FAU- Harrison Bryant, Tight End: The John Mackey Award finalist has a great chance to go over the thousand yard mark this weekend, a rarity for college tight ends. Harrison Bryant is a phenomenal pass catching threat who will spearhead the Owls’ offensive effort on Saturday.
AAC Championship: 3:30 PM on ABC
Cincinnati- Josiah Deguara, Tight End: Cincinnati has won football games through tough, physical play and Josiah Deguara is an embodiment of that. The stout pass catcher is a mismatch for defenses. He has accounted for nearly half of Cincinnati’s receiving touchdowns and is by far the team leader in that category. Expect him to be heavily targeted Saturday.
Memphis- Antonio Gibson, Wide Receiver: Antonio Gibson is a fascinating player. He is a threat to score whenever he touches the ball; receiving, rushing or returning. Gibson is a big bodied, athletic playmaker and I am excited to see what he can do in such a big game.
SEC Championship: 4 PM on CBS
Georgia- Andrew Thomas, Offensive Tackle: Georgia will be battling to remain in the playoffs this weekend and keeping up with LSU’s explosive offense will be paramount. Andrew Thomas is one of the best offensive linemen in the country and his protection of Georgia’s passing and running game will determine if they can keep pace with the Tigers.
LSU- Grant Delpit, Safety: The Tigers have a bevy of talented players to keep an eye on, but Delpit’s play in this game is most interesting. He is a versatile defender who will be asked to defend various aspects of Georgia’s offense. He will get to put his full skill set on display.
MWC Championship: 4 PM on ESPN
Hawai’i- Cedric Byrd II, Wide Receiver: The Rainbow Warriors have a highly productive passing game with Cedric Byrd II being the primary target. The small receiver has caught 90 passes this year, at all levels of the field, and scored 10 times through the air. Byrd is a very good route runner, a tough pass catcher and a good athlete. He will be a great match for Boise State’s stingy defense.
Boise State- Curtis Weaver, Edge Defender: Curtis Weaver has been one of the most productive defensive players in the country. He has 13.5 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss. Weaver is a relentless defender and will be disrupting Hawai’i’s offense all game.
ACC Championship: 7:30 PM on ABC
Virginia- Joey Blount, Free Safety: With Bryce Hall out, Joey Blount has become the leader in the Cavaliers secondary. The athletic defensive back flies all over the field. He has no easy test against the Clemson offense but any chance of an upset will ride on his play.
Clemson- Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker: I have been unabashed in my favor for Isaiah Simmons. The junior linebacker is one of the most exciting defenders in the country and this will just be another game for him to take over with his speed and playmaking.
Big 10 Championship: 8 PM on Fox
Wisconsin- Zack Baun, Edge Defender: Another favorite Zack Baun might not be close to being the top defender in this game, but he is one of the most fun to watch. He is a tornado on the field with the level of destruction that he leaves in his wake. Baun, despite his size, has been an every down disruptor this season and any hope against Ohio State hinges on Baun’s play.
Ohio State- Chase Young, Edge Defender: In this case, Chase Young is the best player on his team… and in the game… and playing this weekend. He’s really good basically. Any snap Chase Young is on the field is must-see television and Wisconsin is probably terrified of young after he posted five TFLs, four sacks and two forced fumbles in their last meeting.