College football: Predicting every 2023 conference championship game

Oct 14, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Oregon Ducks wide receiver Troy Franklin (11) catches a pass for a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the second half at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 14, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Oregon Ducks wide receiver Troy Franklin (11) catches a pass for a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the second half at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports /

In a slightly unprecedented year with so many teams still having a chance at making the College Football Playoff, eight at a glance, the conference championships hold a lot of weight.

I polled 12 Saturday Blitz contributors for their predictions for each conference champ, scores, and MVPs.

ACC: (4) Florida State (-2.5) vs. (14) Louisville

Format — Contributor: Winner, score, game MVP

Robert O’Reilly: Louisville, 31-24, Jack Plummer
John Britt Strong: Florida State, 34-24, Trey Benson
Andrew Daley: Louisville, 32-17, Jack Plummer
Josh Yourish: Florida State, 27-19, Trey Benson
Troy Van Camp: Louisville, 31-21, Jawhar Jordan
Brad Schultz: Louisville, 24-20, no MVP prediction given
Dante Pryor: Florida State, 24-14, Jared Verse
Erika Brown: Florida State, 31-17, Trey Benson
Connor Muldowney: Louisville, 31-27, no MVP prediction given
Jake Mitchell: Florida State, 27-20, Keon Coleman
Christopher Lewnau: Florida State, 20-17, Jared Verse
Michael Collins: Florida State, 35-28, Tate Rodemaker
Hunter Newbold: Florida State, 24-21, no MVP prediction given

This was one of the more even matchups, both in winner and lack of an obvious choice for MVP. However, it is clear that if Florida State is going to win this game, junior running back Trey Benson will need to step up in a major way.

Junior quarterback Tate Rodemaker also has big shoes to fill after Jordan Travis’ injury two weeks ago, but with a win here, Florida State will be his team as they head into the CFP undefeated.

Louisville is coming into this game on a low after a back-breaking, season-ruining loss at home against Kentucky 38-31. Add in Louisville’s 38-21 loss at 3-9 Pittsburgh, it really makes you wonder what could have been if they had won those games against opponents they are clearly better than.

Florida State and Louisville square off at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Big Ten: (2) Michigan (-22) vs. (16) Iowa 

Contributor: Winner, score, game MVP

Robert O’Reilly: Michigan, 35-0, J.J. McCarthy
John Britt Strong: Michigan, 38-17, Blake Corum
Andrew Daley: Michigan, 36-10, Blake Corum
Josh Yourish: Michigan, 31-3, J.J. McCarthy
Troy Van Camp: Michigan, 31-10, Blake Corum
Brad Schultz: Michigan, 31-10, Blake Corum
Dante Pryor: Michigan, 38-10, J.J. McCarthy
Erika Brown: Michigan, 26-9, J.J. McCarthy
Connor Muldowney: Michigan, 34-7, Blake Corum
Jake Mitchell: Michigan, 28-10, Blake Corum
Christopher Lewnau: Michigan, 32-3, Blake Corum
Michael Collins: Michigan, 42-10, Blake Corum
Hunter Newbold: Michigan, 31-3, J.J. McCarthy

Everyone shares a pretty equal outlook on this game, Michigan wins by multiple possessions powered by a talented backfield. Junior quarterback J.J. McCarthy and senior running back Blake Corum have been elite for the Wolverines this year, leading this offense to 37.6 points per game and 10 multi-possession wins.

But Michigan’s dominance is not backed solely by a great offense; they sport the best defensive unit in the country. Michigan’s average of 10.3 points against per game is among the most elite in FBS, and when faced with Iowa’s atrocious 18 points per game, it does not look good for the Hawkeyes.

The Wolverines face Iowa at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday on FOX.

Big 12: (18) Oklahoma State vs. (7) Texas (-15)

Contributor: Winner, score, game MVP

Robert O’Reilly: Texas, 42-31, Quinn Ewers
John Britt Strong: Oklahoma State, 49-45, Ollie Gordon II
Andrew Daley: Texas, 36-33, Jonathan Brooks
Josh Yourish: Texas, 28-17, Adonai Mitchell
Troy Van Camp: Texas, 34-27, Quinn Ewers
Brad Schultz: Texas, 33-17, no MVP prediction given
Dante Pryor: Texas, 45-17, Jaydon Blue
Erika Brown: Oklahoma State, 34-31, Ollie Gordon II
Connor Muldowney: Texas, 37-27, Quinn Ewers
Jake Mitchell: Oklahoma State, 48-38, Ollie Gordon II
Christopher Lewnau: Texas, 30-20, Xavier Worthy
Michael Collins: Oklahoma State, 31-29, Ollie Gordon II
Hunter Newbold: Texas, 35-20, Quinn Ewers

Given the spread, it’s surprising four people have Oklahoma State pulling off the upset. It is clear who is going to have to step up and shine in order for Oklahoma State to pull off this upset: Ollie Gordon II. The Cowboys were looking down and out for the count against BYU, trailing 24-6 at halftime before Gordon II had the performance of a lifetime, putting up five touchdowns in the second half and overtime to put Oklahoma State in this game.

However, Oklahoma State is known for its slow starts, and Quinn Ewers and the high-powered Texas offense are ready to punish.

The Cowboys look to wrangle in the Longhorns at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, at 12 p.m. ET on ABC.

Pac-12: (5) Oregon (-9.5) vs. (3) Washington

Contributor: Winner, score, game MVP

Robert O’Reilly: Oregon, 31-28, Bo Nix
John Britt Strong: Oregon, 28-24, Bo Nix
Andrew Daley: Oregon, 42-28, Bo Nix
Josh Yourish: Washington, 44-41, Michael Penix Jr.
Troy Van Camp: Oregon, 41-31, Bo Nix
Brad Schultz: Oregon, 30-23, Bo Nix
Dante Pryor: Oregon, 35-30, Bucky Irving
Erika Brown: Washington, 34-24, Michael Penix Jr.
Connor Muldowney: Oregon, 38-30, Bo Nix
Jake Mitchell: Oregon, 35-28, Bo Nix
Christopher Lewnau: Oregon, 36-28, Bo Nix

In my eyes, Washington’s rematch against Oregon is the game of the weekend. The winner goes to the CFP, and probably the Rose Bowl and the other gets sent home in agonizing fashion.

When the two teams played on Oct. 14 in Seattle, Oregon’s kicker, Camden Lewis, missed a 43-yard, game-tying field goal as time expired giving the Huskies a 36-33 win. Things have obviously changed since mid-October. Both teams have remained undefeated, although all six of Washington’s wins have been by less than 10 points, and Oregon has won all of its games by multiple possessions. Ten of the 13 contributors chose Heisman frontrunner Bo Nix to take home the honor of MVP, the most of any player.

The Ducks look to right their wrongs from October on Friday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev., at 8 p.m. ET Friday on ABC.

SEC: (1) Georgia (-6) vs. (8) Alabama

Contributor: Winner, score, game MVP

Robert O’Reilly: Georgia, 52-42, Carson Beck
John Britt Strong: Alabama, 35-28, Jalen Milroe
Andrew Daley: Alabama, 27-24, Jalen Milroe
Josh Yourish: Alabama, 31-24, Dallas Turner
Troy Van Camp: Georgia, 34-27, Tykee Smith
Brad Schultz: Georgia, 34-17, no MVP prediction given
Dante Pryor: Georgia, 33-23, Carson Beck
Erika Brown: Georgia, 31-30, Kendall Milton
Connor Muldowney: Georgia, 31-24, Brock Bowers
Jake Mitchell: Georgia, 30-24, Brock Bowers
Christopher Lewnau: Georgia, 38-24, Carson Beck
Michael Collins: Georgia, 31-24, Brock Bowers
Hunter Newbold: Georgia, 28-24, Carson Beck

In a season that has looked perfect, the Bulldogs have only one barrier between them and a second consecutive perfect season and a record-setting 30th straight win: Nick Saban, Jalen Milroe, and the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Both teams won in fashions closer than fans had hoped, but Alabama and Georgia finished the season undefeated in conference play. The quarterbacks were most popular for MVP votes, six of the 13 belonged to senior Jalen Milroe or junior Carson Beck. This game has one of the more interesting CFP implications, the most popular questions being asked currently are, “Does Georgia drop out with a loss? Does Alabama get in with a win? Will we see two SEC teams in the CFP again?”

There is a level of narrative in this game that some other championships don’t have, the last time Georgia lost was against Alabama in the 2021 SEC Championship.

Alabama looks to play spoiler on Georgia’s perfect season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., at 4 p.m. ET.

Group of Five

American: SMU vs. (22) Tulane (-3.5)

Contributor: Winner, score

Robert O’Reilly: Tulane, 31-17
John Britt Strong: Tulane, 52-45
Andrew Daley: Tulane, 34-27
Josh Yourish: SMU, 34-27
Troy Van Camp: SMU, 38-27
Brad Schultz: Tulane, 30-13
Dante Pryor: Tulane, 40-30
Erika Brown: Tulane, 24-21
Connor Muldowney: Tulane, 27-24
Jake Mitchell: SMU, 31-23
Christopher Lewnau: Tulane, 24-21
Michael Collins: Tulane, 28-21
Hunter Newbold: Tulane, 26-22

C-USA: New Mexico State vs. (24) Liberty (-11)

Contributor: Winner, score

Robert O’Reilly: Liberty, 45-21
John Britt Strong: Liberty, 45-35
Andrew Daley: Liberty, 42-30
Josh Yourish: Liberty, 31-17
Troy Van Camp: Liberty, 35-20
Brad Schultz: Liberty, 20-17
Dante Pryor: New Mexico State, 27-17
Erika Brown: Liberty, 33-21
Connor Muldowney: Liberty, 35-17
Jake Mitchell: Liberty, 35-25
Christopher Lewnau: Liberty, 40-34
Michael Collins: New Mexico State, 31-17
Hunter Newbold: Liberty, 33-23

MAC: Miami (OH) vs. Toledo (-8)

Contributor: Winner, Score

Robert O’Reilly: Toledo, 31-18
John Britt Strong: Toledo, 31-24
Andrew Daley: Toledo, 27-17
Josh Yourish: Toledo, 35-14
Troy Van Camp: Toledo, 21-17
Brad Schultz: Toledo, 25-22
Dante Pryor: Toledo, 30-20
Erika Brown: Toledo, 27-24
Connor Muldowney: Toledo, 41-21
Jake Mitchell: Toledo, 28-24
Christopher Lewnau: Toledo, 27-20
Michael Collins: Toledo, 35-21
Hunter Newbold: Toledo, 26-18

Mountain West: Boise State (-2.5) vs. UNLV

Contributor: Winner, score

Robert O’Reilly: UNLV, 35-24
John Britt Strong: Boise State, 38-28
Andrew Daley: Boise State, 35-17
Josh Yourish: UNLV, 33-24
Troy Van Camp: Boise State, 31-27
Brad Schultz: Boise State, 24-23
Dante Pryor: UNLV, 28-21
Erika Brown: UNLV, 34-27
Connor Muldowney: UNLV, 34-20
Jake Mitchell: UNLV, 42-41
Christopher Lewnau: Boise State, 35-25
Michael Collins: Boise State, 29-24
Hunter Newbold: Boise State, 30-28

Sun Belt: Appalachian State vs. Troy (-6)

Contributor: Winner, score

Robert O’Reilly: Troy, 22-15
John Britt Strong: Troy, 38-24
Andrew Daley: Appalachian State, 42-32
Josh Yourish: Appalachian State, 42-24
Troy Van Camp: Troy, 27-14
Brad Schultz: Troy, 27-10
Dante Pryor: Troy, 20-14
Erika Brown: Troy, 35-24
Connor Muldowney: Troy, 23-20
Jake Mitchell: Troy, 27-21
Christopher Lewnau: Troy, 30-27
Michael Collins: Appalachian State, 31-20
Hunter Newbold: Troy, 28-20

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