• Michael Fitch

NCAA Championship Week Preview

One more week to shake things up for the playoff committee means one more week to look at prospects. It’s Championship Week, so let’s get to it:

De Facto Big 12 Championship: (9) Oklahoma v. (10) Oklahoma State (9:30 AM PST - FOX)

The Sooners will turn to their star receiver Dede Westbrook to keep pace with the Cowboys. Entering the game with 1354 yards on the year, the former junior college transfer has shot up draft boards with his downfield speed. He’s a bit small at 6’0”, 175 lbs, but he’s surprisingly physical for his size. Don’t be surprised to see him break one loose on special teams - he’s a dynamic returner when given the chance..

Leading the way for the ‘Pokes is quarterback Mason Rudolph. Oklahoma State looks for payback in Norman after an embarrassing loss to the Sooners in Stillwater last year, and through 11 starts, the 6’5” junior has completed 64.2% of his passes at 9.2 yards per attempt. While not as widely discussed as other prospects at the position, his numbers and accuracy have quietly turned him into a draft darling, and the porous Oklahoma defense will give him plenty of opportunities to showcase his arm talent.

Big Ten Championship: (6) Wisconsin v. (7) Penn State (5:00 PM PST - ABC)

Helmed by the more effective of the Chryst brothers, Wisconsin was the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten West, and in the chaos-filled 2017 season, the Badgers delivered.

Wisconsin hopes to avoid the beating they took the last time they played for a Big Ten Championship, and that will fall to the leadership and performance of players like OLB Vince Biegel. The Wisconsin native has been a steady performer throughout his years in Madison, tallying 3 sacks and 5 tackles for loss in his senior season. He’s accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl, but a standout primetime performance could solidify Biegel as mid-round player to watch.

Running back Corey Clement has been the anchor of the Badgers offense, bouncing back after a disappointing and injury-riddled 2015 season. At 5’11” and 227 lbs, he’s averaging 4.2 yards with the ball in his hands. Don’t be surprised if Ryan Ramcyzk catches your eye - the First Team All Big Ten left tackle may not declare for the draft, but a 1st round selection really isn’t out of the question for him.

ACC Championship: (3) Clemson v. (23) Virginia Tech (5:00 PM PST - FOX)

It’s impossible to discuss Clemson without mentioning Deshaun Watson. Less than a year after 49er fans dreamt of Watson taking the field for San Francisco, the talented quarterback has fallen from grace. He’s still possibly the best quarterback available in the draft, but taking him at No. 2 overall would be reaching. If the good Deshaun Watson shows up, this game should be a win for Clemson and a second trip to the playoff.

Watson’s favorite target, Mike Williams, had a fantastic game last week in the drubbing of rival South Carolina, notching 3 touchdowns and 100 yards off 6 catches. After a frightening neck injury caused him to miss the 2015 season, Williams has returned in 2016 and made up for lost time. His size and physical play wins contested passes, and while he may have the occasional routine drop, he’s a top tier talent at the position. Expect him to gives the Hokies’ secondary problems tonight.

Making his second appearance in a 49ers Hub preview, Isaiah Ford would be a fantastic selection early in the 2nd round if still available. He’s a bit smaller than Mike Williams, but has built a nice resume in his time at Virginia Tech en route to his second 1000 yard season. If Cordrea Tankersley is covering Ford, we’ll be in for a show no matter who wins.