College Football Conference Championships: Team of the Week

Conference Championship Week separated the elite from the great teams and brought with it a great College Football Team of the Week.

College Football Team of the Week | Conference Championships

Who were the top players on defense? Here are the stalwart defenders who land on our Conference Championships College Football Team of the Week.

EDGE: Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

There isn’t anything Aidan Hutchinson can’t do on the football field. He was a man on a mission and commanded attention from Iowa’s offensive line. Sure, the line isn’t quite as good as it’s been in recent years, but it’s still a solid unit. Hutchinson made them pedestrian, punching his way through the line with speed, power, and quickness. He was unstoppable against Iowa.

DI: Siaka Ika, Baylor

There wasn’t one performance that was more impressive than Siaka Ika’s in the Big 12 Championship. There were multiple plays in which Ika completely demolished the Oklahoma State offensive play. He was tremendous in the run game, moving up and down the offensive line. Ika was even more impressive rushing the passer from the middle of the line.

DI: Curtis Brooks, Cincinnati

The entire Cincinnati defense was incredibly solid against a potent Houston offense. Curtis Brooks was a monster up the middle, recording 1.5 sacks, 2 solo tackles, and multiple pressures. While others commanded attention by Houston’s offense, Brooks was a quiet force that changed the game.

EDGE: Mika Tafua, Utah

It didn’t take very long to see Mika Tafua’s influence over the Pac-12 Championship Game. He was winning quickly in pass protection and moved well in the run game. Tafua’s performance paved the way for multiple plays on the ball in coverage and many errant throws from Oregon QB Anthony Brown.

LB: Joel Dublanko, Cincinnati

There was more than a handful of Cincinnati defenders who dominated action against Houston. Joel Dublanko belongs in that handful as he was tremendous across every facet. Most noticeably, Dublanko’s interception showcased how great he was in coverage. He also recorded 7 total tackles and 2 sacks with some beautifully-timed pass rushes.

LB: Clarence Hicks, UTSA

UTSA needed some terrific plays to keep the WKU offense in check on Friday night. Clarence Hicks was a big orchestrater of those big plays, recording 2 sacks as well as a few plays in run defense when the Hilltoppers actually ran the ball. However, his play in keeping the WKU underneath passing attack in check paid dividends when it forced all their throws outside. Hicks’ ability in coverage was a crucial factor in the win.

LB: Devin Lloyd, Utah

Arguably the best defensive player in the country had yet another dominant performance for the Utes. Devin Lloyd is a special player and had a special outing against Oregon. Lloyd recorded 7 total tackles, including 5 solo attempts and an interception.

His pick-six was a perfect example of his ability to read, react, and act as he diagnoses plays faster than most. Lloyd capped his remarkable 2021 season with a performance for the ages.

CB: Erick Hallett II, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s defense has been known for producing top-notch defensive backs in recent years. Erick Hallett II put his name in that conversation with a remarkable performance against Wake Forest.

Hallett almost single-handedly won the ACC Championship with his dominance in coverage. He recorded 2 interceptions, including a brilliant play on the football that led to a pick-six. It was Hallett’s finest performance to date.

CB: Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati

A quiet game by nature, Ahmad Gardner finished his 2021 regular season the same way he played all year long: shutting down one side of the field.

Gardner is a true lockdown cornerback in every sense of the word. His play saw the Houston passing attack completely ignore him and throw away from him. So much so that Gardner’s biggest play came when he blitzed from the right side and came untouched on a big hit of Clayton Tune. Gardner shuts down an entire side of the field.

CB: Clark Phillips III, Utah

In the same way that Gardner locks down one side of the field for Cincinnati, Clark Phillips III completely collapsed the right side of the field against Oregon.

Ducks QB Anthony Brown was unable to find any open receivers when throwing to the right side (defense’s left), as Phillips blanketed receivers in coverage. He didn’t record any statistics other than a tackle, but that’s because he held his receivers without a single catch and had 2 pass breakups to boot.

S: Jordan Battle, Alabama

Crushing any hope of a Georgia comeback, Jordan Battle‘s 42-yard interception return for a touchdown pushed the Crimson Tide’s lead to 3 TDs in the fourth quarter. He pushed them over the top with his play, showcasing the ball skills and instincts that will surely see him drafted high in the 2022 NFL Draft. Battle had 6 total tackles and multiple plays in coverage.

S: CJ Brown, Northern Illinois

Stopping the Kent State offense is no small feat. The Huskies did a tremendous job at limiting KSU QB Dustin Crum both through the air and on the ground. CJ Brown was tremendous in doing so, recording 10 total tackles and 6 total solo stops.

Brown’s sack was great, but his pick-six was better. He played the shallow zone with perfection, sitting on an underthrown ball as Crum was hit as he threw. Brown rumbled up the sidelines for the 26-yard touchdown that pushed the lead to 17 points, essentially out of reach.

FLEX: SirVocea Dennis, Pittsburgh

The Wake Forest offense was held in check for the final three quarters. SirVocea Dennis was a huge reason for that defensive effort, recording a game-high 12 total tackles. He had 2 sacks and 5 solo attempts, routinely making plays on the ball in both the run and pass game.

His presence as the defender to read at the mesh point for Sam Hartman was an underrated aspect of how Pittsburgh was able to dominate Wake Forest.

Punter: Kirk Christodoulou, Pittsburgh

With a few performances of note from punters this weekend, Kirk Christodoulou’s 5 punts inside the 20 were enough to get him the spot on the Team of the Week. Christodoulou averaged just 37.7 yards per punt, but his coffin-corner kicks and perfectly-dropped balls inside the Wake 20 were more than enough.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter: @CamMellor.