Championship Weekend Predictions
This is the best time of the year. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have given me a load of useless garbage for discounted prices that still cost me way more than what they cost to make. I have a mug of hot chocolate every day while playing a game of Madden to defeat the terrors of cold weather. Tony Romo will inevitably start to throw more interceptions, and the Cowboys will still struggle to make the playoffs. But, most importantly, it is college football championship weekend. Here are my picks for all of the championship games with their TV schedule. All times are Central.
Friday, December 5
MAC: Bowling Green (7-5) @ Northern Illinois (10-2) – 6pm (ESPN2)
Analysis: Northern Illinois enters the MAC championship game for the fifth straight year, winning two of the previous four years. The Huskies have had a strong showing this year, following up their 12-0 campaign last season with just two losses in 2014. Quarterback Drew Hare has filled in Jordan Lynch’s shoes very nicely, and he has become a dominant threat through the air and on the ground. His 22 total touchdowns and just one interception have been a strong power punch to go along with running back Cameron Stingily’s explosive play out of the backfield, with close to 800 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season. For Bowling Green, their year has been very up-and-down, and they have been blown out in each of their last two games. The bright spot on the Falcons’ offense has been running back Travis Greene, who has 800 yards and nine touchdowns so far this year. However, their defense has been putrid (32.5 points per game), and their quarterback, James Knapke, has just 12 touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions.
Prediction: Last year Bowling Green stunned Northern Illinois in the MAC championship, but there will be no repeat this year. The Huskies will win their third title in the last five years with a 48-17 victory.
Pac-12: #7 Arizona (10-2) @ #2 Oregon (11-1) – 8pm (FOX)
Analysis: This rematch of an October thriller could be the best game on slate this weekend in college football. Oregon enters the game with a chip on their shoulder after losing each of the last two years to Arizona. The Ducks’ quarterback and Heisman hopeful, Marcus Mariota, took the blame for the loss earlier in the season, and it will be up to him to prevent a repeat. Mariota has had a phenomenal year with 36 touchdown passes and just 2 interceptions. He has also added 11 touchdowns on the ground, racking up over 600 yards rushing. The real running star, though, has been running back Royce Freeman who has close to 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns. Oregon’s defense has also been solid, allowing just 23 points per game. For Arizona, a win in this game means an outside chance at being one of the final four teams in the college football playoff. They will rely heavily on the arm of Anu Solomon, who has close to 3,500 yards passing and 27 touchdowns with just seven interceptions on the season. True freshman running back Nick Wilson has also been great this year with over 1,200 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns.
Prediction: Oregon will finally overcome its recent issues with Arizona and pull away with this game late in the fourth quarter for a two score victory, 41-31.
Saturday, December 6
C-USA: Louisiana Tech (8-4) @ Marshall (11-1) – 11am (ESPN2)
Analysis: Marshall is one of the only teams that actually gets the privilege of hosting their conference championship game instead of playing at a neutral site. The Thundering Herd are also one of just four one-loss teams remaining in college football. Last week, Marshall’s perfect season came to a disappointing end in a 67-66 loss to Western Kentucky. This week, they look to win their conference championship and hopefully make one of the five major bowl games. Quarterback Rakeem Cato has been very good this year (3,300 yards and 35 touchdowns), but the real story has been running back Devon Johnson who has 1,602 yards rushing this season and 16 touchdowns for the seventh ranked rushing attack in the country. Their defense has also been a strong point, allowing more than 20 points in just three games this year. LA Tech’s best player this season has also been their starting running back, Kenneth Dixon, who has close to 1,100 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns this season, including a 99 yard touchdown run against Louisiana-Lafayette. Overcoming inconsistent defensive play will be their toughest task in this game, as their defense has allowed fewer than 20 points in just three games this year.
Prediction: This game will see a decline in offense from last week (LA Tech scored 76 and Marshall scored 66), but it will still be a game dominated by touchdowns. Dixon’s big play ability will prove to be too much for the Thundering Herd, and Louisiana Tech will hand Marshall their second loss of the season, 46-40.
SEC: #16 Missouri (10-2) @ #1 Alabama (11-1) – 3pm (CBS)
Analysis: The Missouri Tigers, for the second straight year, have shocked the SEC-East and earned themselves a trip to the conference championship game. Gary Pinkel’s Tigers have built themselves around defense, and they have allowed just 19.7 points per game, ranking 13th in the country. Quarterback Maty Mauk has done just enough to help his team win and has posted a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio this season. The running back tandem of Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy have combined for more than 1,700 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, and wide receiver Bud Sasser has been a tough cover this year with his 900 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. Alabama has also been able to rely on their defense (ranked 6th in the country, allowing just 16.9 points per game), but it has been the play of quarterback Blake Sims that has helped the Crimson Tide to their impressive record this year. T.J. Yeldon has not performed as well as Alabama would have liked this year, but he and Derrick Henry have combined for 16 rushing touchdowns to help this offense. But, the real story for Alabama is wide receiver Amari Cooper who has been impossible for defenses to cover. Cooper has close to 1,600 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns, and he has solidified himself as a lock to make the trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony.
Prediction: Cooper will be the lone offensive star in a game that will be largely dominated by defense. However, it will not be enough for Alabama as they will fall to an opportunistic Missouri team, 27-24.
ACC: #11 Georgia Tech (10-2) @ #4 Florida State (12-0) – 7pm (ABC)
Analysis: Florida State again moved down in the rankings this week after defeating a far inferior Florida team by just five points. This has been the story of their season thus far, close victories against bad teams. Now, the Seminoles will have to face a very big test and will have a chance to prove themselves to be a legitimate title contender. There hasn’t really been a strong offensive threat for Florida State all season, but they seem to always find ways to score. Their defense has been very good, allowing just 22 points per game, and their kicker, Roberto Aguayo, is the best in the country. Aguayo has done a great job of being able to keep Florida State in games by shortening the distance that they need to go to score. For Georgia Tech, a team that is built around clock management and defense, this season has been different for them as they rank 17th in the nation in points per game (37.2). The Yellow Jackets rushing attack has been the fourth best in the country with 334 yards per game, and they have had 10 different players combine for 37 rushing touchdowns. Their quarterback, Justin Thomas, has been very good at not turning the ball over with a 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio.
Prediction: Florida State will finally meet their match as they come up against a team that will control the clock and not allow the Seminoles to get away with a slow start to the game. Georgia Tech will take this year’s ACC title with a 34-23 victory.
Big Ten: #13 Wisconsin (10-2) @ #5 Ohio State (11-1) – 7:17 pm (FOX)
Analysis: This game is a matchup of two high powered offenses, but Wisconsin also has the advantage of having a high powered defense (ranked 4th in the country and have not allowed more than 28 points in a game all season). This could prove to be a major detriment in Ohio State’s plans as they lost their star freshman quarterback, J.T. Barrett, to a broken ankle last week. This leaves replacement quarterback Cardale Jones in a nearly impossible spot as he has to learn how to lead the fifth ranked Buckeyes’ offense on the fly against a stellar defense. The Buckeyes’ best hope lies in the hands (or feet) or running back Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot has averaged close to 100 yards per game this year, and he has 10 touchdowns on the ground. He flourished running the read option with Barrett, and he was always a threat to make a big play. Wisconsin has a star running back of their own, Melvin Gordon, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in all but one game this season and has rushed for 200 yards or more on five occasions this year, including a 408 yard output against Nebraska. Gordon means everything to this offense that is ranked 119th in passing yards per game and has just 14 passing touchdowns on the year (Gordon has 26 rushing touchdowns).
Prediction: Gordon will have a monster day on the ground, and Wisconsin’s overpowering defense will prove to be too much for Jones, who will be making his first start of the season. The Badgers will win the Big Ten title with a 38-21 score over the Buckeyes.
MWC: Fresno State (6-6) @ #22 Boise State (10-2) – 9 pm (CBS)
Analysis: With a win in the MWC championship, Boise State can almost assuredly lock themselves up for a spot in one of the big five bowl games, which is somewhat of a surprise after starting the season 3-2. A big reason for the turnaround for the Broncos (a seven game winning streak to finish the year) is their ninth ranked offense led by Jay Ajayi and quarterback Grant Hedrick. Ajayi has racked up over 1,600 yards rushing this season and has 24 touchdowns, which is tied for second in the nation behind Gordon. Hedrick has been somewhat turnover prone with 13 interceptions, but he has 22 touchdowns on the year and has averaged 269 yards per game. For Fresno State, it is somewhat of a surprise that they are playing in this game after starting the year 3-6. However, wins in their last three games and really hot play by quarterback Brian Burrell have turned the season around. Burrell has had eight passing touchdowns in the last three games, and he has had a quarterback rating over 99 in each. Running back Marteze Waller is also playing well, and he is averaging over 100 yards per game this season and has 11 touchdowns.
Prediction: Fresno State does not seem to stand much of a chance in this game. They will be overmatched by Boise State’s strong offense and fall 45-20.
Bonus Pick: #9 Kansas State will defeat #6 Baylor 38-35 in Waco.
Bold Prediction: SMU will avoid the dreaded and embarrassing 0-12 season with a victory this week over UCONN.