Championship Weekend Predictions
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For the fifth consecutive season, I have picked well, but not well enough. Yes, I have all but eliminated myself from winning the Fans25 Pick'em Contest this year as I am 4% off of the lead with just one weekend to go. My 73% would have won the thing in 2007 and 2008 (the winners were at 74% the following two years), but not in 2011 - where our winner will be at at least 77% - maybe even better. Seven players (those at 76% or better) still have a chance as we head into the final ten games...It has been a great regular season here on Fans25 and here are my picks for week 14's games...
UCLA (6-6, 5-4) at #9 Oregon (10-2, 8-1) - PAC-12 Championship Game, Eugene, OR - 8:00 - FOX - The reason that UCLA is in this game at all is because USC is on probation and isn't allowed to play in it. The Trojans just beat UCLA 50-0 and have the best record in the PAC-12 South. But in reality, the Bruins are making the trip up to Eugune to face Oregon. With college football being so much about emotion, you have to think UCLA will play with a spark as a BCS game is on the line. You would guess they would also want to win it for Rick Neuheisel, who has just been fired as coach but will be on the sidelines one last time Friday night....Oregon will win this game. Big. The Ducks are also drooling to go back to the BCS, and a win here would do it. Home crowd. Major offense. I'm going with the Ducks. Oregon, 45-20.
#24 Southern Miss (10-2, 6-2) at #6 Houston (12-0, 8-0) - Conference USA Championship Game - 12:00 - ABC - Games like this often turn out to be some of the best games of the year. There are so many good athletes out there, and not all of them get to play at the big-time schools. So when I see games like this, where two teams obviously have guys that can play ball, I try to watch...Houston is led by senior quarterback Case Keenum, who we all know leads the universe in passing yards (4,726 yards, first in NCAA). He is also the galactic leader in TDs with 43 on the year. Can he do the same against a Golden Eagle defense that gives up just 20.5 ppg? That is what will make this a fun game to watch...On the flip side, SMU can score, as well. They are scoring 36.9 ppg themselves...I will go with Houston and that high-powered offense at home. I'll admit, the reason I'll really be tuning in is to watch Keenum's arm as I haven't been able to see UH much this year. I'm hoping I'm not let down. Houston, 46-29.
Connecticut (5-6, 3-3) at Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2) - 12:00 - ESPN - The Big East race is very hard to figure out, but from my mathematics, logic and reasoning, I think this game will have an impact on who wins the conference trophy for 2011. UConn is out of the picture, but Cincy is still in a fight with Louisville (who they beat) and West Virginia (who beat them). What does this mean? I still really do not know. But I do know that if the Bearcats lose, they will not win the Big East. Does a win mean they win the Big East? Like I said, I am too dumb to figure it out, but it sure as hell won't hurt (West Virginia plays South Florida Thursday night in a game that will have a say in all of this). They are at home, they have a better record, and they have a BCS appearance on the line (I think), so I am picking the Bearcats. Cincinnati, 38-22.
Syracuse (5-6, 1-5) at Pittsburgh (5-6, 3-3) - 12:00 - ESPN2 - Well, as an ACC fan, it is bad when I look at this game between our two newest members and think "who cares." But that is how I see it when I look at the weekend schedule. The Panthers and Orange share 5-6 records and the only way this game made it into the slate is because this game rounded out the number of games in the Pick'em Contest to ten (slim-pickins this week)....As far as a prediction, I will go with the home team. That is my crutch when I am unsure who to go with. Pittsburgh, 7-3.
UNLV (2-9, 1-5) at #18 TCU (9-2, 6-0) - 2:30 - Versus - Having beaten Boise State, TCU will win the Mountain West even with a loss here. But ranked 18th, and a chance to move up into the top 15 or so, and then maybe even higher after a bowl, why would TCU want to slip up at home to a team that is 2-9?! They won't. This will be a massacre, sending the Horned Frogs into a nice bowl game. As long as Gary Patterson is the coach, TCU will be among the top teams in the Midwest. In this game, I see them going up early, and then putting things on cruise control for their last win as a MWC team. TCU, 38-14.
#22 Texas (7-4, 4-4) at #17 Baylor (8-3, 5-3) - 3:30 - ABC - This game is not a championship game, nor will it have any kind of influence on the Big-12 Championship picture. However, in the state of Texas, this is a pretty big game. Baylor has had a better season than normal, and they would love to put a punctuation mark behind it with a win over the Horns - the team that has dominated the state forever. The Bears offense can really put points on the board behind QB Robert Griffin III (3,678 yards and 34 TDs). They will also have a home crowd behind them. The name of Texas makes me always lean towards picking the Horns. But they just aren't very good this year. I will go with Bayolor to get a big win at home to close the 2011 regular season. Baylor, 34-21.
#14 Georgia (10-2, 7-1) vs. #1 LSU (12-0, 8-0) - SEC Championship, Atlanta, GA - 4:00 - CBS - From September to December, there isn't a team in America more improved than the Bulldogs. After an 0-2 start, UGA has pulled off ten straight wins. But getting that eleventh win-in-a-row will be awfully dadgum tough. The LSU defense is as close to impenetrable as a college defense can be. In the monster game against Alabama, the unit surrendered just six points. And after Arkansas scored 14 points early a week ago, the Tiger D slammed the door, giving up just three points over the final 42 minutes of the game...In this one, Georgia will give LSU all they want. But as for the "and then some" part of that over-used cliche, it is best left off. The Dawgs will get some points early because they have a well-led offense. But eventually LSU will shut it down and score enough to win by ten or so. LSU, 30-19.
#10 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2) at #3 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1) - 8:00 - ABC - While this game isn't officially labeled as the Big-12 Championship Game, it should be for 2011. The winner goes to the BCS and the loser does not. It is that simple. For most of the second half of the season, it looked as if Oklahoma State would run the table and play someone in the BCS Title Game. But a slip on the road to Iowa State two weeks back ended those hopes. Still, a big win in this game - and some help from outsiders - could see the Cowboys play for it all...But they must beat Oklahoma first - something they haven't done in their last 13 tries. This is the year, though, in my opinion, that OSU breaks that streak. They can light-up the scoreboard, and that is what I expect to happen (49.8 ppg, 2nd nationally). The Sooners can score, too, and they will. But in the end, OSU outguns them. Oklahoma State, 40-35.
#5 Virginia Tech (11-1, 7-1) vs. #20 Clemson (9-3, 6-2) - ACC Championship, Charlotte, NC - 8:00 - ESPN - What a difference seven weeks make! On October 1st, CU beat VT 23-3, in Blacksburg, to improve to 5-0. With the road win and undefeated, CU fans were thinking huge things. Since then, however, CU has gone 4-3, and after a brutal loss to their rival the Tigers are on the ropes to say the least. On the flip side of this story, the home loss to Clemson had VT fans thinking their 2011 version was the worst in a while. But since that game VT is 7-0 with a 38-0 stomping of their rival, and back in the national top five. Nostradamus would have had a hard time predicting this scenario involving Clemson and VT...As for the game, I almost have to predict a Tech win. RB David Wilson is a force, and he will be hard to stop for a very porous CU defense. I want Clemson to win the ACC in the worst of ways, making a return trip to the Orange Bowl. But we are playing very bad football and VT is playing very good football. I will be cheering hard for Clemson, but the Hokies get my pick. Virginia Tech, 32-17.
#15 Wisconsin (10-2, 6-2) vs. #13 Michigan State (10-2, 7-1) - Big Ten Championship, Indianapolis, IN - 8:17 - FOX - While everyone is talking about the rematch possibility of Alabama vs. LSU, here is a pretty solid rematch in itself. Game one between these two was a thriller as MSU was the first team to take down Wisconsin - then a team in the national title talks. Kirk Cousins hit Keith Nichol for the score as time expired sending Spartan Stadium into a frenzy...Fast forward to December, and both teams are still among the nation's best - just not quite national title material. In this one, I am going to go with Wisconsin. The Badgers just put 45 points on a very good Penn State defense (or so I thought). MSU also has a strong defense, but averaging it all out, I feel Wisconsin has the edge. In a great game in a great venue, I will pick the Badgers. Wisconsin, 42-32.
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