Championship Weekend Predictions
Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC Tags:
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Well, here we go into the final round of qualifying for the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma appears to be the only team that will be safe regardless of what happens over the weekend (and I kind of scratch my head there, but anyway....). The grueling summer workouts, the hours and hours of film watching, the nagging injuries, the intense games this past fall - all of that comes to a climatic pinnacle for a few teams this weekend as they win conference titles and secure playoff spots. This weekend is what our favorite sport is all about. Buckle up, this is going to be wild!
Here are my predictions for the games of Championship Weekend....
MID-AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIP - Bowling green (9-3) vs Northern Illinois (8-4) - 8:00 - ESPN2 - Here is a little Friday night snack to get your taste buds ready for Saturday. The Huskies won their division in a tie-breaker with 3 other teams at 6-2. I still can't figure out how they sorted out that train-wreck, but here is NIU. Their opponent, the Falcons, will score and score - 44 per game this year - and that is my deciding factor....Bowling Green, 50-32.
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CHAMPIONSHIP - #22 Temple (10-2) vs #19 Houston (11-1) - 12:00 - ABC - Talk about a treat of a game to get the day off to a great start of college football action - check out the American Athletic Conference stepping up with a dandy! Both of these teams had excellent years, mounting wins over teams such as Penn State, Louisville, Memphis and Vanderbilt. The winner of this one is in line for a possible New Year's Six bowl if they can leap high enough in the polls. I am going to go with Houston after looking at the slate of games and who they beat (a close loss to UConn or they would be in major discussions). The Cougars are balanced at 259 passing yards and 240 rushing yards per contest. I like that balance - and I like that this game is in their backyard (Temple is 1,200 miles away in Philadelphia)....Houston, 32-20.
CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP - Western Kentucky (10-2) vs Southern Mississippi (9-3) - 12:00 - ESPN2 - Based simply on having a cool name, I have already decided to take the Hilltoppers before I even look into any stats. What a great name. The Hilltoppers also score in bunches (tied with Bowling Green at 4th nationally with 44 ppg). And just as in that game, I will take the team that can light up the scoreboard. That said, the Golden Eagles also score a bunch (41 ppg), so this will be a shootout!....Western Kentucky, 47-40.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP - #2 Alabama (11-1) vs #18 Florida (10-2) - 4:00 - CBS - In what would be considered a "down year" in the SEC - especially the East - the Gators and Tide prepare to lock horns in the ATL. Normally, the winner of this game would be in prime position for a national title, but in this case, only Alabama has a shot at bigger things. Florida - despite winning its division - is a work in progress under Jim McElwain and is in no way eligible for the playoff even with a huge upset here. As for the game, you have to go with Bama. The Tide may not have their best team ever, but they are still strong - and certainly strong enough to hold off a decent - but not great - Gator squad. This game will be fun for a little while, but Alabama will pull away in the second half...Alabama, 35-14.
MOUNTAIN WEST CHAMPIONSHIP - Air Force (8-4) at San Diego State (9-3) - 7:30 - ESPN2 - This game is a virtual home game for SDSU, and they also have a better record with better national stats and are riding an 8-game winning streak into this championship bout. All of that adds up to me being an Aztec fan come 7:30 tomorrow night...San Diego State, 40-28.
PAC 12 CHAMPIONSHIP - # 20 USC (8-4) vs #7 Stanford (10-2) - 7:45 - ESPN - I see the Trojans stepping up here and winning this one under newly named permanent Head Coach, Clay Helton. The players seem to love this guy, and obviously USC has talent. So a good game plan executed with emotion sees them take this game from Stanford. I like and respect the Cardinal, and know for sure that this will be a tough game as that is their style, but I think USC has one of those games where they play a little over their heads on emotion and find a way to get it done. USC, 26-21.
BIG10 CHAMPIONSHIP - #4 Iowa (12-0) vs #5 Michigan State (11-1) - 8:00 - FOX - This game is essentially a play-in for a spot in the Playoff. The winner is in, the loser is not - it is really that simple. You can bet on blood and guts and leave the wife and kids at home and all of that manly, brutal stuff to apply to this one. Two tough, cold-weathered squads going at it in the frigid tundra of the indoor Lucas Oil Stadium (will the roof be open?). It don't get no better than this! I will have this one on record (and the smaller TV) as I watch my Tigers, but this game is as big as it gets tomorrow. The Spartans boast the nation's 22nd ranked defense while Iowa's ranks 18th - both right at 33 ppg surrendered. The Spartans score a hair more, and are one play away from being #1 or #2 in the nation, but I just have a gut feeling about Iowa to pull it out in a crazy way...Iowa, 34-31.
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP - #10 North Carolina (11-1) vs #1 Clemson (12-0) - 8:00 - ABC - As a Tiger fan, obviously I am nervous as this game is all that stands between CU and the 2nd edition of the College Football Playoff. All week long I have been hearing countless scenarios of what will happen when - not if, but when - my beloved Tigers fall to the Heels. Well, my nerves have turned from butterflies into birds of prey as I am now screaming ready to see UNC take their second loss. Sure, the Clemson D hasn't been impressive the last few weeks, and sure, the Tigers have had a recent fumbling problem. But CU has played one of the nation's toughest slates and are unbeaten. North Carolina has a good squad, and an offense capable of putting up points quick. But it is hard for me to believe that UNC has faced a team this season even remotely as talented as the one in orange Saturday night, and we will find out quick if they are truly Top 10, or if this is just a mirage. Yea, I know, Clemson could see it all come crashing down if they fumble the ball away and don't get pressure on Marquise Williams (2,608 yards, 18 tDs and 8 INTs). Clemson counters at QB with Deshaun Watson (3,223 yards, 27 TDS and 10 INTs). I think the Tigers will put pressure on the UNC offense, and win this one for the best record in school history....Clemson, 37-28.
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