It all comes down to the final week of the regular season in college football. National championship and conference championship hopes lie in the balance. Since there is only one other Big 12 game this week besides Baylor-Texas, I decided that we would preview each of the impact championship games for the weekend as well. So here they are:
(Shameless plug: Come to the ODB tailgate tomorrow from 11-2 at the Case! Now back to regularly scheduled previewing)
BOWLING GREEN (9-3, 7-1) v. #14 NORTHERN ILLINOIS (12-0, 8-0)
Ford Field (Detroit, MI)
Tonight, 7:00 PM CT, ESPN2
Line: Northern Illinois (-3)
Northern Illinois sits one win away from their second straight BCS bowl appearance if they can win the MAC championship game tonight against Bowling Green. Baylor fans will be rooting for the Falcons tonight because a Bowling Green win would mean one extra BCS at-large berth that NIU wouldn't hijack. NIU is of course led by Heisman candidate Jordan Lynch, who has accounted for 42 TDs and has basically wrecked shop on any and every opponent in the MAC the last 2 years. But the Huskies run into a salty Bowling Green defense that has only allowed 13.2 points/game. The matchup between the NIU offense and BGSU defense will likely decide the MAC champ. I think Bowling Green, playing with house money in this game, slows the Jordan Lynch express just enough to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Bowling Green 34 Northern Illinois 31
#17 OKLAHOMA (9-2, 6-2) @ #6 OKLAHOMA STATE (10-1, 7-1)
Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, OK)
Saturday, 11:00 AM CT, ABC
Line: Oklahoma State (-10)
The lone other game in the Big 12 this weekend is the Bedlam matchup between the Sooners and Cowboys. Oklahoma State needs to win this game to clinch the Big 12 automatic bid to the Fiesta Bowl. If Oklahoma can find a way to win instead, the Baylor-Texas winner will be spending New Year's in Glendale. OSU is a clear favorite in this game and comes in as one of the hottest teams in the country after blowout wins over Texas and Baylor in their last 2 outings. It will be interesting to see how Clint Chelf plays after having the game of his life 2 weeks ago. An on-target Chelf makes the Cowboys almost impossible to beat in Stillwater. OU is coming off an impressive win at Kansas State in their last game. The Sooners offense has been rejuvenated behind the play of Trevor Knight and a strong running game. As Baylor fans are aware, OSU probably possesses the best defensive line in the conference. Oklahoma will need to win this battle at the line of scrimmage to have a shot in this one. I think this is a closer game than most expect, but the Cowboys hold off OU and punch their BCS ticket.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 28 Oklahoma 24
For more on Oklahoma, check out Crimson And Cream Machine, SB Nation's blog for the Oklahoma Sooners.
For more on Oklahoma State, check out Cowboys Ride For Free, SB Nation's blog for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
#5 MISSOURI (11-1, 7-1) v. #3 AUBURN (11-1, 7-1)
Georgia Dome (Atlanta, GA)
Saturday, 3:00 PM CT, CBS
Line: Auburn (-1)
Well everyone had these 2 teams in the SEC championship game at the beginning of the year, right? Mizzou and Auburn won a combined 2 conference games in 2012 but they have managed to navigate through the "rigorous" SEC schedule to the title game in Atlanta. Auburn comes in riding high after one of the most incredible finishes to any college football game I've ever seen…twice in as many weeks. Seriously, let me know the next time a team wins back-to-back games on a hail mary and then a 109 yard missed field goal return against their arch-rival. But Mizzou shouldn't be overlooked in this game. The MU Tigers feature both a dynamic offense and a solid defensive front that wrecked havoc on the SEC East all season. I feel like this game is an absolute toss-up and Vegas tends to agree. I think Auburn's luck finally runs out and Mizzou will win its first ever SEC title.
Prediction: Missouri 30 Auburn 28
#7 STANFORD (10-2, 7-2) @ #11 ARIZONA STATE (10-2, 8-1)
Sun Devil Stadium (Tempe, AZ)
Saturday, 6:45 PM CT, ESPN
Line: Arizona State (-3)
The Pac-12 championship game features a rematch of a September 21st game in which Stanford blew out Arizona State in Palo Alto behind a punishing running game. A lot has happened in the 11 weeks since that make this a much different matchup. For starters, this game is in Tempe due to Arizona State's better overall conference record. Stanford has not been anywhere close to the same offensive team away from home, scoring under 20 points/game in its last 3 road games. ASU will need a big game from its defensive line to corral Stanford's running game and give its explosive offense more opportunities than it did in the first meeting. The Sun Devil offense will be affected by the loss of RB Marion Grice but Taylor Kelly is still capable of making big plays with his arm and his legs. I think Kelly outplays Stanford QB Kevin Hogan and Arizona State plays in its first Rose Bowl in 17 years.
Prediction: Arizona State 23 Stanford 17
#20 DUKE (10-2, 6-2) v. #1 FLORIDA STATE (12-0, 8-0)
Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, NC)
Saturday, 7:00 PM CT, ABC
Line: Florida State (-29.5)
I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that DUKE IS PLAYING IN THE ACC CHAMPIONSHIP. The Blue Devils have been an incredible story this season, winning 10 games for the first time in program history. And now Duke will try to pull off one last shocked as they go up against undefeated and #1 Florida State. The Seminoles got good news this week when Jameis Winston was cleared of any charges stemming from an alleged November 2012 sexual assault case, allowing him to play in FSU's remaining games this season. Florida State has been absolutely mauling opponents this season with an average margin of victory of 42.7 points. The Seminoles have athletes for days and can win just about every physical matchup on the field against ACC opposition. As much as I love the Duke story, this game is all about Jimbo Fisher's Noles. Jameis Winston likely locks down the Heisman Trophy with another good performance and I think FSU makes one more statement in route to Pasadena for the BCS championship game.
Prediction: Florida State 59 Duke 13
#2 OHIO STATE (12-0, 8-0) v. #10 MICHIGAN STATE (11-1, 8-0)
Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, IN)
Saturday, 7:17 PM CT, FOX
Big Ten Championship
Line: Ohio State (-6)
Ohio State tries to punch its ticket to the national championship game as they face a dangerous Michigan State team in the Big Ten championship game. These 2 teams did not face each other during the regular season and both come into this game with a flawless 8-0 conference record. This game will match strength against strength as the stingy Michigan State defense tries to slow down the potent zone running game of Ohio State. The longer that Sparty can control Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde on the ground, the longer they stay in this game. It will also help MSU's cause if they can establish a solid run game with workhorse RB Jeremy Langford to keep the Buckeye offense on the sidelines. This is also an Ohio State defense that has been fairly inconsistent throughout the season and gave up 41 points to a mediocre Michigan offense last week. I think Michigan State gets enough stops in this game to spoil Ohio State's dreams of the natty.
Prediction: Michigan State 21 Ohio State 20
For more on Ohio State, check out Land-Grant Holy Land, SB Nation's blog for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
For more on Michigan State, check out The Only Colors, SB Nation's blog for the Michigan State Spartans.
BCS BOWL PREDICTIONS
BCS Championship: Florida State v. Missouri
Rose: Michigan State v. Arizona State
Orange: Ohio State v. Clemson
Sugar: Alabama v. Baylor
Fiesta: Oklahoma State v. UCF