As a general rule, I don't pick Georgia games against the spread. That means that we won't be doing SEC picks this week because Georgia is playing Alabama in this week's only conference contest. (For your reference, the Tide opened as 7.5 point favorites, but the line has fallen slightly to 7. Apparently, unlike some bloggers I won't mention, Vegas thinks Georgia might actually have a shot.) While I'm obviously stoked that we're playing in the Dome this Saturday, I'm a little disappointed that there aren't any SEC games for me to pick because my 4-3 record in last week's conference picks brought my season-long ledger up to a somewhat respectable 45-38-1. I also surprisingly managed a 4-3 record with last week's national picks, but that only improves my national record to 38-61. That is, I'm nearly twice as likely to be wrong as right in these national games of interest. So when I predict the outcome of one of these championship games against the spread, view it with the same skepticism you would a prediction that Bobby Petrino won't be the next head coach on the Plains: viz., Don't Bet On It!.
PAC-12 Championship: (Friday)
No. 15 UCLA at No. 8 Stanford (-8.5)
It is very, very difficult to beat a team in the regular season and then do it again in the post-season. Just ask the 2011 LSU Tigers. However, UCLA's loss last weekend wasn't the result of a superior football team playing too conservatively and missing some opportunities. It was just Stanford beating the tar out of them on the road. Cardinal RB Stepfan Taylor averaged 7.1 yards per carry with 2 TDs. Even if you take out his 49-yard touchdown scamper from the fourth quarter, that's still a back-breaking 3.8 yards per touch, and it's just slightly better than his backup's 3.7 yards per carry (and a touchdown). Stanford also completed the second part of that age-old football formula for success -- run the ball and stop the run -- by holding the Bruins to just 73 yards on the ground. And the Cardinal get to play at home this time. We're taking Stanford to cover at home, and we're feeling pretty good about it.
B1G Championship: (Lucas Oil Stadium)
No. 12 Nebraska (-3) v. Wisconsin
Oh look. It's another rematch. The Cornhuskers won the last meeting by three points on their home turf, so I can't imagine that the oddsmakers had too much trouble setting this line. Since the B1G is the most boring conference in the country, we won't spend too much time thinking about it, either. Nebraska covers.
ACC Championship: (Bank of America)
No. 13 Florida State (-14) v. Georgia Tech
Florida State is going to win this game, and it isn't going to be close. The only reason that this isn't the National Game of Disinterest is because it would be fun for Georgia to claim a transitive ACC Championship if Tech somehow pulled off the upset. But they won't.
De Facto Big East Championship:
Louisville (+3) at Rutgers
Outside of one theoretically possible but wholly improbable scenario, this game will determine the winner of the Big East. Louisville boasts the best scoring offense and passing defense in the Big East. On the other hand, Rutgers... uh, leads the Big East in kickoff returns? Also, it's really fun to say, "RUTGERS!" the way the cheesehead says, "RODGERS!" in those All-State commercials. So I guess they have that going for them. The Cardinals are the better team on paper, and Charlie Strong will be the best coach on the field, so we're taking Louisville to wrap up the Big East title with a win.
Big XII Championship (Games):
No. 18 Texas at No. 6 Kansas State (-11.5)
No. 11 Oklahoma (-6.5) at TCU
Let's assume that Oklahoma will beat TCU. The Horned Frogs' victory over Texas last week was a product of TCU's surprisingly stout run defense against a Longhorn attack that was fairly reliant on their ground game. The Sooners, on the other hand, should be able to sling it all over the field. That means that Kansas State will need to beat Texas to secure the Big XII Championship. The Wildcats' run defense isn't as good as the the Horned Frogs', but it should be good enough to slow down Texas. If the 'Horns' loss to Geno Smith-led West Virginia is any indication, they won't be able to handle Optimus Klein. Kansas State covers.
MAC Championship: (Friday) (Ford Field)
No. 21 N. Illinois (-6) v. No. 17 Kent State
(Confession and Disclaimer: I know literally nothing about these next two games beyond what I've read on the internet to prepare this article. Please refer to the title of this article. Thanks!) Kent State could secure a BCS invitation with a win (and the UCLA loss which we've already predicted). To do so, they'll have to beat a Huskie squad playing their third straight MAC Championship game and looking for a second consecutive MAC title. The Golden Flashes have two 1,000-yard rushers in Dri Archer and Trayion Durham, but they'll be up against the conference's best rush defense. Perhaps more importantly, it's unclear whether Kent State will be able to contain Huskie QB Jordan Lynch, who has completed 63.6% of his passes for 2,750 yards and 23 TDs against just 4 INTs, while setting an FBS QB record by rushing for 100+ yards in 10 consecutive games (with another 16 scores on the ground). The Huskies lock up the MAC championship with an easy win but cost their conference some BCS money (and maybe their coach) in the process.
Conference USA Championship:
UCF (+1) at Tulsa
Despite what George O'Leary's résumé may say, the
Golden Knights are looking to lock up their first bowl bid since 2010's dream season, which saw them ranked in the BCS standings for the first time in school history, win their conference championship, and win their first bowl game against a BCS opponent (Georgia... sigh). The Golden Hurricanes have a longer history, but they haven't made much national noise since they concluded a 10-4 campaign with the largest margin of victory in bowl history in a 63-7 rout of Bowling Green in the 2008 GMAC Bowl. This is probably the most evenly matched game of the weekend, but I'm giving the nod to UCF due to their apparent aerial superiority.