As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
8:00: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green (Mid-American Conference Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN2): This is NIU’s sixth straight appearance in the game, and the third straight year we’ve had the same matchup. Bowling Green won 47-27 two years ago, and last year was a blowout the other way. This year, I’m expecting a slim, but sold, Bowling Green victory.
- Temple @ Houston (American Athletic Conference Championship; ABC): The winner of this game is probably still in line for that Group of Five bid, but Temple probably dodged a bullet with Toledo’s loss to Western Michigan last week. Either way, I still like Houston a ton here.
- Texas @ Baylor (ESPN): It’ll be raining again for the Bears Saturday, but mercifully it the temperatures will be around 30-35 degrees warmer. I suspect they will complete more than zero passes in the second half in this one and get a comfortable victory over the Longhorns.
- Southern Mississippi @ Western Kentucky (Conference USA Championship; ESPN2): These were far away the best teams in Conference USA this year, and it’s been a hell of a turnaround for the Golden Eagles especially. However, it looks like the buck will stop here, as the Hilltoppers have simply been ultra-dominant in conference this year.
4:00: Florida vs. Alabama (Southeastern Conference Championship @ Atlanta, GA; CBS): With Treon Harris, the Gators maybe stand a chance, without, it’s somewhere between “zero” and “none”.
4:30: West Virginia @ Kansas State (FS1): While the Mountaineers aren’t great or anything, K-State has simply been too dysfunction on offense too often this season. Then again, it won’t take much magic for them to get a win, but I’m not betting on it.
7:30: Air Force @ San Diego State (Mountain West Conference Championship; ESPN2): The Aztecs have outscored their conference opponents by 199 points this season, so I’m going with them.
7:45: Stanford vs. Southern California (Pacific-12 Conference Championship @ Santa Clara, CA; ESPN): Without traffic, this game is taking place about a 10 minute drive from my house. Of course, the game’s also at 4:45 local time here, so it’s not like it’d interfere with anything, but still. That aside, I would say this is a pretty lackluster matchup for the Pac-12. Sure, there’s names here, but these two have five losses between them and there’s only the Rose Bowl at stake (unless things get wacky). (Also, somewhere, somehow, old-school Pac-8 and Big Ten fans just cringed at the notion of “just the Rose Bowl”.) Oregon sullied both these teams with Vernon Adams’s late season resurgence, but the Ducks really did a number on the Trojans. Meanwhile, Stanford just pulled a rabbit in the form of a last-second victory over mutual rival Notre Dame out of their hat. I like the Cardinal a little more here.
- Clemson vs. North Carolina (Atlantic Coast Conference Championship @ Charlotte, NC; ABC): Even if the Tar Heels had beaten South Carolina back in September, they would still occupy that Iowa “not as good as their record” space. Simply put, this isn’t really an even matchup, and the Tigers should roll.
- Iowa vs. Michigan State (Big Ten Conference Championship @ Indianapolis, IN; FOX): I don’t know what the over/under is for this game, but take the under. Let me put it this way: this game puts perhaps the most uninspiring major conference undefeated team ever in Iowa versus a team with, granted, only one loss but led for zero seconds in their signature wins. (I’d say 9 times out of 10, Ohio State wins that game, but Michigan-Michigan State was a coin flip.) None of that matters now, of course, they’re here, and they’re going to play each other for a spot in the playoff. Both these teams can score when the mood strikes them, but in contests against teams with defenses of similar caliber of their own the games have been tight, gritty, gray sky, three yards and a cloud of dust Big Ten football. I’m going with Sparty to win, say, 12-9 or something like that.