This Weekend in College Football: Week 14

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

Noon:

  • Baylor vs. Oklahoma State (Big 12 Championship @ Arlington, TX; ABC): Well, I definitely completely struck out on the Utah-Oregon rematch. Honestly, though, I think the main thing for this game is whether or not Oklahoma State will be able to mentally reset after finally winning Bedlam. I think they can and they should be able to see out the Bears.
  • Kent State vs. Northern Illinois (Mid-American Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN): Northern Illinois just has to be the luckiest team of this college football season. The anti-Nebraska, if you will. I think Kent State will upend them here, but with my luck it’ll probably be Huskies by 2 or something.

2:00:

  • Southeastern Louisiana @ James Madison (NCAA Division I Playoffs Second Round; ESPN+)
  • Kennesaw State @ East Tennessee State (NCAA Division I Playoffs Second Round; ESPN+)

3:00:

  • Utah State @ San Diego State (Mountain West Championship; FOX): I think the Aztecs still have some severe questions to answer against this resurgent Aggies squad. Their defense and field position game should be strong enough to win at home, but either way the main entertainment here is watching The Punt God boom ’em.
  • Incarnate Word @ Sam Houston State (NCAA Division I Playoffs Second Round; ESPN+)

3:30:

  • Appalachian State @ Louisiana (Sun Belt Championship; ESPN): These two teams have quietly put together really strong seasons and this could well be one of the best games of the day. However, with the game in Lafayette, the Cajuns have to be the favorites to rage at home.
  • Southern Illinois @ North Dakota State (NCAA Division I Playoffs Second Round; ESPN+)

4:00:

  • Houston @ Cincinnati (American Athletic Championship; ABC): The Bearcats dodged a bullet by Notre Dame quickly replacing Brian Kelly with defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, as their own coach, Luke Fickell, was almost certainly the top external candidate. While Fickell is probably still on the boards at some other jobs—after Lincoln Riley and Brian Kelly got new jobs I’m not sure I can be surprised by anything anymore—it’s unlikely that he’s going anywhere. I can imagine there will be many eyes here, even though this is the “lesser” game compared to the one below. Houston will be the second strongest challenge the Bearcats have had all year. The Cougars are 11-1 and have the talent to challenge Cincy. However, as I mentioned before the SMU game I feel like this is a team that really plays up and down to their opponents, and we saw what they did to the Ponies. I like Cincy here.
  • Georgia vs. Alabama (Southeastern Championship @ Atlanta, GA; CBS): Much was made last weekend that after the overtime thriller in Auburn, Nick Saban actually smiled after a win, which was taken to mean that it’s a bit more of a struggle for this team. Well, against Georgia, the struggle will be real. This Alabama offense isn’t as good as it’s been the past few years, but they will be, across the board, the most talented offense this Georgia defense will face. (Conversely, this will be best defense Georgia has faced since Clemson in Week 1.) Yes, UGA is the favorite, and I have them as a favorite as well, but this is realistically the first time all season that Georgia is in any danger of losing. As a Georgia Tech alum and fan, I of course generally want Georgia to lose all of their games. Unfortunately, that presents two major quandaries for me:
    1. My most hated team growing up was Alabama, and they’re still my second least favorite.
    2. A Georgia loss here likely doesn’t knock them out the playoff (it would have to be the sort of thing where Bama just somehow completely exposes them as massive frauds), and most disconcertingly, an UGA loss could knock Cincy out if they finish undefeated but not by an impressive margin over Houston.
    This is the true doomsday scenario. At least when these two played for a national title I could at least go with “well, if UGA loses then we’ve still won a national championship more recently than them” but that doesn’t really work here. Again, I think they’ll probably win. I would also like to see Cincinnati make the playoff. That’s how I’m going to have to frame it.
  • Prairie View A&M @ Jackson State (Southwestern Championship; ESPN2)
  • Tennessee-Martin @ Montana State (NCAA Division I Playoffs Second Round; ESPN+)

8:00:

  • Michigan vs. Iowa (Big Ten Championship @ Indianapolis, IN; FOX): What Michigan did to Ohio State, well, we knew it could be done. Oregon laid the groundwork in Columbus. But Michigan amped up the aggressiveness and toughness to 11. If not for some pure talent plays by Ohio State’s elite wide receivers, the margin in the The Game would’ve been a blowout. The problem for Michigan is that they now have to play Iowa, a team that has no pretentions about ever beating elite teams on talent. They will try to be more physical and tough than the Wolverines and force them into uncomfortable situations. Like I said about Oklahoma State above, part of this too for the Wolverines will be ensuring they aren’t too high after finally beating their rival. I think that this team can do it, and I have them as favorites,
  • Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest (Atlantic Coast Championship @ Charlotte, NC; ABC): While the game in Indianapolis will probably be tough and gritty, down in Charlotte there’s going to be some points y’all. Kenny Pickett is still one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but Wake can get the score up there as well. I think this game will easily break 100. I have Pitt, but it could well come down to whoever has the ball last.

9:00: South Dakota State @ Sacramento State (NCAA Division I Playoffs Second Round; ESPN+)

11:00: Southern California @ California (FS1): And finally we have the season’s only COVID-makeup game. Originally, it was thought that this would be played so that one or both of these teams could get bowl eligible, but they both lost last weekend, so at 4-7 that’s not going to happen. It turns out that Cal just plain needs the money from the gate receipts and concessions and stuff, but I gotta ask, who is going to go? At least USC has reasons to be excited with Lincoln Riley coming to town, and I imagine he’ll be on the scene in Berkeley tomorrow night. I’ll take the Trojans here.

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