As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
7:30: Central Florida @ East Carolina (ESPN): This has wound up being a disappointing season for both these teams, but regardless I still think ECU is a pretty decent team. I like them here.
7:00: Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois (Mid-American Conference Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN2): The MAC title game has had some wacky upsets in its short history, but that’s what they are: upsets. Northern Illinois is 10-2 and hasn’t lost a game since early October, dispatching many of their MAC rivals with ease. I like them to do the same to Bowling Green.
9:00: Oregon vs. Arizona (Pacific-12 Championship @ Santa Clara, CA; FOX): This game is full of intrigue. Arizona has an outside shot at the playoff, while Oregon is pretty safely ensconced with a win. Of course, there’s also the tidbit about Arizona’s win earlier in the season. I don’t really expect a repeat of that game. Since then, Oregon has gotten healthier on the offensive line, which was their main downfall to the Wildcats back in October. With a healthy line, it’s hard to see how Arizona will be able to keep up this time around.
- Iowa State @ Texas Christian (ESPN): Baylor fans at this point have to be hoping against hope that the Cyclones can keep this close, maybe repeat what Kansas did to the Horned Frogs two weeks ago. I’m, well, not optimistic.
- Louisiana Tech @ Marshall (Conference USA Championship; ESPN2): Louisiana Tech is easily the best team Marshall will have played at this point. I still like the Herd to win, but after last week’s loss to Western Kentucky it’s not hard to see the wheels coming completely off.
- Houston @ Cincinnati (ESPN/ESPN2): Since getting blown out by Memphis back in early October, Cincy has cruised to six straight wins against AAC competition. I think they’ll make it seven, but the Cougars are certainly game to make it a little more difficult.
- Southern Methodist @ Connecticut (CBSS): UConn is really, really bad, but fortunately for them, SMU is worse.
3:30: Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma (FS1): Far from being Florida State’s best win, Oklahoma State has had a very disappointing season that looks like it’s about to be a 5-7 campaign unless something weird happens. Then again, this is Bedlam.
4:00: Alabama vs. Missouri (Southeastern Conference Championship @ Atlanta, GA; CBS): Thanks to an incredibly soft SEC schedule that saw them miss all SEC West teams except a reeling Texas A&M and Arkansas, Mizzou wound up winning the SEC East despite such sins as getting blown out 34-0 by Georgia and losing to Indiana. It is very, very hard to see how they will keep up with the Crimson Tide, much less beat them.
7:30: Temple @ Tulane (ESPN2): Like many great plans, Temple’s season has failed to survive contact with the enemy. The Owls have lost 5 of their last 6, with the win being that still flukey win over ECU. But their losses have all been to the other respectable teams of the American. Tulane is below .500 and should provide the springboard Temple needs to get to 6-6.
7:45: Kansas State @ Baylor (ESPN): The most intriguing game of the day, in my mind. Baylor not only needs to win now but win big. I’m still a Bears advocate and I think that if Baylor beats K-State than their resume will be largely similar to TCU’s. But it’s worth remembering that this will be a quality win for a reason.
8:00: Florida State vs. Georgia Tech (Atlantic Coast Conference Championship @ Charlotte, NC; ABC): Where to even begin? It’s been odd this week as my team has essentially become America’s favorite team to dispose with the annoying, not-very-good Seminoles. The problem is that the latter is largely a matter of perception, as they’re still pretty good. Are there logical arguments that they’re not one of the top four teams in the country despite being undefeated? Yes. However, if they’re not one of the top four, they’re certainly one of the top eight or so. If they’ve won twelve games this year solely on luck, then they are either supremely lucky still really good and just a tad lucky. The latter seems more likely.
This will be the best defensive line we’ve seen since the Clemson game. (After watching what we did to Georgia in the second half last weekend, I’ve got to say I wasn’t very impressed by UGA’s line play. We owned them.) They have at least two linemen that can get in and disrupt the exchange, which may limit the dive. Florida State is still fast on defense and can fly to the ball if they know where it’s going. That said, there should still be opportunities (see: the Boston College game) and Tech will have limit turnovers to have any chance. Our defense will need to continue to get turnover-lucky and I suspect we’ll need a +2 or +3 turnover margin. Winston has been obliging this season in that department, but he’s still a pretty good quarterback and I don’t think we should be banking on him through four interceptions again.
I doubt we can win this one going away, which means we have to bank on it being a very interesting night in Charlotte. The keys for Tech are the usual: limit the amount of time the opposing offense is on the field, score (touchdowns) every time we have the ball, and try to get a turnover or three.
8:00: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten Championship @ Indianapolis, IN; FOX): The main headline going into this game is the Ohio State quarterback situation. Are we quick to forget, though, that J.T. Barrett originally was the unproven backup? Of course, the counter-argument would be that it was Barrett who got the job and not the starter for this Saturday, so even if it is Ohio State it stands to reason that the third string quarterback going into the season may not be their best option. I honestly have no idea who will win this one, but I still feel somewhat irrational in that I’m picking the Buckeyes.
10:00: Fresno State @ Boise State (Mountain West Conference Championship; CBS): And here’s your nightcap. Unfortunately, it features a Fresno squad that is likely to be overmatched against a Boise team that’s had a pretty good run of form lately.