We’re in the home stretch. It’s the last week before the bowl picture is finally set.
And just like we all expected at the start of the year, Missouri, Auburn, and Duke will be playing for their conference championships.
Let’s have a quick recap of how the year went on the picking side of things. I capped off the regular season on a strong note, notching a 5-1 record both straight up and against the lines.
That brings my almost-final total to 61-23 straight up, and 38-46 against the odds.
My proudest moment last week was watching my upset special come to fruition with Mississippi State’s overtime win in the Egg Bowl.
That’s aside from a certain OTHER overtime win, but that’s another matter.
It’s conference championship week, so let’s take a closer look.
1) SEC Championship: #5 Missouri vs. #3 Auburn (Aub. -1.5): If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that Ole Lady Luck is very clearly an Auburn fan. Their last two wins came on a deflected Hail Mary and a field goal return as time expired. You can’t make this up. Then there’s Mizzou, who are only one Connor Shaw explosion away from being 12-0. The East Tigers have a stellar defense, but they’ll have their hands full with Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall and the rest of that freight train rushing attack. Is Lady Luck going to be in attendance? My guess is yes. Auburn makes it five straight wins for the SEC West, and maybe three in a row for miracles. Auburn 34, Missouri 31
2) ACC Championship: #20 Duke vs. #1 Florida State (FSU -28.5): We all figured the Seminoles would have a good team, but you find me one person who predicted Duke would win the ACC Coastal. That’s right. You can’t. Too bad they’ll have to take on Jameis Winston on offense and a brick wall on defense. All the credit in the world to David Cutcliffe and his staff for turning Duke into a contender. Still, a win buts FSU into the BCS Title game. A loss turns the world upside-down. Noles win it, but give me the Blue Devils and 28.5. Florida State 42, Duke 17
3) Big 10 Championship: #10 Michigan State vs. #2 Ohio State (OSU -5.5): Here’s the other championship with a national championship berth on the line. If the Buckeyes win, they’re essentially in, barring an 11th hour change of heart by the voters for the winner of the SEC Championship. The Spartans come in with one the nation’s strongest defenses, only giving up 3.77 yards per play and just 11 points per game. Ohio State came within an eye lash of losing to rival Michigan last week, stopping a last-second two-point conversion attempt to preserve a 42-41 win. They won’t be able to put up that many on State, and I think Sparty’s about to pull the upset. The rest of the SEC-hating nation will groan one final time in the BCS era. UPSET ALERT: Michigan State 24, Ohio State 20
4) Conference USA Championship: Marshall @ Rice (Marsh. -5.5): I include this game because it’s a conference championship game and for my mother, who is a Marshall alum. The Thundering Herd are 9-3 (7-1) on the season, which includes a triple-overtime loss to Virginia Tech back in September. The Owls are also 9-3 (7-1), and by virtue of their higher ranking in the BCS polls, are hosting the game. They have one of the best rushing attacks in the nation, averaging 240 yards per game. Marshall, meanwhile, has been downright explosive on offense, averaging 45 points per contest–good for No. 6 in the nation in that category. The Herd will keep thunderin’ towards a conference title (I’m sorry, that was lame). Marshall 38, Rice 31
5) PAC-12 Championship: #7 Stanford @ #11 Arizona State (ASU -3.5): Talk about a match-up of opposites. It’s the nation’s eighth-best scoring offense (ASU at 43 points per game) against the thirteenth-best scoring defense (Stanford at 19 points per game). In baseball, good pitching always negates good hitting, but good defense doesn’t always negate good offense. What it can do, is slow it down. That’s exactly what the Cardinal are built to do. That, and grind the game to bits with their own ground game. Give me Stanford, and lay the points. Stanford 27, Arizona State 20
6) #17 Oklahoma @ #6 Oklahoma State (OSU -10.5): This is an absurdly lopsided series. It’s so lopsided, I don’t even want to call it a rivalry. To put it into perspective, the Cowboys would have to win every game from now until 2079 just to even the series. Okie State has only won once in the last ten tries: a 44-10 beatdown over the Sooners in 2011. That being said, they’ve got the home crowd behind them, and spot in the Fiesta Bowl waiting with a win. The Cowboys can’t afford a loss, which would let Baylor slide back into the picture. The Sooners have taken a downward swing this season after a promising start, and they’ll need to regain momentum in their bowl game because it isn’t happening this weekend. Oklahoma State 41, Oklahoma 23
Enjoy the last week until that magical time known as BOWL SEASON!
We still don’t know who’s going to be playing for the last BCS National Championship. There’s as many as six teams that could make their case after this weekend concludes.
But there will be only two.
Otherwise, it’s a big game of push and shove to work your way up the bowl pecking order, trying to make yourself more attractive to the big paydays.
Enjoy it, because this time next year we’ll have a playoff to talk about.