We’ve reached the last “real” week of the college football season. And while Conference Championship Weekend should be a joyous occasion, I can’t help but feel sad that another season is nearly in the books. Sure, there are bowl games, and there’s always Army-Navy, but the weekly routine of sitting on the couch for 12 straight hours is about to come to an end. Soon we’ll have to start doing stuff and talking to our girlfriends. It’s horrible.
It also means that this column is winding down. I’ll be back next week with a season wrap-up, and then in a couple weeks from now I’ll unleash my bowl pick extravaganza. And that’s it for the season. After that, I’ll turn to watching college basketball. Oh, I’ll pretend to enjoy it, but like a stepchild it will never be as good as the real thing. So let’s enjoy the last full Saturday of college football action while we still can.
Here are my Conference Championship Weekend picks…
The Non-Championship Games
Oklahoma State / Baylor UNDER 86.5
I’m only including this game to point out how ridiculous the Big 12 has become. 87 points to hit the over? That’s insane. And yet, it’s 50/50 that it will happen. If you’re looking to bet this game, I’d take the UNDER and pray for the teams to get off to a slow start. Or I’d go with OK State -4.5. Baylor is like that kid from Twilight. Not Robert Pattinson, the other guy. They’re hot right now, but you know it can’t last. Yes, it’s sizzling Twilight talk like this makes me the number 1 college football gambling columnist in the greater Hartford area.
Oklahoma State 44, Baylor 38
Texas +10.5 over Kansas State
One of my least favorite things about college football is how much credence is given to the final weeks of the season. Why is Oregon ranked behind Georgia? It’s because Georgia lost in early October, and Oregon lost in mid-November. They both lost one game to a top ten opponent. Oregon lost by 3 in overtime and Georgia got crushed by four touchdowns. If anything, Oregon should be ranked ahead of the Bulldogs. Of course, the Georgia loss is a distant memory, while the Oregon loss is still fresh in people’s minds.
The same goes for the Heisman. In a single week, Collin Klein went from Heisman favorite to barely in the discussion. All because of one bad game. Collin Klein is as valuable to Kansas State as any of the other Heisman frontrunners are to their respective teams. Without Klein this team would be 6-5 and hoping for a bid to the Pinstripe Bowl. Instead they’re on the verge of a Fiesta Bowl berth. If the Wildcats win this game, Klein should receive serious Heisman consideration. I’d go into more detail, but we’ll save the Heisman talk for next week.
The question is, will they win? I’m not sure. Texas isn’t a bad team, they’re just inconsistent. On their good days, they can score points with anyone. You’d think Saturday would be one of those days. They’re playing a top ten opponent in the final match-up of the regular season. The Longhorns could end up in a prestigious bowl game, or they could be headed to Montana to play in the Chuck’s Steakhouse Sirloin Bowl.* If the Longhorns come out uninspired, they’ll get blown out. I’m going to take the 10-and-a-half points and hope that Texas comes fired up and ready to play.
Kansas State 38, Texas 31
[*I just made this up, but it sounds as legitimate as some of the other bowl games out there. If the I think next week I might post the names of 10 real bowl games and 10 made-up bowl games and see if anyone can tell the difference.]
Arkansas State -10 over Middle Tennessee State
This is not a conference championship game but it might as well be. Unfortunately winning the Sun Belt Conference doesn’t get you much. Winning the Sun Belt is like winning a game of Madden football against your friends. It feels great and it gets you absolutely nowhere in real life. At least the winner of this game will have bragging rights.
I think Arkansas State is my favorite mid-major team of 2012, and that’s saying a lot with all the quality teams out there. They have a talented quarterback, they’re on a 6-game winning streak, and all three of their losses have come to good opponents. I’m picking the Red Wolves in a convincing victory.
Arkansas State 42, Middle Tennessee State 20
The Championship Games
Kent State +7 over Northern Illinois
(FRIDAY NIGHT GAME)
Kent State. Northern Illinois. Boise State. Utah State. San Jose State. No, that’s not the #12-16 seeds of the 2012 NCAA Tournament West bracket, or a list of schools that are sending junk mail to your 17-year old daughter, or a bunch of made-up college that Keanu Reeves played against in some crappy movie. Those are all teams ranked in the BCS top 25. This year’s MAC Championship Game between Kent State and Northern Illinois won’t just decide the Rust Belt’s most successful mid-level university athletic program. It could very well determine a BCS at-large bid. If the winner of this game can end the year ranked in the top 16 -- and it should be noted that Kent State is currently ranked 17th -- then they’ll have an opportunity to head to a big-time January bowl. Meaning we could witness a Kent State vs. Louisville showdown in the Tostitos Worst BCS Bowl Game of All-Time. So you’ve got that to look forward to. As for the game, it should be a close one. Both of these teams are playing well at the moment, and with a historic BCS appearance on the line, you’ll know they’ll be trying their damndest to win. I’ll take the higher-ranked team plus the 7 points.
Kent State 30, Northern Illinois 28
[Additional prediction – The NCAA and the voters will do everything they can to keep these teams out of the BCS. Northern Illinois vs. Kansas State is not exactly the big money maker they’re looking for. Say what you want about the computers, but it’s always the humans who screw things up the most.]
Stanford -8 over UCLA
UCLA / Stanford OVER 44
(FRIDAY NIGHT GAME)
“You can’t revamp your entire offensive or defensive scheme in a week.”
That’s a quote from UCLA coach Jim Mora. Stanford dominated UCLA last weekend, and there’s no reason to think things will be different this weekend. Things don’t usually get better the second time around, unless of course we’re referring to Patrick Duffy’s marriage to Suzanne Somers in “Step By Step.” You see, last week’s game was no fluke. Stanford controlled both lines of scrimmage and the Bruins had no answer for Stepfan Taylor. It’s not like Stanford won with luck and trick plays. The Bruins defense has to line up against Taylor and the same Stanford offense line again this week, and their offense has to block the same explosive Cardinal D. The score might end up closer than 18, but I expect this week’s game to unfold much in the same way as last week’s game. Lots of Taylor, lots of pressure on Brett Hundley, lots of UCLA fans calling Stanford fans nerds and then going to the bar to drink away their sorrows. This game should be like a new Nickelback song. It’s new, but really, it’s the same.
Stanford 32, UCLA 20
(PS – Parents need to get together and agree on a spelling for Stephon/Stephan/Stepfan/Stephfan. It’s the male version of Caitlin/Caitlyn/Kaitlyn/Katelynn.)
Nebraska -3 over Wisconsin
Tough year for the Big Ten. Two of the conference’s top three teams are ineligible for postseason play, and even with those teams, the conference isn’t that strong. I think Nebraska takes this one in a low-scoring, run-heavy, boring-ass game. These teams are so lucky they get to play Stanford or UCLA in the Rose Bowl instead of Oregon. They’ll still lose, don’t get me wrong, but at least they’ll be able to keep it within 100 points.
Nebraska 26, Wisconsin 17
Florida State -14 over Georgia Tech
It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Florida State will win and secure a spot in the BCS. So the question becomes, will they cover the spread? 14 points is a lot, especially when you consider the up-and-down nature of the Seminole’s season. On the other hand, Georgia Tech looked awful in their last game against Georgia. I can’t in good faith put my money on Tech. Georgia Tech would beat Florida State in many things: a robotics competition, a spelling bee, chivalry, staying out of jail. But if it involves football, no way.
FSU 44, Georgia Tech 24
Georgia +7.5 over Alabama
Before we get into this game, I need to give a shout-out to my friend Dan P. He sent me this email last week, before the Alabama-Auburn game:
“Saban will perform a Shang Tsung-esque fatality on the career of Gend Chizik. ‘Your soul is mine!’ Last time these teams met in Tuscaloosa, Cam Newton burned the Tide. Bama won’t forget that game. Saban will not allow for a letdown, especially since they're magically #2 in the BCS again. Absolute woodshed, 48-0.”
That’s going to go down as my favorite prediction of the season. Not only was the actual score of that game 49-0 -- so close! -- but I appreciate the Shang Tsung reference. He could’ve gone with Kano ripping out the heart, but he dug deep and brought up with the one Mortal Kombat character that no one remembers.
The reason I’m stalling here is because I have no idea what will happen in this game. Conventional wisdom says to go with Alabama, but a Bama-Notre Dame final has become such a foregone conclusion that I’m now starting to doubt it will happen. Here’s a tip for all you young kids who want to grow up to become degenerate gamblers: When all of the public is going one way, do the opposite. If it was so easy to pick games, gambling wouldn’t exist and Las Vegas would be forced to survive off the prostitution and shrimp buffet industries alone. 7.5 points is a very high line for an SEC Championship Game. Furthermore, Alabama has struggled in their last two big-time tests, losing to Texas A&M are barely surviving LSU. The Tide are still very talented, and any Nick Saban team will always be well-prepared, but this is no cakewalk. All year I’ve preached to bet on Bama, but apparently everyone has the same philosophy and the oddsmakers have gotten out of hand lately. Georgia has a very good defense (not to mention future #1 draft pick Jarvis Jones), a solid quarterback and an excellent young running back. They’re the real deal. They shouldn’t be a two-score underdog to anyone.
Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t trust Georgia. As long as they have Mark Richt as coach, I never will. Richt is the Norv Turner of college. He always fields a good team and always falls short in big games. He may win the big one someday. I hope he does. But until he proves himself, I’ll always be a skeptic. This year’s Georgia team has the talent to win the title. Will they have the execution? The gameplan? The luck? That remains to be seen.
My heart wants Georgia to pull off the upset and spare us all the Alabama-Notre Dame match-up that nobody wants to see. (Aside from Catholics and people in Tuscaloosa, obviously.) My head says that Bama’s great offensive line will match up well against Georgia’s D, and the Crimson Tide defense will harass Aaron Murray all day. My heart says Georgia pulls off the upset by a field goal. My head says Bama by 4. Either way I’m taking the points and hoping that a match-up between two top-ranked SEC opponents will end as a one score game. Of course I’m fully prepared to have my heart ripped out, Kano-style.
Alabama 24, Georgia 20.
See you next week.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @thefaketomz
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