The SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, Big East, MWC, ACC and MAC winners will all be decided by games in Week 14 of the college football season. Sure, not all of them have actual conference championship games, but they're still up for grabs.
BCS bowl bids and national championship implications are abound in Week 14. Which teams will cap off their seasons by reaching the big-money bowl games and which will have to settle for a standard bowl matchup?
Those burning questions will be answered as each of the conference championship games will be broken down and predicted in the following slides.
Northern Illinois (21) vs. Kent State (17)
The MAC is back in contention for a BCS bowl berth. If the 17th-ranked Golden Flashes overcome the Huskies they will likely finish inside the Top 16 in the BCS Standings. That will give Kent State an automatic BCS bowl bid and will send the school to its first ever BCS bowl appearance.
Even if the Huskies win, they may not get a big enough bump in the rankings to move inside the Top 16 from their No. 21 spot.
Who’s going to get it done at Ford Field?
The Huskies are veterans of this game, going to the MAC Championship Game for the third time in three seasons. Last season they rolled over the Golden Flashes in a 40-10 stomping in which they allowed just 64 yards of total offense.
This year’s Kent State team is much improved, though, and will challenge the Huskies like no one else this season with its potent rushing game. The Golden Flashes have two 1,000-yard rushers and will unleash both of them in this one.
Luckily for the Huskies, they also have some very good rushers of their own. They’re averaging 245 yards per game on the ground as a team. That’s four yards more than the 11th-ranked Golden Flashes.
Unlike Kent State, the Huskies have passing game that’s just as potent. That balance will pose a problem for their opponents.
It will definitely be a close, grinding game which comes down to the final moments. In the end, the well-rounded and seasoned Huskies will be too much for the Golden Flashes.
Prediction: Huskies 31, Golden Flashes 28
Florida State (13) vs. Georgia Tech
Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles had high expectations coming into 2012 as the preseason No. 7-ranked team (AP/USA Today). They even reached as high as No. 4 in those rankings before being usurped in an upset by the North Carolina State Wolfpack on Oct. 6.
This championship game is a chance for the Seminoles to salvage their season and earn a trip to the BCS Orange Bowl game. Sure, it’s a consolation prize, but it’s still an achievement for the school. Things could have gone a lot worse had they not held come back to beat Clemson earlier in the season.
It has been a bumpy ride for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. They have continued to utilize an option-based rushing attack that has netted them over 320 yards per game on the ground (third in FBS). It had mixed results this season, but it has helped the team to a 6-6 record. Offensively they’re averaging 36 points per game.
This week will be their stiffest challenge. The Seminoles defense is giving up just 15 points per game (seventh in FBS) and is the fourth-best rush defense in the league. They have allowed just 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground this season through 12 games. That’s just 85 yards per game on the ground.
The Seminoles will clamp down on the run and the Yellow Jackets won’t have an answer. They’ll compete early but the Noles will break away as the game wears on.
Prediction: Seminoles 35, Yellow Jackets 14
Nebraska (12) vs. Wisconsin
Like in the Pac-12, the Big Ten Championship Game is also a rematch of an earlier conference game. The only difference is that it has been nine weeks since Nebraska and Wisconsin battled it out. Nebraska came out as the narrow victor in that first meeting by a 30-27 margin.
This time around things may come down to the wire as they did in that late September matchup. The Badgers took a 27-10 lead early in the third quarter but were outscored 20-0 to finish the game. Nebraska ran for over 250 yards and limited the physical Badgers dynamic running back Montee Ball to just 90 yards. He did score three touchdowns, though.
Luckily for the Cornhuskers they just got running back Rex Burkhead back from injury. The back had missed much of the season and helped them withstand an upset bid from the Iowa Hawkeyes last week. He scored the go-ahead touchdown on a three-yard touchdown run with just three minutes left to play in the game.
Despite the resemblance of these two teams, the Cornhuskers have proven to be the more resilient of the two, especially in the fourth quarter. That’s when it matters the most. That’s when games are won and lost. Wisconsin has lost each of its give games due to wearing down in the fourth quarter (three overtime losses), and that’s not going to change with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line in this one.
Prediction: Cornhuskers 27, Badgers 21
Stanford (8) vs. UCLA (16)
Stanford shocked the world by knocking off the top-ranked Oregon Ducks in overtime two weeks ago. Last week, Stanford stymied the potent UCLA Bruins offense and poured it on to earn its trip to this game, to face the Bruins again.
It’s rare that two teams are playing each other in back-to-back weeks but it’s also advantageous to both of them. Stanford knows the formula to win again and the Bruins know what they need to change. But it’s a quick turnaround; can the Bruins revamp their game plan as a result?
Chances are that they won’t and that the Cardinal will roll again on their way to the Rose Bowl.
Since Kevin Hogan has taken the reigns of the Cardinal offense, they’ve looked much crisper offensively. They’ve beaten three ranked teams with Hogan behind center. Their stout defense has shut down nearly everyone, relatively, and allowed just 17 points per game. Don’t expect that to change this week with so much on the line.
The Cardinal are going to play this one close to the vest by clamping down on the Bruins with their defense and pounding Stepfan Taylor again on the ground. It worked in Week 13, and it’s going to work in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Prediction: Cardinal 24, Bruins 14
Alabama (2) vs. Georgia (3)
The SEC Championship Game will send its winner to the National Championship Game to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Before that happens, though, these two powerhouses will do battle for those rights.
Alabama has had one close call against LSU and lost to the Texas A&M Aggies when their comeback bid fell just short. They’ve rebounded with consecutive 49-0 blowouts over Western Carolina and Auburn to prepare for this showdown.
Georgia’s road to the title game has been much of the same. The Bulldogs have blown out a lot of teams but played some pretty close contest along the way, as well. Back-to-back narrow wins over Florida and Kentucky in late October gave way to easy street for the Bulldogs. They’ve won by a combined 162 to 34 over the span of their last four games.
The Crimson Tide have the clear-cut advantage with the ground game and their ability to stop the run. They’re ranked second in the FBS, allowing just 77 yards per game on the ground. They also aren’t too shabby against the pass, giving up just 157 yards per game through the air.
That will definitely pose a problem for the Georgia offense. But which unit will get the better of the other? Georgia’s balanced offense boasts over 270 yards per game passing and 190 yards per game on the ground.
The two units might come to a standstill in which both push back and forth throughout the game. They’ll test each other and look for weaknesses, but ultimately, that matchup will be irrelevant in deciding the outcome.
The true deciding factor in this game is going to be Alabama’s ability to control the line of scrimmage on offense. Will it be able to control the tempo of the game and keep the potent Bulldogs on the sidelines for as long as possible? Alabama's near-215 yards per game on the ground will challenge a Georgia rush defense that’s giving up over 170 yards per game on the ground.
Prediction: Crimson Tide 23, Bulldogs 16