After a crazy rivalry weekend, there is no college football prediction that is too insane. Anybody can win any given game, the backup quarterback could step in and throw a game-winning touchdown and it's always safer to expect the exact opposite of what most are predicting.
That's why we're bringing out more bold predictions. Forget the plain, boring stuff that everybody else is telling you. There's a good chance half of it doesn't come true. If you heard some of the crazy stuff that is bound to happen this weekend, you won't be so shocked when it actually takes place.
This week, a potential Heisman candidate is going to play poorly and lead his team to a loss. There's also going to be a lot of upsets. No, seriously. A lot of upsets.
And before you think I'm a little off my rocker, please remember that I correctly predicted an Auburn win, Fresno State loss and Christian Hackenberg going off on Wisconsin.
Note: These are bold predictions, meaning that very few are supposed to be taken seriously. Relax. Also, these are conference-championship bold predictions only.
There are seven conference championship games this week. Judging by the way games have been called this year, it's safe to assume some kid is going to be thrown out of one of them for making a good, acceptable hit that is called illegal.
But let's give the referees the benefit of the doubt. Nobody is going to be penalized for targeting this weekend.
These are the biggest games to date. I expect the refs will remember that before throwing a flag for targeting and possibly removing a key player from the game. We came to see the teams play at full strength, not for some old guy to throw dirty laundry onto the field and ruin all of the fun.
Let's at least hope this prediction comes true.
Derek Carr has thrown for at least three touchdowns in the last four games. In the last two, he's tossed 13! But after throwing for six touchdowns in the first half against San Jose State, the senior Fresno State quarterback didn't find the end zone once in the final 30 minutes of play.
Yup, he torched the Spartans secondary one second and then lost all of his magic powers like he was thrown into a Space Jam sequel. And if you've seen the movie, you'll know how long it takes to get those powers back.
Utah State has the best pass defense in the MWC and hasn't allowed more than two touchdown passes in the last six games. The Aggies will make it tough for Carr to complete passes and force the Bulldogs running game to get going.
Without Derek Carr, Fresno State would be lucky to even qualify for a bowl game. The guy has thrown 45 touchdown passes to only five interceptions. When you're averaging 47 points per game, you don't even need a defense. It's just insane.
But if Carr is effectively taken out of the game and other players are forced to beat the opposition, that's where the Bulldogs could struggle. As mentioned in the previous slide, the Aggies are going to make it tough to throw the football. Who's going to step up? The Bulldogs rushing offense isn't great and has yet to carry the load with Carr lighting up the scoreboard.
Besides, averaging five yards per carry has a lot to do with defenses being wary of the passing game. Take that away and Utah State can load the box and slow down this offense in a major way. The Aggies defense will win this game, while the offense does just enough to bring home a MWC title.
Northern Illinois has a great offensive line that has only allowed eight sacks all season. It also has an extremely mobile quarterback in Jordan Lynch who's capable of avoiding pressure even when the line messes up. But the Huskies haven't faced a great pass rush this season.
Enter Bowling Green.
Before you laugh, this defense has really brought the heat as of late. In the last four games, the Falcons have generated 15 sacks, including five last week in a win over Buffalo. It appears the defensive coordinator has found something that works and he's going to stick to it.
With a combination of packages, Bowling Green will dial up the pressure and knock Lynch out of his rhythm.
There are a lot of great running backs to watch this weekend and many of the teams fighting for a conference title are run-first offenses. But make sure you watch Travis Greene of Bowling Green.
He's easily one of the most underrated running backs in the country, as he's topped 100 rushing yards in four straight games and scored five touchdowns in the last three.
Heating up at the right time, huh?
Greene is very elusive and sees the field extremely well. He has the speed to take it the distance and is difficult to tackle when there's space between him and the defender. He's bound to give the Northern Illinois run defense issues and should have no problem putting up another triple-digit performance.
Pressuring Jordan Lynch and getting the running game going have got to be the keys to upsetting Northern Illinois. The pressure will force Lynch into bad decisions and the consistent ground game will keep an explosive Northern Illinois offense off the field.
He can't hurt you if he's on the sidelines!
Bowling Green has the best run defense, best total defense and third-best rushing offense in the MAC. Expect the Falcons to play a physical ballgame and fluster Northern Illinois like nobody has this season. It'll be like last year's meeting against Florida State, just on a much smaller scale.
The Huskies will lose for the first time this season.
Marshall is averaging close to 45 points per game thanks to a balanced attack. The passing and rushing attacks are both ranked in the Top 20 in college football.
Not too shabby.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato has been as consistent as they come this season, topping 3,000 passing yards and tossing 34 touchdowns. Running back Essray Taliaferro has reached the century mark and is averaging five yards per carry.
Add it up and Marshall has scored at least 45 points in six straight games. Even against Rice's feisty defense, there are too many weapons for this offense to be stopped. Hopefully, the scoreboard can withstand all of those points.
We're going to have an offensive explosion for the C-USA title. Rice is more known for defense than scoring points, but a rushing attack led by senior Charles Ross has led to more than 30 points in two of its last three games. The offense is starting to find its comfort zone and providing much-needed support to a defense that is ranked second in the conference.
Luckily for the Owls, the Thundering Herd have had games this season where they give up bundles of points. East Carolina scored 28, Tulsa dropped 34 and Middle Tennessee somehow managed to score 51. I see this matchup being a lot like the one against the Blue Raiders. Last team to have the ball wins.
Rice, it's your lucky day.
Running back Tre Mason is having such a monster season that Missouri will have no choice but to focus on him in the SEC Championship Game. Let Chris Davis return a missed field goal for a touchdown, allow a tipped Hail Mary pass, but don't let the speedy running back get the ball and eat up yardage all afternoon.
This game plan is going to force quarterback Nick Marshall to keep the ball a lot on the read-option. It just makes sense. Instead of allowing the smaller running back to get in space and kill you with his speed, force the lesser-experienced player to keep the ball and make plays. It also allows the defense more opportunities to lay the wood on the person throwing the football.
Crazy enough, Mason may still rush for 100 yards, but Marshall should rush for upwards of 150.
Speaking of SEC quarterbacks, James Franklin is back. Easily one of the better dual-threats in the country when healthy, he's starting to find his groove two games back from injury.
He's completed higher than 60 percent of his passes the last two games, is making proper decisions with the ball and is starting to run the ball a little bit more. Anybody familiar with Franklin knows that he's a gamer and one tough cookie. He doesn't shy away from contact and usually plays his best under the bright lights.
The SEC Championship Game?
Oh, he's there.
Franklin is going to have a career day.
Because why not?
If there were ever a time to believe in destiny, it would be right now with Auburn. From the improbable Hail Mary pass to beat Georgia to the 108-yard kickoff return to knock off Alabama, it seems like luck always falls in Auburn's lap.
Auburn will do it again at some point during the game against Missouri. Whether it's a 50-yard touchdown pass caught just before halftime or one of those completed miracle passes that Johnny Manziel throws about twice every game, Auburn will strike again.
Whether it leads to a win is another question...
Ask any gambler; luck eventually runs out. And let's be honest, Auburn's success has come with a lot of luck. Sure, there's plenty of talent on this team and Gus Malzahn has the program moving in the right direction, but Auburn is just a tipped pass here or a made field goal there from sitting with three or four losses.
It's a lot like Notre Dame's season last year.
Meanwhile, Missouri continues to play the same way each week. The defensive line is scary, the running game is second best in the SEC and the Tigers finally have their senior quarterback leading the way. No gimmicks, no feel-good story, just hard-nosed football, the type of stuff that usually wins the SEC and eventually national titles.
It should be a well-played game, but Missouri will come out on top and end the magic-carpet ride.
If there's any offense in the country that is firing on all cylinders, it's Arizona State. Quarterback Taylor Kelly and running back Marion Grice run a zone-read offense that is nearly impossible to stop.
Do you let one of the more explosive backs in the country keep the ball or let Kelly run it? Mind you, he's got to be one of the fastest quarterbacks in college football. Uh, I don't know. I think you're doomed either way.
This deadly combination has helped Arizona State score more than 50 points six times this season. Did I mention there's also a great 6'4" receiver in Jaelen Strong?
Stanford, you're in big, big trouble.
Despite not playing much, Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan had a little bit of draft buzz heading into the season. People loved his mobility, his size at 6'4" and thought he had the arm strength to be a nice pickup for an NFL team.
While all of those things still hold true, Hogan isn't going to help himself much in this game. Arizona State's defense is ranked third in the Pac-12 and the defensive front rushes the passer like no other. There are certainly going to be sacks and mistakes.
Hogan threw two interceptions in the games against USC and Notre Dame. Neither one of those teams is as aggressive as Arizona State. This could get ugly.
Speaking of sacks, it's time to show some love to Arizona State's defensive front. It's pretty darn explosive.
While not as stat-heavy as last year's 51 sacks, the Sun Devils have produced 36 sacks this season, 85 tackles for loss and forced 11 fumbles. What's so impressive about the sack total is that three players have more than six. This isn't one player making all of the plays in the backfield; everybody is getting in on the action.
Stanford still has the best offensive line in the Pac-12 that has allowed only 11 sacks this year. However, no defense the Cardinal have faced this season has guys such as Carl Bradford, Davon Coleman and Will Sutton. These guys will give those Stanford big boys all they can handle.
Judging by the previous slides, hopefully you were able to make this prediction. I had Stanford winning the Pac-12 before the season began and it would be too easy to stick to my guns. But Arizona State has woken up at the right time and is playing with unbelievable confidence.
The Sun Devils ended the regular season on a seven-game winning streak and appeared to be getting better each game. In the UCLA win, the defense sacked the quarterback nine times. Against Arizona, the offense generated 478 total yards and 58 points. If it's not the defense beating your brains in, the offense is doing its best Oregon impersonation.
On the other side, Stanford lost to Utah, USC and was nearly upset by Notre Dame. There's been very little consistency with the Cardinal. Give me the hotter team that's playing its best football late in the year.
Arizona State wins in somewhat of a blowout.
While Michigan State's defense has received much of the credit for this year's success, Jeremy Langford has quietly rushed for 100-plus yards in seven consecutive games.
Maybe a 200-yard performance against Ohio State would get your attention.
Langford is a big running back at 6'0", 200-plus pounds. He's not afraid to lower his shoulder to pick up extra yards, but he's also pretty quick for a guy his size and can break off the big run if you aren't careful. Ohio State's run defense is looking a little shaky lately, allowing three-straight 100-yard performances, including 152 rushing yards last week to Michigan.
Expect Langford to get his 20-plus carries for the eighth straight game and have a career day.
One thing Michigan State doesn't do well is throw the football. The offense is ranked 95th in the country in passing yardage. However, Connor Cook still tosses around the pigskin quite a bit. In three of the last four games, he's thrown the ball at least 23 times. With a completion percentage of only 58.2 on the season, it's risky business with Bradley Roby on the field.
Roby is a corner who could play in the NFL right now. He's a feisty defensive back who isn't afraid to take chances in coverage and usually makes a couple of big plays each game. He has three interceptions and 13 batted passes this season.
Cook will eventually force a throw that lands in Roby's hands and the playmaker will find the end zone.
There has to be at least one conference championship that keeps us on the edge of our seat. Why not the battle between the two teams that are equally matched?
Ohio State is going to struggle to score touchdowns because Michigan State has arguably the best defense in the country. Michigan State will have a hard time scoring because, well, it's Michigan State. The Spartans aren't built to score a lot and have scored 21 or less points in four games this season.
With this likely being a battle for field position where points are hard to come by, there will be a team that puts together a game-winning drive in the final minute.
Now, if only we knew which team that's going to be...
Michigan State is the team that's built perfectly to beat up Ohio State. The Spartans only allow 238 yards per game, which is the best in college football.
The defensive front gives up nothing in the running game, which is going to force Braxton Miller to make plays with his arm. That takes him completely out of his comfort zone. Miller would much rather make plays with his legs and throw the ball less than 20 times per game. And with the throws he does make, he wants to take advantage of one-on-one coverage. The problem is that Michigan State's pass defense is also terrific, coming away with 16 interceptions in 12 games.
Michigan State also bullies teams on the offensive end with a rushing offense that averages more than 180 yards per game. Ohio State nearly lost to Northwestern and Michigan. Urban Meyer suffers his first loss as a Buckeye at the worst possible time.
Due to the loss in the Big Ten Championship and there being no shot of winning the crystal football, Braxton Miller announces he's making the jump to the NFL. The frustration of coming up short ends up getting to him and he just doesn't want to be bothered with another year at the collegiate level.
Is he polished enough to be an NFL starter? Of course not. Even his coach Urban Meyer agrees. But he has shown enough improvement in his second full year as a starter and has more than enough raw ability to where some franchise would take him in the earlier rounds.
And who knows, maybe a good draft workout could move him into the first round like it did for EJ Manuel last season.
Miller bolts and everybody in Columbus begins to hit the panic button.
Ah, the most underrated phase of a football game.
While you're probably quick to write off Duke in the matchup against Florida State, special teams will be key in deciding who comes out on top, especially the return game. The Blue Devils and Seminoles are first and second in the ACC in kickoff return average, respectively. They've also combined for three kickoff return touchdowns. As for punt return yards, Duke is second in the conference with an average of 13.63 yards per return and two scores.
Needless to say, these two schools rely heavily on their special teams being just that. That's not going to end in the biggest game of the season for these schools. There will be two kicks returned for a touchdown in this ACC clash.
There are plenty of receivers in this game to watch. The most well-known play for Florida State in Rashad Greene and Kelvin Benjamin. However, don't you sleep on Duke's Jamison Crowder. He has 88 receptions for 1,131 yards and seven touchdowns this season.
They say speed is a lot of what separates teams such as Florida State from the rest of the pack. Everybody is so fast. Well, Crowder has that ACC/SEC speed and is capable of going the distance anytime he touches the ball. In fact, 10 of his 88 catches have produced 25 or more yards.
Crowder will have plenty of chances to make plays in this game. Don't be surprised when he shows up big and outperforms some of the other guys.
Jameis Winston has to have a bad game at some point. He's going to prove he's human eventually. Everybody does. Shoot, we're seeing it with Johnny Manziel. Everybody has an off game, and it usually happens when you least expect it.
Well, here you are.
While you're thinking Winston throws for 500 yards and six touchdowns against Duke, he's going to throw three picks. The Blue Devils may not be capable of stopping the Seminoles dead in their tracks, but they do force turnovers. They have at least one interception in eight straight games and were able to intercept Logan Thomas four times.
The corners aren't afraid to jam receivers at the line and get physical, and all of the defensive backs have great hands. Winston finally has that bad performance in his young career.
This season has gotten to the point where we're better off expecting the unexpected. With Auburn and its constant miracles to Duke and Missouri competing for conference titles, I give up trying to predict what should happen.
That's why I'm rolling the dice and backing the most improbable prediction yet. Duke wins the ACC, beating what should be this year's national champion.
How does it happen? Who knows? How did Florida lose to an FCS opponent? How did the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Yankees after being down in the series, 3-0? How did Trinidad James get a record deal?
Sometimes, stuff just happens. It's college football. It's the holidays, which is the time of year when you're supposed to dream and think big.
Let's end the BCS format with a bang by making those computers really work to determine the top two teams. The Blue Devils knock off the No. 1 team in the country and it's not a basketball game.