Friday, MAC Championship: Bowling Green vs. No. 14 Northern Illinois (Detroit), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Northern Illinois has the opportunity to accomplish something very rare Friday night.
The Huskies could win a third consecutive MAC championship, earn another at-large BCS bowl bid and have a player put himself in position to win the Heisman Trophy. That player is senior dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch.
Lynch has passed for 2,457 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, as well as rushed for an astounding 1,755 yards and 20 touchdowns. Against Western Michigan on Nov. 26, he broke his single-game FBS record by rushing for 321 yards as a quarterback.
With so much emphasis placed on Lynch, running back Cameron Stingily is more than capable of pounding the ball out on the ground, as he’s rushed for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns.
But the Huskies cannot overlook a Bowling Green team that's lost two of its three games by a combined four points. The Falcons blew opponents out in November and have held offenses to just 13.8 points per game this season (fifth in the country)
The past three MAC Championship Games Northern Illinois has played in have been decided by seven points or less. Don’t be surprised if the outcome is closer than anticipated.
Prediction: Northern Illinois 35, Bowling Green 27
No. 16 UCF at SMU, noon ET, ESPN
With Louisville knocking off Cincinnati 31-24 in overtime Thursday night, UCF earns the automatic BCS berth for the AAC.
There still is something on the line for the Knights in this game, though, as UCF would be going for its second outright conference championship in four years. In 2010, they defeated SMU 17-7 in the Conference USA Championship Game.
Starting quarterback Blake Bortles (3,038 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, seven interceptions) wasn’t as solid against South Florida last week, as he threw two interceptions, but expect him to bounce back this week against one of the worst pass defenses in the country. The Mustangs are giving up 274.5 passing yards per game and surrendering 24.8 points per game.
SMU could give the Knights defense a few problems with its pass offense if quarterback Garrett Gilbert is able to go.
UCF should win handily and take the AAC outright in its first season as a member of the conference.
Prediction: UCF 38, SMU 24
Conference USA Championship: Marshall @ Rice, noon ET, ESPN2
After failing to become bowl eligible in 2012, Marshall bounced back with its first nine-win season since 2002. The three losses the Thundering Herd suffered this season were by a combined 13 points. One of the losses came to Virginia Tech in triple overtime.
The Marshall offense this season has been difficult for opponents to defend. Junior quarterback Rakeem Cato has passed for an impressive 3,314 yards and 34 touchdowns this season, while running back Essray Taliaferro has rushed for over 1,000 yards and Tommy Shuler has 1,000 receiving yards.
The Thundering Herd offense is ranked in the Top 25 in both passing and rushing yards this season and is averaging 44.6 points per game.
Marshall will have its hands full against a Rice team that’s won nine games for the first time since 2008 and has a rushing attack averaging 239.5 rushing yards per game.
The Owls offense has been led by senior quarterback Taylor McHargue and running back Charles Ross. McHargue has 2,065 passing yards and 16 touchdowns, while Ross has 1,143 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns.
Prediction: Marshall 34, Rice 31
No. 25 Texas @ No. 9 Baylor, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox
This game could have heavy conference implications if Oklahoma State loses to Oklahoma earlier in the day. As in, a Big 12 conference championship game that would send the winner to the Fiesta Bowl.
Even if the Cowboys happen to win, this will be a chance for either team to earn a share of the Big 12 title.
Somehow Mack Brown's Longhorns are still in the hunt after a rough nonconference outing at the beginning of the season and multiple injuries.
Quarterback Case McCoy and the Texas defense need to be at the top of their game. Not only will the Longhorns offense need to score more than its average of 33.1 points per game, but the defense has to try to stop the best offense in the country.
Baylor’s offense, led by quarterback Bryce Petty, will challenge the Horns through the air and on the ground with running back Lache Seastrunk and wide receiver Antwan Goodley.
The Bears barely held on to win at TCU last week, but with a potential automatic or at-large BCS bid on the line, as well as a final game at Floyd Casey, Art Briles’ squad should come away with a big win.
Prediction: Baylor 42, Texas 24
Mountain West Championship: Utah State at No. 23 Fresno State, 10 p.m. ET, CBS
Fresno State’s BCS hopes were shattered last Friday when it was upset at San Jose State 62-52. Senior quarterback Derek Carr, who leads the FBS in passing yards (4,462) and touchdowns passes (45), has unfinished business, as he tries to earn Fresno State its first outright conference title since 1991, when it played in the Big West.
The Bulldogs boast the No. 1 ranked passing attack with 410.3 yards per game, while the Utah State defense has the seventh-best scoring defense in the country (16.8 points per game).
The Aggies will be going for their second straight conference title; of course, last year they won the WAC title.
Even with Fresno State having home-field advantage, it will be a close, yet high-scoring affair between these two teams.
Prediction: Fresno State 49, Utah State 38