Championship Weekend: What College Football’s Been Waiting For All Year
The college football gods could not have lined it up better.
Last night the Pac-10 had its championship game, even though it’s technically not a championship game. The Ducks had everything in a row and took care of the Beavers in the fourth quarter.
It was good start to a big week of college football. But who will win the remaining championship games?
What follows are my thoughts on each championship and “non-championship” game this weekend. There may be a few surprises, but, once again, just my thoughts; feel free to interject your own.
MAC: Ohio vs. Central Michigan
The last time the Ohio Bobcats got to the MAC championship game, they lost to the Chippewas in a lop-sided effort, 31-10.
But a lot has changed since then. Head coach Frank Solich has his team playing well and leading the MAC in plays over 50 yards.
The play-makers on this squad are fast and talented; players like Theo Scott, Taylor Price, LaVon Brazill, and Chris Garrett may be the best players at their respective positions that you’ve never heard of. Noah Keller is in the top 15 in tackles with, once again, over 100, and the Bobcats are feeling good about their chances after they dismantled the Temple Owls in the final game of the season.
The Central Michigan Chippewas may be the dynasty of the MAC conference making their third appearance in the MAC championship game in four years.
Leading that impressive run is senior quarterback Dan LeFevour, who may be the most accurate quarterback in MAC history. Completing over 70 percent of his passes with 25 touchdowns and only five interceptions this season, the Chippewas are a clear favorite to win this game.
Be ready for a shootout in this game with two high-powered offenses meeting on the Gridiron. Central Michigan has an impressive streak to continue, but Ohio has a score to settle trying to prove that they belong among the MAC elite.
Remember last year the Buffalo Bulls stunned clear-cut favorite Ball State in a turnover happy thumping. This could be the same type of game.
My take: The senior leadership of Dan LeFevour takes over and the Chippewas win their third MAC championship in four years, completing the senior's impressive career: CMU 38, OU 35
C-USA: Houston vs. East Carolina
The Houston Cougars, despite being ranked in the top 25 for most of the year, almost didn’t make it into the C-USA championship game this year. They decimated their final few opponents by a combined score of 128-28—that’s a hundred-point difference.
Their leader is Case Keenum, who is only 78 yards away from reaching 5,000 yards passing for the second consecutive year is the key to a Cougar victory.
The defense has looked shaky against good offenses this year, relying on Keenum’s arm and comeback abilities in six close high scoring games. If Houston wants a win in this one they must score over 40 points.
East Carolina is a team with a more balanced approach but still they rely on the play of their quarterback Patrick Pinkney, who is the veteran leader of the offense. While his numbers aren’t as grandiose as Keenum’s, his leadership is undeniable.
However, the crux to their entire game is on the legs of Dominique Lindsay, who has amassed nearly 1,000 yards this season. If the Pirates are to be successful, it all relies on his legs.
This game looks to be over before it begins. While East Carolina does have experience in big games, they do not have the personnel to match up with Houston on defense. This game will be close to a shootout, but in the end Keenum and the passing game should win out. I see Houston in a closer one than many think: 48-38.
Big East: Cincinnati vs. Pitt
I know I know, the Big East doesn’t have a championship game, but for some reason, just like the Pac-10, the last game of the season is going to function as a championship game for these two teams.
Cincinnati comes into the game ranked fifth in the country, rooting for Nebraska to beat Texas and for TCU’s Schedule to be too weak to jump them into the Championship game. But they must get past Pittsburgh first, and this could be enough to jump them into that game if Nebraska beats Texas.
The keys to this game are the quarterbacks for each team. Tony Pike might have won the Heisman had he not gotten injured midseason, and Bill Stull may be the most improved quarterback in the nation, let alone the Big East. Both quarterbacks have high completion rates and go to receivers in Mardy Gilyard and Jonthathan Baldwin with over 1,000 and just under 1,000 yards, respectively.
The final key to the Big East championship game is in the running game. Dion Lewis has broke onto the national scene making many Pitt fans quickly forget about LeSean McCoy’s absence. While Isaiah Pead is serviceable, he is not the breakaway threat that Lewis has become; also, the Pittsburgh Panthers have the best pass-rushing team in the nation.
This game lines up really well for the Panthers and I think you will see them give Cincinnati a run for their money, in fact I think they will give them more than that. The Bearcats defense has become suspect off the field, the distraction of Kelly possibly going to Notre Dame looms, and Pitt is anxious to make a statement after an upsetting loss to West Virginia the week before.
I see an upset in the making here with Pitt solving the BCS’s problem for it once again: 38-37.
SEC: Florida vs. Alabama
Obviously the matchup that the BCS talking heads longed for most was a rematch of the SEC title game from last season, and again the winner gets an automatic bid to the national championship game. Much like last year, people are picking the powerful Florida Gators to win the game and get into their third BCS championship game in four years.
I’m not going to go into the Tim Tebow and Mark Ingram talk, but I will say that this should be a heck of a game, low scoring with the winner decided in the final minutes.
I think the Tide has a chip on their shoulder going into this game, thinking they let it slip away last year, and Urban Meyer will be missing arguably his best defensive lineman because of a DWI.
Mark Ingram should then be able to break enough runs and tackles to be effective, Julio Jones has finally found his stride, and McElroy seems to be maturing as a leader and as a decision-maker. Obviously Tebow enters the game with the stigma of a champion, but the Gators really haven’t faced a defense as stingy as this Alabama team all year, though the same could be said for the other side.
I think the loss of Percy Harvin affects this Gator team more than they know in this game in particular. Rolando McLain should have a big game, and if 'Bama can move, the sticks and keep the Florida offense off of the field they should be in position to win it by the end of the day. The winning streak is about to come to an end, I say! Bama wins, 23-20.
ACC: Clemson vs. Georgia Tech
In their first meeting this year, Georgia Tech hit Clemson right in the mouth by scoring 24 points in the first two quarters of play. The Clemson defense nearly shut out the Yellow Jacket attack in the second half, however, as Clemson stormed back to take a three-point lead and win.
Don’t look for a fake field goal pass in this one, but look for Georgia Tech to come swinging early once again. Maybe a few shots down the field early by Nesbitt.
The key to this game really is C.J. Spiller. If Clemson can get him going, it will be a long day for the Yellow Jackets, but not if Georgia Tech can limit his effectiveness in the kick return game and in the running by forcing Kyle Parker to beat them with his arm. The problem is you not only have to stop Spiller in returning, but in rushing and receiving as well.
I think that Georgia Tech is focused and annoyed after its loss to the Bulldogs. The defense should play stout and the offense should play well; however, Clemson will have already prepared once for the triple-option. This game will show whether or not Paul Johnson can game-plan effectively for the same opponent twice in one year. I think he can.
Georgia Tech wins in a close one, 27-24.
Big 12: Texas vs. Nebraska
The second biggest game of the weekend is the Big 12 championship game. The Texas Longhorns need to beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers to get into the title game against either Alabama or Florida, and for a second straight year it would be a Big 12-SEC championship game, but the Huskers can throw a wrench in the plans of Texas and in the talking heads of the BCS.
Anybody who is longing for a playoff system should cheer for Nebraska this weekend. If the Cornhuskers win, we could see a non-BCS team outlast a BCS team into the national title game, or we could see a BCS team jump the non-BCS team into the championship game, or, God forbid, we could see a rematch of the SEC title game in the BCS national championship game.
But it all comes down to two people. Texas’ Colt McCoy and Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh. If Texas can control the line of scrimmage and get a running game going by moving ball consistently and scoring in the red zone against the nation's top red-zone defense (Nebraska is tied with Penn State), McCoy and Co. can be successful. Long plays will be at a premium for Texas in this one.
This game comes down to quarterback play, and sad to say it doesn’t look good for the Huskers. If Nebraska’s offense by some miracle can move the ball well against Texas and score points, Texas will be in trouble. Roy Helu Jr. is the guy to stop for Texas and Jordan Shipley, the guy to stop for Nebraska.
In the end Texas appears much too strong for the Huskers. Although it pains me to say it, it looks like the Longhorns will be going to Pasadena by week’s end. However, I’m a Nebraska fan and can’t pick against my Huskers in good conscience. Call it homerism.
Nebraska with the upset: 20-17 (or vice-versa)