Must-See TV: Ranking College Football's Five Conference Championship Games
We have finally reached the final week of College football's regular season. For five conferences, that means division champions will be meeting to determine the undisputed conference champion. While the SEC championship game has become a cash cow for the league, other conferences haven't been as lucky. The Big XII has been hit and miss, while the ACC has struggled to even tickets for its championship game. The MAC has a nice home at Detroit's Ford Field and Conference-USA chooses to play its game on campus sites.
Here is a ranking of the five conference championship games in order of my personal interest, accompanied by my prediction.
5. MAC: Detroit, MI—Northern Illinois vs. Miami (OH)
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NIU enters the game undefeated in conference play, while Miami’s lone blemish came at the hands of Ohio. This game will pit the top overall and rushing offense in the MAC (NIU) against the league top overall and rushing defense (Miami). That is usually a recipe for a pretty entertaining game. Unfortunately for all parties involved, NIU has a solid defense to complement its offense while Miami hasn't been able to put many points on the board against quality opponents.
Prediction: NIU has been blowing out MAC opponents all season. No reason to expect that to change. Northern Illinois by 20.
4. C-USA: Orlando, FL—Central Florida vs. SMU
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The UCF Golden Knights (7-1) won the C-USA East by two games. SMU (6-2) tied with Tulsa and advanced based on their head-to-head match up. June Jones has led a miraculous turnaround in his first three seasons with the Mustangs. Because of Jones, geography, and the SMU program’s history, it would be my choice to be the 12th team for the Mountain West when it expands again. A win next weekend would go a long way to cementing SMU’s spot in the MWC. Conversely, Central Florida is one of the frontrunners in the Big East expansion talks. A second C-USA championship in four years should just about guarantee UCF’s membership offer from the Big East.
Prediction: As long as June Jones Stays at SMU, the Mustangs will continue to improve and win multiple conference titles (either in C-USA or the MWC), just not this year. UCF by 10.
3. ACC: Charlotte, NC—Virginia Tech vs. Florida State
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This was the title game that the ACC had in mind it created the Atlantic and Coastal divisions. Unfortunately, this is only the second time in six seasons that the conference has gotten its “Marquee Matchup.” Every other year, parity (or mediocrity, depending on your perspective) has gotten in the way of the ACC’s ideal match up. I think everyone is hoping we get to witness a repeat of 2005 (unless you’re a Virginia Tech fan).
Prediction: It has become pretty clear that the early-season loss to James Madison was a let-down game after the heartbreaker to Boise State. VT by a touchdown.
2. SEC: Atlanta, GA—South Carolina vs. Auburn
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This may be the biggest game to date in the history of the Auburn football program. South Carolina nearly got them the last time they played, and that was a home game. This time, the game is on a neutral site. Don’t think for a minute that South Carolina and its fans won’t be fired up for this game. It took them 19 years to get to this game, and they are in it to win it. It has been said it is tough to beat a team twice in one season, we’ll see next Saturday.
Prediction: Auburn looks like a team of destiny and Cam Newton has the Heisman in sight. However, South Carolina has played the Tigers as tough as anyone else. Auburn by a field goal.
1. Big XII: Dallas, TX—Nebraska vs. Oklahoma
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The Cornhuskers make one final trip to the Big XII championship game before leaving for the Big Ten. It only seems fitting that Nebraska matches up with its oldest Big Eight rival, Oklahoma. It’s a real shame that this once great rivalry has become marginalized. First, when the teams were split into different divisions and more so now that Nebraska is leaving the Big XII. Hopefully this opens the door for an annual non-conference game between the two schools. If nothing else, this will be one great final dance between two heated rivals.
Prediction: The Texas A&M game proved that Nebraska is a different team when Taylor Martinez is not 100%. They were able to manhandle Colorado, but Oklahoma is a lot better than the Buffs. Sooners by a touchdown.
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With five conference titles on the line, as well as some historic rivalry games rivalry games, the final week of the 2010 college football season is looking like it will be a memorable one.
Army is looking to end an eight-game losing steak to Navy. Oregon State can spoil rival Oregon's national title hopes while also getting themselves bowl eligible. Washington needs to defeat rival Wazzu to get bowl eligible while USC and UCLA are playing for nothing more than pride.