College Football Predictions: Picking Inaugural Pac-12, B1G Title Games and More
The Pac-12 and Big Ten will be holding their inaugural conference title games in what is sure to be two exciting events—both with the respective winners earning a berth in the 2012 Rose Bowl game.
We also have the privilege of getting the annual Bedlam Game between the No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners and the No. 3 Oklahoma St. Cowboys going down in Stillwater to decide the Big 12 Championship.
Will the Wisconsin Badgers avenge their loss earlier this year to the Michigan St. Spartans and punch their tickets to Pasadena? Will the Cowboys survive their showdown with the Sooners and keep their BCS Championship hopes alive?
In anticipation of these answers and much more, here are predictions for the 10 biggest games this Saturday.
UCLA Bruins at No. 9 Oregon Ducks
Rick Neuheisel will lead the UCLA Bruins into Eugene to face the No. 9 Oregon Ducks in the first-ever Pac-12 Championship game, in what will be his last game as UCLA's head coach.
The decision to let him go came shortly after the Bruins got pummeled 50-0 last week by Matt Barkley and the USC Trojans.
It will also mark the first time in NCAA history that a team with six losses will be in a conference championship game. The Trojans finished 10-2 (7-2) and are two games ahead of the Bruins in the Pac-12 South Division, but are currently serving the second year of a two-year postseason ban.
I’m sure the Bruins will want to send Neuheisel off in style, but the Ducks have different plans in mind.
Chip Kelly will unleash that fourth-ranked offense on the Bruins and put it out of reach early, and then rest LaMichael James and start focusing on the Rose Bowl.
James and Darron Thomas will both have big days, and will make Neuheisel’s exit from his alma mater a painful one.
Prediction: Ducks win 41-17.
No. 24 Southern Miss Golden Eagles at No. 6 Houston Cougars
This weekend’s Conference USA Championship between the Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi and the Houston Cougars is a rematch of the 2006 title game, where the Cougars won 34-20.
As good of a season as the No. 24 Golden Eagles are having, this year’s title game won’t be as close as the ’06 game.
Case Keenum is having a dream season right now. He’s thrown for 4,726 yards and 43 TDs, while ONLY throwing three interceptions.
Part of the reason for Keenum’s success is wide receiver Patrick Edwards, who has hauled in 18 of those TDs for 1,496 yards.
Southern Miss QB Austin Davis will have the daunting task of going score-for-score with Keenum and that high-powered attack—something that is possible with a little help from the defense, but which isn't very plausible.
In the end, Keenum and Edwards will be too much to handle for 60 minutes, and will overwhelm the Golden Eagles' defense going down the stretch.
Prediction: Cougars win 45-24.
Iowa St. Cyclones at No. 11 Kansas St. Wildcats
On paper, the Wildcats of Kansas St. should win this game easily with the talent they have.
Quarterback Collin Klein is the heart and soul of their offense, with 11 passing TDs and 25 rushing TDs.
The Iowa St. Cyclones switched quarterbacks mid-season after a four-game losing streak, giving the reigns to freshman Jared Barnett. That change sparked a three-game winning streak that includes wins over then-No. 17 Texas Tech and then-No. 2 Oklahoma St.
Obviously, Texas Tech was not as good as their No. 17 ranking indicated, but their OT win over Brandon Weeden and the Cowboys was a huge win for their program and university.
They ran into a wall last week, and lost 26-6 to then-No. 12 Oklahoma.
Enduring a roller coaster season like this tends to strengthen a team as a collective unit, and that will carry into this weekend’s game in Manhattan.
The tough-minded Cyclones walk out this weekend with an upset win as a result.
Prediction: Cyclones win 27-24.
UNLV Rebels at No. 18 TCU Horned Frogs
The TCU Horned Frogs will look to clinch the Mountain West Conference championship for the third year in a row, in what will be their last MWC game before heading to the Big 12.
The 2-9 UNLV Rebels don’t stand much of a chance in this one. They lost last year’s meeting 48-6.
While TCU is not as good of a team as last year’s, the Rebels might be worse than the previous year’s team.
Look for Gary Patterson to have his squad focused and ready to go this weekend in the slim hopes that another win may slide them into contention for an at-large bid for a BCS bowl game.
Prediction: Horned Frogs win 52-13.
No. 22 Texas Longhorns at No. 7 Baylor Bears
Normally this game would be all about the Texas Longhorns—mainly because they’re usually in contention for a Big 12 championship and/or contending for a BCS Championship.
That’s not the case this year.
All eyes will be on Baylor Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III as he continues his run at the Heisman Trophy, which will be presented on Dec. 10th.
His eye-popping numbers include 3,678 passing yards and 34 TDs. He’s only thrown five INTs and has a 72.6 completion percentage.
These numbers are staggering for a team that plays tough competition in the Big 12 Conference.
However, the Longhorns boast the best defense in the conference, and have no plans on letting RG3 roll all over them en route to New York City.
Unfortunately for Texas, RG3 has been too dominant this year, and that includes his three losses.
He’s going to impose his will on the Mack Brown-led Longhorns, and it’s going to be a Baylor win and a first-class ticket punched to NYC for RG3.
Prediction: Bears win 38-30.
No. 14 Georgia Bulldogs at No. 1 LSU Tigers
The SEC Championship has huge implications for both teams involved.
For the LSU Tigers, a win means they're going on to the Allstate BCS Championship Game, which is in their backyard this year—the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
A win for the Georgia Bulldogs would mean a BCS bowl game and also a huge notch in Mark Richt's belt, who was being heavily scrutinized earlier this year.
The Bulldogs' passing attack, led by quarterback Aaron Murray, could give that LSU defense fits early on, but once the adjustments are made at halftime, Tyrann Mathieu (the Honey Badger) and co. will impose their will and prove to be too much.
LSU should pull away in what should be an exciting game to start.
Prediction: Tigers win 34-20.
New Mexico Lobos at No. 7 Boise St. Broncos
Kellen Moore passed Colt McCoy earlier this year as the nation’s all-time leader in wins, and currently sits on 48.
He and the Boise St. Broncos shouldn’t have any problems handling the 1-10 New Mexico Lobos this weekend, and pushing that number to 49 career wins—a number that could stand for a long, long time.
With a big win, the Broncos could find themselves with an at-large bid to a BCS bowl game without even winning their conference title. They were beaten 36-35 on Nov. 12th by the TCU Horned Frogs.
The Lobos might sneak a score in there somewhere, but other than that, it’s going to be Boise St. early and often.
Prediction: Broncos win 54-7.
No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners at No. 3 Oklahoma St. Cowboys
Bedlam in Stillwater is going to be a fun and entertaining game to watch this Saturday night with the Big 12 title on the line.
There is so much riding on this game for both teams.
For Brandon Weeden and the Oklahoma St. Cowboys, not only is the Big 12 title on the line, but also a chance to play for a BCS championship.
They’re going to need some help even if they win, but that opportunity is still there.
Also, a win in this game would mark the first time the Cowboys have beat the Sooners since a 38-28 win back in 2002.
Weeden also has a real good shot at winning the Heisman Trophy. He’s put up 4,111 yards and 34 TDs, while throwing 12 INTs.
But if they are to win this game, they’re going to need to slow down Landry Jones and that potent Sooners offense.
Jones has some great numbers of his own. He’s racked up 4,052 yards and 28 TDs with the same number of picks as Weeden.
A Sooners win means a Big 12 title and a BCS bowl game for them. They don’t have any chance of playing for a BCS championship, but this would still be a great way to finish off the season.
In a game that could see upwards of 90 points scored, I see there being too much Weeden and Justin Blackmon. They defend their home turf and become Big 12 champs.
Prediction: Cowboys win 45-42.
No. 5 Virginia Tech Hokies at No. 20 Clemson Tigers
The ACC Championship Game is a rematch between the Virginia Tech Hokies and Clemson Tigers.
Tajh Boyd led the Tigers to a 23-3 win over the Hokies in Virginia Tech's own backyard on Oct. 29th.
You had better believe that the Hokies didn’t forget about that loss, and are going to do everything in their power to get themselves some get-back.
That loss is the only blemish on the Hokies' season, and is costing them BCS title talk because of it.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have dropped three of four after looking like they were going to contend for a BCS championship themselves.
This game is going to come down to how much the Hokies can contain the time of possession with junior running back David Wilson.
He's currently No. 3 in the nation with 1595 rushing yards and a 6.3 YPC average.
Wilson rushed for 123 yards in the loss, but if he can have an even bigger day, the Hokies should come away with a big win and a fifth straight ACC title.
Prediction: Hokies win 24-20.
No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers at No. 13 Michigan St. Spartans
In a rematch of a game where we witnessed what is sure to be an ESPY Play of the Year nominee, the Wisconsin Badgers will meet the Michigan St. Spartans this Saturday night at Lucas Oil Filed in Indianapolis, IN.
The Spartans won that first meeting on an amazing Hail Mary pass by Kirk Cousins which was caught by Keith Nichol, all but shattering the Badgers' chances at a national championship.
That game hurt them badly and it showed the next week, when the Badgers lost to the Ohio St. Buckeyes on a Hail Mary pass for the second week in a row.
They have since shaken that off with a four-game winning streak, but that doesn't erase the bad memories of that game.
There’s no doubt that Russell Wilson and his team have that Hail Mary pass burned into their minds and want to avenge that loss.
The Spartans must contain the Badgers' running game if they’re to have any chance of beating Bucky for a second time this year.
Monte Ball is currently No. 2 in the nation with 1,622 rushing yards and No. 1 in the country with 34 total TDs, which is nine more than the next closest player.
If Ball isn’t carrying it, there’s the threat of Wilson taking off with the rock in his hands. He has 325 rushing yards and five scores of his own.
In the end, Bucky’s ground game is going to be too much for Sparty to handle. From here, it looks like the Big Ten title is ‘On Wisconsin.’
Prediction: Badgers win 30-27.
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Brian can also be found at Out of My League, where he compiles fantasy football rankings each week.