From the ACC to the Sun Belt, this weekend will be highlighted by games that could decide who plays in each conference championship games. I’ll pick a winner in each of these games below.
A QUICK LOOK BACK AT WEEK 11
What a week it was, as three teams from the top four lost. Clemson, Washington, and Michigan all tasted defeat. It was the first time since 1985 that the second, third, and fourth ranked teams fell in the same weekend. Alabama remains unbeaten at 10-0, and the only other undefeated squad is Western Michigan, also at 10-0.
The loss by Clemson was a real head scratcher. Deshaun Watson set an ACC record by passing for 580 yards. A late fourth quarter defensive stand by the Pittsburgh defense, led to a subsequent 48-yard field goal by Chris Blewitt, giving the Panthers a 43-42 victory. The Tigers still control their own destiny in the ACC Atlantic division. If they defeat Wake Forest on Saturday, they will play in the ACC Championship Game.
The loss by Michigan was costly, as they lost quarterback Wilton Speight to a broken collarbone. Houston transfer John O’Korn is set to take over under center. The loss opens the door for Penn State to possibly play in the Big 10 Championship Game. They will need to run the table and hope Ohio State can defeat Michigan.
Washington’s loss to USC, may have eliminated the Pac- 12 chance to reach the final four. The Huskies would have to win the Pac-12 and hope for some help to claim a spot in the top four.
THE BOWL TALLY
There is a total of 80 teams that will play in the post season. In order to qualify for a bowl, you must get six wins. Last season only 77 teams reached the magical six wins, forcing the NCAA to hand out invites to three 5-7 squads. This season we are likely to see more of the same. As of this writing 60 teams have reached six wins. I think another 16 teams will get bowl eligible, leaving four spots open. Mathematically, there are still 36 teams with a shot. Getting to a bowl provides each team with multiple advantages. Each bowl provides a financial payout to the participants. The teams also benefit from the additional practices and they gain a recruiting advantage.
FEATURED GAMES FOR WEEK 12
ARKANSAS STATE 5-4 AT No.25 TROY 8-1 This is the battle of two 5-0 teams in the Sun Belt Conference and the winner of this game will likely be crowned conference champion. The Red Wolves were the pre-season choice by many to win the conference title. The Wolves who started the season at 0-4, will be looking for their sixth straight win. They have a balanced offense led by QB Justice Hansen, a highly touted transfer from Oklahoma, and RB Warren Wand. Troy is a six point loss to Clemson from being undefeated! Winners of seven straight, the Trojans used a late fourth quarter rally last week to beat Appalachian State 28-24. The win moved the Trojans into the AP Poll for the first time in school history. The Trojans have the top scoring offense in the conference and that will be the deciding factor in this game. TROJANS TAKE THE BITE OUT OF WOLVES, 36-27.
No.5 LOUISVILLE 9-1 AT HOUSTON 8-2 Last season the Cougars went to Louisville and upset the Cardinals 34-31. The Cardinals have had this game circled on the calendar since the schedule was announced. The Cougars started the season with tons of hype after an opening week win over Oklahoma. Since then, the Cougars have suffered losses to Navy and SMU and will likely miss the AAC Championship. Louisville Head Coach Bobby Petrino will be looking to make a statement to the CFP committee. Lamar Jackson was not a factor in last season’s game. He will be the difference in this contest. PAYBACK IS IN ORDER, CARDINALS 48-30.
No.23 FLORIDA 7-2 AT No.16 LSU 6-3 Two years ago both Danny Etling and Austin Appleby, where battling for the starting quarterback position at Purdue. Now these two will oppose each other on Saturday. LSU has their sights set on the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, but will need to beat both Florida and Texas A&M for that to happen. Both teams have terrific defenses, but LSU has a distinct advantage with Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. This game will be a slugfest and should be decided in the fourth quarter. The Tigers are the better team and have a chip on their shoulders. HOME CROWD PROVIDES ADDITIONAL EDGE, TIGERS 20, GATORS 10.
No.9 OKLAHOMA 8-2 AT No.14 WEST VIRGINIA 8-1 Before last weekend, the Big 12 was all but eliminated from the playoff discussion. I believe that has all changed now. The winner of this game may have a path, but must run the table! For Oklahoma, a win in Morgantown and a win next week against Oklahoma State would add to their resume. Should the Mountaineers finish at 11-1, they will force the committee to take a good look a their body of work. This game could well be one of the better games to watch this weekend. I have gone back and forth on a winner all week, but find myself studying history. Since joining the Big 12 in 2012, the Mounties have yet to defeat the Sooners (0-4) — I’ll ride that trend here. SHORTAGE OF GUN POWDER CRIPPLES MOUNTIES 43-35.
No.24 SAN DIEGO STATE 9-1 AT WYOMING 7-3 Several other Mountain West Conference teams have a rooting interest in this game. Both Boise State and New Mexico will be rooting for an Aztec victory. A loss by the Cowboys opens the door for the Broncos or Lobos to sneak into the championship game against the Aztecs, who have already clinched the West Division. The Cowboys are hoping for snow, to help slow Donnel Pumphrey who leads the nation with 1,779 rushing yards. He needs just 346 yards to break Ron Dayne’s career rushing record of 6,397 yards. The Cowboys are playing their best football at home this season (5-0) but have lost the last two times they have hosted the Aztecs. SNOW AND ALTITUDE WON’T STOP THE BEACH BOYS 41-21.
No.22 WASHINGTON STATE 8-2 AT No.10 COLORADO 8-2 Do you know the Cougars are one of the hottest teams in the nation. They have won eight straight since being called to the carpet by Head Coach Mike Leach. A win here, and a victory in the Apple Cup next week, will put the Cougars to the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Cougars boast the top offense in the conference, while the Buffaloes are tops in defense. A key element to that offense was River Cracraft who suffered a season ending injury last week. His loss will hurt, but the Cougars are deep at wide receiver. Colorado controls their own destiny in their quest to win the Pac-12 South. They will need a win Saturday and a win next week against Utah, for the right to play in the championship, and there is a possibility these two will meet again. I love the way the Cougars are playing down the stretch, as Leach is using a ground game and solid defense to compliment his star quarterback. This game comes down to how well Luke Falk dissects the Buffs defense. COUGARS SEND RALPHIE BACK TO THE PLAINS, 42-31.
SUPER SIX PACK: SIX GAMES, SIX WORDS, SIX PICKS
AKRON 5-6 AT No. 21 WESTERN MICHIGAN 10-0 THE BRONCS HOUSE WILL BE ROCKIN, Western 51- 31.
No.4 CLEMSON 9-1 AT WAKE FOREST 6-4 DEACONS DEMONIZED, TIGERS CLAIM ATLANTIC DIVISION , Clemson 48-17.
INDIANA 5-5 AT No.3 MICHIGAN 9-1 ANOTHER LATE LOSS FOR THE HOOSIERS, Wolverines 42-28.
OLD DOMINION 7-3 AT FLORIDA ATLANTIC 3-7 SNAPBACK IS BACK ON STADIUM SPEAKERS, Dominion 36-20.
VIRGINIA TECH 7-3 AT NOTRE DAME 4-6 IRISH CONFESS TO COVETING BOWL GAME, Notre Dame 31-27.
OLE MISS 5-5 AT VANDERBILT 4-6 DORES BOWL HOPES SHOWN THE DOOR, Rebels 34-24.
LAST WEEKS RESULTS
FEATURED GAMES 2-3
UPSET EXPRESS 1-0
SUPER SIX PACK 4-2