This weekend we will get a plethora of great championship games to complete the 2017 regular season. On Sunday, the CFP committee will announce who will play for the National Championship. We will also know, what each and every bowl matchup will be. Don’t forget to go to BOWLJET.com for great bowl packages, featuring incredible seats, hotels and tailgates.
No. 7 MIAMI (10-1) VERSUS No.1 CLEMSON (11-1) Before the season started, I had thought Miami would be a team to be reckoned with in 2018. Head coach Mark Richt has exceeded my expectations by a year. I compare this team to last years Washington Huskies team that was a year ahead of schedule. The Hurricanes are young and have gotten by all year on sheer talent. The inexperience caught up to them in last weeks loss at Pittsburgh. Clemson on the other hand is a team that’s been there and done that, under Dabo Swinney. I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of interesting stats in this one. I’m simply going to call for a more veteran team, that’s played in a number of high-profile games, to go out and win Saturday night. I’LL BE IN THE STANDS WATCHING A TIGER VICTORY, 33-17
No. 20 MEMPHIS (10-1) VERSUS No. 14 CENTRAL FLORIDA (11-0) This might well be the best game of the weekend, if you like offense. The Knights are one of only two teams that are undefeated in the FBS. Head coach Scott Frost has done a remarkable job in just his second season in Orlando. These two teams actually mirror one another on offense. The Tigers average 47 points per game and 529 yards per game, while the Knights average 48 points per game and 523 yards. It’s the defense where the Knights have just a slight edge. Back in late September, the Knights handed the Tigers their only loss 40-13. Both coaches Scott Frost (Central Florida) and Mike Norvell (Memphis) are being wooed by Nebraska and Arkansas. Both have downplayed the rumors, but I would not be surprised to see both gone after this contest. In all likelihood the winner of this game will play in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The knights forced four turnovers and had a huge special teams edge in the first encounter. I think that formula could be in play again. LAST TEAM TO SCORE WINS, KNIGHTS PACK BAGS FOR ATLANTA, 48-45
No. 11 TCU (10-2) VERSUS No. 3 OKLAHOMA (11-1) It will be offense versus defense in the BIG 12 Championship game. The Sooners come in with the No. 1 ranked offense in the country, while the Horned Frogs sport the No. 20 defense in the nation. Frogs head coach Gary Anderson thinks all the pressure is on the Sooners. “Oklahoma doesn’t need the extra game. They have more to lose than we do. I mean, you could play us close, or lose to us, and have a chance to fall out of the four.” He is right, the pressure to remain in the top four could be overwhelming. The “X” factor however is quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield thrives in these moments, and that’s why he will end up with the Heisman Trophy. Just four weeks ago the gunslinger lit up the Frogs defense for 333 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-20 win. In his career against the BIG 12, Mayfield has completed 71% of his passes, good for 8,254 yards and 83 touchdowns! Expect more of the same Saturday. SOONERS CIRCLE THE WAGONS, 41-24
No. 8 OHIO STATE (10-2) VERSUS No. 4 WISCONSIN (12-0) The Buckeyes actually enter this game as a six point favorite. I think both the CFP committee and the state of Alabama will be rooting for a Badger upset. A loss by the Buckeyes, will make it easy for the committee to place Alabama in the top four. A Buckeyes win, and we could have a total nightmare on our hands. I was looking at stats for this game and one thing stood out to me. The Badgers have the top ranked defense in the country. I know many of you will say, that is because of a weak schedule. However, each and every time, the Badgers have been tested, they come out on top. They also have what I think is a better special teams unit. These are components needed to win a big game like this. The Buckeyes should have quarterback J. T. Barrett back under center.
He will be the deciding factor in this game. Barrett has delivered two real clunkers this season. In losses to Oklahoma and Iowa, he appeared clueless. I’ve been picking against Wisconsin all season. However, I’ve learned my lesson. BUCKY BESTS BRUTUS, 27-24
NORTH TEXAS (9-3) AT FLORIDA ATLANTIC (9-3) Both teams enter this game red-hot. The Mean Green have won five straight, while the Owls have won eight straight. North Texas travelled to FAU back in October and were routed 69-31. In that game the Owls amassed 804 total yards and forced three turnovers. Since then the Mean Green have rolled to impressive wins. Owl running back Devin Singletary is one of the top running backs in the country, you may never have heard of. The sophomore has reeled off ten straight 100 yard games. I was on hand just two weeks ago to watch him run wild in a win over FIU. He will have a monster game against a porous North Texas defense. I can tell you that the FAU fans have bought into head coach Lane Kiffins squad. I expect a packed house on hand to watch the Owls win their first ever Conference Championship. HOOT HOOT, 54-28
MID AMERICAN CONFERENCE
AKRON (7-5) VERSUS TOLEDO (10-2) Akron is a surprise representative from the MAC East Division. Despite suffering many key injuries during the course of the season, the Zips find themselves in Detroit. Toledo has been a powerhouse in the MAC for a few years now. The Rockets are led by quarterback Logan Woodside and a trio of solid running backs led by Terry Swanson, Art Thompkins and Shakif Seymour. Woodside has thrown for 3,451 yards and has a 24 to 3 touchdown/interception ratio. The Zips will be overmatched in this game from start to finish. An indoor stadium provides us with ideal conditions for a high-octane offense. ROCKETS BLAST ZIPS, 54-20
No. 25 FRESNO STATE (9-3) AT BOISE STATE (9-3) The winner of this game punches a ticket to the Las Vegas Bowl. Bulldog head coach Jeff Tedford would like nothing more than to complete his first year journey with a Mountain West Championship. Tedford gets my vote for coach of the year, after taking over a program that had gone 4-20 in the past two years. Quarterback Marcus McMaryion has thrived under the guidance of Tedford. McMaryion washed out at Oregon State before landing in Fresno. The calling card for the Bulldogs is their tough defense. The Bulldogs are No. 12 in the nation in scoring defense at 17.3 points per game and No. 15 against the run, surrendering just 117.3 yards per game. Boise State ranks No. 41 in points allowed at 23.3, and No. 19 defending the rush with 124.9 yards allowed per game. These two teams actually met last week in the final game of the regular season, a 28-17 win by Fresno. I think we will see a different result, this week on the blue carpet. The Broncos are extremely hard to beat at home. Brett Rypien and company will find away to capture the Mountain West Title. BRONCOS BACK TO VEGAS FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2012, 30-23
No. 12 STANFORD (9-3) VERSUS No. 10 USC (10-2) Back in week two, USC spanked Stanford 42-24. A lot has happened since then. The Cardinal suffered road losses at San Diego State and Washington state, and then finally made the quarterback switch from Keller Chryst to K. J. Costello. Costello has given the Cardinal more of an athletic option from the quarterback position. I also think he throws a much better deep ball. The Trojans have gone through growing pains of their own. USC hit rock bottom following their loss to Notre Dame 49-14. Most don’t realize that the Trojans played that game with a laundry list of injuries, and had yet to really establish a connection between Sam Darnold and his receivers. The past month has seen a dynamic offense by the Trojans. Darnold has finally developed chemistry with the young receiving group. The biggest difference however, has been a healthier offensive line that has allowed Ronald Jones to explode for 674 yards and eight touchdowns. Stanford will bring their typical, physical game. The Trojans will bring the better athletes. At this point of the season, the Trojans are just the better team. They are finally the healthiest they’ve been all season, and have the added benefit of finally having a bye week. TROJANS GRAB A NEW YEARS DAY GAME, 33-21
No. 6 GEORGIA (11-1) VERSUS No. 2 AUBURN (10-2) These two teams met just three weeks ago, a convincing 40-17 win by the Tigers. Tiger quarterback Jarrett Stidhm was spot on, throwing for 214 yards and three scores. Running back Kerryon Johnson added 167 yards rushing. The Tigers are playing superior football as they enter this game, coming off a big win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl. If you read my column last week you saw, that I had predicted a Tiger victory. This rematch should be a classic. I love the different dynamics that I think will play out this time. I went back to re-watch the game three weeks ago. In conclusion, I believe that Georgia was just not ready to play. Head coach Kirby Smart, will surely have a better game plan for his Bulldogs. The neutral site will also play a factor here, as quarterback Jake Fromm should feel more comfortable. Finally, Kerryon Johnson will come into this game nursing a couple of different injuries. His effectiveness should be limited. I reached out to Charles Barkley to get his pick on this game, but was unsuccessful. I loved his bold prediction last week, for the Iron Bowl matchup.
So, I guess I’ll go out on a limb again. REVENGE WILL BE SWEET FOR THE DAWGS, 23-20