Championship week is finally here. Call your boss and take Saturday off, if you have to work. We have ten games on tap this weekend. The key game is the SEC title game. We already know that Clemson, Ohio State and LSU are pretty much locks for the playoffs, even if they should lose. Georgia needs to win to stay in the current playoff rankings. A loss by the Bulldogs will open the door for Utah, Baylor and Oklahoma. Below is complete analysis and picks on all ten games.
PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
No.5 UTAH (11-1) VERSUS No.13 OREGON (10-2) These two schools have not met during the regular season. The Ducks were eliminated form the playoff chase, when they fell to Arizona State three weeks ago. Since the loss to the Sun Devils, the Ducks have looked lethargic. Quarterback Justin Herbert has not had, what many thought would be a Heisman like season. The Ducks have nothing to lose here. I expect the Ducks to come out blazing. The thing that concerns me is the weather forecast that calls for heavy rain. I think it’s important to note that the Ducks will get their starting center back. A completely healthy offensive line will be an important key, to neutralizing the very good Utah front. These are the top two defenses in the PAC-12. The Utes should be able to play man coverage, with their outstanding corners. Offensively Utah will need to play error-free football. Quarterback Tyler Huntley and tailback Zack Moss should find some solid success. A win by the Utah and a Georgia loss, should vault the Utes into the playoff. I truly believe this game is a four quarter battle. UTAH WINS A CLOSE ONE 23-20.
BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
No.7 BAYLOR (11-1) VERSUS No.6 OKLAHOMA (11-1) Both teams are still alive for the CFP playoff. Utah sits above both teams in the current rankings. Both teams will be huge Oregon fans on Friday night. These teams met just three weeks ago, when Oklahoma roared back from a 31-10 halftime deficit for the victory. In that game, the Sooners had 31 first downs. Baylor has been outstanding all season, and have bounced back nicely since that loss to the Sooners, beating both Texas and Kansas handily. in that first game the Sooners were forced to play without star wide receiver Cee Dee Lamb. Lamb will be back this time around, giving quarterback Jalen Hurts an elite weapon. Hurts is the key to this matchup. He has been prone to turnovers this season. I love the coaching matchup in this game These two guys will have their respective teams ready to go. I think both teams are going to score a lot of points, on the fast turf of AT&T stadium. SOONERS TAKE CONTROL LATE, 41-30.
SUN BELT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
LOUISIANA (10-2) AT No.21 APPALACHIAN STATE (11-1) The Mountaineers own a 17-7 victory over Louisiana earlier in the season. The Ragin’ Cajuns will want to control the clock with their ground and pound offense. The Cajuns feature three tailbacks who can move the chains. They average 274 rushing yards per game. The defense has also made significant strides this season. I think it’s a distinct advantage that the Mountaineers will play this game on their home turf. The Mountaineers also have a shot to still play on New Years day. A victory and a loss by Memphis could vault the Mounties ahead of Boise State in the polls. Let’s not forget that Appy owns wins over both North and South Carolina. I give the Cajuns a real shot in this game if they can control the time of possession. I’ll go ahead and call for an upset. BILLY NAPIER GETS A JOB OFFER HE CAN’T REFUSE AFTER AN UPSET WIN 27-23.
MAC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
MIAMI OF OHIO (7-5) VERSUS CENTRAL MICHIGAN (7-5) What a year it’s been for head coach Jim McElwain and the Chippewas. McElwain took over a club that was just 1-11 last season. A look inside the numbers gives us good insight into this game. The Chippewas have the advantage on offense at all three skill positions. Quarterback Quinten Dormady, a transfer from Tennessee has a nice 13 to 5 touchdown to interception ratio. His counterpart Brett Gabbert may not even play in the contest. The Chips also boast a thousand yard rusher in Jonathan Ward (1,056). Receiver Kalil Pimpleton has had a breakout campaign with 73 receptions and six scores. Defensively both squads have been stingy. They are ranked 2nd and 3rd in the MAC. The Chips are a little better against the run, while the Redhawks are better against the pass. The big bugaboo for the Chips has been their inability to hang on to the football. They have fumbled the ball away23 times, most in the country! This season has been very special for both teams. It will continue for Central. CHIPPEWAS WIN BATTLE OF BIRDS, 30-20.
CUSA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
UAB (9-3) AT FLORIDA ATLANTIC (9-3) I have to wonder how focused Owl head coach Lane Kiffin will be in this spot. Rumors are flying that Kiffin could be the next head coach at several different university’s. This week I spent some time watching some tape of both these schools. One thing stood out to me. The Owls have a big edge on defense, when it comes to forcing turnovers. The Owls have forced 29 turnovers, which ranks tops in the country. They also have the top turnover margin with plus 19. UAB has coughed it up 23 times. The Owls have also intercepted 19 passes on the season, also tops in the country. The ball hawking secondary could have a banner day against a Blazer team that has thrown 17 picks. The Blazers have been a pleasant surprise this season. It was a team that was only returning eight starters. Home cooking should also benefit an Owl team that only lost at home to Central Florida. OWLS ARE SIMPLY THE BETTER TEAM. 35-21.
AAC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
No.20 CINCINNATI (10-2) AT No. 17 MEMPHIS (11-1) It was just a week ago that Memphis beat Cincinnati on this same field 34-24. The Tigers returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, which helped them jump out to a 17-3 lead. Memphis led from start to finish. Round two, I feel will be similar to round one. This could be the last game for both coaches. Both Mike Norvell and Luke Fickell are in high demand. Norvell could land at Arkansas, Ole Miss, or Florida State. Fickell is being courted by Boston College. The big question in this contest, is who will the Bearcats start at quarterback. Desmond Ridder missed the last game with an apparent shoulder ailment. Ben Bryant got his first start and actually played well. At this moment, Fickell has yet to name a starter. I really don’t think it matters. The Tigers have enough offense to tilt the game toward the home team. A win by the Tigers assures a trip to Dallas to play on New Years day. I’LL CALL FOR YET ANOTHER 34-24 TIGER VICTORY.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
No.4 GEORGIA (11-1) VERSUS No.2 LSU (12-0) A few weeks ago I would have been all over Georgia to win this game. The recent injuries and suspensions, now have me on the fence. The Bulldogs top receiver Lawrence Cager will miss this game with an ankle injury. George Pickens will miss the first half after throwing a punch last weekend. Star tailback D’Andre Swift is also questionable with a shoulder ailment. It seems like everybody thinks that there is no way the Bulldogs can score enough to beat the Tigers. I like quarterback Jake Fromm. I think he is feeling disrespected by the media and will use that as a motivating factor. Lets not forget he has played in these types of big games before. The Tigers defense can be soft at times. We also get the benefit of having a “Fast Track”, inside the domed stadium. The Georgia defense will be the best that Joe Burrow will have faced all season. The Bulldog secondary will challenge the Tiger receivers. Tiger head coach Ed Orgeron and his staff may be the key advantage that the Tigers enjoy. The Bulldogs need this win to assure a playoff spot. If they lose they are out. Could Bulldog kicker Rodrigo Blankenship be the difference? I THINK HE WILL BE, GEORGIA IN AN UPSET 31-30.
MOUNTAIN WEST CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
HAWAII (9-4) AT No.19 BOISE STATE (11-1) Boise has plenty to play for on the blue turf Saturday afternoon. A win secures a Mountain West title and trip to the Las Vegas Bowl. A win and a loss by Memphis, could put them in Dallas on New Years day. These two squads played on this same field back in October. Hawaii was blasted 59-37. The Broncos put up 518 total yards in that game. The Broncos have used a carousel of quarterbacks this season. Hank Bachmeier, Chase Cord and Jaylon Henderson have all seen action. I’m not sure who is going to get the starting nod, but I really don’t think it matters. The Rainbows have had a remarkable season. Head coach Nick Rolovich is the perfect fit on the Islands, where he starred as a quarterback. Cole McDonald has had a nice season tossing the pigskin. The problem is, he is very prone to throwing to the opposing team. Hawaii will leave the sunny warm confines of the Islands to travel to the mainland where it will be cold and rainy in Boise. The Rainbows also know they have a home Bowl game against BYU if they lose. Here is what scares me in this game. Before the season started, Rolovich showed up at media days with a fortune teller who predicted Hawaii would win the Mountain West. I LOOKED INTO MY CRYSTAL BALL AND IT SAID BOISE 42-21.
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
No.23 VIRGINIA (9-3) AT No.3 CLEMSON (12-0) Let me start by saying, Clemson is the best team in the country. The Tigers have boat-raced everyone since their close encounter with North Carolina. The defense has gotten better each week, and the offense has been lights out. Kudos to Virginia for getting that Hokie monkey off their back. The Hoos’ broke a 16 game losing streak to their in-state rival in an emotional 39-30 win. Now they must turn around and face Clemson. Yikes. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is on fire! In his last five games, he has a 20 to 0 touchdown to interception ratio, and oh by the way is completing 75% of his passes. I have to wonder if Virginia will be able to score 10 points in this game. I can assure you Clemson is good for at least 40. THIS WON’T BE CLOSE IN THE END, TIGERS 48-7.
BIG-10 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
No.8 WISCONSIN (10-2) VERSUS No.1 OHIO STATE (12-0) OK, these two met back in October, a 31 point win by the Buckeyes. I went back and looked at the numbers and this is what I found. The Badgers actually sacked Justin Fields five times and blocked a punt. So, you would think the score would have been much closer right? Wrong, a closer look shows us the real story. Tailback Jonathan Taylor was held to 53 yards. The Badgers managed just 191 total yards, compared to 431 for the Buckeyes. I just can’t see how the Badgers are going to generate enough offense to win this game. I do expect Taylor to be utilized in a way, that will make him a bigger factor. It just won’t be enough, as the Buckeyes just have to many elite athletes all over the field. OHIO STATE WINS BY DOUBLE-DIGITS AND REMAINS NUMBER ONE, 36-2O.