Well, glory be to Knute Rockne, it’s Championship Week! You know, the week when the conference champions are decided, and the bowl bids, and the playoff berths.
Usually, that would make this a very important week. But this year, that’s been diffused, thanks to a blocked field goal and an illegal play, which makes the conference title game rather meaningless in some cases.
That being said, this is the week where every single play might be the play – the 10 seconds that make the difference between a team meeting its preseason goals and returning home in utter and abject misery after failing to do so.
Makes it all sound so important, doesn’t it? This is also an important week for us, as we make our first picks of the postseason and look ahead to bowls and the playoff. Our picks record was at 39-16 after last week, which is none too shabby. For Rivalry Week, we selected 19 games to preview and predict, and ended up with a 14-5 record. So we’ll happily rest on our laurels with a 53-21 record for the regular season. Getting over 60% of one’s weekly picks correct is a record most pundits would be satisfied with.
But now, it’s a whole different ballgame. Now every game matters more than ever, because everything is on the line.
ACC Championship: Clemson vs Virginia Tech
Make no mistake, Justin Fuentes has revitalized Blackburn, and the 23rd-ranked Hokies are on a tear. Fuentes looks poised to recreate the magic he made at Memphis, by bringing the excitement and vigor back to Virginia Tech. But this week, they’ll face their toughest competition yet – a title match against Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers.
You folks know how badly we want to go with the upset here. Clemson has looked vulnerable this season, and the young, opportunistic Virginia Tech team is well-suited to capitalize on the Tigers’ mistakes. But in the end this game will come down to which offense is better on the field, and Deshaun Watson is a hard quarterback to doubt in a game this big. He’s been there before, something none of the Hokies can boast. So we look for Clemson to win the conference title and keep itself squarely in the playoff mix.
Clemson 31 Virginia Tech 28
B1G Championship: Wisconsin vs Penn State
Is there a bigger letdown for a championship game than what the B1G is facing? The only one-loss team in the conference is staying home to watch a pair of two-loss teams play for the title and then most likely going straight through to the playoff.
Must be nice to be “the” Ohio State University. You don’t even have to risk your players or your record on that 13th game. Basically, it’s the equivalent of resting your starters during the conference basketball tournament because you already know you’re going to the big dance. Nice, huh? There’s a chance that if Penn State wins, it’ll be put through. But most likely, the B1G conference champion will be headed to a New Year’s Six bowl, and not the Final Four.
This game is difficult to predict because neither team has been consistent this season. But Wisconsin has played a stronger schedule with better opponents and its defense is ridiculously good. Ever hear the old saw “defense wins championships”? It’s our opinion that won’t change in Indy this weekend.
Wisconsin 21 Penn State 10
Big XII One True Champion: Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State
Yeah, we know. The Big XII doesn’t have a championship game yet. If it did, it’s probable that one or both of these teams would be in it. What makes this game fascinating begins with the Oklahoma State-Central Michigan game, where an illegal untimed down after time had expired gave CMU the chance to win the game. If you want to be technical about it, the Cowboys are a one-loss team.
But both Oklahoma schools share a 9-2 overall record. The only difference is the the Sooners are undefeated in conference play, while the Cowboys lost one conference game. So we’ll call this a de facto championship and let it go at that.
In the long run, it probably doesn’t matter. The chances of a Big XII team making the playoff is slim, so what they’re really playing for is a Sugar Bowl appearance versus Auburn, the second-best SEC team. Statistically, these teams are nearly identical. Both have big offensive firepower, averaging over 500 yards per game, and porous defenses allowing over 400 YPG. So whom do you pick, then? We’re feeling scrappy, so we’re going against conventional wisdom and taking the Cowboys in a wild one.
Oklahoma State 44 Oklahoma 41
PAC-12 Championship Washington vs Colorado
Okay, let’s have it. If you picked these two teams to meet in the title game, raise your hand.
Both of you.
The Huskies have rolled through the PAC-12 this season, knocking off teams no one expected them to. Despite a baffling loss to USC, their record is unblemished. Colorado, on the other hand, has two losses, one to B1G team Michigan and one baffling one to USC. Sound familiar? These teams, too, are almost identical statistically in offensive production. But their defenses have opposite strengths. Colorado has a lights-out run defense, and Washington’s high-flying secondary is stout against the passing game.
With ESPN’s FPI indicating that Washington has a 71.7% chance of winning the game, you have to wonder if they know something we don’t, because that percentage seems awfully high to us. Vegas has the Huskies as a 6 1/2 favorite as of this writing. We’re going to buck the trend.
Colorado 24 Washington 21
SEC Championship: Alabama vs Florida
What a shame. Although Florida has surprised college football for the second consecutive year and earned a trip to Atlanta, let’s be frank: sending the team in to take on a Crimson Tide squad that’s undefeated, is looking to repeat as national champions, and has one of the best defenses in college football history is kind of like sending a five-year-old as a tribute to the Hunger Games. Yeah, it’s a warm body, but it’s not going to survive the bloodbath at the cornucopia.
Jim McElwain, who is from the Saban coaching tree and was an offensive genius with his Colorado State program, hasn’t had a quarterback worth a darn thing the last two years. He’s got a couple percolating in redshirts right now that we’ll be interested to see this spring, but neither Austin Appleby nor Luke Del Rio is going to lead the Gators down the field against this Tide defense. Add to that the true freshman Bama QB Jalen Hurts, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Florida’s secondary is fond of bragging, but light on proving anything other than its vulnerability to the big pass play. The only way this game is close is if Saban takes pity on the Gators, and as we all know, Saban doesn’t even know what pity means. He thinks it’s a synonym for “style points.” An ugly, vicious, high-scoring beatdown of Florida is on tap for the least interesting title game of the season.
Alabama 56 Florida 9
Score of the Week
How do you get to the playoffs without really trying? Lose one regular season game, and then sit at home and watch the conference championship game while resting your legs and preparing for whomever your ultimate opponent is in the playoff semifinals. Who needs a B1G championship anyway? At this point, it’s just another banner.
Ohio State 85 CFP Playoff Committee 0
We’ll be back next week to analyze the bowl bids and playoffs and get a jump start on bowl season. Until then, kick back, relax, and watch the chaos kick in. As you know, we’re all about chaos. By the bowl selection show this weekend, you will be too.