Predicting This Weekend’s NCAA Football Conference Championship Games

Written by :
Published on : December 4, 2015

 

With the College Football Playoff on the horizon, eight conferences will hold their championship games this weekend. While eight teams will be crowned conference champions, four teams will be hoping to play for an even bigger prize come January. In just a few days we’ll find out who those teams are but until then, here’s my predictions for this weekend’s NCAA Football Conference Championship games.

 

 

MAC Championship- Detroit, MI- Friday @ 8:00

Bowling Green Falcons (9-3, 7-1) vs Northern Illinois Huskies (8-4, 6-2)

Matt Johnson will be the difference in this one.

 

For the third consecutive year, these two teams will meet in the MAC Championship with both teams splitting the previous two meetings. The Huskies are making their sixth consecutive appearance in the championship game and are looking for their fourth conference title during this stretch. The teams didn’t meet during the regular season and the Huskies will be down to their third string quarterback for this battle. I think that will be the difference. The Falcons score a ton of points with a high octane offense led by the nation’s leading passer Matt Johnson, and I do not see Northern Illinois being able to match it.

Prediction: Bowling Green– 38, Northern Illinois- 24

 

 

American Athletic Conference Championship- Houston, TX- Saturday @ Noon

#22 Temple Owls (10-2, 7-1) vs #19 Houston Cougars (11-1, 7-1)

Can Greg Ward Jr overcome the Temple defense?

 

Another championship matchup featuring two teams that did not play during the regular season. The game will be played in Houston’s backyard which is an added bonus for the Cougars. Houston is led by dual-threat quarterback Greg Ward Jr, who has 15 touchdowns through the air this year and another 17 on the ground. Temple however, has the nation’s 13th ranked rush defense and are poised for the upset. Also, did you know that in 2012 I moved to Philadelphia and had actually applied and was accepted to Temple University before ultimately moving back home later that year? For that, give me the Owls–my almost Alma Mater.

Prediction: Temple- 30, Houston- 27

 

 

Conference USA Championship- Bowling Green, KY- Saturday @ Noon

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (9-3, 7-1) vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (10-2, 8-0)

Doughty will be playing on Sundays.

 

Talk about a game that could have some fireworks. Both the Golden Eagles and Hilltoppers rank inside the top-10 in passing yards and I would expect an absolute shootout in this one. At quarterback for Western Kentucky is a future NFL play-caller, in my opinion, in Brandon Doughty. After throwing for 49 touchdowns last year, Doughty has his eyes on 50+ this year and I see him as a mid-round steal for an NFL team.

Prediction: Western Kentucky- 45, Southern Mississippi- 35

 

 

SEC Championship– Atlanta, GA- Saturday @ 4:00

#18 Florida Gators (10-2, 7-1) vs #2 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1)

Derrick Henry will help Alabama win this one.

 

The first game that will have playoff implications takes place in the Georgia Dome as Alabama looks to solidify a spot in the Final Four with a win over Florida. The Gators come in with a good record, ranked in the top-20 but haven’t looked good in about a month. After getting dominated by Florida State, Florida will need to clean up a lot of things if they plan on making a game out of this one. Alabama on the other hand, has won 9 in a row and looks poised to make its second consecutive playoff appearance. I don’t think this Alabama team is nearly as talented as we’ve seen from coach Saban usually, but Derrick Henry is an absolute monster, who very well may take home the Heisman trophy. Both Florida and Alabama feature top-5 defenses, so the Gators will need to force Alabama to beat them through the air.

Prediction: Alabama- 31, Florida- 14

 

 

Mountain West Championship– San Diego, CA- Saturday @ 7:30

Air Force Falcons (8-4, 6-2) vs San Diego State Aztecs (9-3, 8-0)

SDSU will ride its backfield to the win.

 

It’s always tough to defend the triple option, and that’s the task at hand for San Diego State this weekend. Air Force isn’t going to beat you through the air, as their starting quarterback actually has one more interception than he does passing touchdowns on the year. San Diego State is also led by their ground attack and features a couple really talented backs that can also catch the ball out of the backfield.

Prediction: San Diego State- 27, Air Force- 20

 

 

PAC 12 Championship– Santa Clara, CA- Saturday @ 7:45

#20 USC Trojans (8-4, 6-3) vs #7 Stanford Cardinals (10-2, 8-1)

McCaffrey does it all.

 

Finally, a championship that features a rematch from the regular season. Way back in week 3, Stanford traveled to the Coliseum and defeated the Trojans 41-31 after trailing by 11 points in the second quarter. Over the past couple months both teams have changed, however, I think it’s Stanford who has changed for the better. The Cardinals are as talented as any team in the country but sit at #7 and need some help if they hope to make it to the College Football Playoff. Led by one of the more exciting players in college football, Stanford has Sophomore Christian McCaffrey close to breaking NCAA records for All-Purpose Yards. McCaffrey does it all, from sprinting through holes from the backfield, catching screens or balls over the middle, to being an explosive weapon in the return game. He is impossible to shut down. Hell, he even threw a touchdown pass this season. Both USC and Stanford have experienced 3+ year starters at quarterback in Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan. Neither will shy away from the spotlight or pressure and this game could come down to who protects the ball better.

Prediction: Stanford- 34, USC- 31

 

Big Ten Championship– Indianapolis, IN- Saturday @ 8:00

#4 Iowa Hawkeyes (12-0, 8-0) vs #5 Michigan State Spartans (11-1, 7-1)

Can Sparty ride Cook’s arm to the playoff?

 

As Mike wrote a couple days ago, these two teams couldn’t have had any more different paths to get to this game. While their records are about the same, the expectations and buzz surrounding both programs over the past few months have been polar opposites. Iowa was never expected to really compete for the Big Ten West, let alone run the table, while Michigan State was picked by many to be Ohio State’s only true road block in the way of another Buckeye championship. As I myself wrote in September, it is playoff or bust for the Spartans, and the winner of this game is all but assured a spot in the Final 4. Iowa is anything but flashy, offensively they have a ground and pound attack that wears you down and are very solid on the defensive end. Old smashmouth Big Ten football at its finest. Michigan State is led by potentially the best quarterback in the country in Senior Connor Cook, but has a defense that has been playing very well the last few weeks after being decimated by injury early in the season. I think this game is going to be won in the trenches. Can Iowa get their rushing attack going and keep Michigan State’s front-7 out of their backfield and on the other end, can Michigan State give Cook time to throw and make plays down the field?

Prediction: Michigan State- 24, Iowa- 21

 

 

ACC Championship– Charlotte, NC- Saturday @ 8:00

#1 Clemson Tigers (12-0, 8-0) vs #10 North Carolina Tar Heels (11-1, 8-0)

Watson is gunning for a playoff spot.

The ACC didn’t get much love heading into the 2015 season as only Florida State was inside the top-10. Clemson found themselves at #12 and North Carolina wasn’t given much of a chance to make any noise. Instead, both teams made it through conference play unscathed and almost the entire season as a whole as well. The Tar Heels lost their opener to South Carolina but have since won 11 in a row. While neither team boasts the strongest schedule, both feature very talented quarterbacks who are looking to silence the critics. Sophomore Deshaun Watson for the Tigers and Senior Marquise Williams from North Carolina are almost carbon copies of one another in how they play the game, and their statistics are pretty close as well. Vegas is giving North Carolina more and more of a chance as each day goes by, so this one figures to be a good one.

Prediction: Clemson- 38, North Carolina- 30

 
 
 


Champ and Chump: Week 12

Written by :
Published on : December 3, 2015

 

As we flip the calendar to December, we enter championship season in college football as the conference championships take place this weekend, and we’ll get to see who makes it to the second ever College Football Playoff. The NFL enters it’s final five weeks and the Philadelphia 76ers have even decided to win a game. Can I just say, this NBA season is setting up to be the all-time worst. Aside from watching the Warriors and their quest to win 70+ or hell, even go undefeated at this point, the league is pure filth right now. But ’tis the season of giving and being nice so instead, let’s take the time to recognize this week’s great performances while also seeing who had NBA-esque moments. This week the champs and chumps all come from football and futbol, as their seasons begin to wind down. We’ve got old and young, teams that have surprised us and teams that just flat out don’t get it. To the Champ and Chump!

 

Champ: Matt Hasselbeck

26-42 for 315 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 turnovers

The Ageless Wonder, Matt Hasselbeck.

 

Statistically speaking, Hasselbeck wasn’t the top quarterback this week, but it’s what he’s done over the course of the last four weeks that gives him the nod here. Hasselbeck is now 4-0 as a starter this year while filling in for injured Andrew Luck, and has put the Colts in a tie for first place in the AFC South. At 6-5, the Colts remaining five games aren’t the toughest, and Luck is only expected to remain sidelined until around mid-December. However, Indy can wait patiently with this 40-year old arm slinging it like he’s 25 again. Hasselbeck became only the third 40-year old quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win four straight, joining Brett Favre and Warren Moon.

 

Honorable Mention:

Jamie Vardy-  From Leicester City of the Barclay’s Premier League, he scored a goal in a 1-1 draw vs Manchester United. It marked the 11th consecutive game Vardy has found the back of the net, breaking Ruud Van Nistelroy’s record.

Ezekiel Elliott- A week after throwing his coaches under the bus, Elliott ran all over the Michigan defense for 214 yards on 30 carries and 2 touchdowns in a 42-13 victory for the Buckeyes over their rival Wolverines.

Iowa football- Debate all you want about their strength of schedule, it’s about time Iowa gets their due. Following a win in Nebraska on Saturday, Iowa is one of two undefeated teams as they head into the Big Ten Conference Championship this weekend where they’ll play Michigan State.

 

 

Chump: The Cleveland Browns

This organization has continually brought shame to its players, fans and the city itself.

 

“The Mistake by the Lake” is how a lot of Michiganders like to refer to Cleveland, and with the Cleveland Browns organization the mistakes seem to happen in bunches. Being a Lions fan, it’s hard to say too much about other NFL teams and their struggles, but it is the Browns. On Monday night, Cleveland lost in a way that only a few unfortunate teams have, when they had their potential game-winning field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown. Yet that isn’t even why the Browns find themselves as this week’s Chump. Instead, it’s because of how they have handled Johnny Manziel. Sitting on the bench as a 3rd stringer, Manziel watched Austin Davis take over late when starter Josh McCown went down with a broken collarbone. While Davis did relatively well and gave Cleveland a shot to win, Manziel needs to be the guy. To make matter’s worse, Austin Davis has been named the starter for next week over Johnny Football.

 

While it’s clear Manziel has to mature and has some issues to work out, we are talking about issues that don’t even involve arrests. While Cleveland tries to send a message to Johnny, what message are they sending to their fans? After years of mediocrity, they draft the most exciting player in football, and in almost two full seasons now, he’s started just a few games. This year in fact, those few games he has started in he has actually done quite well. With 5 passing touchdowns and just 2 interceptions Manziel has a QB Rating of 88.4 which would put him 20th in the league (Cam Newton has a QBR of 89.5), if he qualified with enough attempts. Even though 20th is just the final third of the league, you have to consider he has had no chance to establish a rhythm, one week he practices with the first unit, one week it’s the second unit, and this week with the practice squad. He’s had no chance to prove what he can do on the field consistently and the Browns have put themselves in a position where they eventually are going to have to make a decision to keep him or see him get the chance somewhere else. Meanwhile for coach Pettine, who keeps sending Johnny to timeout, he’s a few weeks from being a coordinator somewhere else.

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Tommy Armstrong- The quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers finished with 4 picks in a loss vs the Iowa Hawkeyes and was held without a touchdown in a game the Cornhuskers needed to win to solidify a bowl game

Florida Gators- While the Gators will still play for the SEC Championship on Saturday, the last couple weeks are incredibly discouraging for their fans. Needing overtime to beat FAU a couple weeks ago, the Gators played Florida State with an opportunity to remain in the playoff hunt. Unable to score a single point on offense, the Seminoles dominated the Gators 27-2.

Todd Gurley- The St Louis Rams’ running back had a fantastic start to his NFL career rushing for 125+ yards in four of his first five games but is yet to hit the century mark since, and is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry in his last two games.

 

 


A Tale of Two Seasons: Why Iowa Can Beat Michigan State on Saturday

Written by :
Published on : December 2, 2015

 

 

I don’t know what’s more improbable – that Michigan State beat Michigan with 10 seconds left on the clock in Ann Arbor back on October 17th or that Iowa is even in this conversation to begin with. But here we are. The 12-0 Iowa Hawkeyes play the 11-1 Michigan State Spartans on Saturday for the Big Ten Championship and a (more-than-probable) spot in the College Football Playoffs on New Year’s Eve. The hype, or lack thereof, surrounding both teams as the season began could not be more different. And the end results could not be more similar. But I’m going to tell you why Iowa can win the game. Let’s start at the beginning.

 

When Iowa started the season, it was an ugly time for Hawkeyes football. They were destroyed by Tennessee on January 2nd in the TaxSlayer Bowl and then, frustrated fans who were desperate for change, responded by giving Iowa the smallest crowd they’d had in years at the home opener against Illinois State. They even cheered a failed fake field goal attempt because at least coach Kirk Ferentz was trying something. On the other hand, Michigan State was the preseason #5 in the nation and an early 31-28 marquee win against #7 Oregon in Week 2 already had sportswriters and analysts talking about the Playoffs and the national title hopes for the Spartans. They were supposed to cruise until they faced Michigan in October. Then they’d have this ultimate showdown with Ohio State in late November for the Big Ten East title. Never mind that Connor Cook hadn’t really played well yet. Never mind that this wasn’t the same Oregon team that Heisman-winner Marcus Mariota led to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game back in January. Everyone had already decided that Iowa was an afterthought in the West and Michigan State was the real deal in the East. That’s how we started.

 

Head Coach Kirk Ferentz and a lot of empty seats for the home opener.

 

It wasn’t until a 62-16 blowout of North Texas on September 26th that anyone began to notice Iowa at all. They’d found a solid running back in Jordan Canzeri, who tied a school record with four touchdowns in the game. Quarterback C.J. Beathard had also looked solid all season to that point. And Desmond King looked like a real play maker on defense and special teams. On the other hand, #2 MSU looked pretty bad in its win against Central Michigan. The game exposed their lack of a run game, Cook was still inconsistent at quarterback and injuries were mounting for the team. Just in time for October and Big Ten play.

 

By mid October, Michigan State was 6-0, but had two more ugly wins against Purdue and Rutgers. Sure, they were dealing with injuries. And their mantra was that since they were ranked so highly everybody was gunning for them, but they’d been completely underwhelming since the Oregon win and it was clear that this team was not as good as last season’s. Analysts argued that it would be a cause for concern against Michigan the following week. On the other hand, with wins against Wisconsin and Illinois, Iowa was on the brink of controlling the Big Ten West. They received their first ranking (#22) of the season and Jordan Canzeri managed 256 yards (the 3rd most in Iowa history) against Illinois, which continued his season-long praise. The “surprisingly resurgent” Hawkeyes were now bowl eligible and a win over Northwestern could put them in the driver’s seat.

 

Illinois couldn’t touch Jordan Canzeri.

 

The aforementioned INSANE and unforgettable ending of the Michigan State-Michigan game and the Twitter explosion that followed put the national college football spotlight back on Michigan State. Even though they’d only won this game and the previous two by a combined 14 points. Everyone forgot about their games against Central Michigan and Purdue and Rutgers. Now all that mattered was the Oregon win in September and the (literally) show-stopping finish against Big Brother. It’s even possible that nobody managed to notice Iowa lost Canzeri to injury, but still managed to get four rushing touchdowns out of his replacement, Akrum Wadley, in their dominant win against #20 Northwestern to become the clear favorites in the West. Really, nobody cared, nationally. The MSU finish truly was one of the craziest endings in NCAA football history. Everyone outside of Ann Arbor loved it. And without a convincing win in October and without a running game, the Spartans were back in the Playoff talks and Connor Cook was once again a sleeper choice for the Heisman.

 

As we entered November, both teams were undefeated with costly injuries and ugly wins. Iowa’s defense and forced turnovers kept them in the games and moved them into the top 10 for the first time. Their win over Indiana on November 7th had analysts talking about a clear path to the Big Ten West title, controlling their own destiny and, for the first time, actual Playoff talk. That was all with Jordan Canzeri still hurt and C.J. Beathard’s mobility slowed down with a groin injury. Not that it stopped him from diving over a pile of Indiana defenders to score a touchdown. But obviously the CFP committee wasn’t aware of any of that because they cited a lack of “offensive explosiveness” in their decision to place Iowa at #9 in the first CFP rankings. The very same day that Playoffs talk began with the Hawkeyes, the Spartans’ Playoff hopes took a huge hit with their ‘controversial’ loss at Nebraska. What everyone was ready to deem a magical season for MSU had actually and secretly been anything but. Nobody had noticed they barely beat Purdue and Rutgers. And that their win against Indiana wasn’t impressive. And then there was the miracle against Michigan. But it’s possible that playing the underdog is exactly where Michigan State needed to be in the long run.

 

Michigan State Kicker, Michael Geiger celebrates the last second, game-clinching field goal against OSU.

 

Without Connor Cook, Michigan State upset #3 Ohio State with a last-second kick by Michael Geiger, whose windmill celebration was actually kind of awesome. And the Buckeyes seemingly imploded after the game. Ezekiel Elliott and Cardale Jones said they were leaving the team after the season. Analysts called OSU the most overrated team in the country, saying they hadn’t been challenged all season long, hadn’t played a ranked opponent and that it took everyone until late November to realize the reigning national champions weren’t really that good. But the fact was that now the Spartans were in total control of the Big Ten East and right back in the Playoff hunt. And once again, everyone forgot about all their squeaker wins and their loss to Nebraska.

 

In the meantime, Iowa had already clinched the Big Ten West with a victory over Purdue. They’d never been 10-0 before in school history. Now they were 11-0. They’d scored over 30 points in 5 straight Big Ten games, which they’d also never done before. They’d already tied records from 2002 and 2009 for most wins in a season. And Beathard, who now looked healthy, was 12-0 as a starter for Iowa, which is something only Cam Newton, Darron Thomas and Jameis Winston had done in a Power 5 Conference since 2010. Oh, and also Jordan Canzeri was back.

 

Smith #4 and Beathard #6 celebrate the Purdue win and an 11-0 record.

 

On the final weekend of the regular season, Iowa clinched its undefeated regular season with a cold and ugly 28-20 win at Nebraska. Which was the team that, if I recall correctly, beat Michigan State on the same turf three weeks prior. It probably won’t convince any of the critics who totally do not want Iowa (the only other undefeated team besides #1 Clemson) to be in the Playoff picture. But it’s Iowa’s first perfect regular season in 93 years and their first team ever to win 12 games in a season at all. The next day, Michigan State blew out Penn State to clinch the Big Ten East in their best win of the season. And now the two teams are finally set to play each other in the championship and the virtual play-in for the Playoff.
Michigan State has loved playing underdog all season. They did it against Michigan. They did it against Ohio State. But they won’t be doing it against Iowa, where they are pretty heavy favorites. In fact, Paul Finebaum of ESPN gave the Hawkeyes “zero chance” to win the game. And Michigan State already thinks they can win it all, alluding to how Ohio State shocked everyone in the Playoffs last year. Sure, they’re “playing their best football” and “hitting their stride at the right time” and Connor Cook is back from injury. And so is their O line. But 12-0 Iowa is not 7-4 Penn State.

 

I know Iowa isn’t flashy. But they’ve won games on both sides of the ball. They’ve never trailed in the 4th quarter all season. They’re 4th in the country in turnover margin, meaning they don’t make many mistakes. And they tend to capitalize when the other teams do. And in games against mutual opponents (Maryland, Indiana, Purdue and Nebraska), Iowa scored as many points as Michigan State, while giving up fewer on defense. Plus they fucking beat Nebraska. “Football’s not gynmastics,” as Ferentz said last week and both teams know well. Iowa and Michigan State both have ugly wins. And neither team was supposed to be here in the first place. But while Sparty has thrived on being underdogs, it’s been Iowa that’s had to constantly prove people wrong. Starting with their own fans. And I’d like to see them prove people wrong again on Saturday.

 

Seriously, Iowa can win this.

 

 


Support Us
Support ScoreBoredSports on patreon!

patreon-medium-button
Sponsors

Hide Error message here!

Forgot your password?

Error message here!

Error message here!

Hide Error message here!

Lost your password? Please enter your email address. You will receive a link to create a new password.

Error message here!

Back to log-in

Close