It’s finally Championship Week! I really wanted to post a video of ESPN’s commercial from the early 2000s advertising college basketball’s championship week here. Do you remember that one? It’s a little cartoon of Dickie V hopping around singing ‘Championship Week, Championship Week, oh how I love Championship Week…” or something to that effect. If anyone can find that clip, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or slide into my DMs. I would really like to see it again.
So, just for giggles, let’s pretend I found the video and posted it here.
(Championship week video)
That was fun! The memories!
Ok, so here we are. Conference championships are on the line. Joey Freshwater is about to bring a title to Boca, Auburn is back from the dead and about to make the playoff, and Ohio State and TCU can sling the whole country into chaos. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Before we get any further, let’s do a live look-in on the Tennessee head coaching search:
As I was editing this article, Tennessee fired AD John Currie, which seems to be the only logical thing to do. He’s shit the bed down there, and it’s getting ugly. Hot take: Brady Hoke is about to be the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers. For a year at least.
Let’s get to the preview of this week’s games!
FRIDAY DECEMBER 1st
Wait is it already December? Are we seriously coming to the end of the college football season already??? NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
Dramatics aside, tonight features just one game, and it just so happens to be for the Pac 12 crown. Finally, the Pac 12 lets us watch one of their meaningful games at a decent hour!
Pac 12 Title Game: #12 Stanford (9-3, 7-2 Pac 12) @ #10 USC (10-2, 8-1 Pac 12)-8 pm on ESPN
Tonight’s game will be played in the lowly 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium, which means that the town of Santa Clara will hear cheering for the first time all year! SICK BURN. Pathetic NFL franchises aside, this game will be the first of many rematches this weekend as the Trojans dominated Stanford 42-24 in September of this past year. While the Trojans manhandled Stanford in that game, a lot can change in 3 months. For one, Stanford RB Bryce Love (1,848 yards, 16 TDs) has become a thing even on a bum wheel and will most assuredly be invited to New York next week for the Heisman presentation. The Cardinal did stumble a few other times this season, but they’re coming down the stretch strong with 3 straight wins with two over ranked opponents (Washington, Notre Dame).
This game will come down to defense on both sides. How the Stanford pass defense manages to slow down USC QB Sam Darnold will decide a lot as Darnold has led the Trojans to an excellent 292 yards/game average through the air. The Trojan D won’t have it easy, though, as they must stop the aforementioned Love who torched them for 160 yards in their previous meeting. Though the Trojans look like the better team on paper, history is on the side of Stanford as the Pac 12 North has never lost in the 6-year history of the Pac 12 title game. In fact, Stanford has taken 3 of the last 5 titles themselves. Surprisingly, this would be USC’s first Pac 12 crown since 2008. Though I like this Stanford team, Bryce Love hasn’t been the same since injuring his ankle before the Oregon State game, and USC is just too talented with Darnold, Deontay Burnett, and Ronald Jones II leading the way.
Prediction: USC 35 Stanford 28
SATURDAY DECEMBER 2ND
And now we get the whole shebang! Today is judgement Saturday. Tons of playoff implications on the line, and usually when I say that, I mean it could shake up the picture down the road. This week, however, teams are literally punching their tickets to the big show. Let’s go!
AAC Title Game: #20 Memphis (10-1, 7-1 AAC) @ #14 UCF (11-0, 8-0 AAC)-Noon on ABC
The biggest story of this game isn’t the fact that it features two of the most prodigious offenses in the country, or that two of the buzziest head coaching names out there are facing off, or even that the winner gets a New Year’s Six bowl bid. It has to be the fact that the undefeated Knights are still stuck at #14 behind teams with 2 losses. I know, I know. The strength of schedule and conference argument comes into play here, and that’s an undeniable argument, but the fact remains that the Knights look the part of a dangerous, exciting Cinderella. And who doesn’t want to see Cinderella at least get a chance to go to the ball?!
You like offense, fam? Well, this is the FBS’ #6 (UCF) and #5 (Memphis) total offenses in terms of average yards per game, and they are #1 (UCF) and #2 (Memphis) in points per game to boot. Bottom line: these two know how to score. They both air the ball out at will and have shown throughout the season they can hang in a shootout. Because of those factors, the winner will most likely be the first defense to catch a break and stop the other. UCF is going for their first title since 2014, which is ironically when they shared the title with Memphis (their last title as well) and Cincinnati. UCF head coach Scott Frost appears to have one foot out the door to Lincoln, but don’t expect his excellent squad to be distracted or let up in their quest for a big time bowl. All the focus has been on UCF this season, but I’ve been touting Memphis as a dark horse NY6 team since mid-October. I’ll still say the Knights outlast the Tigers in this one though.
Prediction: UCF 49 Memphis 42
MAC Title Game: Akron (7-5, 6-2 MAC) @ Toledo (10-2, 7-1 MAC)-Noon on ESPN
Yet another rematch! Toledo crushed the Zips earlier this season in the Glass Bowl, 48-21, but this time they’ll have to do so at a neutral site in Ford Field in Detroit, MI. Toledo comes into this one as a heavy favorite possessing the MAC’s most explosive offense guided by my boy Logan Woodside (3,451 yards, 24 TD, 3 INT) and his favorite target WR Diontae Johnson. Johnson is one of the best pass catchers in the nation statistically with 1,139 yards and 11 TDs. Hey, Akron should probably focus on stopping him, I think. Astute analysis, folks. Toledo has big advantages in points per game, total offense, and total defense, so I’m not going out on a limb to say they’re my overwhelming pick to win this game. Also, their only losses were to Miami (FL) and an upset to MAC East runner-up Ohio, and they beat 8 of their 10 opponents by 2 scores or more. It’s clearly the Rockets’ world and we’re just living in it, folks. I’m going with the Rockets.
Prediction: Toledo 35 Akron 14
C-USA Title Game: North Texas (9-3, 7-1 C-USA) @ Florida Atlantic (9-3, 8-0 C-USA)-Noon on ESPN 2
Lane Kiffin has never lost a C-USA conference game at Florida Atlantic, and even though it’s been just one season, I’m so wild about Joey Freshwater in Boca Raton. Look at this tweet as he continues to troll Nick Saban.
Gave them to him pic.twitter.com/ALoOMZ69VL
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) November 23, 2017
FAU and Lane were a match made in heaven. I hope he never leaves.
As for the product he’s putting out on the field, I have to give the man credit. He’s done a fine job with the Owls, and now they are a win away from a conference title. The Owls started out rocky (top) losing 3 of their first 4 games to Navy, Wisconsin, and Buffalo(?!), but they absolutely rolled from that point winning 8 consecutive games as well as the Eastern division title. They previously blew out North Texas 69-31 on October 21st, and we will see if a similar score holds up here. FAU posses a dynamic running attack that averages 283 yards per game. Conversely, North Texas makes its bread and butter through the air where they average 285 yards per game. Both squads are top 20 in the FBS in total offense, so we could be in for another early afternoon shootout. This will be both squad’s 1st ever title game, and the winner will also claim their first ever C-USA title as both previously competed in the Sun Belt. Give me Joey Freshwater at home.
Prediction: FAU 48 North Texas 31
Big XII Title Game: #11 TCU (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) @ #3 Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1 Big 12)-12:30 on FOX
The playoff committee would like nothing more than for Baker Mayfield to lead the Sooners to a convincing win at Jerry World this Saturday. A win for Oklahoma would make them an 1-loss, conference champion and obvious participant in the College Football Playoff. There would be no debate about the Sooners. However, this is college football and chaos reigns supreme. IF the Horned Frogs can pull the upset, a whole host of teams (mainly the ones ranked 5-8 at the moment) would be forced back into the conversation, and someone is gonna get pissed. Nick Saban has his fingers crossed and a purple hat on. Back to the game.
Oklahoma features one of the best offenses in the country as they are #1 in the FBS in total offense per game, #4 in scoring offense per game, and #2 in passing yards per game. We have talked many times in this article series about TCU’s strong defense, but judging by their 38-20 loss to Oklahoma earlier this season, you can disregard those stats in this case. Listen, I like TCU. I really do. I think they’re an excellent team who can beat most teams in the country with that defense. But, Oklahoma is just too strong for them. Also Oklahoma is coming off 7 consecutive victories, the offense is clicking on all cylinders, and they have the front runner for the Heisman Trophy leading them under center. AND he didn’t grab his junk on national TV last weekend. Advantage: Sooners. Oh, and they will be going for their 3rd consecutive Big XII crown in the process.
Prediction: Oklahoma 42 TCU 21
SEC Title Game: #6 Georgia (11-1, 7-1 SEC) @ #2 Auburn (10-2, 7-1 SEC)-4 pm on CBS
Picture this scenario: It’s October 14th at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. You’ve just witnessed the Auburn Tigers blow a 3-score lead over their rival LSU Tigers on their way to a 27-23 loss. After the first quarter where Auburn dominated, they looked absolutely pitiful. The playcalling was uninspiring, they struggled to get a first down, and Auburn fans were calling for Gus Malzahn’s head. What if, after that game, you turned to your buddy and said, “I think Auburn is going to be in the College Football Playoff.” Your friend would have quietly escorted you through the sea of Corndogs, outside Tiger Stadium, and to the nearest hospital for a mental evaluation.
Well, guess what?
The Auburn Tigers, after knocking off the #1 team in the nation 2 of the last 3 weeks, find themselves knocking on the door of their first ever playoff berth. The only problem is their opponent is the best team no one seems to be talking about, the Georgia Bulldogs. It’s hard to believe that since the SEC title game started in 1992, this is the first time the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry will be reprised in Atlanta the very same year. And boy what a time for this to finally happen! Although the nation’s attention is on the red-hot Auburn Tigers, Georgia will absolutely walk into the playoff with a victory on Saturday. This is, in fact, one of just two games where both teams can pretty much guarantee their playoff spot with a win.
As for the game itself, the rematch should be much closer than the 40-17 drubbing the Dawgs took just three weeks ago in Auburn. Breakout Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson is questionable for this one with a shoulder injury, and Kamryn Pettway has already been ruled out with his own shoulder injury as well. Now, Auburn will more than likely have to rely on a stable of young running backs led by sophomore Kam Martin and the arm of Jarrett Stidham in order to defeat the Bulldogs once again.
On the other side of the ball, Georgia features a pair of excellent backs (Sony Michel and Nick Chubb), and Michel is less than 100 yards away from giving Georgia a pair of 1,000 yard rushers this season. As good as they’ve been, keep in mind Auburn possesses a stellar defensive line, and they held those two to a combined 48 yards and 1 score in their previous meeting. Although Auburn is red-hot, Georgia will be hungry to avenge their embarrassing solo loss of the year. They have the talent to match Auburn, but if the stingy Auburn D plays to their ability, it could be another long day for the Bulldogs. Despite the injuries, I think Auburn has the creativity on offense and depth on defense to win the SEC and head to the playoff.
Prediction: Auburn 28 Georgia 21
Mountain West Title Game: #25 Fresno State (9-3, 7-1 MWC) @ Boise State (9-3, 7-1 MWC)-7:45 pm on ESPN
Not only is this a rematch, but these two teams LITERALLY played each other last week. The Bulldogs got a 28-17 upset over the Broncos on the famed blue turf a week ago, and they’ll head back to Boise again this week for the MWC title game. Side note: the home team for the MWC title is based on whoever is the higher team in the current CFP rankings. Which, at the time the game’s location needed to be set last weekend, was Boise. HOWEVER, after the location had been set, the new rankings this past Tuesday had Fresno State ahead of Boise. FRESNO SHOULD BE HOSTING. UGH.
Anyways, kudos to Jeff Tedford who, in his first season as the Bulldogs coach, turned Fresno from a 1-11 laughing stock to possibly conference champions in just a year. They match up evenly with the Broncos offensively, but where they have the edge is their stellar defense which is #12 in the FBS in scoring defense per game and #15 against the run. Fresno State had the edge last week, but expect Boise State coach Bryan Harsin to get the Broncos fixed when the championship is one the line. Though Fresno State is a great story, I think Boise State will make the adjustments they need and win a close one at home.
Prediction: Boise State 24 Fresno State 21
ACC Title Game: #7 Miami (10-1, 7-1 ACC) @ #1 Clemson (11-1, 7-1 ACC)-8 pm on ABC
Win and you’re in. That’s the name of this game. Even though the Canes are down at #7, a win over Clemson would erase an ugly loss on the road to Pittsburgh last weekend and more than likely send them to their first ever College Football Playoff. This is one of the few contests that is not a rematch, so anything goes here! Statistically, it’s hard not to favor Clemson as they have a well-balanced offensive attack led by QB Kelly Bryant. Add to that a fearsome defense that is #6 in the FBS in yards per game against and #4 in points per game against. They’re absolutely stacked with NFL talent on the front line, and so Miami’s offense will have to play their best game to hold serve in Charlotte. Miami is looking for their very first ACC conference title since joining from the Big East in 2003 while Clemson is just one year removed from a conference and national championship. I love the turnover chain and the 2017 Canes, but I have to go with the depth of the Tigers here.
Prediction: Clemson 28 Miami 17
Big 10 Title Game: #8 Ohio State (10-2, 8-1 Big 10) @ #4 Wisconsin (12-0, 9-0 Big 10)-8 pm on FOX
Well, this should be interesting! Here’s how this goes. If Wisconsin wins, duh. They’re in at 13-0 with a Big Ten crown. If Ohio State wins, OH BOY! #Chaos. A Buckeyes win would mean that the playoff committee is headed down a dark path where they must choose between the Buckeyes and most likely Alabama. The committee is in a lose-lose in that scenario for reasons I do not have time to list right now. OK, back to the game.
We know the storyline this year on the Badgers. Wisconsin played a very weak schedule with no wins over current top 25 CFP ranked teams. Their strength of schedule is the worst in the current top 10, and they desperately need a win over the Buckeyes to settle the debate. We also know that Ohio State lost BY 31 POINTS TO IOWA this season, which should just eliminate them right then and there, but alas. Here we are.
Debates aside, the matchup to watch will obviously be Ohio State’s explosive offense that ranks #4 in the FBS in yards per game against a stout Badger defense that is #1 in yards given up per game. A looming question coming into Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night will be the health of OSU QB JT Barrett who may or may not have been “accidentally bumped into” by a Michigan cameraman last weekend. Urban Meyer has opinions on that topic. Conspiracies aside, Ohio State is actually looking for their first conference title since 2014, while Wisconsin hasn’t won the conference since the Bret Bielema days. Watch for stellar Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor (1,806 yards-best in the Big Ten) who will be the difference maker if the Badgers take the crown. Wisconsin has made an easy schedule look…well…easy, but I don’t think that’s an accident. Give me the power running game of the Badgers in an upset.
Prediction: Wisconsin 24 Ohio State 21
Louisiana (5-6, 4-3 Sun Belt) @ Appalachian State (7-4, 6-1 Sun Belt)-2:30 pm on ESPN 3: Hear me out. We’ve actually got a showdown in the Sun Belt! There’s a three way tie atop the standings in the conference, and the Mountaineers can claim a share of the crown with a win over the Ragin’ Cajuns here. BIG TIME STUFF!
Troy (9-2, 6-1 Sun Belt) @ Arkansas State (7-3, 6-1 Sun Belt)-7:30 pm on ESPN 2: Though the conference doesn’t play a title game, the schedule worked out perfectly. This game features two of the top three teams in the aforementioned tie, and one will claim at least a share with a victory. An App State loss means the winner gets the crown all by themselves. I’ll pick the Trojans on the road.
Louisiana Monroe (4-7) @ Florida State (5-6)-Noon on ACC Network: This rescheduled game due to a hurricane will decide the fate of the Seminoles’ 36-year bowl streak. After topping their rival Gators last weekend, the Noles have a chance to “salvage” what has been a disaster season in Tallahassee. If the rumors are true, this is Jimbo Fisher’s last game as coach of FSU. I look forward to welcoming him back to the SEC next season.
That’s all I’ve got for you this week. If you are a college football fan, then I’ll bet you’ve made no plans for Saturday that don’t involve your couch and remote. It’s going to be a wild finish for sure. Good luck to all the teams competing for conference crowns. Follow me on Twitter @jakebridges03!