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Championship Weekend

Championship Weekend

This is the weekend were all the bowl games and playoff games get sorted out. Who’s going where?! Last weekend a lot of questions were answered, just ask Ohio State. Monday, in the state of Alabama, medical facilities were overrun with fans having their hearts checked. Fans from both the University and Auburn needed EKG’s because of what happen in the Iron Bowl. Oklahoma blew their chances at the playoffs and found themselves in the search of a new coach after HC Riley just got done telling everyone he wasn’t taking the LSU job. It appears no one asked the follow up question of, was he interested in the USC one? He was, and is. All this is just preliminary, bringing us to the weekend where champions are crowned. This is “merely” the conference championships, not the big one. There will be a Champion crowned from every conference, but there will only be ONE National champ, and we don’t even know who’ll be competing for that. Next come the bowl games, it’s better than no football at all (shudder the thought!). Bowl season is kinda fun, actually. We want the SEC to reign supreme, but, if they don’t, it isn’t the end of the world, and the SEC Championship IS the end of the world. Maybe, depends on who moves forward. The Sutton Bowl Trophy will be up for grabs once again. Yet again, my editor threatens to retire the trophy with another victory. Did I mention that he won last year?

PAC-12 Championship Oregon vs Utah – First up will be the rematch of Oregon and Utah. The last time they met, two weeks ago, the Ducks had the weight of the PAC-12 on their shoulders. All they had to do was win out and they were in the CFB playoffs. They didn’t, they didn’t even make a game out of it. The Utes beat them like a rented mule. This, of course, was on Utah’s field, and that’s like playing Auburn at Jordan-Hare.. Now they face each other again, only this time it will be at a neutral site, Las Vegas, NV.  Maybe the Ducks will play a lot better, since they don’t have the hopes of the conference to carry into the game. In their previous meeting, they made mistake after mistake, they were never in sync, and the Quackers couldn’t get anything going. This go-round, the offense needs to concentrate on just one thing, “move the chains”. Move the chains and keep moving the chains. Don’t worry about big plays or long runs. Two weeks ago, they had one 50 yard catch that resulted in their lone touchdown. Other than that, they didn’t produce much worthy of note. The Ducks’ defense has got to play better, as in WAY better. In the second quarter, Utah – also known as ‘UU’ – scored 21 points and put the game out of reach by halftime. Of their four scores in the first half, one was a punt return for a TD, which leaves the defense responsible for allowing three. IF Oregon has any notion of stopping the Utes, they cannot get pushed around like they did last time. Not sure they can build up their leg muscles that much in two weeks, but they need to try.

Utah- has another chance to go to the Rose Bowl. They’ve had this opportunity several times before, and they ended up losing every single time. This time, however, they are brimming with confidence, for they’ve beaten Oregon before! But, as Lee Corso so eloquently states , “Not so fast!” True enough, UU triumphed last time, but that was on their field, in the cold, with crazy Utes fans, specialized uniforms, and some Ute medicine men outside the stadium beating the drums. It may not be as easy this time around. When Utah wins, they do one thing better than anyone else, they control the line of scrimmage. The Utes have big burly offensive linemen, that can push opposing players around at will, but they’ve got to play with their hearts in it. When they lose, these guys don’t maintain their intensity throughout the game.  Oregon will be looking for payback, they’ll have plenty of motivation, – of course, they had plenty of motivation before too, but that didn’t help. This time, it might! Either way, the Utes have to play like it’s a do or die, they can’t take anything for granted.  If they play as intensely as they did last time, Utah be playing in the Rose Bowl for the very first time.

Big 12 Championship Baylor vs Oklahoma State – In yet another rematch, the Cowboys of Oklahoma State will take on the Bears of the Brazos, Baylor. Last time these two met it was in Stillwater, OK., and the Cowboys won, 24-14. Baylor subsequently beat OU, so they held the tie-breaker over the Sooners, which is why they’re in this game. OSU has their first ever chance to win the Conference Championship outright since the Big 12, that actually had 12 teams, was formed in 1995. They’ve gotten to the point of almost making it to the Championship game, only to lose in the last game of the season, several times. This time, the Pokes won, they beat arch-rival Oklahoma when it counted, and when it was needed. This has been a curse on the Cowboys for the longest time. Last Saturday they broke the curse, winning the Bedlam, 37-33. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but when a curse has to be broken, all that matters is breaking it, not style points. So now the yellow brick road lays in front of them, all they have to do is win, Baby, just win, and they’re in. No questions or doubts, win and in. Lose…and it’s the Alamo Bowl once again. The Pokes have the best defense in the league, and actually rank as one of the top defenses in the nation. They’re not Georgia, mind you, but they are pretty good, which is a complete turn- around for them, as they’re not noted as a defensive Mecca. If the defense shows up, and if the Pokes don’t trip over their own two feet, they ought to win this game.

Baylor-  Watched Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma, but they weren’t all that impressed because they were the first to take down OU. The Bears have been in this Championship game before, back in 2019, when they faced OU and got beaten, 30-23, in overtime. To get to this point this year, the Bears had to beat Texas Tech, and they only won because the Red Raiders missed a last-minute field goal. Baylor doesn’t always play very well outside of the friendly confines of  Waco, TX. The Bears have been playing with their back up QB, Blake Shapen, in the last two games where they beat K-State and Texas Tech. Starting QB Gerry Bohanon’s status for this game is in question, as he is still recovering from a right hamstring injury. Now, let’s see, it’s the conference championship game, and it’s reported that they’re not sure he’s going to play. Yeah….right! Of course he’s playing, which will probably give the Bears an upgrade in their passing game, which, believe it or not, they only use from time to time. Their most effective offensive weapon is their ground game. Which is what will make this game so intriguing, will the Baylor attack be able to defeat the Oklahoma State defense? Not really sure about that. Now the Cousin, of course, will tell anyone that is listening that her Bears are going to win, bbbbbuuuuuutttttt…..not going to make that pick. OSU is going to win and make it to the playoffs for the first time ever – IF certain dominos fall into place and certain cards are dealt be “The Committee”.

Great White North Michigan vs Iowa– Up in the Nordic frozen lands, Michigan and Iowa will butt heads for the frozen crown. No one expected Michigan to actually make it this far, me included. The Wolverines were too simple in their attack and their defense was just mediocre. All that changed when they took a step up and beat Ohio State. In that game they rushed over 60% of the time and gained 297 yards on the ground along with six touchdowns. The Bucks defense had been allowing only 3.2 yard per carry, but that got blown out of the water. Now that loud mouth Harbaugh has finally won “The Game”, after multiple tries,  the question is, can he lead these Wolverines into the CFB playoffs? Michigan makes no bones about what their offense is all about, running the ball. Iowa, however, is stingier than Ohio State when it comes to yards per carry, as the Hawkeyes are allowing only 2.97 yards. Granted, it’s only 14+ inches difference, but, still, it’s a difference. Go Blue QB Cade McNamara is going to have to make some throws, he’s not known to throw a lot, but he’s pretty good at protecting the ball. In other words, he’s not throwing the ball unless the receiver is completely and utterly WIDE open, drinking sweet tea and eating a corndog. That might not work against Iowa, who have been ball hawks (is a Hawkeye a ball hawk?) all year and have made their living with turnovers. The Wolverines have already proven they are better than anyone thought, so let’s see how far they can go.

Iowa- The Hawkeyes are traditionally a run first team, they only pass when it is completely necessary, and never twice in a row, unless it’s under two minutes left in the game, and even then, it’s questionable. The Hawkeyes are not as good at running the ball as Michigan. The Iowans rush 55% of the time and gain 3.3 yards per attempt. These numbers rank them 113th in the nation. BUT, wait a minute, if the Quarterback rushing totals are not included, the average climbs up to 4.4 yards per carry. So, why the big difference? Well, that’s because the QB gets sacked a lot, and with the QB rushing totals, you include all the negative yards on every sack. The Hawkeyes’ O-line is 98th in the nation on allowing sacks, which is not encouraging, because the Wolverine defensive front chewed up Ohio State’s O-line and tallied some timely sacks in that game. The Iowa offensive line has their work cut out for them. If they can’t protect the QB on the very few times they try to throw the ball, it’s going to be a very long day for Yellow and Black. All signs point to a Michigan victory, but Harbaugh is a known choke artist, leave it him to mess this one up. This is one of the dominos the Pokes need to fall.

ACC Championship Game Pitt vs Wake Forest – in the preseason, Pitt was picked to finish fourth in the Coastal Division and Wake Forest was picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic Division, but here they are, with identical 10-2 records. They will be battling it out to see who gets to go to a New Year’s Bowl, because neither one has a chance for the CFB playoffs, not unless everything goes completely wrong and haywire. Doesn’t matter, it’s great that they are playing for the Atlantic Coast Conference crown. Pitt has an explosive offense, when it’s working, and one of the nation’s best QB’s, when he’s on. QB Kenny Pickett broke Dan Marino’s record for passing TDs in a season. He is also ranked number #2 in the country at passing TD’s. The Panthers also have WR Jordan Addison, who broke Larry Fitzgerald’s numbers at receiving yards. This offense is very tough to stop, but they must be on their game. In their two losses, it wasn’t that they were over-matched, it was that they just didn’t play well. Balls were dropped, errant throws, and QB and WR’s were not on the same page. However, even with all the passing power the Panthers have, RB Vincent Davis might have the biggest day as the Wake Forest defense ranks 113th in rushing yards allowed per game. So RB Davis will be called upon more, which should make the passing game even more of a threat. This Pitt offense might rent pigs, as they’re hard to stop. ( Augustus McCrea, Lonesome Dove)

Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons are no slouches when it comes to offense. WF has their own dangerous QB in Sam Hartman, who has thrown for 30 TD’s and run for 10 more this past season. The last ACC QB to do that won the Heisman trophy, Lamar Jackson.  Wake has not one, but two, 1,000 yard receivers, in A.T. Perry and Jaquarii Roberson, which should worry the Pitt secondary. Most of the season these Deacons were rough riding over everyone, until November came around, then they lost to North Carolina, and Clemson, two games that they should have won. They lost to UNC by three points, so that one was close, but they were rolled by Clemson, losing 48-27. WHY? Clemson is terrible this year. Honestly, it has to do with intimidation. WF has been bullied so long by the big boys of the ACC that when they got the chance to beat them, they didn’t because they entered the game with the mindset that they’ve always lost to them. Which, of course, is the reason why Pitt is going to win this game as well. It’s not that WF can’t, or doesn’t have the personal, it’s because Pitt believes they should be in this game and Wake is shocked they made it. This domino is immaterial to Oklahoma State.

SEC Championship Game  Alabama vs Georgia –  I like the way they are building up this game, Georgia is the young Jedi Knight going up against the Empire- Alabama Football, all the while Darth Vader (Nick Saban) is patrolling the Tide sidelines. They talk about how Georgia has not won against Bama since 2008 and how the Crimson Tide has crushed the dreams of the Dawgs time and time again, and all of that is true. Twice in the SEC championship Alabama, has yanked victory from the jaws of defeat. In the 2018 National Championship when QB Tugovailoa pulled off the infamous second-and-26 miracle. But, that had to be a crushing defeat for UGA, just had to be. However, like the Death Star, there is a fatal flaw in the system that cannot be overlooked. Actually, there are several flaws this year, starting with the Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, and then the Defensive coordinator, Pete Golding, but the biggest flaw is the ineffective offensive line. Instead of their getting better as the season progressed, they’ve actually regressed, gotten worse, much worse. Auburn and Arkansas made the O-line appear pedestrian at best, LSU had fun kicking them around, and let’s not forget those pesky A&M Aggies that exposed the line for the whole world to see.  The Alabama defense, despite DC Golding, has kept the Tide in games but they can’t carry the whole team. QB Bryce Young is a good kid, but here’s something all Bama fans need to hear. He is not a Heisman QB, at least, not this year. He has a rough time with passes over 15 yards, and he’s not that accurate in downfield patterns. Good, yes, fantastic? No. The Alabama team making the trip to Atlanta is not of the same caliber as past champions. The defense will be relied upon again and they should do well, it’s when the offense is on the field that my blood pressure shoots up.

Georgia-  of all the times that UGA has gone up against Bama and lost, this is the best team they’ve ever had, and it all points to breaking the curse. The Bulldogs are the number one team in the nation, and it’s for good reason. In an era when the focus is on offense, Georgia has the best defense in the nation, and second place isn’t even close. Their defense has not allowed anyone to score over 17 points, the average score against them is 6.9 points per game, the fewest of any team since 1986. This defense doesn’t just beat teams, they smother them and it’s amazing to watch. What made Alabama the great dynasty that it is? Defense, and who was the defensive coordinator? Kirby Smart. This guy knows what he’s doing, and he and the entire Georgia defense has to be salivating over this game. The Georgia offense is not as smothering as the defense, but don’t let that fool you, they score a lot of points. They aren’t flashy, their QB, Stetson Bennett IV, sounds like he has a girlfriend named Buffy and wears a monocle, but he’s very good, along with the rest of the offense, it’s just they are over-shadowed by how good the defense is. The Dawgs scored fewer than 30 points in only one game, and that was the very first game of the season, against Clemson. The Dawgs offense may struggle a bit against Alabama’s defense, but passes over the middle will be open, as they have been all year, so UGA is going to move the ball and score, maybe not more than 30, but they’ll get close. Alabama’s offense is not going to have much chance to get going as that Bulldog defense is going to make the Tide’s offensive line look more like a sieve instead of a solid, well, anything. Georgia has their best chance in decades to put to rest the demons that haunt them, and they’re going to. (Editorial scenario: The game will be in its final minutes with Georgia clinging to a 38-31 lead. Bama mounts another Miracle Drive for a touchdown as time expires. It’s 38-37. In comes the ultra-dependable Will Reichard for the PAT to send the contest into overtime. Paul Tyson is the holder. On the snap, Tyson gets up, mimics the LSU/Arkansas run toward the center, then jumps and tosses the ball to What’s His Name tight end on an OUT pattern, he catches the ball this time, and Georgia suffers yet another horrible last-second defeat from Bama. Stay tuned till next week.)

UTSA suffered their first defeat last Saturday, there will not be a second one against Western Kentucky

Kent State is actually favored against Northern Illinois, who knew?

San Diego State, who is a very good team, will not have much trouble with Utah State in the Mountain West Championship

Appalachian State vs Louisiana – in the Sun Belt Championship game. Should be a fine one, as HC Napier is moving on to Florida. BTW, Florida got a steal, LSU is going to regret not hiring him. LSU’s permanent SEC East opponent is, drum roll, Florida.

Cincinnati  has to beat Houston if they want to make it to the playoffs. It’s all right there in front of them. In the words of my old Drill Sergeant, “Don’t MESS this up!” ok, ok, maybe those weren’t the exact words he said. Houston will win. This is the third domino for Oklahoma State.

USC is playing California in a make-up game. It’s on late but it is college football. Chardonnay and kale, maybe, instead of beer and barbeque, but still football.  Oh, and the Bears are favored.

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