After a long season, we come down to this, the final weekend. There are official championship games, and there are games that could end up being championship match-ups. But one thing is for sure, when the dust settles, we'll have our two participants in the BCS title game.
Last week: 15 - 8
Overall: 205 - 67
(20) Duke (10 - 2) 20 vs. (1) Florida State (12 - 0) 34, ACC Championship Game, Charlotte, NC: All the pressure is on Florida State, and if Duke drew better, they might have a bit of a home field advantage. But despite having a great season due in part to a favorable schedule, the Blue Devils haven't faced anyone close to what the Seminoles will throw at them tonight. Duke was held to 13 points by Virginia Tech, the closest talent on defense that they faced. The Blue Devils gave up 30 to Miami and 25 to North Carolina down the stretch. Otherwise, after giving up big totals to Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh in their two losses, Duke had played very good defense. But Florida State brings an entirely different challenge. Given that a spot in the BCS championship is on the line for the 'Noles, they may start out a little tight, giving Duke a chance. But in the end, talent should win out here.
(2) Ohio State (12 - 0) 24 vs. (10) Michigan State (11 - 1) 27, Big Ten Championship Game, Indianapolis, IN: Ohio State owns the longest winning streak in the country at 24, but Michigan State has the nation's fourth ranked defense and an eight consecutive wins of their own. I've liked Michigan State all season, and I believe the Buckeyes' weak schedule will hurt them in this game. The Spartans are physical and capable of moving Ohio State around. Coach Urban Meyer's team's two biggest wins of the season have since been minimized, as Northwestern finished below .500 and Wisconsin finished a disappointing 9 - 3. My upset picks haven't been panning out recently, but I've liked Michigan State all year and I like them tonight to throw the BCS into one-loss team chaos.
(5) Missouri (11 - 1) 30 vs. (3) Auburn (11 - 1) 27, SEC Championship Game, Atlanta, GA: Auburn needs to come down from the exhilarating victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl last week. Missouri needs to continue its fine play that left them four points from a perfect season. For me, this game's a tossup and will come down to whether Missouri's defense can contain Auburn's potent offensive attack. Both teams will benefit from playing inside at the Georgia Dome. I've made the mistake of picking against Missouri and have continually paid the price. I believe the magic may run out for Auburn this afternoon, so I'm picking tails and going with Missouri.
(17) Oklahoma (9 - 2) 24 at (6) Oklahoma State (10 - 1) 30: This bedlam game probably doesn't have any national championship implications, but it certainly does for the Big 12 title. A win by Oklahoma State gives them the crown, while a loss eliminates them from the race, turning the Baylor - Texas game into a de facto championship game. Oklahoma just gets to play the spoiler in the whole thing, which should be just a little more motivation for a big intra-state rivalry game. With the exception of the West Virginia game, the Cowboys have played like potential national champions. If they'd taken care of the Mountaineers like they should have, a win today would probably put them in the BCS championship game against Florida State. For now, though, they'll need to be satisfied with beating the Sooners and going to a BCS bowl game.
(7) Stanford (10 - 2) 27 at (11) Arizona State (10 - 2) 31, Pac-12 Championship Game: Arizona State may be the hottest team in the nation and are looking for some revenge against Stanford. This time the Cardinal will have to travel to the desert because of the Sun Devils' better conference record. With the exception of their 63 points against an overmatched Cal team, Stanford has had to rely on their defense to win. I don't think Stanford will be able to keep up with Arizona State on the scoreboard, especially if the home team gets up early.
(25) Texas (8 - 3) 37 at (9) Baylor (10 - 1) 42: By the time these two teams kickoff, they may know what the stakes are for this game. If the Sooners win up in Stillwater, this game is for all of the marbles in the Big 12. If not, then it'll just be another Texas grudge match in the Big 12. Baylor was flying high until getting shot down at Oklahoma State. Texas had a similar game against the Cowboys. Otherwise, the Longhorns have played tough defense since replacing their defensive coordinator after losses to BYU and Ole Miss. I like Baylor in a shootout, but the Bear offense needs to click, or Texas will leave Waco with a big win.
(16) UCF (10 - 1) 27 at SMU (5 - 6) 17: UCF, by virtue of Louisville's win over Cincinnati, has clinched the American Athletic Conference crown and will be making its first appearance in a BCS bowl game. Therefore, this game doesn't matter in the conference race. In addition, Northern Illinois' loss to Bowling Green takes any additional BCS implications from this game. So, back to the game. SMU can cause UCF some trouble, but the Knights should prevail, even with nothing to play for but another win. Their pride is on the line in this game, plus the opportunity to perhaps finish with a 12 - 1 record after playing and beating a quality team in a BCS bowl.
Utah State (8 - 4) 31 at (23) Fresno State (10 - 1) 38, Mountain West Championship Game: Fresno State's porous defense finally resulted in a loss last week, ending any chance for a BCS bowl game. Utah State, despite a loss to Boise State, still managed to get into this game. Since that loss, they've allowed just over ten points a game. No one's been able to slow down Fresno State's attack, but the Aggies have a chance. Unfortunately, I don't see them scoring enough to beat the Bulldogs.
(19) Louisville (10 - 1) 21 @ Cincinnati (9 - 2) 23:
A scheduling quirk had American Athletic Conference leader UCF as the only team in the conference that Cincinnati didn't play this season. If the Bearcats win over Louisville, it will make for an interesting tiebreaker, but only if UCF stumbles against SMU on Saturday. In that case, Cincinnati would need to finish higher than UCF in the final BCS rankings, no guarantee given the strong season the Knights have had. But getting back to the game, both teams have tough defenses, with Louisville sporting the second rated defense in the FBS. Cincinnati has won six in a row after a disappointing and inexplicable loss to South Florida, a team Louisville handled easily. However, the Cardinals have struggled a little bit offensively the last couple of games. Heisman trophy candidate Teddy Bridgewater, in what could be his last regular season game, will need to click in order for his team to prevail. I like Cincinnati to pull the mild upset, then wait to see if SMU can pull one of their own.
MAC Championship Game, Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan: Bowling Green (9 - 3) 20 vs. (14) Northern Illinois (12 - 0) 24:
Northern Illinois has been led by senior QB Jordan Lynch, who wants his team to make amends for last year's 31 - 10 drubbing by Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The MAC Championship game is the next step in the process to do that. But Bowling Green stands in the way and poses a stout challenge. The Falcons have held their last four opponents to a total of 17 points and have not given up more than 14 points in any of their last seven wins. Their main weakness on defense is against the rush, and Northern Illinois can certainly run the football, especially Lynch, who leads the MAC in rushing with over 1,700 yards. If the Huskies don't get the running game going, however, Bowling Green will win this game. I'm a fan of the MAC, and despite Northern Illionois' loss to FSU last year, they play a pretty good brand of football in the conference. If I still have power, I'll definitely tune in to the game, which I think will be close. This is a tough pick given Bowling Green's recent performance, but I've watched Jordan Lynch make plays all season to keep NIU unbeaten. I'll take the Huskies.