"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

COLLEGE WEEK 15 PICKS - CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND

Even with the abbreviated schedule on the final weekend of the season (with the exception of Army - Navy on December 13), there are still a number of games that will impact the playoffs. Most notably is the Pac-12 championship game, where unlike other games, both teams may still have a chance to make the playoffs. Sure, Arizona is a long shot, but you just never know.

As for the other championship games, Florida State is definitely vulnerable in the ACC while Ohio State will have to go with an untested backup against a very tough Wisconsin squad. The Big 12 doesn't have a title game, but the Kansas State - Baylor game is as close as you could get, other than the TCU - Baylor shootout earlier in the season.

My picks might seem a little outside the box, but history has shown that Championship Saturday (and in this case Friday night, too) can prove to be very unpredictable.

Friday:

Pac-12 Championship in Santa Clara, CA

(7) Arizona (10 - 2) 30 vs. (2) Oregon (11 - 1) 41: The only team to defeat Oregon, the Wildcats don't have to fight the Ducks' home crowd this time around. Conversely, Oregon needs to find a way to do what they couldn't do in the first game, and that's to beat Arizona. On paper, it looks like Oregon should dominate Arizona, but that didn't happen the first time around, as the Ducks were held below 38 points for the only time all season. I think this one will be more of a shootout than the first meeting, with Oregon scoring closer to their season average. Arizona State put up 35 on the Wildcats in last week's loss, so I expect the Ducks to be able to score that much or more.

MAC Championship in Detroit, MI
N. Illinois (10 - 2) 42 vs. Bowling Green (7 - 5) 24: Northern Illinois ended the season on a roll while Bowling Green is limping into the title game following two consecutive losses and is giving up more points than it scores. I don't expect this one to be close.


Saturday:

Conference USA Championship
La. Tech (8 - 4) 45 @ Marshall (11 - 1) 42: Marshall lost their first game last week where the score looked more like the result in a basketball game: 67 - 66 in four overtimes. The Thundering Herd is second in the nation in scoring, but it was against what had to be one of the softest schedules in all of the FBS. Sure, Louisiana Tech is 8 - 4, but two of those losses were to Auburn and Oklahoma, a caliber of opponent Marshall didn't even come close to playing. I think the Bulldogs will expose Marshall's weaknesses and win the game in a barn burner.

SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA
(1) Alabama (11 - 1) 27 vs. (16) Missouri (10 - 2) 17: Missouri barely escaped an Arkansas team that didn't pull their injured QB late in the game, Now they head to Atlanta to face what many believe to be the most complete team in the nation. But the Tigers have found a way to win, except when they were shut out by Georgia. I like what Gary Pinkel has put together at Missouri, but it's Nick Saban time now and I don't see the Tide giving the Tigers much room to score.

ACC Championship in Charlotte, NC
(4) Florida State (12 - 0) 27 vs. (11) Ga. Tech (10 - 2) 31: This may be the most difficult game of the week to predict. Florida State has looked anemic of late, but still has found ways to stay undefeated. Georgia Tech has won their last five, including their finale against heavily favored Georgia (not by me, I picked the Yellow Jackets). The combined record of their last three opponents is 25 - 11. Florida State, against schools with a combined 19 -16 record, have won by a total of 12 points. A lethargic start this week and Florida State could be down by three touchdowns against a team that can flat out eat clock when it has to. As much as I would like to see an ACC team in the playoff, I think the Seminole gig is up. And not only that, but the win will vault Georgia Tech into the playoffs. Really.

Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis, IN
(13) Wisconsin (10 -2) 27 vs. (5) Ohio State (11 - 1) 24: I don't know much about Ohio State's third string QB, but I thought they were going to be hard pressed to defeat Wisconsin even with a healthy JT Barrett on a neutral field, especially an indoor stadium with perfect footing for RB Melvin Gordon. The Badgers have a tenacious defense and I look for them to neutralize the Buckeyes' offense and control the ball to get the victory. Why don't the Badgers jump Georgia Tech for the playoff spot? Because Georgia Tech is already ahead of Wisconsin and the Yellow Jackets' OT win over Georgia trumps Wisconsin's close loss to LSU.

Mountain West Conference Championship:
Fresno State (6 - 6) 23 @ Boise State (10 - 2) 34: I don't see how this game can be close. A win will put Boise State into a major bowl by virtue of being the top ranked champion of a non-power five FBS conference.

(9) Kansas State (9 - 2) 37 @ (6) Baylor (10 - 1) 31: Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has Baylor just where he wants them. All of the talk is about whether the committee will consider the Bears' win over TCU when deciding who to include in the final four. It can't help but be a distraction for Baylor, while there is no such talk about Kansas State. The Wildcats have had a tough draw, having to travel to Iowa State, Oklahoma, TCU and West Virginia in the Big 12. Not to mention a close loss to Auburn early in the season when the Tigers were playing much better defense. With Baylor QB Bryce Petty coming off a concussion, I see this as a great opportunity for K-State to roll to a big victory.

Iowa State (2 - 9) 17 @ (3) TCU (10 - 1) 52: This should be very ugly. The Horned Frogs want to prove they belong in the playoffs and the Cyclones just have the horses to compete with TCU in their house. The main drama will come Sunday afternoon when the final four are announced.

Oklahoma State (5 - 6) 24 @ (20) Oklahoma (8 - 3) 35: The Cowboys travel south to Norman needing a win to get bowl eligible. Oklahoma just wants to secure a Bedlam victory to get a head start on next season. Both teams had disappointing 2014 campaigns and a season-ending win over their arch-rivals would go a long way to soothe the fan bases. Sometimes you can throw the records out the window in these games, but Oklahoma State hasn't shown anything that would lead me to believe they have what it takes to pull the upset.

Houston (7 - 4) 20 @ Cincinnati (8 - 3) 23: Cincinnati has a chance at a getting a share of the American Athletic Conference title, but needs to beat a Cougar team that plays solid defense. I like the home team's chances of grabbing the win.