"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 3, 2015

COLLEGE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND: CAN FLORIDA OR NORTH CAROLINA CREATE CHAOS FOR THE COMMITTEE?

Two of the participants in the college football playoff are most likely locked in: Number 3 Oklahoma, winners of the Big 12 and the victor of the Big Ten championship game between Number's 4 and 5 Iowa and Michigan State. Beyond that, it's certain that wins by Clemson over UNC and Alabama over Florida would round out the top four. But speculation abounds about what the committee will do if other circumstances arise. Can Clemson survive a close loss to UNC and still stay in the mix? What if the Gators also knock off the Crimson Tide? Does Stanford sneak in by beating USC if one of the top two stumble? Does the committee take a two-loss conference champion over a one-loss Ohio State, losers by three points to Michigan State?

Let's take these questions one at a time. First, I don't think Alabama and Clemson will both lose. It's possible of course, as the past has taught us that crazy things can happen on the last weekend of the college football season. However, Florida has had trouble scoring against much worse defenses than what they'll face Saturday in Atlanta. Their defense is good enough to slow down a plodding Crimson Tide attack, but it's going to take an incredible effort to pull the upset. Much more likely, in my opinion, is for North Carolina to spring a surprise against the Tigers. While the Tar Heels lack an elite defense, they can score a lot of points and put pressure on Clemson to keep attacking to stay ahead. Assuming a UNC upset and Clemson dropping out of the top four, who replaces them?

A Stanford win would leave them with two losses, but with a conference championship. Ohio State, currently ahead of them in the committee's rankings, is idle and didn't even get into their title game. I believe that the only way the Buckeyes have a chance is for both Clemson and Alabama to lose or for one of them to drop out and have Stanford lose. In any event, we may get to see just how serious the committee is about rewarding conference champions with a playoff spot over teams that don't win one.

Regular Season Finales:

Texas (4 - 7) 24 @ (12) Baylor (9 - 2) 48: Baylor suffered a disappointing loss at TCU in some of the worst conditions possible for a November game in the Dallas Metroplex. The weather should be more conducive to goo football and that's probably not such a good thing for Texas. With the exception of an inexplicable win over Oklahoma, the Longhorns have been a big disappointment, putting coach Charlie Strong on the hot seat after just two years on the job. Baylor is fourth in the nation in rushing offense and Texas doesn't even crack the top 100 in defending the run. Not a good match-up for Strong's crew.

West Virginia (7 - 4) 37 @ Kansas State (5 - 6) 27: The Mountaineers have feasted on the bottom half of the Big 12, winning four in a row after consecutive losses to the big four: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU. Kansas State is trying to get officially bowl eligible, although they'll have a shot at another game even if they finish 5 - 7, which is pretty likely. Only a pathetic non-conference slate has given K-State any chance at all for a bowl bid. If Bill Snyder, the Wildcats' coach has any integrity at all, he'll turn down a bid since they will most assuredly lose on Saturday.

American Conference Championship (Houston, Texas):

(22) Temple (10 -2) 20 vs. (19) Houston (11 - 1) 31: This looks a lot like last week's game between Houston and Navy. I think Houston just has a little too much offensive firepower for Temple and the Cougars should be able to nail down a spot in a big bowl game with the win.

Southeastern Conference Championship (Atlanta, Georgia):

(18) Florida (10 - 2) 13 vs. (2) Alabama (11 - 1) 24: Florida's offense was shut out by Florida State in the Swamp last week.  While the 'Noles' defense is solid, it's not as good as Alabama's, so if the Gators couldn't score on Florida State on their home field, what are their prospects against the Tide on a neutral field? Not very good, that's what. Of all of the championship games, this one appears to have the least possibility for an upset. But strange things happen on championship weekend. Just sayin'.

Pac-12 Conference Championship (Santa Clara, California):

(20) USC (8 - 4) 35 @ (7) Stanford (10 - 2) 31: Stanford won the first meeting between these teams 41 - 31. But since then, the Trojans have changed coaches and won five of their last six games. The Cardinal stayed in playoff contention, but just barely, by winning a thriller against Notre Dame. USC actually has a pretty effective rushing defense and can throw the ball well enough to give Stanford some problems. Even though this is virtually a home game for the Cardinal, I'm going to give USC a slight nod for the upset.

Big Ten Championship (Indianapolis, Indiana):

(5) Michigan State (11 - 1) 27 vs. (4) Iowa (12 - 0) 24: These teams are pretty closely matched, but Iowa likes to move the ball on the ground and that's what Michigan State stops best. Look no farther than the way they bottled up Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott two weeks ago. An undefeated Iowa team would certainly give the playoff committee some interesting seeding decisions, but I don't think it will come down to that. The Spartans, since losing to Nebraska, seem to be a different football team.

Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Charlotte, North Carolina):

(10) Clemson (12 - 0) 34 vs. (10) UNC (11 - 1) 30: This game shapes up to be something of a shootout, especially if Clemson gets out on top and the Tar Heels have to put their foot to the floor. UNC can score quickly and in bunches, which will put some pressure on the Tigers' seventh rated defense. Ultimately, though, I think the balance of the Clemson team will end up winning the day, but not before the Heels give the Tigers a fight.

Mid-American Conference Championship (Detroit, Michigan):

Bowling Green (9 - 3) 37 vs. Northern Illinois (8 - 4) 30: Bowling Green is third in the nation in passing yardage and will put a lot of pressure on Northern Illinois' secondary. But if NIU can stay in the game into the fourth quarter, their experience in big games could make a difference. I just believe that Bowling Green has too much offense for the Huskies to keep up with.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. The third installment, "Offsetting Penalties" is due out in the fall.