What To Watch For: Championship Week, Selection Sunday, And Join The Fun, Michigan!

After weeks of previews and analysis, we’ve came to the last week of the regular season of college football.  This Friday and Saturday, four games will take place to determine four of the five power conferences.

The BIG 12 is the odd man out.  They don’t have a championship game, they just take the team with the best conference record, which is dumb, especially now that we have this playoff system.  It really hurts their recognition from the committee.

The BIG 12 has one big game which will have major implications on the title.  That, I will preview first.

No.9 Kansas State vs. No.6 Baylor

No homerism here.  I understand that it would take an absolute miracle for Kansas State to even have playoff recognition.

Simply, the team that wins this game clinches a share of the BIG 12 title.  I say a share because TCU has majority, well, not yet.

The Horned Frogs play Iowa State Saturday, who is last in the BIG 12.  It’s a guaranteed win.  This game sets up as a share.  Whoever wins, gets a share of the title.

We have to look at this both ways.  If Baylor wins, the debate between Baylor and TCU rages, setting up an incredible firestorm of opinions between who is better.

If Kansas State pulls off a huge upset, they leap far up, however, I’ll admit, the Wildcats aren’t better than TCU.  TCU would easily get a spot in the playoff, due to them being No.4 now.

See, this is what’s great about college football now.  I was debating even covering it this year, but now that we have the playoff system, my interest has been rejuvenated.  I love these debates.  Sunday is going to be insane.  Let’s preview this game:

Baylor has the nation’s highest scoring offense, putting up close to 50 points a game.  Bryce Petty has had an incredible season, as usual.  Baylor has everything going for them.  The offense is unstoppable.  If they put up points, they win.  It’s that simple.

Their defense is okay.  Just okay.  It’s not spectacular, but the offense takes care of it.  The Bears’ defense doesn’t have to force turnovers.

That’s where a very interesting implication comes in.  The Wildcats are super balanced.  With the 22nd ranked offense and the 17th ranked defense, both sides are great.  They manage well on offense; QB Jake Waters is an incredible weapon.  The defense allows only 20.3 points a game. Unfortunately, that average will probably go up after this game.

The Wildcats only hope with this game is if they can score as much as Baylor, which is entirely possible, but I don’t see them outscoring Baylor.  The Bears are just to overwhelming. Prediction: Baylor-52 Kansas State-43

BIG 12 Winner: TCU and Baylor share

ACC Championship

No.4 Florida State vs. No.11 Georgia Tech

Florida State is the team that nobody can stop talking about, because they’re so incredible and so story booked!  Well, somewhat.

This really could be a four loss Seminole team.  Seriously.  There have been games this year Florida State should have lost.  It’s crazy that they didn’t.  The Seminoles are in dangerous waters right now.  Lose this game and they’re done.  Lose this and the ACC doesn’t get a team in.

Georgia Tech has a massive opportunity here.  Win, and you end the Seminoles record winning streak, claim the ACC, and get into one of the at-large bowl games.  Florida State is this conference’s superior team.  They’re the only ACC team who could get in.  I understand the committee likes conference champions, but the Yellow Jackets aren’t as strong as them.

Anyways, this game has the chance to be a classic.  Georgia Tech is one of the best running teams in the nation, averaging 333.8 yards a game, good enough for 4th in the nation.  They rarely pass, but when your rushing attack is that good, you don’t have too.

Florida State’s defense has taken a hit this year.  They ranked 41st in rushing defense, and 58th in passing.  (Passing really doesn’t matter in this discussion).  It has to step up against Georgia Tech.  They take games over with their running attack.  That’s what Florida State has to prevent.

On the flip side, the Yellow Jacket’s defense isn’t much better.   Playing against one of the nation’s best passing offenses is the tough task.  Georgia Tech’s pass defense ranks 54th in the country,  It’s not great, and they’re in trouble if the No.54 ranking shows up.

I need to get something off my chest.  I don’t want to hear about people calling out Florida State, saying how bad they are and how, no matter what they’re record, they shouldn’t be allowed in.  THEY ARE UNDEFEATED.  I DON’T CARE ABOUT (I’ll stop screaming now) Jameis Winston’s immaturity or their campus problems or whatever.  I care about football.  They’re undefeated, and haven’t lost a game in close to two seasons.  Shut up.  They are very good, and are probably better than your team.

On that lovely note, Florida State is getting this game.  I am giving Georgia Tech a chance, but their defense will be in trouble late in the game, and that’s what will cost them.  Prediction: Florida State-35 Georgia Tech-20

ACC Winner: Florida State

BIG 10 Championship:

No.13 Wisconsin vs. No.5 Ohio State

If this season couldn’t have been any crazier, disappointing, or awesome for the Buckeyes, another blow was dealt to them.  A week before playing in the BIG 10 title game, QB J.T. Barrett broke his ankle last Saturday against Minnesota, leaving it up to third string QB Cardale Jones to start.

Yup, this is the Buckeyes third QB this year.  Braxton Miller didn’t even play in a game before suffering a season ending shoulder injury.   J.T. Barrett came in to backup Miller, and became an instant star.  He’s clearly better than Miller, from what we’ve seen this season.

Last Saturday was tragic for Ohio State.  Losing Barrett the week before one of their biggest games is heartbreaking.  I can’t believe the committee put Ohio State at No.5.  Baylor is clearly better than Ohio State, and that’s before Barrett’s injury.

Anyways, Wisconsin has a lot to prove with this game.  

Never mind.  Wisconsin is winning this football game.  You can’t just throw a third-stringer in and expect to win.  It’s not happening.  Wisconsin will win this game, and a win would eliminate the BIG 10 from playoff consideration.  Ohio State is the BIG 10’s last hope.  Sorry.

Wisconsin just runs the ball.  That’s it.  Melvin Gordon is ridiculous.  He’s insane.  The Badgers have the nation’s third best rushing attack, but really, we can call it the best, just because of Melvin Gordon.

I don’t see Ohio State succeeding on Saturday.  It’s too tough when your throwing in a 3rd-stringer.  The offense could be a mess.  Though the Buckeyes are a good running team, Wisconsin will out-run them, and that’s why they’ll win.  Prediction: Wisconsin-35 Ohio State-17

BIG 10 Winner: Wisconsin

PAC-12 Championship:

No.7 Arizona vs. No.2 Oregon

(Homerism Possible)

This is the game Arizona has been waiting for.  They know they’re good enough to contend with teams like this.  Oregon’s only loss this year came against the Wildcats.  Arizona is capable of winning this game.

However, Oregon just has gotten better and better over the course of the year.  They’ve been blowing teams out.  The slow starts don’t mean a whole lot, yet.

Arizona is a team who can strike fast, just like Oregon.  The offense is explosive.  The Wildcats offense is ranked 20th in the nation by points scored.  Throwing the ball is essential, even though Anu Solomon is not my favorite.  Oregon’s has had trouble defending the pass this year, ranked 107th in the nation.

If Arizona can attack from the air, they have a shot to keep up with Oregon.  Expect no punting in this game.  Neither team plays outstanding defense. This will be a total shootout.

The scenarios that comes with this game are very interesting, but that only occurs with one result.  If Arizona were to pull this thing off, it might put them in the playoff.  Being ranked No.7 is huge.  A win would move them up, since Ohio State is very unlikely to win in my opinion.  Since a win gives them the PAC-12 title, the committee would be willing to let them in.

If Oregon wins, it doesn’t change much.  Oregon sits at No.2, and they can only rise with a win.  An Alabama loss would have to occur to move them up, knowing how much the committee likes the Tide and the SEC in general.

With that, I’d love to pick Arizona.  You know how much I would love to pick Arizona.  Again, Oregon’s only loss this year came against the Wildcats. However, I just can’t take them.  Oregon is the better team.  They’re more complete and truly have better QB play.  It may come down to, similar to Ole Miss, whether the Wildcats get Good Anu or Bad Anu.

Oh yea, one more thing: What ever happens tonight, Bear Down.  Prediction: Oregon-45 Arizona-40

PAC-12 Champion: Oregon

SEC Championship:

No.1 Alabama vs. No.16 Missouri 

Guess who had Missouri in the SEC Championship Game in August?


Alright, I’ll stop bragging.

I’m done fighting with the committee over Alabama.  You want them at No.1? Fine.  They’re not deserving of it, but fine.  Do what you want.  Oregon is just as good if not better.

Anyways, this is going to be a tight one.  Really tight.  Expect real SEC football here.

Alabama is decent offensive team.  They won’t sling the ball around.  Blake Sims is so overrated.  As we saw last weekend, he is not accurate, and that costs you, big time.  He may have a good arm, but the mental aspect of him is not there, yet.

We know what Alabama does best.  Stops the run.  Ranked 2nd in rushing defense this year, they won’t allow you to get past the 2nd tier of the defense.  Their safeties don’t have to worry about tackling running backs, because it’s not often they get through.

The Tigers are a pretty balanced offensive team.  If Matty Mauk can get going, which we know is possible, Missouri will make this interesting.

I actually expect them to make it interesting.  Alabama has faults; every team does.  It’s if the Tiger defense can crack the faults, and rumble them.  Again, I expect Missouri to attack through the air in this game.  Running against Alabama is impossible.  Break the lines in the Tide secondary and Missouri wins.  It’s that simple.

If Alabama wins, it’s obvious they’ll remain No.1.  The committee likes them and the SEC to much to move them down.  Nothing will change with a Tide win.

The Tigers though, could really shake things up with a win.  Knocking off Alabama drops the Tide out of the Playoffs.  It may, just may, kick the SEC out.

These scenarios are insane.  I highly doubt the committee would kick the SEC out with a loss.  Heck, they might throw Missouri in to screw with people.  They love those conference champions.  If Missouri wins the nation’s best conference, theres a small chance they get in.  It’s crazy, yes, but not inconceivable.

And after all of that, I think Alabama gets this done.  Missouri isn’t as strong as Bama; I agree with that.  The Tide can explode.  They can shift a game within minutes.  There’s a lot of teams like that.  If Alabama wants to show us they’re the best team in the nation, they make a statement tomorrow, and get yourself a bye for the playoffs.  See you in New Orleans.  Prediction: Alabama-24 Missouri-17

SEC Champion: Alabama

Now that I have previewed the biggest games this week, it’s time for my final rankings.  These are based on my predictions of these games.  On Sunday, before the final playoff rankings are released, I will post my updated rankings on Twitter, based on who won Friday’s and Saturday’s games.

Again, they are based on my predictions above.

No.1 Alabama

No.2 Oregon

No.3 Florida State

No.4 Baylor

No.5 TCU

No.6 Arizona

This past week in college football has also been a depressing one.  Two head coaches have been fired, from two of the nation’s most storied programs.  

I will first start with Florida’s hiring of Jim McElwain.  McElwain was at Colorado State the past two years, where he complied a record of 22-16 in three seasons.  This past year, he lead the Rams to a 10-2 record.

After firing Will Muschamp, Florida wanted a bigger name.  They wanted someone with experience though, as McElwain has been in the game of football since 1987.  I’m not worried about him at Florida.  He’ll be okay.  His players have always loved him, and recruiting shouldn’t be an issue in the SEC.

Nebraska, this past Sunday, fired head coach Bo Pelini after seven season with the team.  During those years, he complied a record of 67-27, and led the Cornhuskers to a 9-3 record this year.

The firing was strange, but Nebraska obviously felt it was time for an end.  A fresh start is what they needed, but really, it didn’t start out on the right foot.

Before I get into the hiring of Mike Riley, Bo Pelini went to Twitter to express his feelings:

Yes, those are fake.

Anyways, Nebraska went out and hired Mike Riley of Oregon State.  I wasn’t fond of the hire.  I feel like they may have rushed to hire someone.  Riley is a great football mind, but hasn’t had great teams over the past couple years with the Beavers.

He’s a good coach, yes, but I don’t think Nebraska is the right place for him.  One thing that was overly expressed in the ordeal was “Nebraska’s excellent football tradition.”  Hold on a second.  Yes, Nebraska has had some mighty football teams in the past, but this in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Lincoln.  Don’t use your past or location to attract people.

Not many people were fond of the hire, including me.  My main point: They rushed it.  They didn’t really think about it, which is disappointing.  As a PAC-12 fan in general, I’m rooting for Riley, but I’m worried it may only be a couple years before he’s out.

And that leads us to one of the most media-loved teams there are.  Michigan.  Michigan fired Brady Hoke this past week, a decision that was widely expected.  They have yet to hire a coach, which is probably smart.  It’s makes you wonder who they’re waiting for.

Candidates include: Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Tedford, and Greg Schiano

You heard it here: Though I don’t believe they will hire Harbaugh, they are holding out for him.  Watch it happen.

Enjoy the weekend, and follow @hippelsportshub on Twitter for coverage of this weekend’s games.