Saturday was already going to be one of the best sports days of the year, and that was before Tiger got himself in the hunt of a golf tournament. Conference championship Saturday has arrive, and these match-ups are juicy. We have play-in games, big-time rematches, and Alabama sitting helplessly on the sidelines. Entering the weekend, the Playoff race looks like this;
Clemson. Auburn. Oklahoma. Wisconsin
If all four of these teams win their conference title games Saturday, they are in. If not, chaos will ensue. Georgia would enter the picture with a win over Auburn, while Miami would get in by beating Clemson. Alabama fans are hoping for either an Oklahoma or Wisconsin loss for them to hop in, but that would enrage TCU and Ohio State who would have won their conferences with Saturday upsets.
One thing that is for sure; we will be glued to our couches and or bar stools from the morning kickoff in Arlington, right on through the Big 10 final in Indy. Let’s preview these games.
Big 12 Title Game: Oklahoma -7 vs TCU 12:30 PM – Arlington, TX
The Big 12 conference has to be kicking itself for bringing back a conference championship game after not having one for the last five years. The only thing keeping the conference from having a sure-fire representative in the CFP is an upset by TCU. You can be sure Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs are thrilled to have one, especially given the opportunity to avenge the beat-down they took in Norman just a few weeks back. If OU can repeat that result, they are in. If TCU wins this game, then all hell breaks loose.
The final score when these two met the first time around was 38-20 Sooners. Baker Mayfield had his way in the game, as he had with just about every opponent en route to a season that should end with a Heisman trophy. Oklahoma was also able to run the ball effectively, with Rodney Anderson picking up 150 and 2 touchdowns, which is rare against a Gary Patterson defense. Prior to that, it was TCU takin teams behind the woodshed, which had them all the way up to #4 in the nation at one point. It was then that Big 12 looked as good of a conference as any before stumbling down the stretch. Now, TCU has an opportunity to eliminate Oklahoma, while making a case for their own playoff candidacy. Unfortunately for them, I don’t see how they get in even with a win. It is hard to see the Frogs leaping Alabama with 2 losses on their resume. Still, don’t expect Gary Patterson’s bunch to come out flat. His teams have a long history of showing up and competing in the biggest moments.
Perhaps nobody performs better in those big moments than Baker Mayfield; the best player in college football. Because of the Baker factor, there is no way I would pick against Oklahoma in this game and I fully expect them to win and punch their ticket to the college football playoff. The Sooner offense is as explosive as we have seen in college football, failing to eclipse the 30 point mark just once this season (29 in a win over Texas). But, TCU can play also, and they get a couple of players on the defensive side returning from injury this week. I think the 7 points is a lot to give.
Prediction: Oklahoma 31 TCU 27 The Pick: TCU +7
SEC Championship: Auburn -1.5 Vs Georgia – Atlanta, GA
As one rematch ends let another begin in Atlanta. Who could have seen an SEC Title game without Nick Saban chewing out his staff on the sidelines, but that is exactly what we have with #2 Auburn and #6 Georgia. The winner of this heavyweight battle punches their ticket to the College Football Playoff. The first time these two hooked up, it was a mismatch, dominated by Auburn over the then #1 team in the nation. UGA has slipped in the rankings, but still controls its own destiny. Despite the 2 losses, so do the Tigers thanks to the two biggest wins that any team has on their resume.
Nobody knew Auburn was for real until that first Georgia game, and in case you weren’t sure about Gus Malzahn’s group, their Iron Bowl dominance had to provide confirmation. Nick Chubb and the Georgia rushing game gets a lot of love, and rightfully so, but few people talk about the Heisman worthy campaign that Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson has put together. Combine that with Jarrett Stidham being the most capable passer in the SEC, and you have to give the Auburn offense a leg up over Georgia’s.
The final in Pt. 1 was 40-17, as Auburn put it on Georgia early and got them away from their game plan, which as always is to run the ball with their multiple 5 star running backs. When you get down big early, it is hard to stick with the running game, so the Dawgs will need to keep things close early to have any sort of chance. Here’s an expert opinion: you don’t want to go down big early in the game. Auburn’s pass defense is superior to its Run D, which sets up well for a run reliant Georgia team. With the game being in a much friendlier environment, there is nothing that tells me we will see another blowout like the first time around.
Most of the money so far is coming in on Georgia, which has driven the spread down to 1.5. This is a case of people continuing to underestimate Auburn, which I can’t get behind after watching them control the Bama game from start to finish. Gus Malzahn never gets credit for being a top notch coach, which is exactly what he is. I think Auburn is more balanced than Georgia offensively, and can put some extra guys in the box forcing the freshman QB of Georgia to beat them through the air. I have no confidence in Fromm being capable of that, and I like Auburn to win this game. It isn’t going to be like round 1, but I think Auburn wins, and punches their ticket to the Final 4.
Prediction: Auburn 24 Georgia 21 The Pick: Auburn -1.5
ACC Championship: Clemson -9.5 Vs Miami – Charlotte, NC
In the 8 O’clock hour, we are blessed with two simultaneous championship games. I know many will be getting ready for big nights out at this point, but the couch is where you can find me. First, let’s look at the ACC game between Miami in Clemson. These have been the two best teams in the conference all year, and it is great to see them matchup with a playoff berth on the line.
Everybody knows about Clemson at this point, as they are a premier program in College football and might be the most talented team in the sport. They have dominated the competition all year, with their one loss coming at Syracuse after starting QB Kelly Bryant was forced to leave the game with an injury at halftime. The Committee definitely takes the injury into account, while keeping the Tigers at #2. It is amazing that despite losing Deshaun Watson among numerous other starters to the NFL, they are able to put together this kind of season in Clemson. Credit to Dabo.
On the other side, we finally have the U back. No team played with more swagger than the Canes this year, which all around is a great thing for College football. People questioned this team all year because of close wins against the likes of FSU and Georgia Tech, but they were able to answer some haters by blowing out Va Tech and Notre Dame in primetime games. Miami nearly pieced together an undefeated regular season, if not for a major bed wetting against Pitt last weekend.
While the U is back in many ways, they are still not on the same level as Clemson. In addition, they have been dealt some serious injury issues recently, and lost their best wide receiver in practice earlier this week. I wouldn’t even like them against Clemson if they were healthy, with Clemson playing their best football at the right time of year. The Tigers have been in these big games before, while these Canes have not. The line here opened at 5 with the money pouring in driving it up to 9.5 as of now. That number doesn’t scare me at all, and I see a double digit win for the tigers, and their third straight trip to the College Football Playoff.
The Prediction: Clemson 28 Miami 14 The Pick: Clemson -9.5
Bonus: Although it is not a popular play among fans, I have been advised to take the under here. Both teams have good defenses, and with injuries along the Miami offense, they will struggle to score points. UNDER 46.5
Big 10 Championship: Ohio State -4.5 Vs Wisconsin – Indianapolis, IN
The game that will keep us up the latest, is the same one that has been keeping me awake for the past three nights. It’s the Big 10 championship game between Ohio State and undefeated Wisconsin. Despite its undefeated record, almost nobody is giving Wisco an ounce of credit nor does anyone feel they are one of the best teams in the country. That may be the case, but if they win this ballgame, they are in the CFP for sure. Ohio State is likely to be on the outside looking in regardless of the outcome of this game, but a convincing victory could help them make a small case.
Even with its two losses, OSU is the odds on favorite in this game in Indianapolis. They are the more talented team, with the better athletes on both sides of the ball. Athletes are not the story for the badgers. They are a fundamental squad, which runs the ball tremendously behind a stud freshman back and have a lockdown defense under ex safety Jim Leonard. They are going to need to control the clock and slow the game down if they are going to have a shot. For OSU, we know the talent is there, but the consistency has not been. I personally have a tough time looking past that 21 point throttling they took to Iowa. Wisco shows up every week, and plays the same way, the concern is that they have not done it against any quality competition.
The spread in this ballgame started with OSU giving 7points. At that number, I liked Wisconsin to keep it close. JT Barrett relies heavily on his legs, and just got knee surgery last week. While he will play, I cant comprehend how he will be as effective on the ground. However, all the public money has driven the spread down to 4.5. That worries me, with the public being so high on the Badgers. While I like Wisco, and wouldn’t be surprised to see them win, I am going against the public here, and taking OSU to win and cover the spread. The glimpse I got of JT Barretts backup last week against Michigan makes me confident that they can win the game, even if Barrett is not able to finish it. Give me the Buckeyes, to win and get Bama into the Playoff.
Prediction: OSU 28 Wisconsin 23 The Pick: Ohio State -4.5