Power Picks: Conference Championship Edition
Who will meet Notre Dame in the BCS Championship?
By Carter BryantPosted Nov 28, 2012
Conference championships are weird. They matter, yet they don’t matter. Just ask Alabama last year.
While this year’s conference championship games are full of rematches and average teams, there still should be no shortage of excitement. But the most important contest of the season thus far will the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Who will represent the SEC in the BCS National Championship to defend its run of six straight national championships? We’ll find out Saturday who will fight the Irish on Jan. 7.
MAC Conference Championship – Friday, Nov. 30
No. 21 Northern Illinois vs. No. 17 Kent State
Out of all the championship games, this could be the most exciting in terms of offense. Kent State has a ground game that ranks No. 11 in the country, while NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch leads his team in passing and rushing. Both teams have solid defenses, but Lynch’s rushes late will be the difference in the game.
Score: Northern Illinois 41 – Kent State 38
Pac 12 Conference Championship – Friday, Nov. 30
No. 16 UCLA @ No. 8 Stanford
The Pac 12 Conference Championship has lost a little luster this time because Stanford beat up UCLA, 35-17, just last week. A strong argument could be made that Stanford is college football’s most underrated team. The Cardinal have lost only twice by a total of 11 points, mainly due to poor quarterback play. They are unbeaten since the switch to Kevin Hogan, including an upset over Oregon in Eugene. Jim Mora has established a balanced offense, but they couldn’t get in a rhythm against Stanford’s fierce front seven last week and it will be tough to do so again. This week’s game will be closer, but David Shaw gets another impressive victory in the post-Andrew Luck era.
Score: Stanford 28 – UCLA 20
ACC Championship Game – Saturday, Dec. 1
No. 13 Florida State vs. Georgia Tech
The ACC showed its true colors last week. Florida State withered against Florida and Georgia Tech was stung like a bee from Georgia’s knockout power. The Yellow Jackets are easily the worst team playing for a conference championship. Their option attack stands no chance versus defensive end Bjoern Werner and the Florida State defense. If the Seminoles can gather their morale from last week, they should win by two touchdowns, minimum.
Score: Florida State 31 – Georgia Tech 10
Big Ten Championship Game – Saturday, Dec. 1
No. 12 Nebraska vs. Wisconsin
This game will lack style points. Both offenses are struggling. Last week, Nebraska only scored 13 points against Iowa, and Wisconsin tallied 21 in an overtime loss to Penn State. Nebraska needed a fourth down stop to beat Wisconsin earlier this year and will need more clutch defense to beat the Badgers for a second time this year. This time around, Bo Pelini’s offense will win them the game in overtime on a Taylor Martinez scramble.
Score: Nebraska 24 – Wisconsin 21 (OT)
SEC Championship game – Saturday, Dec. 1
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia
As strange as it sounds, both of these teams have had relatively easy schedules compared to other SEC teams. Florida, like Alabama and Georgia, has only one loss on the season. Yet the Gators boast the nation’s best resume with four wins against the BCS top 13. Alabama and Georgia have combined for two. But Georgia beat Florida earlier this year, which gave them the edge to represent the SEC East in the SEC Championship Game.
Alabama’s previously impenetrable defense has been less than stellar in two of its last three games against SEC opponents. They gave up 551 yards through the air to LSU and Texas A&M combined. Despite injuries to his receiving corps, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray remained one of the nation’s most efficient quarterbacks to go along with a rushing attack that is hitting on all cylinders. If Alabama goes to its nickel package with linebacker CJ Mosley to combat Murray’s accuracy, expect Georgia to pound the rock.
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who is a Nick Saban disciple, heads the Bulldogs’ 3-4 scheme. Alabama has shown weakness in protecting the quarterback, so expect linebacker Jarvis Jones to have some success. Alabama can run the football as well as anybody in the country, and center Barrett Jones is a finalist for multiple awards. But nose guard John Jenkins is coming off his best performance of the year with 11 tackles against Georgia Tech, and I see him having some success in getting push in the trenches. If Jones and guard Chance Warmack want to show they are top NFL prospects, they better strap up and play their best Saturday.
This game will be close, and the coaching edge obviously goes to Saban. But one of his biggest flaws has been his team’s inability to play well in the third quarter in big games. If Georgia can hang around in the first half, they can make a push right after halftime. Georgia gives major matchup issues for Alabama, but Murray has never beaten a team ranked in the top 15 and the Crimson Tide haven’t lost to a pocket passer in five years. History says Alabama; the matchups say Georgia. When it’s that close, always go with the matchup. Georgia pulls the upset and will play the Irish (unless we see some phantom SEC bad call from a zebra).
Score: Georgia 33 – Alabama 27