College Football

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKLY PICKS: Conference Championships

Merry Footballmas, y’all, it’s Championship Week! The table is nearly set for the Playoffs with one school firmly seated already (#3 Oklahoma) . . . but everyone else better win. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that the Committee forgives early losses and places a lot more emphasis on later ones, but I think it’ll be a cold day in Hell before the Committee lets a team lose its last game and still squeak in, á la the BCS.

Unless you’re Alabama, of course, in which case you can be 7-5 and still be a two-seed.

FRIDAY

MAC: Bowling Green (-12) vs. Northern Illinois (Detroit)

The MAC, despite being sneaky deep this season, has managed to produce the same title game pairing the third season running (NIU won in 2013, Bowling Green in 2014). Doubt NIU’s ability in this game at your own peril (they’re playing in it for the sixth straight time), but I think asking a backup QB (the not-incapable Tommy Fielder) to keep pace with the Falcons’ electric offense is too tall a task. Bowling Green 37, NIU 27

SATURDAY

AAC: #22 Temple (+6) at #19 Houston

UConn got the best of the Cougars, but when Greg Ward Jr. returned from injury, so did Houston’s offense, who rolled a very good Navy defense for 52 points. Temple will ugly this game up because that’s what they do, but they lack the firepower. Houston 31, Temple 20

CONFERENCE USA: Southern Miss (+7.5) at Western Kentucky

Southern Miss has finally turned a corner since the atrocious 0-12 campaign of 2012 on Todd Monken‘s high-powered air attack, but it’s a knife in a gunfight compared to Brandon Doughty and the Hilltoppers will bring. Western Kentucky 48, Southern Miss 34

SEC: #18 Florida vs. #2 Alabama (-17.5) (Atlanta)

It would be a mistake to count Florida out of this game. After all, over millions of years, a trickle of water ground out the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately for the Gators this game is only sixty minutes. Alabama 21, Florida 3 (To read NCB’s preview of this game, click here.)

MWC: Air Force (+4.5) at San Diego State

My heart says Air Force (because I am an unabashed lover of service academy football) but my brain says the Aztec’s defense. San Diego State 24, Air Force 17

PAC-12: #7 Stanford (-4.5) vs. #20 USC (Santa Clara)

It’s weird and fun that the Cardinal, normally the standard bearers of slow grinding manball, are ridiculously explosive and don’t play great defense. It’s hard to beat a team twice in one season but if it weren’t for a UCLA implosion last week we’d be talking about the Trojans limping into this game. Stanford 38, USC 28 (To read NCB’s preview of this game, click here.)

B1G: #5 Michigan State (-3.5) vs. #4 Iowa (Indianapolis)

You eight-team playoff enthusiasts will get your wish one year early, as this one’s essentially a quarterfinal. Iowa hasn’t had a great November but has the defense and running game to keep Sparty off the field, but Mark Dantonio‘s teams show up in big games, and his quarterback is a future NFL stud who feasts on third downs. Michigan State 28, Iowa 24 (To read NCB’s preview of this game, click here.)

ACC: #10 North Carolina vs. #1 Clemson (Charlotte)

How hard is UNC kicking itself for its lackadaisical week one performance against a miserable South Carolina team? Since then they’ve established themselves as a big-play offense and anti-big-play defense, but the Tar Heels haven’t seen a defense anywhere near this good. Clemson 32, North Carolina 24 (To read NCB’s preview of this game, click here.)

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