Hello everyone, I apologize for the lack of an article last week. Trying to eat as much turkey and stuffing as my stomach could handle magically affected my memory. I blame the tryptophan. But enough excuses, it’s the final week of the regular season. The moment we’ve all been waiting for.
Five conference championship games. Four playoff spots. Three teams on the bubble. Two undefeated teams. And one champion, looking to defend its title. If that doesn’t get you hyped for this weekend, I don’t know what will.
|Fri||05:00 PM||Northern Illinois||Bowling Green State||9|
|Sat||04:30 PM||Air Force||San Diego State||-4.5|
|Sat||04:45 PM||Stanford||Southern California||-3.5|
|Sat||05:00 PM||Michigan State||Iowa||-14|
|Sat||05:00 PM||North Carolina||Clemson||-1.5|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Arkansas State||Texas State||-20|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Kansas State||West Virginia||11.5|
|Sat||09:00 AM||South Alabama||Appalachian State||13.5|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Southern Mississippi||Western Kentucky||-3.5|
|Sat||11:00 AM||Georgia Southern||Georgia State||-18.5|
|Sat||12:00 PM||Louisiana-Monroe||New Mexico State||1|
Because there are five conference championship games this week, I’ll give you all a brief overview of each of them. After all, everyone is running around getting ready for finals.
No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 20 USC (Spread: -3.5 )
How many college football pundits wrote off this season as another “rebuilding year” for us after our loss to Notre Dame? Yet here we are. We might not be in the running for the college football playoffs, but we (finally) won the Victory Bell back and we now have a permanent coach! And think about it, we went from nearly falling under .500 to playing in the conference championship. Our team has weathered a tough season full of injuries and problems off the field. Most schools would just be happy that they even made it to the conference championship. While I am definitely proud that we have run managed to run the table, I also think that our team, despite being the underdog, has a chance to dash Stanford’s slim playoff chances.
Our offense has been moving the ball well on the ground and our defense is continuing to come up with big plays, despite numerous injuries. No, I’m not going to ignore the fact that Stanford’s offense has been playing very well and has been producing 437 yards per game this season. But we also have a high-powered offense, and we’ve put up 457 yards per game. On top of that we have outrushed our opponents in every game, averaging 263 yards on the ground to just 124 for opponents, while committing nine fewer turnovers.
Our model has Stanford as the slight favorite, but if the same team that took back the Victory Bell from UCLA last weekend comes to play at Santa Clara, underdog or not, it’s going to go down to the wire.
No. 22 Temple vs. No 19 Houston (Spread: 3.5 )
The American Athletic Conference championship has probably been the least publicized of the championship games. But even the doubters (myself included) have to respect that both teams have earned convincing wins against Power 5 teams.
Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. has put up some head-turning stats this season but he will be going up against a Temple defense that is 18th in the nation in yards allowed per game. Temple has also held its last two opponents to a combined 15 points.
No. 18 Florida vs. No. 2 Alabama (Spread: 11)
Both of these teams are competing for the SEC Championship, but these two schools are going in opposite directions at the moment. Alabama is going for a playoff berth, while Florida is trying to come back from a slump.
On paper this matchup definitely appears to be quite lopsided. Since their loss to Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide have been running their opponents into the ground. Running back Derrick Henry has played a big role in the ’Bama offense, racking up more than 200 yards in three of his last four games (the fourth game was against Charleston Southern).
Florida has been struggling on offense since losing starting quarterback Will Grier to a performance enhancing drug suspension in October. Their poor performance against FSU where they scored just two points, it’s hard to imagine them pulling off an upset.
But it’s college football. You never know what’ll happen.
No. 10 North Carolina vs. No. 1 Clemson (Spread: -1.5 )
Clemson has had some close calls the last few weeks, but the undefeated Tigers are headed to the ACC Championship Game with a shot at locking down the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. But they’ll have to step their game up, as North Carolina has won 11 straight with a ferocious big-play offense. North Carolina’s dual threat quarterback Marquise Williams and running back Elijah Hood have produced over 2,000 combined rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns and have led a team that’s scored at least 35 points eight times this year.
On the other hand, the Tigers have been excellent on offense recently, producing 502 yards per game. Quarterback Deshaun Watson will be one to watch on the ground in addition to his aerial attack, as the Tigers put up 236 rushing yards and four scores against South Carolina last week.
Clemson has allowed less than stellar opponents to hang around in their past few games, leading to some predicting an upset in Charlotte. Either way, this game could have the greatest impact on the College Football Playoff race!
No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Iowa (Spread: -14 )
Ah yes, the de facto national quarterfinal game known as the Big Ten Championship. The winner of this matchup is pretty much guaranteed a playoff berth. Iowa has flown under the radar for much of this season but their triple-threat run offense of Jordan Canzeri, LeShun Daniels Jr. and Akrum Wadley have proven that Iowa deserves a shot at the College Football Playoffs.
For Michigan State, quarterback Connor Cook will have to play one of his best games to help the Spartans win. Iowa has a stout run defense, and the Spartans ground attack averages only 4.0 yards per carry on the season (88th in the nation, ouch). Aside from the USC-Stanford game, this is definitely an important game to watch.
Data provided by cfbstats.com
Team logos courtesy of sportslogos.net
Patrick Vossler is a senior majoring in economics. His column, “College Football Pick’em,” runs every week.