College Football Preview – Week 14

Georgia could upset and create the first BCS Championship without a conference champion.

Nash Herringtonby Nash Herrington

It is time for conference championship week in college football and there is a lot lying on the table for a lot of bowl-bound teams.  There are also some juicy matchups that should be interesting to behold in this, the final week of the season for many of the top programs.

#24 Southern Mississippi  vs  #6 Houston (Saturday, 12 ET)

Case Keenum, the nation’s leading passer (averaging nearly 400 yards-per-game through the air) leads his Houston Cougars against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles with the Conference USA title on the line.

This will be the biggest test of the season for Keenum as the Golden Eagles defense ranks second in the conference in total defense, allowing just 338 yards-per-game.  The Eagles are also tied for 10th in the country with 16 team interceptions and have allowed just 12 touchdowns through the air all season long.

This may not even worry Keenum – he has thrown just three interceptions all season while throwing for 43 touchdowns to lead the nation.

Keep an eye on Southern Mississippi quarterback Austin Davis too.  Davis himself has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns this season – he could be the key to this game.  

Everything is on the line for the Cougars, who could earn the first ever BCS Bowl bid in the team’s history with a victory.

Prediction:  Southern Mississippi  27  Houston  35

#14 Georgia  vs  #1 LSU (Saturday, 4 ET)

If you can believe it, the LSU Tigers could actually lose this game and still make it to the BCS National Championship game….yes, you read that correctly.  The BCS title game could actually consist of two teams who BOTH didn’t even win their own conference championship game.  However, if Georgia can somehow pull off the huge upset it will truly throw the BCS into a tailspin from which it may never recover.  

It is not that impossible to think of a scenario in which Georgia does beat LSU.  The Bulldogs rank (along with LSU) in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense (10th) as well as total defense (5th) and are also stifling against the run, allowing less than 95 yards-per-game on the ground.  This may cause trouble for LSU’s leading tailback duo of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford.  They have rushed for a total of 15 touchdowns this season between the two of them, but have rushed for only a combined three touchdowns in LSU’s last four games.  Ware, in particular, has been almost non-existent as of late, rushing for under 40 yards in three of his last four games played.  

The pressure will be on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray to continue his consistent play.  Murray has been excellent as of late, throwing for 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his last four games.  He will be facing probably the most athletic group of defensive backs in the country against the Tigers who have a slew of future NFL stars in their defensive backfield.  

Georgia has won 10 consecutive games since starting the year 0-2 while LSU has allowed just four total touchdowns in their last six games so it should be a really exciting game to watch with talent abound on both sides.

Prediction:  Georgia  14  LSU  20

#5 Virginia Tech  vs  #20 Clemson (Saturday, 8 ET)

Frank Beamer has once again led the Virginia Tech Hokies to the ACC title game.  This time the Hokies will be attempting to avenge an earlier season loss to the Clemson Tigers.  The Tigers looked great throughout most of the season, but have really fallen off the horse lately.  Clemson was 8-0 before losing three of their final four games of the season.  During that four-game stretch the Tigers defense has allowed over 32 points-per-game on average.  

Meanwhile, coach Beamer and the Hokies have not lost since their embarrassing October 1st collapse against this same Tigers team.  That day, the Hokies managed to put up just three points in the 23-3 loss and had just 258 total offensive yards (averaging less than four yards-per-play for the game).  

For the season, the Hokies rank 7th in scoring defense, allowing just 15.5 points-per-game while Clemson ranks 30th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging over 33 points-per-game.  Which side will prevail?  That remains to be seen.  Rematch games are always a pleasure – that remains the same.

Prediction:  Virginia Tech  28  Clemson  37

#10 Oklahoma  vs  #3 Oklahoma State (Saturday, 8 ET)

With an outside chance at playing in the BCS title game, the Oklahoma State Cowboys will be more motivated than ever in this year’s edition of “Bedlam”.  

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Sooners now have two stirring losses on their record in the last six weeks.  The Sooners pass defense has really struggled lately when facing elite throwing quarterbacks.  They currently rank 87th in the nation in passing defense.

However, Landry Jones and Co. can take solace in the fact that their competition ranks even further down the list in that same category.  The Cowboys rank a paltry 103rd in the nation in passing defense for the season.  

The Cowboys do, however, rank 2nd in the nation with 21 interceptions and have allowed just 13 passing touchdowns on the season.  Their risk/reward attitude could pay off against the Sooners.

Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden and Sooners quarterback Landry Jones rank 2nd and 3rd in the country (respectively) in passing – both averaging over 360 yards-per-game and  with a combined 62 touchdowns thrown.  However, they have also combined to throw for 24 interceptions, with 12 apiece.  

The key to this game will be seeing which defense can take the most advantage of the other team’s mistakes.  Fortunately for the Cowboys, the game is also being played in Stillwater and not Norman.  It should be a wild ride!

Prediction:  Oklahoma  38  Oklahoma State  56

#15 Wisconsin  vs  #13 Michigan State (Saturday, 8:17 ET)

Yet another rematch game will be held to decide the Big Ten Championship.  Wisconsin will attempt to avenge their October 22nd defeat in which they lost on a heart-breaking last-second Hail Mary throw from Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol.  The Spartans squeaked out the victory then, but rest assured that the Badgers will have revenge on their mind in this, the inaugural Big Ten title game.  

Wisconsin is looking to go to back-to-back Rose Bowls while Michigan State is looking for their first Rose Bowl berth since after the 1987 season over 20 years ago.  

Wisconsin’s Montee Ball is attempting to break the single-season record for rushing touchdowns and currently leads the nation with 29 on the season.  He will be facing a Spartans rush defense which has given up less than 103 yards-per-game on the year – a stiff test for sure.

Michigan State will be led by a tough-nosed defense and a balanced offensive attack.  The Spartans average 139 yards-per-game on the ground and 244 per game through the air.  

Quarterbacks Russell Wilson for Wisconsin and Kirk Cousins for Michigan State have combined for just nine interceptions on the season to go along with a combined 49 touchdowns thrown.  They are both extremely efficient veterans who have carried the torch for their respective teams.  

The coaches – Mark Dantonio of Michigan State and Brett Bielema of Wisconsin are also two of the best young coaches in today’s game.  Look for both of these teams to be heading to a BCS game no matter what the outcome here is.  The Big Ten’s first championship game should be a doozy.

Prediction:  Wisconsin  24  Michigan State  28 

 

Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS