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The Week That Will Be: Championship Saturday

Who will play in the bowls that matter?

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Texas John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week: 3-3 ATS 4-2 SU

For the Year: 38-39-1 (.494) (-$490) ATS 56-22 (.718) SU

We learned last week…

  • South Florida and Central Florida combined for more than 1,100 yards, but it was UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton that was the difference, as he accounted for more than 400 total yards and 5 touchdowns.

  • Myles Gaskin ran for 192 yards and 4 touchdowns, and Luke Falk had 4 turnovers as the Huskies secured their first back to back double digits win seasons since the early 90’s.

  • I hope you are sitting down…but Ohio State defeated Michigan. The Wolverines jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but Ohio State came roaring back to take the lead in the second half. It appeared that Michigan might once again wrestle control when J.T. Barrett left with a mysterious injury, but backup Dwayne Haskins completed six of seven passes for 94 yards.

  • Jarrett Stidham had no fear of Alabama, completing 75% of his passes for 237 yards as Nick Saban is now 0-7 against Auburn teams with at least 9 wins in his career.

  • Baker Mayfield’s suspension lasted all of two plays and then he only needed 17 attempts to throw for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns, leading Oklahoma to six straight touchdown drives. Running back Rodney Anderson had three touchdowns in the first half for the second time in three weeks as Oklahoma looks pretty damn unbeatable right now.

  • Baylor. Kansas. Texas. Texas Tech’s three wins in a 3-6 conference season. The company we keep.

In this space two weeks ago we wrote this:

Split these games and finish 6-6? Okay, that isn’t the season anyone around here wanted, but the program is in a bowl game, which should be the absolute minimum standard for this Texas program. The progress from 2016 might be minute, but the extra practices will be essential as a springboard into 2018.

So why do I feel like this team left a LOT on the table last Friday against Texas Tech?

Texas fans had all the warm and fuzzies when the Longhorns left Morgantown, because the Longhorns finally did the unthinkable, winning a game that nobody expected them to win. The Longhorns wins to date were over San Jose State (2-11), Iowa State (7-5), Kansas State (7-5), Baylor (1-11) and Kansas (1-11). Three eleven loss teams and two teams that weren’t playing as well when they played them as they were later in the season.

Not that West Virginia is threatening to make the College Football Playoff or anything, but they were a serviceable bunch who certainly looked headed for a Top third finish in the conference for much of the season.

And then they gave it all away at DKR last Friday.

Frankly they looked much like a team that had already accomplished their goal of getting to an extra game, and it showed as they appeared to have next to zero killer instinct when they had the Red Raiders down by 10, and even worse, they folded when the pressure was on late in the game.

This season wasn’t some rebuilding job where there needed to be a massive cultural shift or an overhaul of the roster. This was a rebuilding job where enough talent was there to win eight or nine games – they just didn’t know how.

For that, Tom Herman and his staff failed them.

And for the whatever season in a row, Texas fans are left glad that this season is over.

It isn’t over, of course, for there is one more game to play, for whoever decides to show up and play as the Longhorns try to avoid their first back to back to back to back losing seasons since before the second World War (1935-1938). The attrition battle has already begun, and rumors are that it won’t be pretty, but if his staff can close out this recruiting class it will go a long way towards easing that pain.

The work for 2018 starts now.

Of course there is this little thing called the College Football Playoff to be discussed, although you might forgive Texas fans for forgetting about it, since the Longhorns have never been ranked in any position of the poll in its four year existence, unlike teams like the mighty Fresno State Bulldogs.

Speaking of the Bulldogs, everyone knows they are in the poll this week to justify jumping Alabama (who claim the Bulldogs as a quality win this year) up into the top four this weekend when the inevitable upset occurs, so prepare yourself for that now.

I figure these five teams are in for sure if they win this weekend: Clemson, Auburn, Georgia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin

If Miami beats Clemson, or if TCU knocks off Oklahoma, or if Ohio State knocks off Wisconsin? Roll Tide.

There are some delicious potential matchups when you look at these possibilities….an Iron Bowl rematch in New Orleans, or Oklahoma’s offense against Wisconsin’s defense in the Rose Bowl, or a Clemson/Alabama rematch, or Auburn and Oklahoma again in the Rose Bowl.

Sorry, Ohio State, when you lose by 30 to Iowa, you’re out.

Finally some football we can look forward to.

On to the games...

AAC Championship: Memphis @ UCF -7

Central Florida completed their undefeated regular season last week with their win over South Florida, while Memphis suffered one defeat this year – a 40-13 loss in Orlando to Central Florida back in September. The winner of this game is likely headed to a New Years Six bowl.

Memphis did finish their season with one loss – however they had a propensity to give up loads of points – 45 to UCLA, 31 to Southern Illinois, 31 to a bad UConn team, 38 to Houston and 45 to SMU. They ended up ranked 94th in the country in S&P defense, but their 4th ranked offense made them look good.

In the first matchup between these two teams, Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson threw 3 interceptions – while that won’t happen again, I don’t see the overall result changing.

Central Florida 44 Memphis 34

ATS – Central Florida

SU – Central Florida

Pac 12 Championship: USC -3.5 v. Stanford

This is another rematch of a regular season matchup (seems to be a theme this weekend), as USC defeated Stanford 42-24 way back on September 9 – and it wasn’t pretty.

USC ran up 623 total yards, including 307 rushing yards, as Stephen Carr and Ronald Jones both rushed for more than 100 yards. It might have been USC’s best game of the year.

Stanford followed up that loss with a loss to San Diego State, and it briefly looked like it might be a long year in Palo Alto, but they then won 8 of 9, with that one loss coming by a field goal on the road at Washington State.

USC, meanwhile, had a mid-season swoon that also featured a field goal loss to Washington State and a drubbing at the hands of Notre Dame, but themselves have won four in a row, and more importantly, Sam Darnold appears to be good again, as he threw for 7 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions in that span.

The South division is 0-6 in the history of this game, and while I expect it to be nothing like the first contest, I think Stanford needs a healthy Bryce Love to keep up with the Trojans.

USC 31 Stanford 24



Big 10 Championship: Wisconsin v. Ohio State -6.5

Wisconsin is undefeated and Ohio State has two losses, so that tells you how much Vegas disrespects the play of Wisconsin – which is nearly a touchdown underdog in this game.

The Badgers certainly deserve credit for finishing 12-0 and certainly are into the playoffs with a win in this game, but it is hard to deny the fact that their schedule wasn’t the toughest – avoiding Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State in the regular season.

The Buckeyes have won 5 in a row in this series – including a 59-0 drubbing in this game three years ago – but the injury status of JT Barrett complicates matters. If he plays, Ohio State has a very real chance of winning this game, but if he doesn’t, Dwayne Haskins might feel himself overwhelmed by a Wisconsin defense that finished first in the country in S&P defense.

Ohio State 27 Wisconsin 23

ATS – Wisconsin

SU – Ohio State

SEC Championship: Auburn -2.5 v. Georgia:

Georgia is trying to win their first SEC Championship since 2005 (they’re 0-2 in this game since then), while Auburn hasn’t won since 2013.

Auburn obliterated Georgia three weeks ago 40-17 at Jordan-Hare, in a game where the Auburn defense held that vaunted Georgia rushing attack to 1.4 yards per carry for the game. Jacob Fromm wasn’t able to bridge the divide, completing less than 50% of his passes for a paltry 184 yards.

This game figures to be closer, but the question is how Auburn’s injuries and emotional hangover from last weekend will affect them, particularly running back Kerryon Johnson, who ran for 167 yards in that game.

Auburn looks to be somewhat a team of destiny right now, no matter how difficult it might be to beat three Top 6 teams in a span of four weeks.

Auburn 31 Georgia 23

ATS – Auburn

SU – Auburn

ACC Championship: Clemson -9.5 v. Miami:

Miami had their national leading 16 game winning streak snapped last week at Pittsburgh in an ugly game where the Hurricanes only managed 232 total offensive yards. Miami had a nice two game stretch against Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, but this loss followed a disturbing trend – the Hurricanes had trailed at the half in 5 of their 11 games.

Clemson secured their third straight 11-win season last week against South Carolina and could perhaps wrap up the top overall seed win here and a trip to New Orleans for semi-final instead of a cross country trip to Los Angeles.

If Miami had issues with Pitt and their defense, they’re not going to have success against Clemson. As long as the Tigers stay away from the turnover chain they should be okay.

Clemson 28 Miami 21

ATS – Miami

SU – Clemson

Big 12 Championship: TCU v. Oklahoma -7:

The Big 12 Championship game is back after a five-year sabbatical, and it is as useless as ever, as the conference stands to miss out on the college football playoff if Oklahoma loses.

Guess which team I am rooting for.

These teams also played three weeks ago, and much like the Auburn/Georgia matchup, this one was also a blowout, as Oklahoma scored 38 points in the first half before laying off the gas in the second half.

Baker Mayfield threw for 333 yards and 3 touchdowns in that game, while Rodney Anderson pitched in 290 total yards and 4 touchdowns.

It is a reasonable question if Oklahoma can defeat Gary Patterson twice in one season, and a month-span at that. You can bet that Patterson has had a few sleepless nights preparing for this Oklahoma offense that is playing as well as any unit in the country since the Texas game.

While I expect this one to be more of a fight, I just don’t think that TCU has the firepower to keep up with Oklahoma. The best the Horned Frogs can ask for is to keep Oklahoma to 30 points…can a banged up Kenny Hill lead TCU to that many points?

Oklahoma 34 TCU 21

ATS – Oklahoma

SU – Oklahoma

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for Texas bowl merchandise.