It is conference championship week in college football. Champions in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference, Pac-12 and SEC will all be crowned starting tonight with the Pac-12 and MAC conference championship games. Things got started in wild fashion with UCF earning a split of the American Athletic Conference title Thursday night, hopefully setting the stage for one final weekend of craziness before heading to the bowl season.
I went 4-2 with my picks last week, swinging and missing on a Texas upset in a big way. I also took a hit by picking Georgia to beat Georgia Tech for my second loss of the weekend. My wife broke even last week, going 3-3. She got burned by Georgia as well as Arizona State and Mississippi State. We both successfully picked Alabama and Wisconsin, and Stef was much more confident in TCU than I should have been.
With one final week of picks to sort through, my overall record is 53-31. Stef is 44-34. I hold the edge in the weekly competition, 8-6. We will be making picks for the bowl season as well as next week’s Army-Navy Game, but I will celebrate my regular season championship and move on.
This week we are picking each of the conference championship games and one Big 12 contest. Here are this week’s picks.
A reminder that all times listed are eastern and rankings shown reflect College Football Playoff rankings.
MAC Championship Game: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green, Friday, 7:00 p.m. ESPN2
Our only conference championship game rematch on the agenda this weekend should be a fun one. Northern Illinois was probably one win away form playing in one of the BCS bowl games last season, but Bowling Green derailed that big bowl train. The stakes are not nearly as high this season, but the revenge factor may come into play here. NIU may start off slowly, but I think they have been the steadier team this season and the Huskies should be able to celebrate a MAC title this season.
I Say: Northern Illinois
Wife Says: Northern Illinois
Pac-12 Championship Game: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 7 Arizona, Friday, 9:00 p.m. FOX
There has been just one team to beat Oregon this season, and only one team to beat Oregon two years in a row. That is Arizona, led by Pac-12 Coach of the Year Rich Rodriguez and the defensive efforts of Scooby Wright. Arizona will give Oregon another 60-minute game, but this time Marcus Mariota and the Ducks pick up the win and wrap up a spot in the College Football Playoff to play in the Rose Bowl. We are in agreement here.
I Say: Oregon
Wife Says: Oregon
Conference USA Championship Game: Marshall vs. Louisiana Tech, 12:00 p.m. ESPN2
The floor collapsed underneath Marshall and their big bowl dreams last week with an overtime loss at home to Western Kentucky, but the Herd may not be out of the big bowl picture entirely. With some major help, the case for a 12-1 Marshall team out of the Group of Five may still be heard for consideration by the selection committee, but I think the damage is done. Besides, I think Louisiana Tech leaves town with a victory and the Conference USA championship. My wife is going with the home team here to keep those big bowl hopes alive.
I Say: Louisiana Tech
Wife Says: Marshall
SEC Championship Game: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 16 Missouri, 4:00 p.m. CBS
Of all of the major conference championship games this weekend, this is the one I feel most confident about. While I do not think Alabama should be number one in the polls, I see no reason to suspect they lose in Atlanta against Missouri. As much as I would love to see the chaos theory play out this weekend, I do not see Missouri being able to stop this Alabama team with Lane Kiffin’s offense being led by Amari Cooper, the best receiver in the game, and a growing Blake Sims. The Tide rolls in this game and locks up a spot in the playoff.
I Say: Alabama
Wife Says: Alabama
No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 9 Kansas State, 7:45 p.m. ESPN
The lone non-championship game in our weekly picks actually does have a role in the Big 12 championship picture. A win by Baylor would give them the top spot in the Big 12, thanks to a head-to-head victory against TCU. Although a TCU win would technically give the Big 12 co-champions this season, and we all know too much about this debate. Baylor gets Kansas State at home, which is key here. The Wildcats bring a steady defense, but one that likely plays better at home than on the road. This is Baylor’s last chance to prove anything, and that can be dangerous for Kansas State. I had been leaning toward Baylor all week, but now I’m going wiht the upset. Kansas State can do some damage against this Baylor defense. Not enough, according to my wife.
I Say: Kansas State
Wife Says: Baylor
ACC Championship Game: No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 11 Georgia Tech, 8:00 p.m. ABC
Florida State has played with fire all season long. Can Georgia Tech finally bring an end to the winning streak, now at 28 straight games? I think Georgia Tech will hang around and keep things close. They will have to capitalize on Florida State errors, which they are clearly capable of having. But in the end, I suspect this game will play out much the same way the previous 12 have for Florida State. At 13-0 with the ACC title in hand, Florida State locks up a spot in the playoff.
I Say: Florida State
Wife Says: Florida State
Big Ten Championship Game: No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 13 Wisconsin, 8:17 p.m. FOX
You know I have been advocating Ohio State as a playoff candidate for a long time now, so this might surprise you. Without J.T. Barrett, I think Ohio State is ready to be taken down by a surging Wisconsin team. The Badgers have come on strong down the stretch and are healthy. The Wisconsin defense is more than capable of doing things to frustrate Ohio State’s offense, and the running game with Melvin Gordon should be more than strong enough to tire Ohio State’s talented defense. Plus, I have no clue what to really expect from Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones. I’m going with the Badgers to take Ohio State out of playoff contention, leaving the Big Ten out of the playoff entirely. My wife thinks Ohio State’s fans will continue to have reasons to believe.
I Say: Wisconsin
Wife Says: Ohio State
Mountain West Conference Championship Game: No. 22 Boise State vs. Fresno State, 10:00 p.m. CBS
Last, but certainly not least, the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. Fresno State is back in it for a second straight season, but this year the Bulldogs are a healthy underdog on the road. Boise State is one win away from a return to the big New Years bowl line-up, and a win at home against the Bulldogs would likely lock that up with no other Group of Five candidate within site in the playoff rankings. Boise State is 7-0 all-time at home against Fresno State. That trend should continue, and Boise State could be heading back to Atlanta to end the season where it started.
I Say: Boise State
Wife Says: Boise State
So there are our championship week picks. Leave a comment below to say who you think will win any of these games, or which one of us will have the better week. We will return next week with an Army-Navy Game pick and then continue through the bowl season with our bowl picks.