While it isn’t the “final weekend” of the college football season (we still have almost a month for all those exciting bowl games to play out), many of the major conferences are holding their championship games this weekend. By the time Saturday night is finished, there are the possibilities of two outcomes: One, the status quo will remain in place or, two, complete chaos will reign! (Spreads from the Mirage in Las Vegas, pick in bold.)
MAC Championship Game, Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Bowling Green vs. #14 Northern Illinois (-4.5)
OK, you might think that this game has no impact on the BCS, but it does. With a victory, Northern Illinois would complete their undefeated season and could potentially improve on their #14 ranking. If they stay in the top 16 teams on the BCS rankings, they would take a BCS bowl game slot away from one of the AQ (Automatic Qualifier) schools, at this point the American Athletic Conference’s (the former Big East) champion Central Florida (who also has a battle this weekend against Southern Methodist in an attempt to pass Northern Illinois).
The oddsmakers and the betting public aren’t seeing much of a challenge for the Huskies in the Falcons. The line for the game started with NIU holding a three point edge and it has grown since the opening line. Huskies’ QB Jordan Lynch, who is getting some Heisman buzz, should lead his NIU squad to an easy win over the Falcons; then it is entirely up to the final BCS poll to see whether they earn another trip to a BCS bowl game.
Big 12 Championship
Since they are now only ten teams, the Big 12 no longer has a title game. They do have two games, however, that will determine who their representative in the BCS bowl system will be.
Oklahoma travels to Stillwater for their annual rivalry game with Oklahoma State, with the burden on the Cowboys to win the game to take the Big 12 championship. Three hours after the completion of that game, Texas will be in Waco for a battle against Baylor that may or may not be meaningful, depending on the OU/OSU result.
Oklahoma State is a 10-point favorite over Oklahoma in their game and I do expect them to win, but they won’t cover the spread. Baylor (-16) will have to settle for beating up Texas and finishing second in the Big 12 with an outside shot at a BCS bowl.
SEC Championship Game, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
#5 Missouri (+1) vs. #3 Auburn
This is the “big” contest of Championship Weekend as the SEC looks to get into the BCS title game in an attempt to extend their seven-year National Championship streak. The opening line on this game put Mizzou as the favorite, but the betting public has gotten behind Auburn so heavily that it has swung three points into their favor as of today.
Auburn is in this game only because of two fluke plays that went their way (one against Georgia two weeks ago and that historically shocking 109-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown against Alabama last weekend), while Missouri has been fairly steady all season. I expect Missouri to win this game outright and, if some stunners happen in the other title games, send the BCS into chaos.
If Missouri wins this game, do they hopscotch Alabama (currently ranked #4)? If the top two teams in the BCS lose, is their SEC Championship Game victory over Auburn enough to propel them into the BCS Championship Game? Auburn could make it easy and just win the game, but I believe they are emotionally spent after two survival games over the past two weeks.
ACC Championship Game, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
#20 Duke (+28.5) vs. #1 Florida State
Don’t misread what you see above. Duke has no shot of winning this game against the Seminoles, but the Seminoles aren’t going to be putting all their tricks on display for a potential National Championship opponent to have a look at. Florida State will get up early and then put it on cruise control to take the ACC championship. Thus, I have to take Duke and the points here.
Big Ten Championship Game, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
#2 Ohio State vs. #10 Michigan State (+5.5)
Once again, here’s where the fun might begin. Ohio State earned their berth in the Big 10 (actually twelve, but OK) by barely getting by Michigan at the “Big House” last weekend. Michigan State, who beat the Wolverines at their home in Lansing handily earlier this season, waltzed in by beating Minnesota. The Spartans aren’t going to be an easy win for the Buckeyes and, if MSU is able to knock off OSU (the Spartans will cover the spread, so anything is possible), then there will be some shuffling of the standings.
If OSU goes down, does the winner of the Auburn/Missouri game move up? Does Alabama somehow (especially if Mizzou wins the SEC) move up without even playing a game to second, taking the other BCS Title Game slot?
The myriad of options that could occur hinges on the outcomes of these games this weekend (The PAC 12 title game between Stanford and Arizona State doesn’t look like it will have an effect). Come late Saturday night, will there be peace in the final BCS standings (next year the four team playoff kicks in) or will there be turmoil?
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