Can Georgia beat LSU? Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I think they can. Look for Oklahoma, Virgina Tech, and Wisconsin to be the other big winners this weekend.
For people like me who derive much pleasure from the BCS fiasco at the end of every college football season, last weekend was a huge disappointment. For all the potential for upsets, few occurred. LSU came back to pummel Arkansas, Alabama ran over Auburn, Virginia Tech blew out Virginia, Stanford handled Notre Dame, Houston drilled Tulsa, Georgia beat Georgia Tech, South Carolina got by Clemson, Wisconsin destroyed Penn State, and Michigan squeaked by Ohio State. If the previous weekend was the most exciting college football weekend of the year, last weekend was the most boring. Quite disappointing, really.
Thankfully, there is one more weekend of games, many of which have conference championship implications, and a few of which could impact the BCS picture. Here are some of the games that matter and how I expect (or in some cases, hope) they will go down. I will start with the most interesting and work my way to the least interesting.
Georgia (10-2) vs. LSU (12-0), Atlanta
LSU showed exactly how good they are last weekend against a (now) two-loss Arkansas team. Down 14-0 after one quarter, the Tigers reeled off 41-3 run en route to a 41-17 win. LSU has faced seven teams that were ranked at the time they played them, and few of those teams have even given Les Miles' group a game. The Tigers can seal a BCS championship birth with a win this weekend over Georgia, and perhaps would play in that game even with a loss. But I'm going with my heart in this one. The truth is, I would love to see the Bulldogs throw the whole process for a loop by upsetting the Tigers. Can they do it? I think they can, although may it's wishful thinking. Yes, you heard it hear first; I think Georgia will be LSU. Since back-to-back losses to start the season, Georgia has impressively won ten straight, led by quarterback Aaron Murray's arm. While his completion percentage isn't as high as it should be and he does throw an occasional pick, he's also tossed 32 touchdown passes. He's also blessed with a defense that gives up the tenth fewest points in the nation. There's no question in my mind that LSU is the better team, but UGA fans will travel to Atlanta in droves. Think Little Giants: "One time! One time!"
Prediction: Georgia 24, LSU 22
Oklahoma (9-2) at Oklahoma State (10-1)
This game isn't technically the conference championship, but the winner does take the conference and earn a BCS bid. It would have been even more interesting, had both of these teams not lost key games down the stretch (Oklahoma State to Iowa State, Oklahoma to Baylor). Neither team is playing its best football of the season. Both teams benefit from strong quarterback play: Cowboys' quarterback Brandon Weeden and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones have both made their way onto various Heisman lists. Both teams put up a lot of points, so we can supposed it will be a high-scoring affair. It will be to Oklahoma State's benefit to host this game, unlike several of the other conference championships, which are played at neutral sites.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 41, Oklahoma 38
Virginia Tech (11-1) vs. Clemson (9-3), Charlotte
The ACC Championship is one of the rematches this weekend. Clemson stunned the Hokies 23-3 on October 1 at Virginia Tech. But since then, the two teams have taken off in opposite directions. Tech has reeled off seven straight wins; Clemson has stumbled to three losses in its last four games. Might teams be developing ways to stop Tiger quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins? Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer is one of the most underrated coaches in the nation, and he seems to have his squad in this position almost every year. I expect the Hokies to avenge their previous loss and go on to a BCS game.
Prediction: Virgina Tech 27, Clemson 15
Wisconsin (10-2) vs. Michigan State (10-2), Indianapolis
This game is also a rematch. The Spartans knocked off the Badgers 37-31 on a end-of-game hailmary earlier this season. Both teams have finished strong, especially the Badgers who won four straight after two mid-season losses. These teams are similar in that they benefit from balanced offensive attacks, but I again like the revenge factor here. They also both possess strong defenses. Badger quarterback Russell Wilson is more of a dual threat than MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins, and I expect that difference to be a factor, although I think this game will be lower scoring than the last time these two teams matched up.
Prediction: Wisconsin 24, Michigan State 20
Southern Missouri (10-2) at Houston (12-0)
When's the last time a Conference USA championship consisted of two ranked teams, one of which has a legitimate chance to play in a BCS game? It's a rhetorical question; I don't know the answer. I thought the best chance for Houston to lose a game was last week's match-up with Tulsa. But after an early struggle, quarterback Case Keenum and company pulled away, 48-16. I don't think a Southern Missouri team that lost this year to Marshall and University of Alabama-Birmingham. System quarterback or not, expect Case Keenum to have a big day, and for his Cougars, playing at home, to win big.
Prediction: Houston 45, Southern Missouri 12
UCLA (6-6) at Oregon (10-2)
When Pac-12 officials decided to go to a conference championship, I doubt this is what they had in mind. Seeing a Stanford-Oregon or USC-Oregon rematch would have been a lot more interesting than seeing a mediocre UCLA team that is saying goodbye to its coach. Something interesting to consider: what if this UCLA team found a way to upset Oregon. They would be heading to a BCS game with a fired coach. It's not going to happen, though. We're talking about a team that just lost to USC, 50-0. Expect more of the same from Oregon.
Prediction: Oregon 48, UCLA 6
West Virginia (8-3) at South Florida (5-6)
This game kicks off the conference championship weekend. Against Pitt, West Virginia trailed 20-7 before coming back to win 21-20. The comeback kept their conference championship and BCS hopes alive. The Mountaineers play against a South Florida team that started 4-0 and then lost six of its last seven games. While that stretch has certainly shaken their confidence, all those games except one were lost by a touchdown or less. Which means this Bulls team is no slouch. Factor in the game's location and the desire to knock off a team with something to play for, I like the Bulls in an upset. West Virginia wasn't sharp in their win last weekend, but this weekend they won't get away with it.
Prediction: South Florida 27, West Virginia 21
Connecticut (5-6) at Cincinnati (8-3)
If Cincinnati wins this weekend and West Virginia loses, the Bearcats will be heading to a BCS bowl. As unintimidating as this team is, that's exactly what I expect to happen. It helps to be at home, and this is a UConn team that lost to the likes of Western Michigan. Cincinnati will return to the BCS before their former coach, Brian Kelly, gets there with his new team, Notre Dame.
Prediction: Cincinnatti 23, Connecticut 10