Professor’s Bowl Picks

2011-12 College Football Bowls

Welcome back to The Campus Game and the end of fall term.

With final exams a fast fading memory, students fleeing for home and the holidays, the college campus is a quiet, peaceful place over Christmas break.  Strolling along Lumpkin Street during a brief trip to Athens the past couple of mornings, the loudest sounds came from the football practice fields where the Bulldogs prepared for an Outback Bowl appearance against Michigan State.

Below is the lineup for all 2011-2012 college football bowl games (listing courtesy of the Rivals website).

Enjoy!

1/10/12 UPDATE: The Professor finished a respectable 23-12 in bowl picks but did miss the BCS championship prediction for the first time in eight years.

* All times Eastern

NEW MEXICO BOWL
Temple (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-4)
WHEN: Dec. 17, 2 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Albuquerque
COMMENT: Steve Addazio leads the Temple Owls to a bowl bid in the Land of Enchantment after a solid inaugural season.  Cowboys look to build momentum for 2012 when they’ll soon become a Mountain West power with the defection of Boise State and TCU.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: TEMPLE
RESULT: Temple 37-15 (Professor 1-0)

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL
Ohio (9-4) vs. Utah State (7-5)
WHEN: Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Boise, Idaho
COMMENT: Ohio comes into the game fresh from a tough MAC title game loss to Northern Illinois behind the leadership of dual threat QB Tyler Tettleton.  The US Aggies have won five straight entering the spud bowl and earlier in the season put a big scare into Auburn and BYU before losing close games.
PROFESSOR”S PICK: UTAH STATE
RESULT: Ohio 24-23 (Professor 1-1)

NEW ORLEANS BOWL
San Diego State (8-4) vs. LA-Lafayette (8-4)
WHEN: Dec. 17, 8 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: New Orleans
COMMENT: LA-L will be playing a virtual home game at the Super Dome and that crowd should be enough to get the Ragin Cajuns past Rocky Long’s Aztecs.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: LA-LAFAYETTE
RESULT: LA-L 32-30 (Professor 2-1)

BEEF O’BRADY’S BOWL
Florida International (8-4) vs. Marshall (6-6)
WHEN: Dec. 20, 8 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: St. Petersburg, Fla.
COMMENT: FIU and coach Mario Cristobal are both up-and-comers (the Panthers hope to hang onto to Cristobal during the on-going coaching carousel) and should get by Doc Holliday and the Thundering Herd.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: FIU
RESULT: Marshall 20-10 (Professor 2-2)

POINSETTIA BOWL
TCU (10-2) vs. Lousisana Tech (8-4)

WHEN: Dec. 21, 8 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: San Diego
COMMENT: Nabbing TCU is a nice coup for the Poinsettia Bowl and playing the highly regarded Horned Frogs is a nice opportunity for Sonny Dykes and the LA Tech Bulldogs.  Expect the Frogs to get a big win before heading off to join the Big 12.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: TCU

RESULT: TCU 31-24 (Professor 3-2)

MAACO LAS VEGAS BOWL
Arizona State (6-6) vs. Boise State (11-1)
WHEN: Dec. 22, 8 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Las Vegas
COMMENT: The Broncos return to Sin City a second consecutive time thanks to a tough loss to TCU (which knocked Boise from a BCS bowl).  The game with ASU marks the swan song for record-setting Broncos QB Kellen Moore … and also for Sun Devils head coach Dennis Erickson.  Boise agains shows it can whip the power conferences.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: BOISE STATE
RESULT: BOISE 56-24 (Professor 4-2)

HAWAII BOWL
Nevada (7-5) at Southern Miss (11-2)
WHEN: Dec. 24, 8 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Honolulu
COMMENT: The USM Golden Eagles took an interesting path to the islands – thanks to bowl contracts between the SEC and Big East, and some nifty vacation planning by soon-to-be-former USM head coach Larry Fedora.  Typically, the Conference-USA champion would play an SEC team at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis (a nice, easy drive for USM fans).  However, since the SEC had only nine bowl-eligible squads this season (and thus could not place a team in the Compass Bowl in Birmingham), the Liberty Bowl contract called for an SEC-Big East matchup … so the Liberty could not invite Southern Miss and its thousands of fans to take on Vandy.  That left USM with the choice of any other C-USA bowl partner and Fedora (before taking the North Carolina job a few days later) acted like any good travel agent and opted for a week in paradise for his squad.  Can’t blame him!  Let’s say his team gets a win too.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: USM
RESULT: USM 24-17 (Professor 5-2)

INDEPENDENCE BOWL
Missouri (7-5) vs. North Carolina (7-5)
WHEN: Dec. 26, 5 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Shreveport, La.
COMMENT: A bonus SEC-ACC game as the Tigers of Missouri move to the SEC next season.  Changes will take place in beautiful Chapel Hill too as interim coach Everett Withers moves on to Ohio State and Larry Fedora takes over the Heels after this game.

PROFESSOR’S PICK: MIZZOU
RESULT: Mizzou 41-24 (Professor 6-2)

LITTLE CAESARS PIZZA BOWL
Western Michigan (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)
WHEN: Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Detroit
COMMENT: WMU will want it more, but the Boilers should be a bit better.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: PURDUE
RESULT: Purdue 37-32 (Professor 7-2)

BELK BOWL
Louisville (7-5) vs. NC State (7-5)

WHEN: Dec. 27, 8:00 ESPN
WHERE: Charlotte
COMMENT: Up and down Wolfpack takes down Cardinals.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: NC STATE

RESULT: NC State 31-24 (Professor 8-2)

MILITARY BOWL
Toledo (8-4) vs. Air Force (7-5)
WHEN: Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Washington, D.C.
COMMENT: Falcons option attack should run over the Rockets.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: AFA
RESULT: Toledo 42-41 (Professor 8-3)

HOLIDAY BOWL
Cal (7-5) vs. Texas (7-5)

WHEN: Dec. 28, 8 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: San Diego
COMMENT: Holiday Bowl is always a Professor’s favorite, but this matchup is not up to par.  Horns hook Bears.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: TEXAS

RESULT: Texas 21-10 (Professor 9-3)

CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL
Notre Dame (8-4) vs. Florida State (8-4)
WHEN: Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Orlando
COMMENT: Game is a sellout, TV ratings should be boffo, and the setting is great.  Not so sure the game will live up though because FSU’s defense will be tough for Irish.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: FSU
RESULT: FSU 18-14 (Professor 10-3)

ALAMO BOWL
Washington (7-5) vs. Baylor (9-3)
WHEN: Dec. 29, 9:00 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: San Antonio
COMMENT: Think the folks at Valero are happy to sponsor this year’s Heisman winner?  Me too.  Robert Griffin III and the Bears should bring a whole bunch of fans down to the San Anton … and should whip the Huskies.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: BAYLOR
RESULT: Baylor 67-56 (Professor 11-3)

ARMED FORCES BOWL
BYU (9-3) vs. Tulsa (8-4)
WHEN: Dec. 30, noon, ESPN
WHERE: Dallas
COMMENT: Two pretty good offenses on display in big D.  Think it’s Tulsa Time.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: TULSA
RESULT: BYU 24-21 (Professor 11-4)

PINSTRIPE BOWL
Rutgers (8-4) vs. Iowa State (6-6)
WHEN: Dec. 30, 3:20 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: New York
COMMMENT: The visuals alone make this game at Yankee Stadium worth watching.  If the East Coast gets a snowstorm, well – all the better.  Iowa State is better, but Rutgers is essentially at home so let’s go with the Scarlet Knights.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: RUTGERS
RESULT: Rutgers 27-13 (Professor 12-4)

MUSIC CITY BOWL
Miss State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)

WHEN: Dec. 30, 6:40 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Nashville
COMMENT: Two pretty solid coaches in Dan Mullen of MSU and Jim Grobe of Wake, but I like the Bullies team better.  This should be a very physical matchup.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: MISS STATE

RESULT: MISS STATE 23-17 (Professor 13-4)

INSIGHT BOWL
Iowa (7-5) vs. Oklahoma (9-3)
WHEN: Dec. 30, 10 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Tempe, Ariz.
COMMENT: The Hawkeyes return to Tempe for a second straight year and they are fortunate to be there having lost three of five to close the season, including double-digit losses to Michigan State and Nebraska.  Iowa should at least have the motivation edge over OU because the Sooners expected to be playing in “a” BCS bowl if not “the” BCS bowl.  Those hopes got gashed in a 44-10 season finale debacle against OK State.  I’m leery of teams that don’t want to be at their bowl, but will go with talent over motivation in this one.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: OK
RESULT: Oklahoma 31-14 (Professor 14-4)

MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL OF TEXAS
Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Northwestern (6-6)
WHEN: Dec. 31, noon, ESPN
WHERE: Houston
COMMENT: The Aggies enter the game with interim coach Tim DeRuyter at the helm. The A&M defensive coordinator takes over for the deposed Mike Sherman, and will take over as head coach at Fresno State after the bowl as the Kevin Sumlin era begins in College Station. The coaching situation couldn’t be more stable in Evanston as Pat Fitzgerald – always on everybody’s short list when vacancies arise – seems to be a potential lifer for the Purple. NU is plucky, but the Aggies are stronger and faster.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: TEXAS A&M
RESULT: Texam A&M 33-22 (Professor 15-4)

SUN BOWL
Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Utah (7-5)
WHEN: Dec. 31, 2 p.m., CBS
WHERE: El Paso, Texas
COMMENT: Utah finished the season winning four of five, but the last game was a stinker – a 17-14 loss to lowly Colorado. Tech struggled down the stretch. After a 6-0 start, the Jackets lost four of six and yielded over 30 points in the last three games. Although flinty Tech coach Paul Johnson never admits it, his teams struggle in bowl games because opponents have time to prepare for the triple option. I think it will happen again.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: UTAH
RESULT: Utah 30-27 (Professor 16-4)

LIBERTY BOWL
Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)
WHEN: Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m., ABC
WHERE: Memphis
COMMENT: Typically this game matches the C-USA champ with an SEC opponent, but due to some scheduling agreements (see Hawaii Bowl above), the Liberty gets a good Big East team in Cincy playing the home state Commodores. First year Vandy coach James Franklin is fiery and has done a find job in Nashville; watch QB Jordan Rodgers – he’s a good player (yes – he’s the brother of Green Bay’s Aaron). Bearcat coach Butch Jones had his team in contention for a BCS berth all season and actually tied for the conference championship behind dual threat QB Zach Collaros. This one should be pretty good, but I like Cincy.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: CINCY
RESULT: Cincy 31-24 (Professor 17-4)

KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL
Illinois (6-6) vs. UCLA (6-7)
WHEN: Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: San Francisco
COMMENT: This games tests the old Professor’s theory that there is no such thing as a bad bowl game. UCLA got an exemption to play in the game with a losing record, and both teams can’t get to the New Year fast enough. I would suggest tuning to the Liberty Bowl instead.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: UCLA
RESULT: Illinois 20-14 (Professor 17-5)

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL
Auburn (7-5) vs. Virginia (8-4)
WHEN: Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Atlanta
COMMENT: The old Peach Bowl has really taken off in popularity since Chick-Fil-A (America’s finest fast-service chain) became the primary sponsor, and solidified the New Year’s Evening date. I am nursing a bit of a grudge againts the Chick-Fil-A because their media folks have not approved my credentials the past few years (and I don’t think it has anything to do with me gobbling down several of those great chicken sandwiches in the press box that last time), but this is usually an exciting game to wrap up the calendar. Auburn is about what most people expected, and UVA is better than predicted. With the Tigers losing both coordinators, I think the Cavaliers win.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: VIRGINIA
RESULT: Auburn 43-24 (Professor 17-6)

TICKETYCITY BOWL
Houston (12-1) vs. Penn State (9-3)
WHEN: Jan. 2, noon, ESPNU
WHERE: Dallas
COMMENT: The saddest season finally ends for Penn State. Let’s go with the Lions since nothing has gone right for them in a long time.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: PENN STATE
RESULT: Houston 30-14 (Professor 17-7)

OUTBACK BOWL
Michigan State (10-3) vs. Georgia (10-3)
WHEN: Jan. 2, 1 p.m., ABC
WHERE: Tampa
COMMENT: After an 0-2 start, Georgia rebounded with ten straight wins before losing to LSU in the SEC title game. Head coach Mark Richt may have needed every one of those victories because the Bulldog faithful were very restless. Now, Richt is set to sign a contract extension, the Dogs return a bunch of talent in 2012, and the conference schedule for next season is very favorable (again). Quite a difference since early September. The Spartans also lost in a conference title game and they were one of the Big Ten’s best squads all season. State is rugged on both sides of the ball (I’m not convinced of Georgia’s toughness on offense), but the Dog defense may be a bit too fast for them.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: GEORGIA
RESULT: MSU 33-30 (Professor 17-8)

CAPITAL ONE BOWL
Nebraska (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2)
WHEN: Jan. 2, 1 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Orlando
COMMENT: Yet another B1G vs SEC New Year’s Day game finds the old ball coach returning to his home state and trying to coax the USC Gamecocks to 11 wins – which would be a first in school history. They will need to get past a Nebraska team that runs the ball well but struggles in the passing game. I don’t particularly think either team is all that good, but will go with SC on a hunch.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: SOUTH CAROLINA
RESULT: South Carolina 30-13 (Professor 18-8)

GATOR BOWL
Ohio State (6-6) vs. Florida (6-6)
WHEN: Jan. 2, 1:00 p.m., ESPN2
WHERE: Jacksonville
COMMENT: This is an intriguing matchup because of the Urban Meyer angle. The former Gator head coach accepted the Ohio State position a few weeks ago and has apparently been at least peripherally involved in preparation for this game (based on comments by Buckeye interim head coach Luke Fickell). I’m sure that sits real well with the Florida folks who were already mad at Meyer for returing to the sidelines less than a year after retiring for health reasons. On the field, both teams finished at .500 but State sure seems like the better team right now. QB Braxton Miller is stellar and should be a real force running Meyer’s spread attack the next three years. Florida was inept most of the season on offense and the departure of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to become head coach at Kansas was met with near glee in Gainesville. Gator coach Will Muschamp has his work cut out for him and it won’t get any easier if he loses to Urban Meyer’s new team.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: OHIO STATE
RESULT: Florida 24-17 (Professor 18-9)

ROSE BOWL
Oregon (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (11-2)
WHEN: Jan. 2, 5:00 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Pasadena, Calif.
COMMENT: A really nice contrasting matchup between the fleet Ducks of Oregon and the powerful Badgers of Wisconsin (returning to the granddaddy for a second straight season). For my money, this is the best of the BCS bowls outside the title game. I’ll go with Bucky.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: WISCONSIN
RESULT: Oregon 45-38 (Professor 18-10)

FIESTA BOWL
Stanford (11-1) vs. Oklahoma State (11-1)
WHEN: Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Glendale, Ariz.
COMMENT: After suffering through a miserable pairing last year (Oklahoma vs U Conn), the Fiesta landed a dandy this time. OK State could make a legitimate argument for deserving to play in the BCS championship, but the Cowboys will have their hands full with Stanford and soon-to-be NFL #1 Andrew Luck. Use up your remote batteries early in the day, then set the channel to ESPN for a great double header of the Rose and the Fiesta. What a great day of college football!
PROFESSOR’S PICK: OKLAHOMA STATE
RESULT: OK State 41-38 (Professor 19-10)

SUGAR BOWL
Michigan (10-2) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2)
WHEN: Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: New Orleans
COMMENT: I’ll repeat this complaint … call me old-fashioned but I prefer more games on New Year’s Day instead of spreading these major bowls out over several nights. The Sugar Bowl got the opportunity of offering two at-large bids due to the SEC placing two teams into the national championship game. Michigan, with the tradition and the large fan base, was pretty much a given even though the Wolverines did not get to the Big Ten title game. QB Denard Robinson – aka Shoelace – is perhaps the most exciting player in college football. The Sugar’s selection of Virginia Tech caused some backlash, even though the Hokies actually did make it to the ACC title game (where they were trounced by Clemson). The Big Ten suffered another ugly bowl day on Jan. 2nd, but I think Michigan pulls out the win.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: MICHIGAN
RESULT: Michigan 23-20 (Professor 20-10)

ORANGE BOWL
West Virginia (9-3) vs. Clemson (10-3)
WHEN: Jan. 4, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Miami
COMMENT: The least appealing of the BCS games on paper, this may turn out to be an exciting game. Keep any eye of Clemson’s explosive freshman WR Sammy Watkins – he’s big time. ACC teams have done little of note this bowl season, but I like the Tigers.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: CLEMSON
RESULT: WVU 70-33 (Professor 20-11)

COTTON BOWL
Kansas State (10-2) vs. Arkansas (10-2)
WHEN: Jan. 6, 8 p.m., Fox
WHERE: Arlington, Texas
COMMENT: Think the Jerry Dome will be rocking with these two fan bases filling the place on a Friday night. For a 2nd consecutive year, the Cotton Bowl lands a matchup of BCS worthy teams. Arkansas lost only to the teams playing for the national championship, and K-State had a strong case for landing the at-large Sugar Bowl bid that went to Virginia Tech. I think the Hogs are a better team, but do not always count on Bobby Petrino to have them ready.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: ARKANSAS
RESULT: Arkansas 29-16 (Professor 21-11)

BBVA COMPASS BOWL
SMU (7-5) vs. Pitt (6-6)
WHEN: Jan. 7, 1:00, ESPN
WHERE: Birmingham, Ala.
COMMENT: Pitt returns to Birmingham a second straight season … and again with a coaching staff issue. Last year, AD Steve Pederson (how does he keep his job) botched up things by firing solid coach Dave Wannstedt. After new hire Mike Haywood ran into legal issues, Todd Graham was hired from Tulsa. Graham bolted for Arizona State just a few weeks ago. Paul Chryst of Wisonsin takes over after this one. Meantime, the Mustangs also had some coaching angst as June Jones thought he had an offer for that same Arizona State job only to have it pulled and given to Graham. Whew! I think Junie makes a statement in this one, although SMU will struggle with the Pitt rushing attack.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: SMU
RESULT: SMU 28-6 (Professor 22-11)

GODADDY.COM BOWL
Arkansas State (10-2) vs. N. Illinois (10-3)
WHEN: Jan. 8, 9 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Mobile, Ala.
COMMENT: Some coaching turnover in this game too as Auburn OC Gus Malzahn takes the helm at ASU after the game, replacing Hugh Freeze who’s on his way to Ole Miss. I don’t think it will matter because NIU is very good.
PROFESSOR’S PICK: NIU
RESULT: NIU 38-20 (Professor 23-11)

BCS Championship Game (see post for full breakdown)
PROFESSOR’S PICK: LSU
RESULT: Alabama 21-0 (Professor 23-12)

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Professor’s Picks – Championship Week

2011 Record

Final Regular Season Record: 120-41
Last Week’s Record: 11-6

Comment: Like a student struggling to reach semester’s end, the old professor saw grades slip late in the term. Two straight weeks with five or more wrong answers is enough to pass the class comfortably, but not to earn any academic honors.

Championship week is upon us and the prof will be monitoring SEC football final exams for LSU and the alma mater from the press box at the Georgia Dome on Saturday afternoon. The Bengal Tigers look to be a BCS Championship Game lock – win or lose against the Dogs – but an upset win by Georgia could garner the SEC an unprecedented three teams in the BCS bowls.

Enjoy championship week and keep in mind some conferences are still playing regular season games too (South Florida and West Virginia square off on Thursday night).

Championship Game Professor’s Picks

MAC Championship
Ohio (9-3) vs. N. Illinois (9-3)
Friday, Dec. 2nd at 7:00 ET
Ford Field (Detroit, MI)
Television: ESPN2
Preview: The MAC is one of the most underrated conferences in the land for my money. For the past several weeks, the old professor has enjoyed MAC games nearly every Tuesday and Wednesday, so I’ve missed them this week almost as much as Thanksgiving leftovers. The game should be exciting. These teams did not meet during the regular season, and both put up the points. NIU is led by one of the nation’s best quarterbacks in Chandler Harnish, a true dual-threat who rung up over 2600 yards passing and 1300 yards rushing during the regular season. The Huskies survived one of the year’s most thrilling games when they beat Toledo 63-60 (in regulation!) on November 1st. I watched every minute and it was as exciting a game as I saw all season. The Bobcats are not as prolific on offense, but still plenty good. QB Tyler Tettleton has passed for over 2800 yards and added more than 500 rushing, so he’s quite the dual threat too. Don’t expect too much defense, but settle in for a nice game.
Professor’s Pick: NIU

Pac-12 Championship
UCLA (6-6) vs. Oregon (10-2)
Friday, Dec. 2nd at 8:00 ET
Autzen Stadium (Eugene, OR)
Television: FOX
Preview: Commissioner Larry Scott and his Pac-12 athletic directors made two shrewd decisions in scheduling the first conference championship game. First, playing the game at an on-campus site likely guarantees a sell-out crowd, even with a mediocre UCLA team representing the Pac-12 South. Similarly, playing the game on Friday night avoids the busy Saturday schedule of title games featuring the ACC, SEC, and Big Ten. The conference powers-that-be did commit one blunder – signing on with FOX for broadcast rights … it was very aggravating the past several years watching the biggest games of the year (the BCS bowls) covered by a network that televised no regular season games. FOX will give the game its due, but their folks are ill-equipped to deliver a good telecast. As for the game itself, the best team in the conference (USC) is sitting home, one of the participants has fired its coach (UCLA), and the other probably is still stinging from letting a shot at the BCS title game slip away (Oregon). The Ducks quack all the way to Pasadena and another Rose Bowl appearance.
Professor’s Pick: Oregon

Conference USA Championship
Southern Miss (10-2) vs. Houston (12-0)
Saturday, Dec. 3 at Noon ET
Robertson Stadium (Houston)
Television: ABC
Preview: C-USA gets the big-time treatment from ABC as the great Case Keenum and his undefeated Houston Cougars vie for a conference championship and BCS berth against Southern Miss. The Cougars are the nation’s most prolific passing and scoring offense. Keenum will surpass 5000 yards passing in this game, and he tossed 43 TDs during the regular season. UH scores 52 points per game, so the Golden Eagles better try and hold onto the ball. Senior QB Austin Davis is no slouch, with over 3000 yards passing and 24 TD throws. Big surprise – expect plenty of scoring in this one with Houston winning a BCS bid (likely to the Sugar Bowl).
Professor’s Pick: Houston

SEC Championship
LSU (12-0) vs. Georgia (10-2)
Saturday, Dec. 3 at 4:00 ET
Georgia Dome (Atlanta)
Television: CBS
Preview: For many college football followers, the SEC Championship is a bit of an afterthought. Top-ranked LSU is a two touchdown favorite, and barring an unexpected blowout loss (and maybe even with one) the Bengal Tigers have procured a spot in the BCS title game. LSU has really dominated the season. The Tigers trounced Oregon at a neutral site, whipped West Virginia on the road, won the grudge match with Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and overcame pre-season and in-season suspensions to some of their top players. Georgia overcame a great deal too. The Dogs opened the season with losses to Boise State and South Carolina, and I believe coach Mark Richt’s job was in jeopardy with one more loss. The Bulldog leader steadied the team, took advantage of an abnormally soft conference schedule, and rallied his squad to ten straight wins. That’s an impressive streak versus any competition. Offensively, LSU is not fancy. The Tigers try to bludgeon opponents with a downhill rushing attack led by a deep tailback stable. QB Jordan Jefferson is a mediocre passer, but he is pretty clutch and (while not very fast) can escape trouble to extend plays. A key to the game will be whether Georgia’s defense can hold its own along the line of scrimmage. On the opposing sides of the ball, Georgia brings a more balanced offensive attack into the game behind QB Aaron Murray and a host of playmakers. The Dogs have really good, young wide receivers, the best being Malcolm Mitchell. If Murray has time and is accurate – neither is assured – the Dogs have enough weapons to challenge LSU’s vaunted secondary. A key to this Offense-Defense matchup may be Georgia’s rushing attack. The Dogs have been plagued by injuries, suspensions, and lack of toughness at this position. Georgia must get something from the run game to set up Murray’s play-action passing. While LSU may not be too excited to play this one, I just don’t see Georgia’s rushing attack doing enough to help out Murray and the receivers. If the Dogs start fast, they may be in the game late … if LSU starts fast it might get a little ugly.
Professor’s Pick: LSU

ACC Championship
Virginia Tech (11-1) vs. Clemson (9-3)
Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8:00 ET
Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, NC)
Television: ESPN
Preview: Virginia Tech lost by three touchdowns to Clemson earlier in the season, but comes into this game as one of the nation’s hottest teams and a solid favorite. The Hokies feature a really nice offensive combo in huge QB Logan Thomas (6’6 254) and quick RB David Wilson (1595 yards rushing). Clemson faltered late in the season and comes into the title tilt having lost three of four … with all three losses by double-digit deficits. The Tiger offense can be explosive (WR Sammy Watkins may be the most exciting freshman in the country), but it’s tough to see them regaining form this late in the season, especially against a VT defense ranked 6th in the country. With a win, Virginia Tech and ACC supporters may make some noise about the Hokies getting into the BCS title game (sorry Bama fans), but it seems doubtful they would garner enough poll power. An Orange Bowl berth to the winner.
Professor’s Pick: Virginia Tech

Big Ten Championship
Michigan State (10-2) vs. Wisconsin (10-2)
Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8:17 ET
Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, IN)
Television: FOX
Preview: Complaint first – why the heck is FOX calling yet another big-time conference championship game? The almighty dollar has skewed common sense. At any rate, this should be a really fine game, albeit a rematch. Earlier in the season, I thought Wisconsin would be the legitimate team to face an SEC champ in the BCS title game … and I still believe they are the best team outside of Dixie. The Badgers lost back-to-back road games in mid-October (to Michigan State and Ohio State), both losses coming on fluky last second plays. Those miscues cost college football fans the best post-season matchup out there (I realize LSU and Bama are probably the two best teams, but I dislike rematches and think Wisconsin is the next best team). Michigan State is a tough, seasoned squad and the Spartans defeated Wisconsin on October 22 with a last second Hail Mary pass that had to be reviewed in the booth. Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball (29 TDS!) will be too much for Sparty in the inaugural Big Ten championship.
Professor’s Pick: Wisconsin

See you at kickoff!