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!

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