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Final Thoughts Before Week 14, Part 2
Posted Dec 2, 2011

The Final Thoughts and musings before the start of Week 14

Final Thoughts 

Before The Week 14 Games

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- 2011 Fearless Predictions

Week 14 Final Thoughts Part 1

Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

- Repeat after me, “The SEC Championship Game still means something."

- I know, I know...LSU is going to the BCS National Championship Game no matter what happens vs. Georgia, but that doesn’t make the SEC Championship Game meaningless. Being champions of the SEC is a lifelong distinction that carries a lot of meaning to every player in the conference. It’s a privilege to play in that game, not a burden. Do you think Alabama players are happy they get to avoid the Georgia Dome en route to New Orleans? No way. A championship will be decided on Saturday afternoon, and when the season kicked off three months ago, that’s all that mattered. Nothing has changed.

- Georgia is the real deal. A 10-game winning streak is still a 10-game winning streak, and Georgia shouldn’t apologize for beating the SEC teams on its schedule. Linebacker Jarvis Jones will make some big plays to keep Georgia in the game late in the third, but as has been the case all season, LSU will make a play or two on special teams to solidify the win. It won’t be a blowout though.

- Wisconsin and Michigan State provided us with one of the most riveting finishes college football has seen in recent memory earlier this season. Can they match it at the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game? Unlikely, but the game will still be wildly compelling. Russell Wilson has the opportunity to punctuate his college career with a title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. That’ll happen, but Kirk Cousins will keep Michigan State close.

- David Wilson won’t be in New York for the Heisman Trophy Ceremony, but he should be. The nation’s fifth-leading rusher has flown completely under the radar on a top 5 team, which seems almost impossible in this day and age. His Virginia Tech Hokies are catching Clemson at the right time, and have revenge on their minds. Clemson’s skid continues and the Hokies cruise to the ACC title.

- Clemson can blame this skid on the fact that Sammy Watkins has been in and out of the lineup, but the team - as a whole - looks uninterested in football. That falls on coaching.

- UCLA shouldn’t apologize for getting a waiver to be bowl eligible with a loss. It has to show up and play Oregon on Friday night, and thus, runs the risk of falling below .500. But can you imagine the uproar if the Bruins passed on the Pac-12 Championship Game to remain bowl eligible at 6-6? It isn’t their fault that the best team in the division is ineligible and nobody else in the division emerged. Let it go.

- Oklahoma State still has life in the race for the BCS Championship Game, and the will go out in style on Saturday night. Both of these defenses are struggling, so I'll go with the better offense. Brandon Weeden will do all he can to scratch and claw his way back into the Heisman Trophy race, and Oklahoma has been dealing with too many key injuries on the offensive side of the ball. Cowboys roll and make Sunday a landmark day in the history of the BCS.

By Matt Zemek

OHIO-NORTHERN ILLINOIS (MAC CHAMPIONSHIP): If Ohio converts a 4th and 20 and scores a touchdown in the final minute, Northern Illinois fans will curse the darkness. This game has been an upset magnet in recent years... right, Brady Hoke of Ball State and Turner Gill of Buffalo? Northern Illinois is the clear favorite on paper, but when does paper win MAC titles?

UCLA-OREGON (PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP): This is all your fault, Paul Dee. Shame on you, NCAA. This should be USC-Oregon, Part II, and we should all be ridiculously excited about it. Instead, we'll get a 40-point game and a guaranteed coronation.

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI-HOUSTON (CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP): Houston losing would not be an unheard-of or unprecedented upset. Case Keenum, for all his excellence, has never won a Conference USA title, and Austin Davis - the quarterback opposing Keenum for Southern Miss - is plenty capable of lighting up the scoreboard. A blowout here would be surprising. USM should stay close until the final few minutes.

SYRACUSE-PITTSBURGH: The ACC will get its full allotment of bowl teams this year. Whew!

CONNECTICUT-CINCINNATI: One way or another, this game will determine the Big East's Orange Bowl representative. And you wonder why Boise State would want to be in the Big East if AQ status was (hypothetically) part of the package...

IOWA STATE-KANSAS STATE: Kansas State is about to go 10-2... and against decent teams. Oklahoma's losses to Baylor and Texas Tech were bad, but OU also beat Kansas State by 41 on the road. That's the most impressive single-game performance this season from a team other than LSU.

WYOMING-COLORADO STATE: Wyoming is certainly on the short list of "overachieving teams you've heard nothing about" this season. Immensely successful Pokes don't just live in Stillwater, Oklahoma. They also live in Laramie, Wyoming.

UNLV-TCU: If Houston wins C-USA, TCU will go to a bowl far below its pay grade with a matchup far below its credentials and achievements. Shame on this broken and ethically bankrupt bowl system.

TEXAS-BAYLOR: In a year when no one has taken complete control of the Heisman race, Robert Griffin III has been the most outstanding player in college football. His performance against Oklahoma - leading to Baylor's first-ever win against the Sooners - was the kind of cape-wearing conquest that a Heisman-winning player delivers during the season.

UTAH STATE-NEW MEXICO STATE: It is highly impressive that New Mexico State has managed to win four games, showing that coach DeWayne Walker is doing a fine job in Las Cruces, New Mexico. With that having been said, it's a million times more amazing that Utah State, after losing heartbreaking game after heartbreaking game in the first half of the season, has attained a Potato Bowl bid. Three cheers to coach Gary Andersen, his staff, and his players for never giving up.

GEORGIA-LSU (SEC CHAMPIONSHIP): Forget the BCS and simply realize that this is for the championship of the Southeastern Conference. That, in itself, should be the reward and the focus for LSU's players. It is a privilege to play in this game, even though Alabama might benefit from not playing in it. If the Crimson Tide benefit from missing this game, you'll know all you need to know about the waywardness of this sport's bowl-selection process and its national title-deciding mechanisms.

LOUISIANA-MONROE / FLORIDA ATLANTIC: Howard Schnellenberger, who made Miami "Miami" and built Louisville from scratch as well, decided to create yet one more program from nothing as he wound toward the end of a remarkable football journey. The white-haired, suit-wearing wizard led Florida Atlantic to the 2007 Sun Belt title and two straight bowl victories before deciding to call it a career last month. Thankfully, his Owls avoided an 0-12 season last Saturday by beating UAB on home soil. College football would have been much poorer and less colorful if Schnellenberger hadn't entered the scene. His last game as a head coach marks the perfect time to understand just how much he contributed to this sport over the past three decades.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE-NORTH TEXAS: Remember when this was a matchup of supreme consequence and quality in the Sun Belt Conference?

IDAHO-NEVADA: Quietly and without a championship, Nevada plays its last regular-season game as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.

TROY-ARKANSAS STATE: Troy used to be the team that dominated the Sun Belt Conference. Now, Arkansas State goes for an 8-0 league record and an undisputed title. How quickly things change.

NEW MEXICO-BOISE STATE: Boise State will go to a bowl far below its pay grade with a matchup far below its credentials and achievements. Shame on this broken and ethically bankrupt bowl system. .

BRIGHAM YOUNG-HAWAII: Quietly and without a championship, Hawaii plays its last regular-season game as a member of the Western Athletic Conference. Ironically, the Warriors take on BYU, a rival and partner in so many memorable WAC moments from the late 1980s and early 1990s... right, Garrett Gabriel? Side note: I FEEL CHEATED! The week 14 Hawaii game on the first weekend of December is supposed to start at 11:30 p.m. Eastern so that all football writers and fans can stay up late, allowing the regular season to linger deep into the night before finally letting go. A 7:40 p.m. kick is just not right.

FRESNO STATE-SAN DIEGO STATE: Quietly and without a championship, Fresno State plays its last regular-season game as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.

CLEMSON-VIRGINIA TECH (ACC CHAMPIONSHIP): Stop me if you've heard this before: Virginia Tech is peaking late in the season and is favored to win the ACC title. Clemson is making its fans shake their heads in disbelief and shock. Yes, completely original news, isn't it?

MICHIGAN STATE-WISCONSIN (BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP): On one hand, Wisconsin took a 14-0 lead in the Oct. 22 regular-season game between these teams, meaning that if the Badgers get off to a good start, Michigan State will still think it can win. On the other hand, Michigan State might not want to risk another two-touchdown deficit. The money question in this game is as follows: Can Russell Wilson - brilliant this season at home and lousy on the road - shine in a neutral-site showdown? The Spartans - winners over Wisconsin five and a half weeks ago - are playing with house money. Wisconsin must win this game... or else. Keep that "pressure factor" in mind as you watch this contest unfold.

OKLAHOMA-OKLAHOMA STATE: If an LSU-Alabama rematch is to be avoided, Oklahoma State is America's last, best hope. We'll see if the Cowboys can finally turn back Oklahoma in a high-stakes edition of Bedlam. The last few years, OSU hasn't found any solutions whatsoever to the Sooners' formidable brand of line play. The Pokes have to outscore OU, winging the ball early and often en route to 63 or more points. If Oklahoma State can't take advantage of the fact that it is hosting OU for the second straight year, the Pokes will have a hard time stopping the Sooners in the coming years.

- Final Thoughts, Week 12, Part 2