Final Thoughts - Championship Weekend
Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish
Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish
Posted Dec 2, 2011

It's Championship Weekend, and it's still interesting. Sort of. - The Week 14 Final Thoughts.

Final Thoughts 

Before The Week 14 Games

- Final Thoughts  2010 | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5
- Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13

- 2011 Fearless Predictions

Week 14 Final Thoughts Part 2 - "The SEC Championship Still Matters"

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  - Is this the weirdest Heisman race ever? Trent Richardson is the most talented back in college football and he'll be a top ten overall pick in the draft, but he hasn't done anything remotely Heisman-worthy. Andrew Luck melted down against Oregon – the one game he had to have. The puck is on your stick, Robert Griffin, Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden, and Montee Ball.

- I can't get anyone to buy into the idea that Kansas State QB Collin Klein deserves Heisman consideration. Only Ball has run for more scores, and Klein has meant even more to his team. Take Klein off the Wildcats and there's a chance they're 2-9 instead of 9-2 and playing for a shot at a tie for the Big 12 title and an at-large BCS bid. Kansas State has won seven games by a touchdown or less, and Klein was the difference-maker in every one except the Texas victory.

- Alabama fans, before you continue to assume my anti-rematch, anti-Richardson for the Heisman, anti-team-that-can't-win-its-own-division rants have anything to do with your team, first you need to give me several summer hours back spent answering angry e-mails from fans from various SEC and top-25 programs for gushing over how good your team is in the 2011 Alabama Preview.

- And you also need to go back to 2001 when I fired on the idea of Nebraska playing for it all, and blasted the idea of Michigan and Ohio State getting it on again after their 2006 game.

- ESPN's 15-year, $3 billion deal with the SEC could get even bigger because of the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M.

- Watch how much Trent Richardson appears on various ads and promotions across the "family of networks," even though he doesn't play this weekend, and keep an ear out for how many times a rematch of LSU vs. Alabama is being gushed over as something positive.

- I'll bite. Why, exactly, isn't the world half as angry at ESPN for sitting on the Bernie Fine story as it was at Mike McQueary and Joe Paterno for not doing more about Jerry Sandusky?

- And no, this has NOTHING to do with journalistic standards or ethics.

- America, I don't want to hear it. After Alabama and LSU play on January 9th, no matter how it turns out, the next-day narrative will be about how grouchy (insert the team that rocked in its bowl game to move into the final No. 2 slot if LSU wins or No. 3 if the Tide wins) is and how much it sucks that (insert the team that rocked in its bowl game to move into the final No. 2 slot if LSU wins or No. 3 if the Tide wins) didn't get its chance to play in the BCS championship. Voters, you have a chance to change this with your selections on Saturday night.

- And before anyone whines about how the BCS voting process has to be pure and without any agenda, two words: Boise State.

- If you think LSU and Alabama should play in the BCS championship, you forfeit your right to ever say you don't want a playoff because it would ruin the regular season.

- That also goes for these dopey conference championship games.

- Michigan State is the Big Ten champion right now. LSU is the SEC champion, Virginia Tech is the ACC champion, Houston in the Conference USA champion, Northern Illinois is the MAC champion, and Oregon is the Pac-12 champion. How do I know this? There was a regular season and those six teams finished on top of the standings and/or won the necessary tie-breakers.

- If Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma, and if everything else goes to the favorites, in my perfect world the BCS Championship is LSU vs. Oklahoma State; the Rose Bowl is Oregon vs. Wisconsin; the Orange Bowl is Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia – I have to stay within the rules; the Fiesta Bowl is Stanford vs. Oklahoma; and the Sugar Bowl is Alabama vs. Houston.

- Even so, seriously, how (bleep)ing awesome would this week be if these title games were for a playoff spot? Six BCS conference champions; the top ranked non-BCS champion; and one fail-safe wild-card.

LSU, Clemson or Virginia Tech, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, West Virginia or Louisville, Wisconsin or Michigan State, Oregon or UCLA, Houston or TCU, and either Georgia if it wins or Alabama if LSU wins.

Round One on December 16th and 17th at the higher seeds' home sites. Final Four on December 23rd and 24th, again on the higher-seeded home sites as a reward for a great regular season. National Championship on New Year's Day in New Orleans.

- Not one day of school missed.

- And not one complaint about the champion.

- And the regular season would matter even more.

- Apparently, a half a bag of Fritos and a hearty handshake can get you a ticket to the Big Ten championship game.

- Or else you could wish that the Craigslist offer for seat fillers wasn't really a joke.

- But you might want to be careful answering an ad on Craigslist for a "seat filler."

- Considering we're going into an NFL weekend featuring Caleb Hanie, Dan Orlovsky, Jake Delhomme, Kevin Kolb, Rex Grossman, and Tim Tebow, the 2012 NFL Draft with Andrew Luck, Landry Jones, Matt Barkley, Robert Griffin, and Brandon Weeden can't come soon enough.

- Aaron Murray, Russell Wilson, Case Keenum, and Kirk Cousins might also be better right now than about a quarter of the NFL starters this weekend.

- If Georgia beats LSU, then explain, exactly, why Boise State doesn't deserve to at least be considered for an at-large BCS slot? Not the BCS championship - we all get the schedule argument – but a random BCS game.

- It's going to get lost in the shuffle, but Texas vs. Baylor is going to be fascinating. Robert Griffin vs. the swarming Manny Diaz defense will be a fight, and the Longhorn power running game vs. the soft Bear defensive front will be a fun watch.

- If Texas loses to Baylor for a second year in a row, some really will want Mack Brown to retire.

- The first Texas - Baylor game was in 1903 - a UT 48-0 win. Texas had a tougher time getting by the Texas Deaf School 17-0.

- Don't dismiss the idea that Southern Miss can beat Houston. Don't be fooled by the gag against UAB.

- Arizona State is going to hire Kevin Sumlin, but how awesome would it have been if it hired Mike Martz? Washington State vs. Arizona State week would treat the world to the greatest press conferences ever.

- The No. 1 thing to watch for in the SEC championship: can Georgia's defense get off the field? Third down stops are going to mean everything to the Dawgs, who have the defensive front seven to hold up, but they'll wear down in the fourth against the amazing LSU offensive line if the Tigers control the ball.

- If you were my close, personal friend and you were going off to Vegas to legally "invest" what little money you might have left, I'd suggest taking a look-see at Northern Illinois -2.5 over Ohio, Oregon -31.5 over UCLA, Clemson +7 over Virginia Tech, Michigan State +9.5 over Wisconsin, Southern Miss +12.5 over Houston, Wyoming -5.5 over Colorado State, LSU -13.5 over Georgia, and my Five-Star, Master Lock Pick of the Millennium For This Week, Oklahoma +2.5 over Oklahoma State.

- 4-3 and the call of Minnesota over Illinois?! For this year in this bit, that's not bad after going 29-45 against the spread with these picks over the first 13 week. 

By Richard Cirminiello 

Frank Solich has made himself quite a home in Athens, Ohio. His Bobcats have won at least eight games four times since arriving in 2005, and won the MAC East for the third time this fall. True to his Nebraska roots, his kids run the ball well; however, QB Tyler Tettleton, an ironic Norman, Okla. native, has been the difference-maker as a passer.

Yeah, it's a Friday-nighter, and you may not pay much attention to the MAC, but try to spend some time watching Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish this evening. He's one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country, a bona fide playmaker who's going to surprise some people at the next level.

If you're going to beat Oregon, especially in Eugene, you'll need to exploit a secondary that's yielded a dozen touchdown passes in the last four games. Unfortunately for UCLA, it doesn't harbor the kind of attack that can hit the Ducks where it hurts.

If your NFL team needs defensive linemen, the Connecticut-Cincinnati game might hold particular appeal for you. This matchup is loaded with quality up front, including Huskies Kendall Reyes and Trevardo Williams, and Bearcats Derek Wolfe and John Hughes. Wolfe has been a particular beast on the inside in 2011.

Just a sophomore, Pittsburgh DE Aaron Donald has been one of the Big East's breakout stars this fall. Playing with ideal leverage, he's abused opposing blockers for at least one stop for minus yards in each of the last six games.

Do not overlook Southern Miss, a collaborative effort that's produced a ton of non-offensive touchdowns this year. That said, as long as Houston can handle a slew of distractions, from a possible BCS bowl berth to Kevin Sumlin's future, it doesn't figure to squander Saturday's opportunity to make history in front of the home crowd.

Kansas State and Iowa State enter this weekend's game in Manhattan a combined 15-7. It never ceases to amaze how good coaches can milk outstanding results from modest talent. Bill Snyder and Paul Rhoads both deserve some Big 12 Coach of the Year recognition this season.

As championship weeks go, this might be the blandest one on record. Sure, there are some intriguing matchups, but when the BCS National Championship Game pairing is essentially set before a tackle is even made, the anticipation level goes down considerably.

Maybe Auburn's close call on opening day had a little something to do with the opponent after all. Utah State has gone on to win six games, including four straight, to close in on its first bowl game in 14 years.

Texas is home to the Big 12's top-rated defense. Your final Heisman audition awaits, RG3. Don't you just get the feeling that Robert Griffin III is going to deliver another epic performance on Saturday, similar to the Oklahoma game? I sure do.

Of course LSU is going to bring it in the Georgia Dome. Still, it has to be killing Les Miles and the staff that the kids have had to hear all week that a loss won't end the team's national championship quest.

Yes, Georgia is clearly a different team than it was in September, and motivation won't be a problem. However, when John Chavis turns his defenders loose, you have to wonder how well the Bulldogs hold up. Remember, the Dawgs haven't played a really good opponent since Week 2, so there could be a shock and awe factor in the early going.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is extremely fortunate that his Tigers got out of the gate quickly, and won some big games in September. Had they played anything like they did in November, Rich Rodriguez might have been looking for real estate in South Carolina instead of Arizona right now.

If Virginia Tech starts fast in Charlotte, Clemson might be toast by halftime. The Tigers are a very fragile team right now that desperately needs something positive to happen in the first quarter. In terms of the intangibles, like mental toughness and confidence, Tech is light years better than Clemson at this stage of the season.

Michigan State knows how to win close games. Wisconsin's only two losses of the year came on long touchdown passes in the final minute. From a psychological standpoint, the Badgers really need to have a double-digit lead when the fourth quarter begins in Indianapolis.

Week 14 Final Thoughts Part 2 - "The SEC Championship Still Matters"