Zemek Final Thoughts: The Best Game Is ...

Posted Nov 30, 2012

Matt Zemek's Final Thoughts before the final weekend of the regular season.

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

MAC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: This is the best game of the weekend. Not the most significant, not the greatest display of athleticism, but the biggest treat. How many times will we be able to watch a MAC title tilt with BCS bowl implications?

Yes, Kent State lost to Kentucky and Northern Illinois lost to Iowa – we're aware of that. In an ideal world, a third SEC team would be able to play in the Orange Bowl in a year like this. Had Kent State not lost to Kentucky, and if NIU had beaten Iowa, the equation would change. All in all, a fair bowl system would give the winner of this game a chance to play a team like Clemson or Oklahoma in a second-tier bowl such as the Alamo or Holiday. The stage, the TV visibility, and the opponent would all be rewards for Kent's or NIU's season. One should demand that the champion of the MAC or the Sun Belt achieve enough to be worthy of a BCS game. The BCS's top-16 provision only serves as a limitation and not as an aid in creating the best set of 35 bowl matchups for college football fans.

Yet, while acknowledging how limited and deficient the current bowl system is, let's acknowledge that the little guys SHOULD get chances in this sport to play better brand-name teams for bigger prizes. Let's see what Jordan Lynch of NIU and Dri Archer of KSU have in store for us on a big Friday night in Detroit.

PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: UCLA didn't have to beat Stanford last week. It does have to beat Stanford this week. Yet, with that having been said, the advantage should still go to the Cardinal. David Shaw deserves to be seen as one of the five best coaches in America in 2012.

CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Tulsa controlled the first meeting of the season against Central Florida, winning by only two points yet dominating on the stat sheet. Can the Golden Hurricane flex their muscles again, or will the Golden Knights play the rematch on their own terms? Rematches are tricky for teams who win the first time around. The other team naturally gains more motivation for the reunion. See LSU-Alabama last season.

OKLAHOMA-TCU: If the Sooners miss out on a BCS bowl while Kent State goes to the Orange, it would be somewhat lamentable. Yet, Oklahoma played two main-event games this year and lost both of them at home because it squandered all sorts of opportunities. Don't shed tears for the Sooners if they're locked outside the BCS candy store.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE-ARKANSAS STATE: This is the de facto Sun Belt championship game, just not a formal stand-alone event. Arkansas State has maintained its mojo from last season, thriving under the guidance of Gus Malzahn. Middle Tennessee is part of the Sun Belt's old guard; the Blue Raiders have overachieved to get to this point. Since this tussle will take place in Jonesboro, Ark., give a big advantage to the Red Wolves.

BOISE STATE-NEVADA: Boise State will almost surely go to the Las Vegas Bowl this year. That's the same bowl it went to in 2010 and 2011, when it had substantially different teams with far more impressive bodies of work to their credit. The fact that the bowl system could put 2012 Boise State on par with 2010 and 2011 Boise State in terms of its postseason destination tells you all you need to know about the bowl system's level of fairness. This is not a bowl system that rewards or recognizes merit above and beyond politics (and economics… and television… and tourism).

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Georgia is capable of playing at a very high level – the talent is there. Will the Bulldogs be able to do the deed, though? That's the game in a nutshell versus Alabama. Meanwhile, please realize this with the 2014 playoff system in mind: When we get to the four-team playoff two years from now, the loser of this game would be penalized for playing in it. Why? The answer is obvious: The loser would fall out of the top four while a non-division-winning team such as Florida would step up and fill the gap. This is a problem college football has to address before 2014 rolls around.

TEXAS-KANSAS STATE: There are three particularly important games in the 8 p.m. Eastern time window. Please spend most of your time watching this game… partly because the Big Ten and ACC title games both have one participant that finished third in its division, and partly because Collin Klein deserves one last look before the Heisman vote. To be clear, while Klein deserves a shot on the basis of raw merit, it is hard to deny that from a purely political standpoint, Johnny Manziel seems to have a stranglehold on the award at this point.

BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Wisconsin finished third in its division. Nebraska, this is your big (Red) chance to win your first conference championship since 1999.

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Georgia Tech finished third in its division. Florida State, this is your big chance to win your first conference championship since 2005. Yes, one of your coordinators has taken a head coaching job in the SEC. No, you don't have an excuse if you lose to Georgia Tech. Mark Richt lost to a great Oklahoma team in the 2001 Orange Bowl. Georgia Tech is no Oklahoma. Mark Stoops should not have to suffer a Richtian fate this Saturday.