Sadly, the end of this week brings the end of the regular season. It also means the end of the season for 56 teams. 70 teams still have one last game to play and get the benefit of extra practice. The end of the season also means the beginning of the coaching carousal, draft talk and recruiting. But what a final weekend it was.
Bedlam didn’t just apply to the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game. As the dust cleared, an SEC team once again ended up in the National Championship game and the Auburn Tigers will look to make it 8-in-a-row for the SEC and 5-in-a-row for the State of Alabama and the SEC West.
How I Fared: This week I was 6-4, bringing my grand total to 63-37. That is a total of 100 games. It has been a wild and crazy season and I am sad to see it come to an end. But, there are still 35 more games, and I look forward to picking all of them. And hopefully getting at least half correct. Those games start a little less than two weeks from now, so let’s take one more look back at conference championship week. I was 1-9 picking conference champions in the preseason. But I picked Stanford over Arizona State, and that conference was a roller coaster this season.
MAC Championship: Bowling Green 47 14Northern Illinois 27 (Friday); The first of the seven conference championship games set the tone of upsets. The last non-AQ undefeated team was beat, meaning there will be no BCS buster this season. Not only did Northern Illinois get beat, they got badly beaten. Heisman hopeful Jordan Lynch did not have his usual stats. The Huskies never led. It seemed Lynch would lead his team back after a very strong first drive in the 3rd quarter, but it was not to be. After cutting the lead to 11 with 12:23 left in the 3rd quarter, Bowling Green scored 16 unanswered points. Jordan Lynch rushed for a TD with 14 seconds left, but it was too late then. Lynch threw 2INTs in this game. The star of the game was Bowling Green’s QB Matt Johnson who was 21/27 for 393 yards and 5TDs, each to a different receiver. NIU was outplayed by the Falcons on pretty much every aspect of the game. I would still make a case for Jordan Lynch to go to NYC for the Heisman ceremony, and even for him to win. He carried his team in this game and just didn’t get the help he needed from the rest of the team. He finished the season rushing for 100+ yards 8 times, including two games of more than 300 yards rushing. He has had a great career at NIU, and it has been fun to watch him play.
C-USA Championship: Rice 41 Marahall 24; Wrong again on this one. But I did pick Marshall to lose in the C-USA Championship game. Maybe I’ll award myself half a point for that. Getting to the game, it was never really that close. Rice was the better all around team in this game. The Owl defense was able to stop the Herd rushing attack and only allowed 106 rush yards. Marshall’s defense was not able to stop Rice. RB Luke Turner passed for 2TDs in the game for Rice. Marshall QB Rakeem Cato was 24/41 for 265 yards, 2TD and an INT. This was Rice’s first C-USA Championship appearance and win.
SEC Championship: 3Auburn 59 5Missouri 42; Auburn has pulled off the unthinkable. They went from 0-8 in the SEC last year to SEC (and possibly National) Champions this year. Defense was not the name of this game. Some of you may remember when New Mexico ran for 497 yards in a losing effort against UNLV. Well, what Auburn did makes that number look less impressive. The Auburn Tigers rushed for a total of 545 yards against Missouri. 304 of those yards belong to RB Tre Mason. I got to see him first hand when he almost singlehandedly beat the Hogs with 168 yards and 4TDs. After his performance on Saturday, I believe he at least deserves a spot in Heisman consideration. This game went back and forth for 3 quarters. Auburn led 45-42 going into the final 15 minutes, and they add to it. Tre Mason had two of his 4TDs in the 4th quarter to secure the conference championship. QB Nick Marshall was 9/11 for 132 yards and a TD to Sammie Coates and he also ran for 101 yards and a TD. Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Gran also ran for TDs bringing the total number of Auburn rushing TDs to 7. Going into the game, Mizzou had one on the best rush defenses in the country. You wouldn’t have known it watching the game. Missouri QB James Franklin was 21/37 for 303 yards, 3TDs and an INT along with a rush TD. WR Dorial Green-Beckham had 144 receiving yards TDs of 28 and 55 yards. Marcus Murphy caught the other. Missouri had an amazing turnaround as well, but because it was not as amazing as Auburn’s, it has been overshadowed. Mizzou was 2-6 in the SEC last season and everyone said they couldn’t play with the big boys in the SEC. They proved us wrong and congratulations are in order for this team. These two teams represent most of the reasons I watch and love college football. Who doesn’t love an underdog?
Pac-12 Championship: 7Stanford 38 11Arizona State 14; Here is my Pac-12 prediction from August 25, 2013:
“Stanford over Arizona State; The Pac 12 looks great this year. It is very hard to pick a winner for the North. Both Oregon and Stanford have shown great talent and skill. But, Oregon lost Chip Kelly to the NFL. Stanford HC David Shaw has been able to keep his team at the top of the Pac 12. Stanford gets both Oregon and Notre Dame at home this year. I believe they have the chance to go undefeated. The South does not look as good. It would be hard for USC to do worse than last year. I think Arizona State has a chance to overtake USC this year. But Stanford shouldn’t have much of a problem with ASU either time they play.”
It isn’t all right, Stanford didn’t go undefeated, but they did beat Oregon and Notre Dame. And after Arizona State beat USC, the Trojans fired head coach Lane Kiffin, I think that qualifies as “overtaking”. And Stanford didn’t have a problem with ASU either time. In the championship game, ASU had to go at it without star running back Marion Grice, making it much harder on them. Ty Montgomery and Tyler Gaffney were the playmakers for the Cardinal. Montgomery had a rushing TD and a receiving TD from Kevin Hogan and Gaffney rushed for 133 yards and 3TDs. Both of ASU’s TDs were from DJ Foster. He broke a 51-yard rush in the 1st quarter and caught a 65-yard TD pass from Taylor Kelly in the 2nd quarter. This really wasn’t much of a game. If Grice had been healthy, I think it would have been much closer.
ACC Championship: 1Florida State 45 20Duke 7; While this didn’t end up being a close one, It started close. Duke did something no other team had done this season: hold FSU scoreless in the first quarter. But, after that, it was all Seminoles. Heisman frontrunner Jameis Winston was 19/32 for 330 yards, 3TD, 2INT and a rushing TD. Duke QB Anthony Boone was 20/40 for 138 yards and 2INT. The Blue Devils were scoreless until 1:01 remaining in the 4th when Josh Snead scored on a 5-yard run. The score doesn’t reflect how well Duke played. It also doesn’t reflect the significance of Duke’s appearance in this game. This was the first 10-win season in Duke football history and their first ACC conference championship game. Despite this loss, the season has been a huge success for Duke.
Big Ten Championship: 10Michigan State 34 2Ohio State 24; *WARNING* If you are an Ohio State fan, this recap might not be to your liking. If you are easily angered, you should probably just skip to the MWC Championship recap. You have been warned. Ok, now that I’ve said that, GO SPARTY! I was jumping for joy in my dorm as this game was ending. I was so glad Michigan State proved what most of us have been saying all along. Ohio State might have been 24-0, but they lost the one game that really meant anything. That wasn’t for lack of trying by Braxton Miller. He played an impressive game and it’s too bad he was the only one helping his team. He was 8/21 for 101 yards and a TD, but more impressively rushed for 142 yards and 2TDs. Ohio State played great for 15 minutes in the 2nd and 3rd quarter, but a football game is 60 minutes. If I’m giving Braxton Miller a gold star, I’m giving Michigan State QB Connor Cook a giant trophy. That was one of the best QB outings I’ve seen all year. He was 24/40 for 304 yards, 3TD and an INT. Keith Murphy, Tony Lippett and Josiah Price all caught TDs and Jeremy Langford ran for the game securing TD with 2:16 left in the 4th. The Spartans went up 17-0 but allowed Ohio State to score 24 unanswered. But Michigan State was not going to let Aubur…I mean their fans down. They scored 17 more unanswered points to close out the game. It was a great game to watch. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Michigan State.
MWC Championship: 23Fresno State 24 Utah State 17; I did my best to watch this game as close as possible once the Big 10 Championship ended, but it was late. What I do know is Fresno State very nearly lost, or at least put Utah State in a position to tie. Fresno State QB Derek Carr was 36/53 for 404 yards, 3TD and 2INT. Those 3TDs went to Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse and Marcel Jensen. Utah State QB Darell Garretson was 12/26 for 198 yards and an INT. Bruce Natson rushed for a TD and Jake Doughty returned a fumble 86 yards for a TD. Ten of Utah State’s 17 points came in the 4th quarter. With just under 2 minutes to play, Fresno State went for it on 4th and 3 from the Utah State 29 and couldn’t convert. Though it was surprising to see the Bulldogs go for it rather than kick a FG, they were 3-6 on 4th down conversions on the night. Utah State was only 1-4. Utah State made it to the Fresno State 39 yard line, but backup QB Craig Harrison was picked off and sealed the conference championship for the Bulldogs.
19Louisville 31 Cincinnati 24 OT (Thursday); This was another exciting battle for the Keg of Nails. But, unfortunately for the Cardinals, they won’t be headed to a BCS game after this win. The game played out much like last year’s, even going into OT. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater had a good game, going 23/37 for 255 yards, 3TD and an INT. DeVante Parker had 104 receiving yards and 2TDs, Damian Copeland caught the other. Dominique Brown rushed for the game winning TD in OT for the Cardinals. Cincinnati QB Brendon Kay was 22/40 for 304 yards, 2INT and 2 rushing TDs. Ralph Abernathy also rushed for a TD for the Bearcats. Kicker Tony Miliano kicked a 26-yard FG with 7 seconds left to send the game into OT. This was a great game to start the weekend with.
16UCF 17 SMU 13; There is just something about the last weekend of the season that makes unranked teams get so much better. A lot was riding on this game for SMU. Had they won, they would have been bowl eligible and would have a huge win over a ranked team. But UCF QB Blake Bortles wasn’t giving up that easy. He ran for 2TDs in the 3rd quarter, the second to take the lead with 14 seconds left in the 3rd. The score would hold and UCF would get out with a win and the outright American Athletic Conference championship. This means they are headed off to a BCS bowl. This game might have ended very differently if QB Garrett Gilbert had been playing, I think SMU might have pulled the upset, then again, Blake Bortles has created some exciting game winning drives this season.
17Oklahoma 33 6Oklahoma State 24; Bedlam. The name of the rivalry and a description of what happened. But, would you accept anything less? Oklahoma’s Jalen Saunders had a 64-yard punt return TD in the first quarter and caught the game winning TD with 19 seconds left in the 4th quarter. Kicker Michael Hunnicutt kicked 2FGs and also caught the game-tying TD pass from Grant Bothun on a fake FG. QB Blake Bell was 10/16 for 140 yards and a TD. Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf was 19/35 for 220 yards, a TD and an INT. Desmond Roland rushed for 144 yards and 2TDs and caught a TD as well. One of Roland’s TD runs came with 1:46 remaining. When I saw that, I made the comment “that’s a lot of time, especially in a Bedlam game,” and it was enough for OU to pull the upset. I actually expected a lot more points in that last 1:46. Remember in 2010 when the two scored a combined 31 points in the last 4:06? And 40 points combined in the 4th quarter? To be honest, I was slightly disappointed this year (not really, it was a great game). With the loss by Oklahoma State and Baylor’s win over Texas, Baylor is the outright Big 12 Champion and will go to a BCS bowl. What an appropriate name for this rivalry and for this season of college football. Bedlam. Beautiful, beautiful bedlam.
9Baylor 30 25Texas 10
Connecticut 45 Memphis 10
Rutgers 31 South Florida 6
South Alabama 30 Louisiana-Lafayette 8
Stats and Scores from ESPN.com