Rivalry week is in the books, and it was just as exciting as could be expected. South Carolina pushed Clemson in the Palmetto Bowl. Auburn forced Alabama to rush Derrick Henry 46 times to win the Iron Bowl. Ohio State romped Michigan in The Game… Next up are the Conference Championships, except, you know, the Big 12, whose makeshift Championship Game was Bedlam, which was not even a contest. Oklahoma clinched with their monster win in Stillwater. Look ahead to the rest of the games next weekend below…
Top 25 Poll
Others receiving votes: Appalachian State, Florida, LSU, Utah, Western Kentucky
Dropped from the rankings: Washington State (15), UCLA (21), Florida (16)
25 (24). Toledo (9-2) – Toledo loses out on their chance at the New Years bowls after dropping their finale to in-state for Ohio and also misses out on the MAC Championship Game. They still have an impressive resume, though.
24 (12). Michigan (9-3) – They got absolutely trashed by the Buckeyes at home. It was the first time all year that Michigan looked like the previous regime.
23 (NR). USC (8-4) – USC beats UCLA for the first time in 4 years, placing a potential Rose on their controversial season.
22 (NR). Mississippi (9-3) – They won the Egg Bowl with ease. Depending on the week, this is either the best team in the nation or not even a top 25 team.
21 (23). Wisconsin (9-3) – The Badgers ended one of the quieter 9 win seasons in recent memory with a victory over their biggest rival Minnesota.
20 (22). BYU (9-3) – The Cougars dismantled up-and-down Utah State. Remember when we thought this was a potential playoff team? They flew under the radar after their couple losses and mounted an impressive 9-win year with a backup QB.
19 (NR). Memphis (9-3) – Memphis proved a point with their demolition of SMU over the weekend. Justin Fuente also got himself a new job by halftime.
18 (11). Navy (10-2) – Navy got taken apart by Houston, ending their chances at appearing in a New Years bowl. It is the best season Navy has had in decades, though.
17 (25). Florida State (10-2) – After shutting out the Gators offense, the Seminoles put themselves in position to snag one of the big bowl game spots away from a more deserving team that actually plays in a quality conference.
16 (18). Oregon (9-3) – They struggled defensively in the Civil War, but they have all year. If Vernon Adams had been healthy, this would be the conference champ and playoff contender.
15 (20). Temple (10-2) – The Owls capped their 10-win season off with a bang, and now get a shot at the AAC title and a potential invite to a major bowl game.
14 (17). Northwestern (10-2) – Even though their two losses were blowouts, this is clearly the 5th best team in the Big Ten, which was a much better conference than anyone gives it credit for.
13 (13). Houston (11-1) – Houston crushed Navy, and they would move up, but their loss is too ugly and everyone else have more impressive closing resumes.
12 (19). TCU (10-2) – TCU beating Baylor was a surprise. This team got way too much credit taken away just for losing with their backup QB.
11 (10). Oklahoma State (10-2) – Getting smacked around at home is bad, but Oklahoma has been doing that to most everyone. They simply ran into a buzz saw on Saturday.
10 (5). Baylor (9-2) – Baylor ends their disappointing season next week against Texas, but losing to TCU the way they did (3rd string QB) doesn’t quite end their chances at a big bowl.
9 (2). Notre Dame (10-2) – Another heartbreaking road loss for Notre Dame almost guarantees a spot for the Irish in one of the New Years games.
8 (9). North Carolina (11-1) – One of the best offenses in the nation took it to archrival NC State. Watch out, Clemson.
7 (14). Stanford (10-2) – Stanford is the most balanced team in the country. They need a bit of luck to get in the playoff, and they need to beat a very talented and dangerous team for a second time this season.
6 (8). Iowa (12-0) – Iowa survived against Nebraska to cap their undefeated regular season. I would say that they are the worst undefeated major conference team I can remember, but then I remember there was 2014 Florida State…
5 (6). Michigan State (11-1) – Sparty took out Penn State to clinch the division and a potential play-in game with Iowa.
4 (7). Ohio State (11-1) – The way Ohio State won really makes you question how they lost to Michigan State. I don’t think there is a single person, Urban Meyer included, who thinks Zeke was wrong in his criticizing of the playcalling.
3 (3). Alabama (11-1) – Alabama looked sluggish in the Iron Bowl, but they got out alive. And they get potentially the worst division champ the SEC has ever had in the title game.
2 (1). Clemson (12-0) – They barely won in against pitiful South Carolina, but they won. They are going to have their hands full against UNC.
1 (4). Oklahoma (11-1) – They are undefeated at home and on the road. They won in Waco and won in Stillwater with style. They lost their biggest rivalry game midseason on a neutral field. This is the best and scariest team out there, and their lack of a conference title game is actually going to help them, not having one last chance at getting upset.
Conference Championship Games
First of all, the Sun Belt is completely screwed up. If you have 11 teams in the conference, you have got to play 10 conference games, not 8. Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, and Arkansas State would likely form a three way tie at the top of the conference, but only one game occurred between the three teams, so the “conference champ” is going to be Arkansas State, barring a disaster against 3-8 Texas State next week. How irresponsible is it to have 11 teams anymore? Ugh. Whatever. That is the only conference without a championship game. Well, that and the Big 12.
8. Mountain West Championship
San Diego State at Air Force, 4:30PM ESPN2 – I just have no interest in this game. The Aztecs didn’t lose in conference, but they didn’t play Boise State or Air Force. They got beat by South Alabama out of conference. Air Force’s only bad loss was losing to rival Navy by 22, but there is honestly no shame in that this season. Screw it, there are always surprises, and it is hard to see one of the military schools being a conference champ.
PREDICTION: San Diego State 21-17
7. Conference USA Championship
Southern Mississippi at Western Kentucky, 9:00AM ESPN2 – Look at Southern Miss’s conference schedule. It is an absolute joke. This will not be close.
PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 34-14
6. MAC Championship
Bowling Green vs Northern Illinois, FRI 5:00PM ESPN2 – Northern Illinois has the higher peaks, but they also have some confusing losses. Bowling Green hasn’t really been there before either. This is a virtual coin flip.
PREDICTION: Bowling Green 45-37
5. SEC Championship
Florida vs Alabama (#3), 1:00PM CBS – I thought that Florida could have a chance in this game, but after their offense got shut out against FSU, I just can’t see them getting on the board against Alabama.
PREDICTION: Alabama 23-0
4. PAC-12 Championship
USC (#23) vs Stanford (#7), 4:45PM ESPN – Stanford was all over USC in LA, but winning a second time is tough. USC has been dynamite recently. Helton is making his case to keep that job. Last time Stanford was in this position, though, it was against UCLA, and they beat them down 2 weeks in a row.
PREDICTION: Stanford 28-20
3. AAC Championship
Temple (#15) at Houston (#13), 9:00AM ABC – It is tremendous that this is the title game in the AAC, since it is one of the matchups between the top 4 teams that hasn’t happened yet. It should be a tough battle.
PREDICTION: Houston 38-27
2. ACC Championship
North Carolina (#8) vs Clemson (#2), 5:00PM ABC – North Carolina is capable of scoring against anyone. They have been playing for style points since their ugly loss to South Carolina to start the year, but this week just proved that Clemson and UNC have Cock struggles in common.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 41-37
1. Big Ten Championship
Iowa (#4) vs Michigan State (#5), 5:00PM FOX – Everyone is all over Michigan State, even though they have struggled with several teams this year. Iowa really hasn’t. Their game control is off the charts. This will be an ugly game offensively, even though both teams have uncommonly put up decent scores recently.
PREDICTION: Iowa 16-13
Head Coaching Vacancy Predictions
I have no sources, this is just speculation, guesses, and best fits…
§ Virginia Tech hires Justin Fuente (HC, Memphis)
§ Memphis hires Brent Venables (DC, Clemson)
§ Georgia hires Les Miles (HC, LSU)
§ LSU hires Jimbo Fisher (HC, Florida State)
§ Florida State hires Chip Kelly (HC, Philadelphia Eagles)
§ Maryland hires Lane Kiffen (OC, Alabama)
§ Miami hires Charlie Strong (HC, Texas)
§ Texas hires Mark Richt (HC, Georgia)
§ Missouri hires Tom Herman (HC, Houston)
§ Houston hires Kendal Briles (OC, Baylor)
§ Louisiana-Monroe hires Major Applewhite (OC, Houston)
§ North Texas hires Doug Meachem (OC, TCU)
§ Rutgers hires Jim Tressel (President, Youngstown State)
§ South Carolina hires Kirby Smart (DC, Alabama)
§ Syracuse hires Ed Orgeron (DL, LSU)
§ Toledo hires Jason Candle (OC, Toledo)
§ Tulane hires Greg Schiano (unemployed)
§ Virginia hires Gene Chizik (DC, North Carolina)
§ UCF hires John Grass (HC, Jacksonville State)
§ USC hires Jeff Fisher (HC, St. Louis Rams)
Heisman Trophy Watch
5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State – He won’t win because of his remarks after the Michigan State game, but he has proved that he is that whole offense, and when they utilize him, they are not going to be stopped.
4. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford – He is approaching the Barry Sanders record for all purpose yards in a season. That should be enough…
3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma – When he was out, they nearly lost at home. When he is in, he is one of the most dialed-in and inspired players I have seen since Tim Tebow. He needs to be invited.
2. DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson – He had another huge game this week, but he drops one spot only because…
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama – 250+ yards and 45+ carries in a rivalry game. Yeah.
College Football Playoff Projections
Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl: Notre Dame over North Carolina
Rose Bowl: Ohio State over Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: Houston over Baylor
Sugar Bowl: Clemson over Mississippi
College Football Playoff Semifinal #1 (Orange Bowl): Stanford over Alabama
CFB Playoff Semifinal #2 (Cotton Bowl): Oklahoma over Iowa
National Championship Game: Stanford over Oklahoma
What are your favorite college football rivalries? What do you think will happen in the conference championship games next week? Your top 4? Heisman top 5? Let me know!