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Saturday Syllabus: Championship Games And Cold Weather Big 12 Play

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SEC Championship Game… Being bullish about both teams in August meant you felt they’d reach bowl games. Now, Missouri and Auburn play for the SEC Championship and a potential BCS title game place. These schools had two conference wins in 2012, combined. David Cutcliffe may be a deserving Coach of the Year, winning 10 games at Duke, but Malzahn and Pinkel were a close second and third. Missouri was the dominant force from a weak SEC East. Auburn rode a late wave of magical (or fluke) wins.

These offenses create similar production. There’s a disparity with the defenses. Auburn gave up more than 500 total yards to Georgia. Alabama ran up nearly eight yards/play and got into the red zone six times against them (three trips produced no points). Being that porous, under normal circumstances, does not lead to week-in, week-out wins. Missouri is an aggressive Top 40 defense and first in the SEC with a +11 turnover margin. Auburn is also facing a potential body blow game and let down after Alabama. Will lightning strike a third time for them? We’re stepping off the bus. Pick: Missouri -1.5

Image (2) Urban-Meyer-Ohio-State-594x395.jpg for post 211138Big Ten Championship Game… The Big Ten produces content for television networks. This meeting, between two of the conference’s three reasonably good teams, will provide that. So you’re up to speed on Urban Meyer controversies… He did not meaningfully punish players ejected during the Michigan game. He deployed the SEC strength of schedule rationale in 2006, but did not do so when coaching in the Big Ten in 2013. The situations weren’t analogous, but, hey, CONTROVERSY.

This game should come down to two factors. Can the Spartans stop Ohio State’s read option attack? Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde have been rolling over Big Ten opponents. The Spartans do have the best statistical rush defense in the nation. Though they conceded more than five yards/carry to Nebraska. Can Michigan State exploit Ohio State through the air? The Buckeyes have been vulnerable of late, most notably giving up 9.6 yards/attempt to Michigan. Connor Cook probably has to throw it 30-40 times efficiently under duress for Michigan State to win this. We don’t see it on a neutral site. Pick: Ohio State -5

Will Sutton Arizona StatePac 12 Championship Game… Arizona State lost by 14 at Stanford earlier this season. That scoreline credits them, as they were down 39-7 heading into the fourth quarter. Less than three months later, they head into this game a three-point favorite at home. The Sun Devils have won eight-straight Pac 12 games since that defeat. That run includes four blowouts of bowl-bound teams. The closest a Pac 12 team has come them at home was Oregon State, who lost by 13.

Stanford has played three true road games not against Army. They lost two of them, against Utah and USC. The third was a narrow win over Oregon State. Not coincidentally, those were some of Kevin Hogan’s worst passing performances. ASU should put up enough yards on Stanford through the air at home to gut out a win. A Pac 12 title just in time for Todd Graham to get into the mix for the Texas job. Pick: Arizona State -3

ACC Championship Game… I suppose we technically must mention this. Duke won 10 games in a weak ACC. Florida State ranks No. 1 in yards/play offense and No. 2 in yards/play defense. One team finished within four touchdowns of them all sesaon. Jameis Winston will not be charged with sexual battery, removing any remaining intrigue. Roll Noles. Pick: Florida State -29.5

Baylor bros shakeBattle of Texas… Last game at Floyd Casey stadium. Baylor is scraping ice off the bleachers. Temperature is going to hover around freezing. The Bears will wear throwback uniforms, though it’s not clear to what they would want to throw back.  Baylor has a banged up offensive line. They have struggled running the ball and protecting Bryce Petty. Texas has 33 sacks in eight Big 12 games. Baylor, on paper, has the personnel to run the read option all over Texas. But Petty has not been a dangerous runner this season. There’s not much to like about Texas’ flaccid offense. But the Longhorns should do enough to at least keep it close. Pick: Texas +15.5

Bedlam… Another cold weather game, with a forecast of 21 degrees at kickoff in Stillwater. Oklahoma State is one win away from a Big 12 title. The Bob Stoops in a big maxim has never held water against the Cowboys, with Oklahoma winning nine of the last 10 in this series. The Sooners have gotten the run game going with Trevor Knight back at the helm. The weather, the rivalry and the Oklahoma pass defense will be enough to keep this within 10. Pick: Oklahoma +10

We went 5-5 last week. Our record on the season is 53-56-2.

[Photos via USA Today Sports]

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