Championship week is here. This is the last audition for some contenders for the College Football Playoff. Who'll ace their auditions and who'll fall short?
Pac-12 Championship: Among the Power Five conference championships this weekend, this match-up will carry the least amount of weight. Still, it's a compelling match-up between an athletic USC team and a physical, grinding Stanford team. Whoever's worn down the least will win this match-up. Stanford 35, USC 28
Big 12 Championship: Can TCU play spoiler against Oklahoma? The Horned Frogs' secondary could provide a tough test for Baker Mayfield and the vaunted Sooner passing attack. Oklahoma steamrolled TCU on November 11th by a score of 38-20, so the Horned Frogs have an incentive for some revenge. Oklahoma 30, TCU 28
AAC Championship: This game doesn't have any playoff implications. However, there is incentive to play in a Group of Six bowl as Central Florida looks to go 12-0. Both the Tigers and Knights have big-time offenses, so expect a shoot-out here. UCF 48, Memphis 42
SEC Championship: No Alabama here!! Anyways, the last time Georgia played Auburn, the Tigers plowed through the Bulldogs, 40-17. I expect the Bulldogs to have some bite here and exact their revenge behind a monster game from Nick Chubb. Georgia 23, Auburn 20
Big Ten Championship: Can Ohio State find a way to sneak into the playoff? J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes will have their work cut out for them; Wisconsin is the second-best team in NCAA football in defensive efficiency at 88.3. Wisconsin's defense is much more fearsome than Michigan's was a week ago. Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 17
ACC Championship: How much will the turnover chain be passed around on the Miami sidelines here? The bigger question will be how much Miami will score against Clemson. Clemson 34, Miami 17
Welcome to another edition of "Blending Buddy!" Here, I share you some delectable smoothies that I blend in the morning. These drinks help me with my day and gives me the kickstart I need. Today, we have what I call "The Scraps".
The conference championships are all set! Who's needs to win and be in? Who's on thin ice?
Winner: Auburn: Perhaps the best two-loss team in the country, the #6 Tigers are one step closer to making history. They beat their in-state rival, #1 Alabama, by a score of 26-14, to ensure their spot in the SEC Championship game against #7 Georgia. Led by a stellar performance by Ryan Davis (11 receptions, 139 yards) and a defensive performance led by Deshaun Davis (seven total tackles, one sack), Auburn took out another #1 ranked team this season.
Winner: Dwayne Haskins: The freshman quarterback filled in nicely for a shaky J.T. Barrett, going 6 for 7 and throwing for 94 yards. His performance helped #9 Ohio State come back to beat rival Michigan, 31-20.
Winner: Central Florida: Two years ago, the Knights were 0-12 and mired in incompetence and misery. Now, they finish the regular season undefeated, beating in-state rival South Florida in a thriller, 49-42. UCF has a chance to secure their spot in a Group of Six bowl game with a win in the AAC Championship game against Memphis next week.
Loser: Alabama: It's not normal to put Alabama in the 'loser' category. And to be fair, they played a tough road game against their in-state rival. But when your playoff hopes are out of your hands, it doesn't make things better.
Loser: Miami: The Hurricanes were swaggering into their game against Pittsburgh with all the confidence in the world. "THE U IS BACK!!" Miami fans would proclaim. Unfortunately, the 'Canes stubbed their toe, losing to the Panthers by a score of 24-14. Despite being gifted two turnovers, the Miami offense could only muster 232 total yards.
Loser: Baylor: Once a threat to make the College Football Playoff, a sexual assault scandal has rocked the football program, leading to Art Briles being fired. They just ended a woeful 1-11 campaign in 2017 by losing to #12 TCU, 45-25.
Other Winners: Ole Miss, Fresno State, Oregon
Other Losers: Notre Dame, Washington State, Florida
We've already had one school in the Top Four go down today. Will we see another as the regular season winds down?
#9 Ohio State 45, Michigan 13: I have a gut feeling this game will not even be close. Jim Harbaugh doesn't have a marquee win this year, nor has he had one in his tenure at Michigan. I don't expect him to get one in this game as it'll be another mud-stomping and ass-kicking at the hands of the Buckeyes.
#3 Clemson 34, #24 South Carolina 21: With the Miami Hurricanes losing earlier today, the Tigers have an opportunity to solidify their status as the ACC representative before their conference championship against those 'Canes. They can't fall into a trap against South Carolina, who's been impressive this season.
#21 Stanford 30, #8 Notre Dame 27: The ground game will be the feature strategy here as both teams look to capitalize on each other's run defense anomalies. It'll be Josh Adams against Bryce Love and crew as the Cardinal look to make it to the Pac-12 Title Game.
#17 Washington 35, #13 Washington State 31: Unfortunately for both teams, the Apple Cup won't carry big implications for the playoff picture the way last year's match-up did. Still, there is something on the line; Washington State can get in the Pac-12 Championship game with a win.
Upset Watch: #6 Auburn over #1 Alabama
Sitting pretty at 9-1, the Philadelphia Eagles are the best team in the NFL. With Carson Wentz having an MVP-caliber season and the defensive line as fearsome as ever, the Eagles have control of the NFC East and the NFC in general. But there are still some skeptics who believe the Eagles will revert to their old shortcoming ways in January. Here's a few reasons why this could be true.
For many teams, there's one week left of the regular season. For a select few, this is their last opportunity to make an impression. Who won the week and who lost it?
Winner: Baker Mayfield: There were a select group of Kansas players who refused to shake Mayfield's hand before the game. This invoked the wrath of Mayfield and the Sooners on the field... and on the sidelines.
Winner: Georgia Southern: The Eagles got their first win of the season, shutting South Alabama out, 52-0. Shai Werts ran the ball 15 times for 113 yards and a touchdown while passing for 107 yards and a touchdown. Georgia Southern also had two picks in the game (one by Monquavion Brinson, one by Kindle Vildor).
Winner: Wake Forest: Behind a big game from Tabari Hines (eight receptions for 139 yards and three touchdowns), the Demon Deacons pulled off the upset over #25 North Carolina State, 30-24. That would be one of few upsets on the day. Speaking of...
Loser: Big-Time Upsets: #24 Michigan hung with #5 Wisconsin up until Brandon Peters got knocked out of the game. Virginia gave #3 Miami all they could handle until late in the game. As for the rest of the top five, #1 Alabama, #2 Clemson, and #4 Oklahoma all took care of business. Those string of shake-ups in the polls weren't meant to last forever, you know.
Loser: Oklahoma State: There was a note-worthy upset that happened in Stillwater. #13 Oklahoma State put 20 points on the board in the fourth quarter against Kansas State, only to fall short, 45-40. Mason Rudolph had 425 passing yards in this game, but threw two picks as well.
Loser: Mercer: They had no chance against Alabama. No chance.
Other Winners: Fresno State, Bryce Love pre-ankle injury, Boise State
Other Losers: Minnesota, Defense in Nebraska-Penn State, Defense in SMU-Memphis
The regular season for college football is winding down. Which teams will cruise to a New Year's Six bowl or a playoff spot? Who'll fall short?
#5 Wisconsin 33, #24 Michigan 27: The Wolverines have improved their offensive play a bit in recent games. This is thanks to Karan Higdon, who ran for 150+ yards in three of his last five games. Wisconsin will be tested here, especially with many injuries on defense.
#3 Miami 42, Virginia 17: Virginia's secondary is sneaky good; they're only allowing 180.2 yards a game. Freshman Brenton Nelson has four interceptions on the year and has been a key player for the Cavaliers. The Hurricanes will run the ball, though. That will be hard for Virginia to stop and will open up the secondary.
#7 Georgia 35, Kentucky 21: The Wildcats have been a pleasant surprise in college football at 7-3. However, can they stop an angry Bulldog team that's averaging 256 yards a game on the ground?
#18 Washington 49, Utah 13: The Huskies' postseason hopes may be over, but they'll be every bit of pissed off as they can be. Expect a big game from Jake Browning and crew.
#19 North Carolina State 24, Wake Forest 23: Should be a close game. Don't be surprised if Wake Forest wins here.
Upset Watch: Texas Tech over TCU
Expect a big shake-up in the college football rankings this week. Plenty of teams went down in a punishing fashion. Here's who won the week and who lost it.
Winner: Ohio State: After getting an ass-whooping in Iowa City last week, the #13 Buckeyes responded in a big way, destroying #12 Michigan State, 48-3. Mike Weber and J.K Dobbins combined for 286 rushing yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns to send a resounding message in the Big Ten East.
Winner: John Wolford: The Wake Forest quarterback had 499 all-purpose yards and six all-purpose touchdowns against Syracuse. The Demon Deacons rolled in a Carrier Dome shoot-out, 64-43.
Winner: Auburn: It's bizarre to say this, but Auburn might not be out of the playoff discussion, especially with the hurting they put on top-ranked Georgia. A 40-17 win over the #1 Bulldogs should raise some eyebrows among committee members. The Tigers did lose to Clemson as one of their two losses and LSU as the other, after all.
Loser: Pac-12: First the Big Ten saw their playoff hopes get trimmed to just a thread last week. This week, it's the Pac-12, who witnessed #9 Washington lose to Stanford, 30-22. What's worse, the Big 12's only hope, Oklahoma, won in resounding fashion against #6 TCU, 38-20.
Loser: Notre Dame: Another big loser in the playoff hunt is the #3 Fighting Irish, who got clobbered in South Beach, 41-8. Four turnovers in the game doomed Notre Dame, and likely doomed Notre Dame's playoff chances.
Loser: North Carolina State: It took a touchdown from Nyheim Hines (50-yard run) midway through the fourth quarter to topple Boston College, 17-12. #23 NC State barely won against a football patsy. Let it sink in.
Other Winners: Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Bryce Love
Other Losers: Michigan State, Tennessee, UTEP's unfortunate season
This week's picks feature some big match-ups, ranging from the Big Ten to the SEC. Here's how I predict things will shake out this week.
#13 Ohio State 27, #12 Michigan State 26: Michigan State has a shot at winning this game. This would certainly be a boost to Michigan State's resume if they win here. In order to win, offensive coordinator Dave Warner must open up the playbook for the young Spartan offense to thrive.
#2 Alabama 42, # Mississippi State 14: Fun fact: Alabama has turned the ball over only five times this season, fewest in FBS football.
#6 Oklahoma 42, #5 TCU 38: TCU's excellent at stopping the run; they've only allowed 69.7 yards per game on the ground this year. However, Oklahoma will air it out and attack TCU through airing it out.
#3 Notre Dame 24, #7 Miami 21: Catholics vs. Convicts. This is the other big night game going on this week. Josh Adams will be a big player in this game and for good reason; Miami's allowing 170 rushing yards per game this year. Notre Dame's averaging 324.8 yards per game on the ground, so expect the Fighting Irish to exploit this weakness to no end. This is a tempting game to pick Miami to win, though.
#15 Oklahoma State 35, #21 Iowa State 21: The Cyclones have been a nice story this year, beating both TCU and Oklahoma (two teams that were in the Top Five when Iowa State beat them). But how will they handle a Mason Rudolph pass attack?
#20 Iowa over #8 Wisconsin
#10 Auburn over #1 Georgia
It's an unfortunate tale of two NFL franchises falling behind the times, both with plenty of history to fall back on. The San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns are winless this season and are staring down the barrel of ending the 2017 season without a victory.
San Francisco's had a fall from grace dating back to 2014. The only team they've beaten in recent memory's the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams. In fact, their last non-Rams victory was on December 6, 2015 in overtime against the Chicago Bears. Their fall has been in part to ownership scaring away Jim Harbaugh as the head coach and letting quality talent walk.
Cleveland's misery has been documented for a long time. Their last win on a Sunday was ironically against the Niners on December 13, 2015. They barely walked out of 2016 with a win, beating the San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve. The Browns as a whole haven't been good, with their last playoff appearance coming in 2002 during a pedestrian 9-7 campaign.
Cleveland has a strategy going on right now, focusing on developing talent, especially on the defensive side. However, they botched a trade for A.J. McCarron, which showed the traditional side of the Browns organization. San Francisco is trying the same philosophy, only without the Moneyball aspect. They're hoping to cash in on Kirk Cousins next season if he becomes available as they hope to take the next step back into relevance.
Is it possible for BOTH the Niners and the Browns to go without a win this season? It's entirely possible. There's always the last game of the season in which teams are usually resting starters or the back-ups auditioning for a future role on the team. As for the Browns schedule, theirs is more difficult. Their only winnable games are a December 10 date at home against the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers and a Christmas Eve road date in Chicago. Three of San Francisco's next four games are winnable. Houston doesn't having either Deshaun Watson nor J.J. Watt, the New York Giants stink this year, and the Bears are, well, the Bears.
Unfortunately for both of these teams, only one can get the No. 1 pick in the next NFL Draft. All the tanking that both of these teams are doing will be for naught if either one doesn't get the No. 1 pick. Granted, having the first pick in any draft isn't a shoo-in for a successful franchise player. Just ask the late-90's San Diego Chargers. But let's just hope that both of these teams can turn around their fortunes quickly.
My life! Food, sports, school. It's what it is!