College Football Championship Weekend Primer

Nick SabanSEC Championship: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Florida, 4:00 PM ET CBS
This is going to be an absolute battle and I for one think that this is going to be extremely close throughout. Ironically, even though ‘Bama is the top team in the nation, many college football purists have been clamoring for weeks that Florida is the true No. 1. It’s hard to argue that point with the way the Gators have destroyed opponents by a 414 to 97 margin since losing to Ole’ Miss on the last Saturday in September. Still, the Crimson Tide have one of the most disruptive defensives lines in the nation and while the Florida offense is incredibly explosive, defense will win this game in the end. If ‘Bama can get to Tim Tebow and disrupt the flow of the Gator offense, the Tide might be able to rely on Glen Coffee and their ground game to grab victory, finish the season undefeated and secure a spot in the national championship. A win won’t be as easy to come by as it was last week against Auburn, however, as the Gators boast one of the fastest defenses in the country. Oddsmakers have made Florida a 9.5-point favorite but ‘Bama has a great shot to win outright. If we’re making predictions, I say the Gators win, but don’t cover.

ACC Championship: No. 17 Boston College vs. No. 25 Virginia Tech, 1:00 PM ET, ABC
Ah the ACC…the red-headed step child of the 2008 Championship Weekend. Ten of the 12 teams in this conference finished with a 5-3 or 4-4 record and arguably the best team in the ACC (Georgia Tech) won’t even play for a title due to a tough loss to Virginia back in September. But despite the allure of the SEC and Big 12 championship games, this matchup pits two of the best defenses in the nation against each other as VA Tech ranks sixth nationally and BC is eighth. The Hokies held opponents to only 268 yards or less in six of their 12 games while offensively, BC has totaled 244 yards or less in four of its last six games. In their first meeting this year, VA Tech returned two interceptions for touchdowns, while BC scored on a punt return to edge the Hokies 28-23. Defense is going to win this game and VA Tech has a small edge in that department, but the Eagles have been very opportunistic this season, forcing a remarkable 16 turnovers in their last five games. Oddsmakers have made this game a pick ’em and while it’s hard to back a struggling Hokies’ offense, defense wins this game and I say VA Tech is your ACC Champion at the end of the day.

Oklahoma SoonersBig 12 Championship: No. 20 Missouri vs. No. 2 Oklahoma, 8:00 PM ET ABC
Regardless of whether or not you think Texas should be playing MIZZOU this weekend, this is the matchup that the BCS produced so live with it. The Tigers essentially have a small edge with the game being played at Arrowhead Stadium, but they better hope for bad weather to slow down Sam Bradford and OU’s explosive offense. While Chase Daniel and the MIZZOU have taken a backseat to OU, Texas and Texas Tech over the past couple weeks, the Tiger offense is still dangerous and posses a threat to Oklahoma and a defense that was absolutely shredded by Oklahoma State last weekend. Still, this game will come down to whether or not MIZZOU has enough defense to slow down Bradford, DeMarco Murray and a host of talented Sooner receivers. No opponent has even come close to containing Bradford. TCU’s and Texas were the only two teams to hold OU to under 40 points this season and the Sooners have scored 60-plus points in their last four contests. Oddsmakers have made OU a 17-point favorite and while it’s tempting to thing Daniel will keep the game close, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Other Notable Games:

No. 5 USC at UCLA, 4:30 PM ET ABC
The last time the Trojans traveled to Pasadena, they were upset 13-9. Ironically that was also the same year Oregon State beat USC in Corvallis. And who beat USC earlier this year in Corvallis? Hmm…

Navy at Army, 12:00 PM ET CBS
The most underrated rivalry in college football will once again be on display this week in Philadelphia.

No. 12 Ball State vs. Buffalo, 8:00 PM ET ESPN2
This game might not get the attention of the other title games, but the MAC has produced some quality NFL-caliber players over the years, including Ben Roethlisberger, Chad Pennington and Randy Moss. And this game features one more: Ball State QB Nate Davis.

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Buffalo shocks No. 12 Ball State, ends Cardinals perfect season

Buffalo BullsIt’s amazing how just one play can turn the tide of an entire football game. Take a play in unranked Buffalo’s stunning 42-24 upset of No. 12 Ball State in the MAC Championship Game on Friday night.

Up 17-14 and driving for more points following a Bulls’ fumble, Cardinals’ RB MiQuale Lewis took a handoff from Buffalo’s 8-yard line and rushed straight to the pile on at the goal line. Lewis appeared to have gotten in for a touchdown, but officials placed the ball at the 1 and the call upheld following review. After a Lewis two-yard loss and a 5-yard false start penalty, the Cardinals faced 3rd and goal at Buffalo’s 8-yard line. Highly touted quarterback Nate Davis than scrambled on 3rd down, leaped for the end zone and was smashed by multiple Bull defenders. The ball came lose, was scooped up by Buffalo’s Mike Newton and returned 92-yards for a touchdown.

Ball State never recovered. On their ensuing possession, a botched snap led to another Cardinal fumble, and another Buffalo recovery and touchdown. Davis then fumbled once more in the fourth quarter, which led to yet another Bulls touchdown.

What’s amazing is that if officials determined Lewis got in the end zone earlier in the third quarter, Ball State would have taken a 24-14 lead and who knows, they probably would have went on to win and cap off their perfect season with a MAC title. For all intents and purposes, it looked like Lewis was clearly in. And before the botched snap occurred on Ball State’s next offensive possession, officials overturned a reception by the Cardinals that would have put them in the red zone and a chance to take the lead again after Buffalo went up 21-17.

But regardless of whether they were screwed or not, Davis and Ball State have to overcome those calls. There’s no excuse for four fumbles and personally, I thought the Cardinals were flat all night. And that’s not to take anything away from Turner Gill’s Bulls, because they played with intensity and fire the entire night.

This puts the debate to rest about whether or not Ball State deserves to play for a national title. One loss doesn’t ruin a great season, but a team can’t be even remotely considered in a title discussion when it losses to a previously 7-5 Buffalo team, especially when the elements were in Ball State’s favor. (The game was in Detroit at Ford Field, which is certainly more of a hike for Buffalo than it is for Ball State. Plus, with the game being on turf, that certainly played into Davis and the Cardinals’ hands with how good their offense is.)

Latest BCS fiasco is just another example of why the NFL trumps college football

I used to have a friend in college named Paul. He was a great guy – loved football, although he couldn’t care less about the NFL. He was a college football fan through and through.

Paul and I used to get into heated debates over which was better – college or pro football. One time we almost came to blows in his living room, although it’s important to note that there may have been some alcoholic beverages involved that contributed to the debate growing into a fight.

Sam BradfordHis main points were that NFL players only cared about money and essentially weren’t playing for the love of the game. Conversely, since college players weren’t being paid, they played more for the competition and the love of football. He also noted that the game-day atmosphere in college football was way better than in the NFL and that the regular season games had more meaning because if a college team lost, than their season could essentially be over.

His first point about college football players loving the game more because they’re not being paid is a bit flawed. Some NFL players only play for the money. But some college football players are only playing so that they can make it to the NFL…so they can make money. I really don’t see the difference.

But Paul had a point about the atmosphere being better in college – I would rather tailgate with a bunch of rowdy college kids than some stuffy executive types that got their NFL tickets for free at the company picnic.

However, after Oklahoma leapfrogged Texas in the BCS standings this week despite the fact that the Longhorns beat the Sooners earlier in the year, I refuse to agree with anyone who says regular season games in college have more meaning than in the NFL.

Read the rest after the jump...

Does undefeated Boise State deserve a chance to play for a national title?

Boise StateWith their 61-10 plastering of Fresno State on Friday night, No. 9 Boise State officially wrapped up its season unscathed. For the second time in three years, the Broncos finished the regular season undefeated, and yet the only thing they can hope for is a chance to play in a BCS bowl game.

Do they deserve more? Do they deserve to play for a national championship?

Some say they do because they were one of only three teams (Utah and Ball State being the others) to finish undefeated. But most say they don’t because the only team with a pulse on their schedule was Oregon, who the Broncos beat 37-32 in Eugene earlier this season (which is more impressive than people are letting on).

Personally, I say they do have the right to play for a national championship, just as Utah and Ball State do. It’s not fair to assume anything in college football. It’s not fair to say, “Well, if Boise State played Alabama in the national championship, they would get waxed.”

Guess what? We already played that game two years ago with Boise and they produced one of the greatest bowl games ever when they beat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. We can’t assume anything in college football and that’s what makes the game so exciting.

Did Boise State play anybody outside of Oregon? No. But you can make the argument that nobody plays anybody. College football teams are lucky to get two teams worth a damn on their schedule every year. The SEC is down this year and so is the Big Ten. But just because the Big 12 is arguably the power conference this year, doesn’t mean that Oklahoma or Texas would roll over Boise in a bowl game. Granted, I’m not suggesting that Boise plays a similar schedule to any team in the Big 12 or SEC, but the point is that not a lot of teams are playing daunting schedules.

And this is why the BCS is so screwed up. It assumes things. It assumes things based on schedule, and points and everything else but what really matters – beating another opponent on the field. The only way we would know if Boise could hang with the “big boys” in college football is if they played them in a playoff.

But I guess the Broncos don’t deserve that shot. Why? Because a computer says they don’t. It’s the most ridiculous thing in all of sports next to some NFL teams not having cheerleaders.

Eating crow: Ball State is no joke

Ball StateA couple weeks ago Ball State University turned in an unimpressive victory against fellow MAC opponent Miami of Ohio and I wrote how the Cardinals and the BCS were a joke.

Well, the BCS is still a joke – but Ball State isn’t. I was wrong about this team and I’m more than willing to eat crow. (I know a couple of Ball State fans that would be more than willing to watch me eat every bit of that crow, too.)

There are a lot of media outlets that assume that just because a team isn’t in one of college football’s main conferences (i.e. SEC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-10, etc.), that they would never be able to compete with the big boys. I fell into that trap after watching the Cardinals a few weeks ago, but I was wrong in my assumptions. After beating top MAC teams in Central Michigan and Western Michigan the past two weeks, Ball State has more than proved that they are legit.

How do we know that Ball State wouldn’t compete with Oklahoma? Boise State certainly did when they beat the Sooners in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. It’s time to stop assuming that just because a team plays in the MAC that they couldn’t hold their own.

BSU’s Nate Davis has been one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and while he doesn’t face defenses as good as Alabama, Texas, Florida and Oklahoma every week, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve the opportunity to see what he could do on a national stage. He has tremendous arm strength, great leadership and has showed all season that he’s a tremendous competitor.

We need a playoff in college football. Undefeated teams like Ball State, Utah and Boise State deserve the opportunity to see if they can compete against the likes of ‘Bama, Florida, Texas and Oklahoma. If they get waxed like Hawaii did last year against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, so be it. But maybe they’ll surprise some people, too. The main thing is, they deserve a shot. And college football fans deserve a better system.

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