Welcome to the Addison Recorder‘s football Pick ‘Em column. Each week Alex and a guest writer will predict the outcome of the most intriguing games on the slate. He will try to be as expert as possible, but we make no guarantees for his guests.
Actually, I’m gonna fly solo this week. I’ve loved having all my guests contribute, but I’ll close college football’s season being the lone voice shouting into the void.
Northern Illinois vs Bowling Green
The rematch in the MAC Championship is a good place to start. Two years ago, North Illinois managed to run all the way to the Orange Bowl after winning this game. Last year, Bowling Green walked in and knocked off the defending champs and their Heisman-finalist QB Jordan Lynch to win their first conference title in 20 years. So despite the requisite coaching turnovers at both schools, it seems appropriate that both are back. That being said, this probably won’t be much of a game. The Huskies are 10-2 and have a punishing rushing attack. BG is 7-5 and has seen its defense regress from a year ago. So I say sorry to my Alma Mater. NIU by 17.
#7 Arizona vs #2 Oregon
In all likelihood, the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday night is a play-in game for the inaugural playoffs. Oregon is absolutely in if it wins and finishes 12-1. Zona is a dicier propositions, but finishing 11-2 atop the best Pac-12 in generations has got to be a good enough resume. <insert Bean vomiting because RichRod can do this everywhere BUT at Michigan> What makes the game such an interesting match-up is that despite being outclassed physically (Oregon’s players are worlds better as recruits), the Wildcats have upset the Ducks the last two times they met. Can they make it three times in a row? I think that will come down to Arizona’s defense. The unconventional pressure that Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 brings has slowed down Heisman-favorite Marcus Mariota enough to squeeze out those wins. One imagines he and the Oregon staff are suitably prepared on the 3rd go-round. Barely. Ducks by 4.
#1 Alabama vs #16 Missouri
I have two main thoughts about this game. First, hats off to Gary Pinkel and the Mizzou Tigers for getting to the SEC Championship Game two years in a row. No mean feat, even in a SEC East lacking its usual punch. Second, Alabama will win this game by a crushing margin. The Crimson Tide’s only loss this year was to an Ole Miss defense that could bring overwhelming front-7 pressure and still cover Amari Cooper in the secondary. Mizzou does not have that defense. Expect lots of receiving yards for Cooper and rushing yards for T.J. Yeldon as the Tide wrap up the #1 seed for the Playoffs. Crimson Tide by 15.
#4 Florida State vs #11 Georgia Tech
I’m sitting here trying to talk myself into a loss for Florida State. Riding a younger roster and the infinite bad karma of Head Coach Jimbo fischer and Heisman-winning QB/rapist/shoplifter/public provacteur/world-class idiot Jameis Winston the Noles have flirted with an upset loss seemingly every week this year. They have found themselves behind in the second half 8 times this year, often by multiple scores. Somehow, they keep finding a way to delay their date with my sense of schadenfreude, though. The Yellowjackets do provide a unique challenge with their throwback triple-option offense and have a pretty stout defense. Oh, what the hell. Name it and claim it, right? Yellowjackets by 5.
#13 Wisconsin vs #5 Ohio State
A week ago this looked like a pretty safe win for Ohio State. They are not a perfect team, but with their always-explosive offense and more-consistent defense the Buckeyes have been the class of the Big Ten in 2014. (Just like 2013, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2002…Stop the planet, I want to get off.) But Freshman Heisman-contender (ugh) J.T. Barrett’s ankle was broken during the 4th quarter of the Michigan game, which means the Buckeyes will be starting their 3rd-string QB Cardale Jones. (Insert “Ain’t come to play school” here.) That might be decisive here, since Wisconsin is a very good team. Their rushing offense is absolutely ludicrous (334 yards per game!) thanks to human highlight reel Melvin Gordon and their defense gives up only 16.8 points per game. It will be a strong test, but I think the Badgers will get at Cardale Jones enough to make the difference. More sad pizza for Urban Meyer! Badgers by 3.