Rocky’s V: Conference Championship Breakdowns

12/04/2013

Rockys VI. SEC Championship Game: Missouri vs. Auburn

Auburn is the story of college football after last week’s unbelievable upset of Alabama and now possess an even greater feeling of destiny. But after two straight games in which the Tigers beat top-tier teams on the final play, what can Auburn possibly have left in the tank? We are talking about 19- to 21-year-old kids here, it’s only natural that they have an emotional letdown. After a week of every media outlet in the world asking about last week’s miracle, I think we will see that letdown in Saturday’s game. On top of that, Missouri is just plain good. Mizzou lost only one game this year and that came in double overtime when their quarterback, James Franklin, couldn’t play because of an injury. A great match-up to watch is Auburn’s ground attack, which has had 200-plus rushing yards in 11 of 12 games, versus Missouri’s defense, which is stout up front and hasn’t allowed 200 yards rushing in any game this season. It’s been wonderful Auburn, but I’m going with Mizzou in this one.

II. Pac-12 Championship Game: Stanford vs. Arizona State

This is a rematch of a regular-season game that Stanford won 42-28. However, this is a different group of Sun Devils than the one that faced the Cardinal in September. ASU has gelled more as a team and has seen its big AND fast defense force turnovers at an alarming rate. I said after calling the ASU-UCLA game that I thought the Sun Devils were the “new Oregon,” all the high-speed scoring but with the ability to fight it out in the trenches unlike the Ducks. I love their coach Todd Graham and his inspiring ferocity. I know I picked Stanford as my team to win it all this year, but I feel like the Cardinal is missing that defensive piece or two that made them so dangerous last year. Sun Devils win this one and become the new studs in the Pac-12.

III. Big Ten Championship Game: Ohio State vs. Michigan State

A classic December, smashmouth game between two storied programs matching up Ohio State’s explosive offense under QB Braxton Miller versus a Michigan State defense that is ranked #1 in the country. OSU has struggled on defense this season, but the good news is so has MSU’s offense. Many great matchups in this game, but to me it all comes down to Braxton Miller. If MSU can control their rush and not open up lanes for Miller to escape, they have a great chance to win. If Miller is allowed to run wild, OSU wins the day. I think he does and the Buckeyes stay undefeated.

IV. MAC Championship Game: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green State

A huge game in a conference that year after year produces more and more exciting football – and also exciting football PLAYERS. None has been more thrilling than NIU’s quarterback Jordan Lynch who, in my opinion, should be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony a week from Saturday. The kid does it all, he is a dual threat who this season became only the fifth QB in FBS history to have 20+ rushing and 20+ passing touchdowns in a single season. NIU has had another magnificent season and could potentially bust the final BCS with a win, but standing in the way is Bowling Green State. I’ve seen the Falcons in person twice this year and they are solid. BGSU led the MAC East in four defensive categories and has given up only one touchdown in its last four games. Offensively, the Falcons have a QB in Matt Johnson who is deadly accurate and a backfield of four explosive running backs led by Travis Greene. Because I am from Ohio (where BGSU is located) and love the way they play in all three phases, I’m giving the nod to Bowling Green for the upset.

V. ACC Championship Game: Florida State vs. Duke

Duke has had an unbelievable season, reaching 10 wins for the first time ever making its first ACC title game. But all good things must come to an end, especially when the Blue Devils face the nation’s top-ranked team this Saturday in FSU. It would take an epic meltdown by Jameis Winston and the Seminoles offense for an upset to happen. My only X-factor/glimmer of hope for the Blue Devils would be if the weekly pressure and scrutiny that Winston has been facing from all of the off-the-field issues finally makes him crack. It has got to be a hard thing for the young 19-year-old to deal with and if he comes out and turns in a distracted, turnover-heavy performance, Duke has a snowball’s chance. Other than that, it’s not happening. Florida State wins huge.

— Rocky Boiman

Rocky Boiman is an analyst for WestwoodOne’s coverage of NCAA Football. Each week in “Rocky’s V,” the former Notre Dame captain and Super Bowl champion writes about five topics that have captured his interest from around college football. You can also follow Rocky on Twitter.

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