Conference championship weekend is here, where did the season go exactly?
I'm not sure either, but NCAA Football has a thing or two to say about how things are going to fare this weekend. The first thing that can be said is a simple, "Where are the big matchups?"
For all the hype they get, conference title games are largely huge flops. Florida State vs. Georgia Tech? Nebraska vs. Wisconsin?
Kent State vs. Northern Illinois is a more marquee matchup than the aforementioned games. The MAC Championship game features higher ranked matchups than the ACC and Big Ten Championships.
It's been that kind of a year.
The SEC Championship features the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. #3 Georgia Bulldogs though, and that's where we begin to dissect this weekend according to NCAA Football 13...
#2 Alabama vs. #3 Georgia
This is the classic semi-final game you'd like to see in conference title games. Alabama and Georgia both bring impressive records but (especially in Georgia's case) quite weak schedules which got them there. The bottom 8 teams of the SEC were somewhere between average to bad, which made for a lot of cupcake fodder on schedules. The implications of this game are simple: the winner goes to the BCS Championship while the loser finds themselves somewhere outside of the BCS, from Dallas to Orlando to Atlanta...one of those locales. So it's a literal do or die type of scenario here.
Alabama jumped out quickly 10-0 in the first quarter but Georgia roared (or was that howled/barked) back with two second quarter touchdowns to take a slight 14-13 advantage into halftime. From there, Alabama began to do work -- shutting the Bulldogs down in the second half with A.J. McCarron leading the Tide down the field for two second half touchdown drives. One particularly late to seal the deal.
Final Score: Alabama 27 Georgia 17
#16 UCLA vs. #8 Stanford
Call it the great mulligan. UCLA could've beat Stanford last week in the name of scheduling diversity to instead play Oregon. Instead, UCLA looked pretty commonfolk last week in getting thumped by Stanford. The intrigue in the Pac-12 Championship is simply was UCLA playing chicken last week?
NCAA has loved UCLA in my simulations, and this week was no different early on. The Bruins jumped out to a 13-0 lead midway through the second before Stanford managed to intercept the ball deep in UCLA territory. But the Cardinal had little offensive push, only managing a field goal for a 13-3 halftime deficit. The game changed little from there, UCLA kept pouring the points on while Stanford's hapless digital offense was left to swim in it's own mediocrity.
Final Score: UCLA 33 Stanford 11
#21 Northern Illinois vs. #17 Kent State
The MAC Championship is usually an afterthought on championship weekend, but that's not the case this year -- it's actually the third most intriguing game of the weekend for a couple of reasons. Given who is playing this weekend, and given the BCS Rankings -- a Kent State win is going to put the Flashes in a BCS Bowl. Selfishly, this means the Sooners' BCS chances take a huge hit. Of course, the Orange Bowl is being faced with a Florida State vs. Kent State matchup. The Sugar Bowl will go from a likely Oklahoma vs. Florida matchup to a Rutgers vs. Florida matchup. Oh the huge manatee!
NCAA simulated this game pretty wildly. Both teams traded scores in a game of 'find the defense' early on with a 21-21 halftime score. From there, the Golden Flashes managed a couple of turnovers in the second half on Northern Illinois, and at the end of three Kent State was up 42-24. But it wasn't over -- Northern Illinois managed two consecutive scores in the fourth to close the gap to 42-38 and the Huskies suddenly found themselves with the ball to end the game.
...but Kent State stopped them on downs.
Final Score: Kent State 42 Northern Illinois 38
What's a Golden Flash again? Sound off with your own predictions!