It seems impossible that we've arrived at this point in the college football season already.
No longer this year will our Saturdays be loaded with an abundance of games to watch. This weekend, conference championship weekend, signals the final calendar day of more college football than we can possibly view at once. In a matter of days we'll be forced to quit cold-turkey until the middle of December arrives. At that point we'll be teased back into our addiction but only one game at a time, one day at a time as bowl season ignites.
So relish this final weekend of exciting games. The bridge to January is built this weekend as national championship hopes are on the line as well as BCS appearances. How will the games turn out? Here's a look at my predictions for conference championship weekend -- 2012 edition.
MAC Championship Game
#21 Northern Illinois (11-1, 8-0) vs. #17 Kent State (11-1, 8-0)
If you thought this was just another "who cares" MAC title game, think again with this Friday-night contest. If you're a fan of the little guy wrecking the BCS parade then get your Kent State party hats on right now. The Golden Flashes are one spot away from BCS eligibility (16th) and would receive an automatic bid should another AQ (automatic qualifying) conference champion be ranked lower than they are. At this point, no team from the Big East (an AQ conference) is ranked in the top twenty-five of the BCS. For the sake of novelty and cheering on Cinderella...
Prediction: Kent State 24, Northern Illinois 21
PAC-12 Championship Game
#16 UCLA (9-3, 6-3) vs. #8 Stanford (10-2, 8-1)
It's hard to imagine the Bruins suddenly finding the secrets to rebound following their home-loss last week to this same Stanford team, 36-17. The title game will be played at Stanford -- as if the Cardinal needed more of an edge -- but could it be possible that UCLA was holding back, knowing they may have to play the same team two weeks in a row? Expect more of a competitive game on the scoreboard, but not a different outcome.
Prediction: Stanford 28, UCLA 20
Conference USA Championship Game UCF (9-3, 7-1) vs Tulsa (9-3, 7-1)
Only two weeks ago these same teams battled in Tulsa where the home team was victorious 23-21. UCF is looking for redemption and the conference title but must overcome their road demons in what could turn into an overtime thriller. In fact, I'm calling for exactly that -- only this time the Golden Knights get the last laugh.
Prediction: UCF 44, Tulsa 38 (OT)
#6 Kansas State (10-1, 7-1) vs #18 Texas (8-3, 5-3)
It's not an official conference championship game but a victory for the Wildcats would solidify their spot in a BCS bowl. Like Oklahoma State from 2011 and their surprising slip-up versus Iowa State, so too did Kansas State against Baylor. Each failure kept the Big Twelve's best out of national championship contention, but like the Cowboys of last year I expect the 'Cats to close out strong.
Prediction: Kansas State 38, Texas 28
ACC Championship Game
#13 Florida State (10-2, 7-1) vs Georgia Tech (6-6, 5-3)
This is one of the most one-sided BCS conference title games on paper but the Yellowjackets and their option attack have the ability to sneak up on anyone who is ill-prepared. The only issue is that they could score forty points and still lose by double-digits.
Prediction: Florida State 45, Georgia Tech 21
Big Ten Championship Game
#12 Nebraska (10-2, 7-1) vs Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4)
It would be a disastrous ending to the Big Ten season if Wisconsin somehow won this game. They didn't exactly earn the rights to their own division but were able to move up as Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) was ineligible for postseason play due to NCAA violations. Nebraska is carrying the torch for the B1G and any self-respecting fan of the conference not living in the state of Wisconsin should be hoping for a Cornhuskers win and subsequent BCS victory as well. But as troubling as the record of the Badgers is at 7-5, they lost four of their games by three points and the other by only seven (the last two in overtime). They played Nebraska tight before but I see no reason for the heartbreak to end this Saturday.
Prediction: Nebraska 34, Wisconsin 30
SEC Championship Game
#2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1) vs #3 Georgia (11-1, 7-1)
This contest features the two best teams of the day in a pseudo semifinal matchup where the winner likely earns a trip to face Notre Dame for the national championship. Each squad features one of the top defenses in the nation (Alabama No. 1 and Georgia No. 16) and both score just under forty points per game. Don't expect an offensive shootout, however, but look for a close three quarters of ball-control and field-position battles before the victor pulls away in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Alabama 23, Georgia 16
Sound Off: What teams will win on conference championship weekend?
Justin Mikels is a staff writer for Operation Sports. Follow him on Twitter: @long_snapper