Last week due to being under the weather, I was unable to post my usual picks for the weekend (out of all weekends to be sick, it would be on championship Saturday). But thanks to a little Nyquil and some chicken noodle soup, I am good to go now. I did get to witness the massacre that was the SEC championship game, a thriller in the last Big 12 championship game and Virginia Tech holding its annual ACC invitational.
Championship Saturday always is special as it is the last week before the bowl season. Most bowls games are set and the national championship will be Auburn vs. Oregon. That one has all the makings of one the more interesting championships match-ups we’ve had in years but more on that later. As for now, lets breakdown the championship games.
SEC Championship: Auburn 56 South Carolina 14 - This one was actually interesting until the second half, as it turned into the Cam Newton show from there. The projected Heisman winner was just sensational as he displayed his talents in the Georgia Dome. He would prove that he can do it with his arm as he finished 17/28 for 335 yards and 4 touchdowns to no interceptions. He made plays are over the field, dropping beautiful passes to various receivers including a lucky Hail Mary at the end of the first half. The Hail Mary pass seemed to shift the momentum going into the second half and poor South Carolina could do nothing but watch as Newton put a stamp on his Heisman campaign. The Tigers beat the Gamecocks in every conceivable way as they rolled up 589 yards of total offense. The game was put out of reach on a Stephen Garcia interception, as he tried to lob a screen pass but was heavily pressured and T'Sharvan Bell of Auburn took the easy pick to the house. The look on Steve Spurrier’s face was priceless. He looked like a man who had no answers. Auburn goes on to face Oregon in BCS championship game.
Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma 23 Nebraska 20 – I didn’t know much about the Sooners Travis Jackson but by the end of this one I knew he was a playmaker. Jackson had 2 fumble recoveries and an interception in the win against the Cornhuskers. Nebraska shot out to an early 17-0 lead off the strength of its power run game. Roy Helu Jr. won a footrace and bolted for a 66-yard run up the gut and the Cornhuskers tacked on a field goal. Nebraska would also pull out a trick play as the former high school QB and now RB Rex Burkhead would find Kyler Reed down the middle for a 5-yard touchdown. Don’t call it a comeback though as the Sooners would strike back with Landry Jones finding an open Kenny Stills down the middle for a 42-yard touchdown. The Boomer Sooners would add their own field goal after Jackson intercepted Taylor Martinez to tie the score at 17-10. Nebraska would have another turnover on their next possession as they fumbled and the Sooners would take advantage as Landry Jones would lead Oklahoma on a short field drive and take it in on a 1-yard touchdown run tying the score at 17 all. Nebraska would get the back with 1:26 and would be able to add on another field goal to make it 20-17 at halftime. The Sooners would be the only team to score from their as they added two more field goals in the second half. Nebraska continued to shoot themselves in the foot as Martinez fumbled on their first possession and again Jackson was spot on for clean up duty. The Cornhuskers would fumble yet again as Rex Burkhead coughed it up and guess who scooped it up? You guessed right with Jackson. Oklahoma would take it down field and kick the go ahead field goal. The Cornhuskers had so many chances to take control of this game but couldn’t hold on to the ball. It’s fitting though as the title stays in the Big 12 with the Cornhuskers going to the Big 10 next year. Oklahoma will now face Uconn in the Fiesta bowl.
ACC Championship: Virginia Tech 44 Florida State 33 – As I stated above, the annual Virginia Tech invitational was held in Charlotte, North Carolina this year instead of Florida and the result was still the same. After starting the season 0-2 as everyone knows, The Hokies ran the table and took home the ACC championship for the third time in four years. This game belonged to Tyrod Taylor. He may not be the second coming of Michael Vick as he was perceived at the beginning of his career at Tech, but the senior exposed the FSU secondary going 18/28 for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns. His top target was Danny Coale and he finished the day with 6 catches for 143 yards and 1 touchdown. If there was an excuse for FSU it was that Senior starting QB Christan Ponder was unable to go after sustaining an injury last week. E.J. Manuel filled in admirably for Ponder and made a few good plays but also some very bad ones including two interceptions, with one being returned for a touchdown. His numbers weren’t that bad as he passed for 288 yards and one touchdown, but this game belonged to the Hokies. The Seminoles had a good first year for new head coach Jimbo Fisher finishing 9-4 and headed to the Chick-Fil-A bowl. The Hokies will be on their way to the Orange to face a tough Stanford team lead by Andrew Luck.
Other notables and news:
Oregon 37 Oregon State 20 – The old civil war lived up to its billing in the first half before the Ducks pulled away in the Second. LaMichael James did what LaMichael James always does rushing for 134 yards on 28 carries. Darron Thomas looked solid going 14/24 for 145 yards and two touchdowns. The win setups the match-up everyone wants to see with Auburn. Oregon State started the year with such high hopes but won’t even be bowling this year. I’ll touch on the Auburn-Oregon game later in this column. Man I loved those Jersey's Oregon had on in this one.
SEC Power – The SEC had a total of 10 schools selected to bowl games this year. That’s remarkable when you consider there are only 12 schools in the league. The match-ups include: Music City Bowl (Tennessee vs. North Carolina), BBVA Compass Bowl (Kentucky vs. Pittsburgh), Outback Bowl (Florida vs. Penn State) Liberty Bowl (Georgia vs. UCF) Chick-fil-A Bowl (Florida State vs. South Carolina) Gator Bowl (Michigan vs. Mississppi State) Capital One Bowl (Alabama vs. Michigan State) Cotton Bowl (LSU vs. Texas A&M) Sugar Bowl (Arkansas vs. Ohio State) and of course BCS Championship Game (Auburn vs. Oregon)
Auburn vs. Oregon – These are two very similar teams from the outside looking in. Both feature a spread option attack that keeps the tempo of the game at a high pace. They both have bend but don’t break defenses. The one thing the separates the two is none other than Cam Newton. I haven’t seen Oregon (Or any team that hasn’t played Auburn for that matter) face someone with the talents of the Auburn phenom. He will present a different set of challenges for the defensively stout Ducks. He has proven that he can beat you with arm as well as feet now as well. I’m interested in the scheme Oregon DC Nick Allotti comes up with. Luckily he will until Jan 10 to figure that part out. Auburn will have a tough time containing James but they have seen similar backs in the SEC after facing the likes of Marcus Lattimore, Mark Ingram, and Trent Richardson so I think they will be able to deal with him. The game will come down to Newton in the end and I believe he will be up to the challenge.
Next week I will be predicting each bowl game on a week to week basis and that should be fun. The college football regular season has ended and it’s a bittersweet moment for me. This has been a wild and unpredictable year to say the least. From the Cam Newton Bombshell to Joe Pa winning his 400th game we saw it all. The game brings out the best and worst in people but most of the time good over runs the bad. Here is to another fine college football season, now let the bowling bonanza begin.