WHOO HOO! LFG!
I’m feeling remarkably upbeat about today. I think it’s because I have zero expectations for today, and have essentially written off this game since late September (admit it, you did too). But despite some unsteady contests, where the offense shows up one week, and the defense the next, this team has made it to 11-1 and has claimed its division.
There is literally no pressure on the Tide here. But there has been months of disregard, disrespect, and the Tide rightly enters as a rare underdog.
But should they be? Given the schedule that they played vs. that of Georgia? The advanced stats don’t see it that way — and Kirby knows those numbers as well as anyone. For all of the ballyhoo surrounding the ‘Dawgs, and all of the negging of the Crimson Tide, this game is very much a tossup.
That could be why it looks like you couldn’t drive a greased needle up his butt with a tin of Crisco and a sledgehammer.
No pressure, Bulldogs. No pressure.
|Big XII CG: Baylor vs. Oklahoma State||11:00 am||ABC (cable)|
|MACCG: Kent State vs. Northern Illinois||11:00 am||
|MWCCG: Utah State at San Diego State||2:00 pm||FOX (cable) / 4K 105|
|Sun Belt CG: Appalachian State at LA Lafayette||2:30 pm||ESPN: 206|
|AACCG: Houston at Cincinnati||3:00 pm||ABC (cable)|
|SECCG: Alabama vs. Georgia||3:00 pm||CBS (cable)|
|SWACCG: Prairie View at Jackson State||3:00 pm||ESPN2: 209|
|ACCCG: Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest||7:00 pm||ABC (cable)|
|B1GCG: Iowa vs. Michigan||7:00 pm||FOX (cable) / 4K 105|
|USC at California||10:00 pm||FS1: 219|
Must See TV
Big 12 Championship: Baylor +5.5 at Oklahoma State — For the Pokes, their path to the playoff is pretty simple: win and let the games ahead of them take care of themself, according to their natural order — An Alabama loss in Atlanta likely slides OSU into that 4th spot and into the playoffs. Any sort of upset creates serious...bedlam. Not sorry.
SEC Championship: Alabama +6.5 vs Georgia — There’s a little game being played in Atlanta. I’m sure it won’t wind up being important or anything.
ACC Championship: Pitt -3 vs. Wake Forest — What figures to be one of the most entertaining games of the day is also among its least meaningful. Pitt and Wake are playing for an Orange Bowl bid and the right to call themselves “champion”, nothing more. But those are tremendous stakes for all-but about 8 teams in the country, and I wish more people valued that.
Bad defenses, explosive offenses, fresh faces. Should be a lot of fun.
AAC Championship: Houston +10.5 at Cincinnati — Want a potential upset? This is it. After Labor Day, the Cougars have been playing the consistently best football in the entire conference. The Bearcats, for all of their hype, have looked flat-out sus since they beat Notre Dame six games ago. It’s going to be very hard to just turn it on again for Cincy...or will it? If UC doesn’t take this team seriously as the existential threat they are, the CFP Committee is about to get a huge assist — because Houston will have ended the G5 dream once and for all. And those are the real stakes here going forward: whether to take the Group of 5 seriously, or recognize them as very good teams that couldn’t compete in must-win games on a weekly basis.
If you’re Oklahoma State and Notre Dame, your nightmare scenario is an ugly Cincinnati loss and a Crimson Tide win, where Alabama looks to be every bit the Top 3 program it is ranked.
Keep An Eye On
SBCCG: Appalachian State -3 at UL-Lafayette — Like the ACCCG, this one has minimal stakes in the national picture, but is important in the sense that one of them could still be standing for a trip the New Year’s Six pity-pick. The last time these two met, ASU turned it over four times (three early), and the Cajuns jumped all over them. Different teams this time around, the least reason of which is that Billy Napier is literally starting his new job at Florida tomorrow, win or lose. How motivated will the Ragin’ Cajuns be? ASU has been the better team down the stretch since these teams met the first time, but their slow starts (esp. on the road), could just as easily doom the Mountaineers again.
B1G Championship: Michigan -11 vs. Iowa — If probability suggests Oklahoma State needs to win and let the rest take care of itself, then the Wolverines are in even better shape. Alongside Alabama, this is one of just two teams you can say unequivocally controls their own fate: must. win. (Georgia is in no matter what). And does the Big 10 deliver with a conference standard game that Time Forgot: The two best defenses in the Rust Belt look to slug it out for a very tasteful, low-scoring heavyweight bout (
I’m not sure it’s going to be very good football — the last time these two met in 2019, it was very close, very hateful, very ugly, and not very good football. In fact, since Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor, the previous three meetings were decided by 7, 1, and 3 points.
I’d expect a similar formula today, for even higher stakes, as the two most conservative road coaches in the conference get to Student Body one another into oblivion. If all that tacky competent forward passing elsewhere gets you down, head on over here in prime time. No one will accuse Iowa or Michigan of that. This game could just as easily be played in 1978 and you’d never notice.
Jim got The Game off his demerits last week. Can he finally win Michigan’s first championship since 2004?
Mountain West Championship: Utah State +6 at San Diego State — If Brady Hoke’s Aztecs close out a 12-1 season, and should Cincy stumble today, SDSU is very well positioned to get in one of the New Year’s Six big money games. You’ll recognize his SDSU formula as bog-standard Big 10 football: Win the lines, pound the ball, force turnovers, just enough passing, kill the clock. Blake Anderson’s Utah State Aggies only do one of those well: passing. USU throws the ball about 48 times a game, and between their dynamic aerial attack, a defense that forces a lot of tirnoverrs, and great third down play on both sides, the Ags have been the surprise sweetheart out west. I fear that Cinderella story dies today, though. But, with USU’s quick-hitting offense and their ability to get teams off the field on 3rd, nothing is impossible.
MAC Championship: Kent State -1.5 at NIU — If the Utah State Aggies came out of nowhere, the NIU Huskies really came out of nowhere. A year ago, this team was flat-out awful. aside from their ability to cover large spreads. Nothing in their 2020 CV foreshadowed an 8-4 season, an upset W at Georgia Tech, and a division crown (they were also really helped out by Directional Michigan teams getting off to a slow start). Kent State’s path here has been a bit more predictable — they’ve revamped the offense and are among the fastest teams in football, while the Flash then have been slowly rebuilding the offense for the last three years. This season, it finally paid off. Based on record and recruiting, Kent looks to be the weaker team, but on the field? They’ve already beaten NIU once this season and they’re favored for a reason. Even on the road.
USC +4.5 at Cal — Who’d have thought in September that USC would miss a bowl and would be playing in a meaningless contest as a 4.5-point underdog to lowly 4-7 Cal? But here we are: the most spoiled, pampered, incontinent, inconsistent team in perhaps the entire country is having to suit up one more time and then leave the cozy Coliseum confines to hang out with the hippies, AnCaps, crypto-marxists, trust fund communists, and assorted Dumpster Muffins in the Bay area. Worse, these film school washouts have to do it without Aunt Becky’s credit card. THE HORROR.
The game? Maybe close. But who cares. From the culture to the on-field production of both of these schools, I can’t think of a meaningless game that annoys me more.
The Bears MO under Wilcox has been to win with defense-first. That is true again this season, where they vie with Utah for conference top honors. But the offense has finally moderned up in Berkeley too, and is at least that of a .500 Sun Belt team in 2005. The Trojans are, as is their want, just wasting NFL talent on a team of pansies that’s softer than their wannabe-Instagram influencer girlfriends. It is a team with a dreadful defense, tissue-soft line play, absolutely zero heart, and outright cowardice at times.
Lincoln Riley is going to fit right in.