Bowling Green @ Northern Illinois
For the third straight season, Bowling Green and Northern Illinois meet for the MAC championship. The Falcons suffered just one loss in league play to Toledo late in the season and won the East Division by a two game margin. The Huskies backed into the game on the final week of the regular season when those same Toledo Rockets were upset by Western Michigan 35-30.
Head coach Dino Babers is hot coaching candidate because of his hyper-speed offense that averages 44 points a game, fourth in the nation. QB Matt Johnson has thrown for 4,465 yards and 41 touchdowns. Northern Illinois features a much more balanced attack. RB Joel Bouagnon has 1,212 yards rushing and 6-4 WR Kenny Golladay 1,107 yards receiving. The Falcons end the Huskies domination of the MAC… Bowling Green 41, Northern Illinois 38.
Temple @ Houston
Houston defeated Navy last week to win the American Athletic Conference West Division. The win came courtesy of QB Greg Ward, who had missed time in the previous games due to an ankle injury. Ward threw for 308 yards and ran for another 83 in the 52-31 win. They will face a Temple defense that is stout. The Owls are in the Top 20 in scoring defense and have slowed down some very good offenses, Memphis being one. At home for a conference title and a New Year’s Six bowl bid on the line, Houston will be tough to beat… Houston 48, Temple 35.
Southern Mississippi @ Western Kentucky
Will there be a higher scoring conference championship game? Southern Miss, with just four wins in the previous three seasons, finished the regular season 9-3 with an offense that averages 41 points a game (ninth in the nation). Western Kentucky has one of the nation’s top QBs in Brandon Doughty (4,184 passing yards, 42 TDs). The Hilltoppers are fourth in the country averaging 44 points per game. In a shootout, WKU prevails… Western Kentucky 48, Southern Mississippi 47.
Florida @ Alabama
One thing is for sure. There will be plenty of defense in the SEC title game. Both Florida and Alabama feature defenses that can play with the best of them. The problem for the Gators is that their offense is absolutely terrible. In last week’s season-ending loss to rival Florida State, head coach Jim McElwain’s offense failed to score in a 27-2 loss. Florida may slow down Alabama running back Derrick Henry, but they will not slow down the entire offense… Alabama 27, Florida 10.
Air Force @ San Diego State
The Aztecs started the season 1-4 and promptly went unbeaten in Mountain West Conference play earning a berth in the title game against Air Force. San Diego State features the nation’s ninth best scoring defense and hasn’t given up more than 17 points in its eight straight wins. The Falcons have the third best rushing offense in the country and are always hard to defend. Air Force lost its finale to New Mexico and has given up a boatload of points over the final three weeks of the season… San Diego State 27, Air Force 21.
Stanford @ USC
USC gets another crack at Stanford. The Trojans were ranked sixth in the nation and Steve Sarkisian was still their head coach when the Cardinal beat them 41-31 in week three of the season. Sarkisian ended up being fired, Clay Helton stepped in as the interim head coach, and with a win over crosstown rival UCLA, the Trojans (8-4) get a chance at a Pac-12 title. The Cardinal (10-2) have come into their own. Senior QB Kevin Hogan just wins and Stanford still has an outside shot at the College Football Playoff… Stanford 30, USC 23.
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Michigan State @ Iowa
No one will give Iowa a chance. The Hawkeyes finished the regular season with a 12-0 record, but they didn’t face the Big Ten’s best – Ohio State, Michigan, or Michigan State. Now, they get a crack at the Spartans and a chance to prove themselves. The winner of the Big Ten Championship will earn a bid to the College Football Playoff. This will be an old-school Midwest battle between two very good running attacks and defenses. The Spartans have the better athletes, but an upset could be in the making… Michigan State 17, Iowa 16.
North Carolina @ Clemson
If not for a season-opening loss to South Carolina, the Tar Heels (11-1) would be unbeaten. They are one of the 2015 season’s biggest surprises. Head coach Larry Fedora’s offense is high powered (41 points per game), but Gene Chizik came aboard and improved a woeful defense (19th in scoring defense) to provide the difference this season. Now, comes the inevitable task of defeating the nation’s top-ranked squad. Clemson lost 8 starters from its defense last year. No problem. The Tigers are 17th in the country in scoring defense. They have arguably the best dual-threat quarterback in the nation in Deshaun Watson (3,223 yards passing 27 TDs, 756 yards rushing, 9 TDs). This will be a battle and an upset is in the making… North Carolina 48, Clemson 45.
Texas @ Baylor
It’s an anti-climactic season finale for Baylor after dropping a 28-21 nail-biter to TCU last week in double overtime. The loss dropped the Bears from playoff contention and likely from a New Year’s Six bowl bid. Down to their third-string QB, the Bears may feel like they have nothing to play for. Texas, on the other hand, has plenty to play for, including its fifth win of the season. Baylor just has too much talent and they have the luxury of playing at home. It feels like an upset, but it won’t happen… Baylor 47, Texas 28.
West Virginia @ Kansas State
With a win, the Wildcats become bowl eligible. The Mountaineers are 7-4 and finishing with a win would go a long way to securing head coach Dana Holgorsen’s spot in Morgantown. West Virginia is hot having won four in a row. Kansas State lost six in a row before winning their last two. The Wildcats lack stars on offense but still manage to score 34 points a game. The defense is not a typical Bill Snyder defense and will have trouble with the high-powered attack of WVU… West Virginia 34, Kansas State 30.