Not all games are championship games todayUnfortunately some conferences haven't evolved to a title game model, here they are today
West Virginia @ Rutgers (-1.5) Noon ESPN
What's at stake? Little really, as West Virginia seems destined for a happy send-off against Bobby Bowden in the Gator Bowl regardless of record. Rutgers seems to have a little more motivation as they want to secure a berth in the Car Care Bowl if things fall their way, which would be their most geographically kind invitation yet. Between the Scarlet Knights having homefield advantage, coaching advantage, and the motivation advantage, I'll take the home team in this one.
Bottom line: Rutgers has more to play for.
Prediction: Rutgers 31, West Virginia 23
Fresno State @ Illinois (-3) 12:30 Big Ten Network
What's at stake? Fresno State has an opportunity to win their 8th game of the year and finish at 8-4, but for Illinois their 4th win. Normally the edge would go to Illinois, but given their improved play the last few weeks (see their hanging in there with Cincinnati last Friday) it's hard to figure if the Illini have any fight left in them. I think I will again go with the team that needs the victory more, but really don't feel good with the Zooker playing out a bad season (his most dangerous position). Still I like Fresno RB Ryan Matthews in this one, he's enough to make me watch some of this game.
Bottom line: Do the Illini care enough to play four quarters?
Prediction: Fresno St 41, Illinois 37
San Jose St @ Louisiana Tech (-23.5) 2:00 ESPN+
What's at stake? Neither team can become bowl eligible with a win, La Tech is 3-8 and SJ St 2-9, and so absolutely nothing is at stake. This is the kind of game you can only throw a dart and see if it sticks.
Bottom line: This game cannot be predicted, not sure if either cares
Prediction: Louisiana Tech 38, San Jose St 17
New Mexico St @ Boise St (-48) 3:00 ESPN360.com
What's at stake? Nothing for NMSU (3-9), but everything for the Broncos of Boise State. Boise is trying to stay alive for BCS at-large consideration, and while they will be huge Texas fans in the Big XII title game they can do their own part of the job by obliterating their over-matched opponent.
Bottom line: Broncos keep bucking their way to BCS consideration
Prediction: Boise St 61, New Mexico St 27
Arizona @ Southern Cal (-7) 3:30 ABC
What's at stake? The Pac-10 run their bowl invites so that by rule you have take a team with the best available finish, in other words you can't take a 5-4 conference record team over a 6-3. So what does that mean? It means the loser of this game will best be able to finish 5th in the Pac-10 pecking order, but the winner would be in a position to be the first non-BCS selection for the Holiday Bowl if those bowl officials like the idea. So the winner and loser could both play their bowl games in San Diego (winner- Holiday Bowl, loser- Poinsettia Bowl). This should be an interesting game in that both teams excel at defense and have had off games in terms of offense this season. I think the home team has to be the favorite, but Arizona might be more motivated by virtue of the different in expectations at these programs.
Bottom line: If your bowl invite is in San Diego how is either team a loser?
Prediction: Southern Cal 24, Arizona 20
California (-7) @ Washington 6:30 FSNNW
What's at stake? Cal also has a change to go to San Diego as the Holiday Bowl Pac-10 representative, but they would likely need an Arizona win over SoCal to make that happen. Washington is already eliminated from bowl contention at 4-7, but this could be QB Jake Locker's last game as a Husky. If this is Locker's last game in the purple and gold then being in front of the home crowd should provide the kind of boost this Washington team would need to overcome the strong finish the Golden Bears have put forth going into this game (winning at Arizona and versus Stanford, each was ranked 17th at the time of the game). This is another one of those potential sleeper games on Championship Saturday. I like the Huskies to pull the upset, but my confidence is very low.
Bottom line: Cal's strong finish vs Locker's potential swan song
Prediction: Washington 34, California 31
Florida Atlantic @ Florida International (-1.5) 7:00 CSS (ESPN360.com)
What's at stake? After three straight bowl appearances the FAU Owls will not make it to bowl eligibility and neither will their rivals, the FIU Panthers. This game is known locally as the Shula Bowl, named after legendary Miami Dolphin Coach Don Shula, and attracts little attention even locally given the lack of relevance of both programs to date.
Bottom line: Howard Schnellenberger will out-coach Mario Cristobal, that's the edge
Prediction: FAU 31, FIU 30
South Florida @ Connecticut (-7.5) 8:00 ESPN2
What's at stake? For South Florida there's little at stake other than bowl-positioning, but for Connecticut the final game at home after their emotional roller coaster of a season it seems like a chance to finish well. A win for UConn would even the overall and conference records for these two Big East teams. A loss might relegate USF to the St. Petersburg Bowl, a trip all the way across the Tampa Bay, but for Connecticut they could get their best bowl invite in program history with a win (although it's debatable). I like the emotion of the Huskies to prevail in yet another UConn thriller.
Bottom Line: Connecticut has provided great finishes every week win or lose, final game is a win for #6
Prediction: UConn 33, S. Florida 30
Wisconsin (-12.5) @ Hawaii 11:30 ESPN2
What's at stake? For Wisconsin this is very much just a first-of-two bowl game situation with the trip to the islands. For Hawaii it's a chance to secure bowl-eligibility since at 6-6 Hawaii's bowl fate will be determined by this game. The Warriors have won four straight games going into this week but have beaten just one team with a winning record all year, last week against 8-4 Navy. I think Hawaii will be fighting for their bowl lives, but Wisconsin will win this game unless they completely mail it in as a vacation.
Bottom line: Hawaii will come to play, will the Badgers?
Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Hawaii 35
CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES ON CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY
Cincinnati (-2) @ Pittsburgh Noon ABC
What's at stake? The winner of this game will represent the Big East in the BCS, and the Bearcats have aspirations that things will fall their way to play for a National Title. It would be easy to say Cincinnati has more to play for, but in this case the motivation is mutual. Winning your conference title and knocking off the undefeated championship contenders is all the motivation the Panthers need to even out this fight. I like the Cincinnati offense with its explosiveness, but I question their defense. The Pittsburgh offense is powered by the run and an improved quarterback this year, and their defense is solid. I think the weakest unit in this game is the Cincinnati D, and when you add the homefield advantage for Pitt I think this game leans towards the Wannstache.
Bottom line: BCS or bust for the Big East title
Prediction: Pitt 41, Cincy 38
Houston (-2.5) @ East Carolina Noon ESPN2
What's at stake? A conference title and a trip to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl is what's at stake here plain and simple. Each of these teams has reached the championship game and won it, but really the thing you need to know is the difference in style between these two squads. Houston has a high-powered spread offense with QB Case Keenum throwing for 4,922 yards and 38 touchdowns, that's an average for 410 yards and 3 touchdowns PER GAME. The ECU Pirates are team based more on the team concept of playing well enough to win. They don't have a game-breaker but seem to play well each week. The contrast in style is reminiscent of the Oregon-Oregon St game Thursday night and makes this a tough pick, but I will go with ECU based on getting homefield. Incidentally, Pirates vs Cougars sounds like a cheesy and cheap adult film theme.
Bottom line: The game is in Greenville, NC... ARRRR!!!!!
Prediction: ECU 37, Houston 33
Florida (-5.5) vs Alabama, Georgia Dome, Atlanta GA, 4:00 CBS
What's at stake? A trip to Pasadena for the National Title. This is the game everyone will have their eyes on today. I will not disrupt the general feeling that this game will be one hell of a game. Both teams have a tremendous defense and an offense that thrives on power while struggling to be explosive. This game has explosive defenses and inefficient offenses. I call the defensive comparison a draw, give Alabama the advantage at running back and receiver, but give Florida the advantage at quarterback. The question is what factor matters most, and the answer in quarterback. If, as predicted, this game goes down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter then I would think the best QB would find a way to win. Florida: Tim Tebow, ready for fourth-and-Tebow in this game (went 3-3 on 3rd down inside the 10 yard line in last year's game). Alabama: Greg McElroy, first year starter who has in many ways been a weakness and the reason Alabama at times struggles to score.
Bottom Line: Get your popcorn ready.
Prediction: Florida 20, Alabama 17
Clemson vs Georgia Tech (pick 'em), Raymond James Stadium, Tampa FL, 8:00 ESPN
What's at stake? The winner gets to go to the Orange Bowl and collect the check for BCS appearance, and the loser could fall to Nashville or Orlando for a middle-tier bowl game. Neither team is really all that great, as evidenced by both losing to the third and fourth play SEC East Division teams. On offense both have explosive ability with Clemson having star rusher CJ Spiller and Tech running the vaunted triple option attack. The biggest weakness in this game is the Tech D, but is the offensive advantage enough for Tech to overcome that? I think it will be, as Tech normally runs their offense to the edges, but i they saw Clemson's game against their instate rivals last week they'd know that the Tiger D is vulnerable up the middle. I think this will be a close game, but I think I like the coaching advantage for the Jackets. FYI, the pictures above are of the ACC title game a few years ago in Jacksonville vs a Florida-Georgia game in the same stadium. ACC Football: The tree in the woods you keep in hearing about having fell some time ago but not sure when.
Bottom Line: Whose idea was it to put this on tv same time as Big XII Title Game? FIRED!
Prediction: Georgia Tech 37, Clemson 27
Nebraska vs Texas (-14), Cowboy Stadium, Arlington TX, 8:00 ABC
What's at stake? For Texasit would mean a National Championship apearance, and for the Huskers it would mean a return to prominence in the Big XII. Here's the breakdown that matters, Nebraska has a far better defense while Texas has by far and away the best offense. I think the advantage for the Horns on offense is bigger than the Husker advantage on D.
Bottom Line: The difference in points for-points against Texas 516-185, Nebraska 307-133.
Prediction: Texas 38, Nebraska 20