This is Conference Championship Weekend! If you're not spending all day Saturday gambling on college football with the childless drunks of your favorite sports bar, you clearly aren't making good life choices. I don't want to oversell the importance of these games, but 50 years from now after Norway has savagely taken over the world, the SEC title bout will be what fathers throughout the United States of Sweden will reference as "the good ol' days" to their enslaved children.
(2) Alabama vs. (1) Florida (SEC Championship Game)
Line: Florida -6*
I recently wrote the following on the back on an RSVP card when my best friend selfishly invited me to his engagement soiree this Saturday afternoon
Honestly, Dan – what the hell is wrong with you? Planning an engagement brunch during the SEC title game? I remember when you were the kind of guy I'd be proud to take to go to burn victim speed dating and gamble on how much weight the kids at fat camp would lose. But now, you’re skipping the biggest day in college football in order to eat quail eggs with a female dentist who once said "I never really went to the games when I was at USC." Quite frankly, I don’t think two people with such little regard for college football should be procreating. If you have a son, he'll be the kind of kid that grows up to say things like "What's the point of gambling?" and "They can't actually hear you yelling at the screen." I already want to punch your kid in the face!
It was a really big RSVP card.
My point is, that - even though my best friend is willing to throw his Saturday away for a lifetime of “Have you taken out the trash?” and “Please don’t sleep with the babysitter” - the rest of the sporting world is dropping everything in their lives for the single biggest game of the year. The build-up for this one started nearly 10 months ago and is ready to explode in a matter of hours. Heisman hopefuls Tim Tebow and Mark Ingram will lead their respective offenses in what will no doubt be a hard fought, back and forth game. These are the two most talented teams in the country, playing in the most important game of the season. For the love of God, watch this game!
Prediction: Last year Alabama was the better team, but Tim Tebow simply wouldn’t let his school lose. This one feels an awful lot like 2008.
Florida 28, Alabama 20
(22) Nebraska vs. (2) Texas (Big 12 Championship Game)
Line: Texas -14.5
Simply put, if the Texas Longhorns lose this game all hell will break loose in the college football world. With no clear number two team behind the winner of the SEC Title game, pretty much everybody and their grandmother from Boise State will be petitioning for a shot at the championship (sort of like when their was no clear winner of a WWE Royal Rumble and someone needed to be the number one title contender for Wrestlemania). The Longhorns narrowly escaped a Thanksgiving Day clash with Texas A&M and have looked slightly beatable in their last few games. With Nebraska’s tough defense led by Heisman candidate Ndamukong Suh, the “black shirts” of the Huskers defense will control the game against Colt McCoy and finally show people that the BCS is, in fact, mildly flawed.
Prediction: Nebraska makes things difficult for Texas’ passing game and grinds out a very close game.
Nebraska 20, Texas 17
(12) Pittsburgh vs. (5) Cincinnati (Defacto Big East Championship Game)
Line: Cinci -2
The smell of uncertainty is looming throughout Cincinnati, which is a somewhat welcomed change from the stench of failure that gets caught downwind from Cleveland. Will their head coach leave to take over Notre Dame? Will he wait till after the Bowl Game to kiss Ohio goodbye and head to South Bend? Or, will he pretend to consider staying with the Bearcats before making his first recruiting trip on behalf of the Fighting Irish? Quite frankly, it could go a lot of different ways – sort of like the de facto Big East championship here. Anybody who woke up hungover after a night of drinking homemade vodka at an Albanian strip bar with my buddy Abdul just in time to watch the Cincinnati-Illinois game last week knows that the Bearcats don’t really spend much time practicing the whole “defense” thing. They let Juice Williams dominate them and struggle to make plays throughout the game. Bad news, considering the Pitt offense thrives on efficiency and taking advantage of opposing defenses’ mistakes. Most folks are predicting a Bearcat blowout, but this one will be closer than you think. If Cincinnati wants to earn their chance to whine about being excluded from the national title game, the Panthers are going to make them earn it.
Prediction: Cincinnati’s offense is just too powerful for Pitt to completely shut down.
Cincinnati 34, Pitt 31.
(10) Georgia Tech vs. Clemson (ACC Championship Game)
Line: Georgia Tech -1
The ACC has been one of the more disappointing mid-majors this year, but just because a four-loss team has a legitimate shot to win the conference doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of excitement surrounding the title game (I’m told they have a pretty sweet halftime fan field goal contest). Heisman candidate C.J. Spiller is the best all-around player in college football and will lead the Tigers against a Yellow Jackets’ defensive line with two potential first round draft picks. Georgia Tech will counter with Jonathan Dwyer – one of the five best running backs in the nation – who will carry the load for the offense. This game may not be pretty, entertaining, or even interesting – but it’s important and worth watching. Kind of like the World Series or a Presidential State of the Union Address.
Prediction: Georgia Tech’s triple option becomes too difficult for Clemson to stop.
Georgia Tech, 28, Clemson 20
Arizona at (18) USC
Living in Los Angeles, it’s amazing how few USC jerseys I’ve been seeing around town these days. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it almost seems like every time they lose a game, less and less of their fan base (most of whom didn’t actually attend the school, grow up in Southern California, or have any real connection to the team) are willing to fly those lovely car flags that pollute the already awful Los Angeles freeway system. The Trojans have lost two of their last four Pac 10 games and need a win over a talented Arizona team in order to avoid forcing their fanbase the indignation of heading to El Paso or San Francisco for the Joe’s House of Tires Bowl. Arizona nearly beat an Oregon team that crushed USC a few weeks ago and were a touchdown away from defeating the Trojans last year. If you’re a USC hater, Pete Carroll dissenter, or just someone who enjoys watching the most arrogant college athletes on the planet go through a six-month walk of shame through campus after a four-loss conference season, this isn’t must-watch television – it’s “skip your best friend’s engagement party as his fiancée calls you a 'horrible influence on anybody you know' type of game."
Prediction: USC is playing terrible on offense, mediocre on defense, and doesn't seem to care anymore. Effort trumps talent and Arizona rolls.
Arizona 17, USC 16
Source: Chris Graythen/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
* Based upon a composite of lawful U.S. gaming statistics subject to change.