The final weekend of the 14-round playoff known as the college football regular season is finally upon us and it brings conference championship games. Though the Big Ten finished up two weeks ago, there's a certain calm that comes with watching elite teams battle it out for bigger stakes with none of the stress that comes when the Buckeyes are involved.
Nick Saban gets his day of reckoning, Oklahoma gets an opportunity to shed part of its reputation for choking and some team Ball State would wax gets to lay claim to the ACC Championship.
#14 Ball State vs. Buffalo, Fri. 8:00PM ET - ESPN2
The weekend kicks off with the MAC Championship pitting undefeated Ball State against the Bulls of Buffalo, a team that just snuck into the tilt (though they did paste the Bobcats). Both Brady Hoke and Turner Gill are rumored for greener pastures soon and this battle of MAC wunderkinds will be watched by many a search committee. If Ball State manages to win and move to 13-0, they get to celebrate by... going back to Detroit in three weeks to play in the Motor City Bowl. Whitlock is right.
Army vs. Navy, Sat. 12:00PM ET - CBS
The two service academies will meet for the 109th time this weekend in Philadelphia. Navy enters the game 7-4, continuing the success Paul Johnson had at the school before moving on to pick on the SEC. The Black Knights are just 3-8, but one thing is for certain -- each team will run the shit out of the ball. The two offenses come in ranked 1st (Navy) and 9th (Army) nationally in rushing yards per game. Conversely, they're 119th (Navy) and 120th (Army) in passing offense.
#17 Boston College vs. #25 Virginia Tech, Sat. 1:00PM ET - ABC
The ACC is pumped for this one. Not only is the conference's hottest team, Georgia Tech, not playing, but it's a rematch in Tampa of a game that only drew about 30% of capacity last season when the game was played down the road in Jacksonville. Still, the winner goes to Miami, while the loser will be bowling in December.
#1 Alabama vs. #2 Florida, Sat. 4:00PM ET - CBS
Ah, Saturday's main event. The winner will have the inside track for a MNC, because though the SEC isn't as strong as it's been recently, the top two are very capable of bringing the defensive pain to Oklahoma or Texas in Miami. For the last month or so, I thought that Florida was going to drop the hammer on Alabama and Vegas thinks that will certainly happen, but the closer this game gets, the closer the score gets in my head. Auburn may have just canned Tuberville, but 36-0 is exactly the kind of message an all-business team sends when it has chance to look ahead a little. Oh, and there's that Harvin injury.
#5 USC @ UCLA, Sat. 4:30PM ET - ABC
I think Rick Neuheisel is suffering from manhood slippage. Just over three months after calling out his cross-town rival, he's gone all soft and agreed to burn one of his own timeouts so the Trojans have an equal advantage after they lost one for deciding to wear their home unis on the road. It's like he thinks his blinding good looks and generosity will endear himself to Uncle Pete. The only problem with that approach is that Uncle Pete honors kind gestures by hanging a half a hundy on you.
#20 Missouri vs. #2 Oklahoma, Sat. 8:00PM ET - ABC
Sam Bradford is a bit banged up -- and by banged up, I mean his non-throwing hand is basically destroyed. He's still game, however, and will be looking to lead the Sooners past Missouri and into the MNC. The entire state of Texas will be wearing Tiger gear and Pinkel's squad will have revenge on their minds after Oklahoma spoiled their own BCS hopes last season. Taking one on the chin from Mangino is not the way you want to enter this game, but it probably plays out closer than 14.5 the Sooners are favored by. If nothing else, tune in to watch two of Ohio's sons doing battle on opposite sidelines.
#13 Cincinnati @ Hawaii, Sat. 11:30PM ET - ESPN2
The Bearcats are BCS-bound and normally I'd root for them under any circumstances (save one game every few years). That was until Mardy Gilyard lobbed some bombs our way. Now, I'll be staying up late and pulling for Warriors.