Last week wasn't exactly an ideal showing for Rivalry Week, but by the time the dust settled on Saturday night, 6-7 wasn't actually that bad. It's especially hard to be mad when the weekend included a Buckeye win over Michigan. Just how big was the late run by Derrick Henry? Had it not been for Henry, last week would've finished at 5-8 instead.
Last week ATS: 6-7 (3-3 National, 3-4 B1G)
Season ATS: 91-80-3 (37-30-2 National, 54-50-1 B1G)
AAC Championship: #22 Temple v. #19 Houston (-6.5) - 12:00 p.m. - ABC
The inaugural AAC Championship Game pits Temple against Houston in a matchup that will likely decide which team gets the Group of 5 bowl bid to either the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl. After losing two of three games, Temple closed out the season strong with wins over Memphis and UConn. Their defense has been the calling card of the Owls all season, but don't sleep on quarterback P.J. Walker and running back Jahad Thomas. Temple is looking for their first-ever season with 11 wins.
Following their first loss of the season to UConn a couple weeks ago, Houston got quarterback Greg Ward Jr. back and took down Navy 52-31 on Friday to earn their bid to the AAC title game. Ward Jr. passed for 308 yards and three touchdowns and added 83 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but the big story was Brandon Wilson. The cornerback filled in for injured running back Kenneth Farrow and rolled up 111 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Farrow could miss his second straight game, but whoever lines up at running back is going to find the sledding tougher against the Temple defense. I like Houston to end up winning this contest, but I think it'll come down to the wire. The Owls have covered six of their last seven games, so take the points in this one.
Houston 27 Temple 24
SEC Championship: #18 Florida v. #2 Alabama (-17.5) - 4:00 p.m. - CBS
One of the ways Ohio State could earn a spot in the College Football Playoff is if Florida beats Alabama on Saturday. Let's be honest though, that isn't gonna happen. It's hard to think that a team that finished the season like Florida did is suddenly going to raise up against the buzzsaw that is Alabama. Florida only managed a safety last week in the 27-2 loss to Florida State and in three of their last four games they have failed to gain over 300 yards.
Last week Alabama needed a late Derrick Henry touchdown scamper to cover the point spread against Auburn. It remains to be seen if the 46 carries Henry had last week might slow him down a little this week, but it might not matter. Florida's defense might present some problems for the Crimson Tide, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Alabama defense force Florida into some turnovers which will eventually wear Florida down. I'm a little leery of laying so many points in a conference title game, but Alabama could be a little chapped about some trying to say they don't belong in the CFP.
Alabama 33 Florida 13
Pac-12 Championship: #20 USC v. #7 Stanford (-4.5) - 7:45 p.m. - ESPN
While it hasn't been quite the year they were hoping for coming into the season, USC has finished strong, winning five of their last six. Since Clay Helton took over as head coach, the Trojans have featured their running game more, and last week rushed the football 59 times against UCLA. That doesn't mean Stanford can pin their ears back against the run, since USC still has Cody Kessler at quarterback and JuJu Smith-Schuster at wide receiver.
Much like Ohio State, Stanford still has an outside shot at the College Football Playoff, but not only do the Cardinal need some help, they also need to beat USC for the second time this season. In mid-September the Cardinal defeated the Trojans 41-31 in Los Angeles. Christian McCaffrey needs 216 all-purpose yards to top the 3,250 Barry Sanders rolled up for Oklahoma State in 1988. It's so hard to beat a team twice in one season, and I think now that USC is settled at head coach, they have what it takes to take down Stanford. With five of the last six matchups between these schools being decided by eight points or less, taking the points looks like a good bet here.
USC 38 Stanford 34
ACC Championship: #10 North Carolina v. #1 Clemson (-5) - 8:00 p.m. - ABC
How a month can change things. North Carolina was unranked heading into the month of November, but now the Tar Heels are looking to be this year's Cinderella of the College Football Playoff. I'm not convinced that even with a win that North Carolina will end up making the field, but it's hard to take anything away from the Tar Heels, as they have rolled up 11 straight wins following a season-opening loss to South Carolina. The dynamic North Carolina offense will be the toughest Clemson has faced this year, and unlike recent years, the Tar Heels are playing some great defense as well.
Clemson's path to the College Football Playoff is a lot easier to figure out. If they win, they are in. Deshaun Watson has been phenomenal for the Tigers all year, and is the only quarterback with 3,000 yards passing and 750 yards rushing. Clemson has been impressive all year, but I wonder if this might be the moment where the pressure becomes a little too much for them. Unlike their two toughest games of the year when they had to play Notre Dame and Florida State, the Tigers won't have the home-field advantage to lean on. I have been saying for a few weeks on Twitter that North Carolina is going to give Clemson a game. Chaos rules on Saturday night in Charlotte.
North Carolina 31 Clemson 28
Big Ten Championship: #5 Michigan State (-3.5) v. #4 Iowa - 8:00 p.m. - Fox
Who really thought less than a month ago that Michigan State would be in this spot? The Spartans blew a 13-point lead to Nebraska and then Connor Cook was hurt heading into a showdown in Columbus against the undefeated Buckeyes. All Michigan State did was upset Ohio State and then leave no doubt last week against Penn State in East Lansing. Aaron Burbridge has been a pleasant surprise at wide receiver this year for Michigan State, and is just five receptions away from breaking the school record.
If you said at the beginning of the year that Iowa was going to be undefeated heading into the Big Ten Championship Game, you better have evidence of it. The Hawkeyes have been doing it with an incredibly balanced offense to go along with an opportunistic defense. Saturday will be the toughest test of the season for Iowa though, as not only does Michigan State have a dynamic defense, but they also have an offense that can hurt the Hawkeyes in a number of ways. I respect what Iowa has done this year, but I think Michigan State has a little too much talent on both sides of the football for the Hawkeyes to keep pace.
Michigan State 30 Iowa 20