News, thoughts and more from the world of college sports across the nation and Long Island.
Fearless predictions: Championship Saturday
Conference USA championship: No. 24 Southern Mississippi at No. 6 Houston (-14), 12 p.m.
Henry’s pick: This is potentially one of two showcases for Houston quarterback Case Keenum. Keenum has carried the undefeated Cougars far this season with 43 touchdown passes and needs to do it one more time to get his into a BCS Bowl, the first for the school and Conference USA. Southern Miss comes in with a great quarterback of its own in Austin Davis. But Davis has had accuracy issues that the Cougars will exploit. Houston 41, Southern Mississippi 26
Rose’s pick: Houston has a ton riding on this game. A win puts the Cougars into a BCS bowl (possibly the Sugar). This game will also be Case Keenum’s final chance to impress Heisman voters enough to get him a trip to New York. The question for this game: can Southern Mississippi slow down Houston’s offense enough to keep it close? Houston leads the nation in total offense (613.25 yards per game) and scoring offense (52.67 points per game). But Southern Mississippi, which is 10-2, has been good on defense (26th nationally/338.42 yards per game). The Golden Eagles, however, haven’t been great defending the pass (55th nationally/221 yards per game). Southern Mississippi is capable of scoring points (36.9 per game) and has a balanced offense (262 passing yards and 208 rushing yards per game). Two things to consider: Houston had little trouble with Tulsa last week, a game that was expected to be tougher. And Southern Mississippi’s two losses this season have been to Marshall (6-6) and UAB (3-9). Houston 38, Southern Mississippi 26
Connecticut at Cincinnati (-9.5), 12 p.m.
Henry’s pick: Much of the luster was taken off this game after West Virginia came from behind to beat South Florida on Thursday night. But the Bearcats were 4-8 last season and to improve by five wins would be a huge statement. Munchie Legaux played well against Syracuse last week in place of injured Cincy quarterback Zach Collaros. He’ll need to put together another solid performance to hold off a Connecticut team that is poised to play giant killer. Cincinnati 33, Connecticut 14
Rose’s pick: Cincinnati’s hope for the Big East title and BCS automatic bid took a huge hit Thursday night when West Virginia rallied to beat South Florida. As it stands now, a Cincinnati win would create a three-way tie for the Big East title with West Virginia and Louisville (all 5-2). In that scenario, West Virginia gets the BCS bid based on its BCS ranking. A Cincinnati loss gives Louisville the BCS bid since the Cardinals beat the Mountaineers. So what are the Bearcats playing for? A ninth win on senior day. Cincinnati 27, Connecticut 16
No. 22 Texas at No. 17 Baylor (-3), 3:30 p.m.
Henry’s pick: Even though Robert Griffin III isn’t likely a Heisman favorite anymore, he’s worth watching. Baylor fans will get one more chance to watch him in action against a resurgent Texas team. Griffin (head blow) sat out the second half of last week’s win over Texas Tech. Even if Griffin is slowed a bit, running back Terrance Ganaway will pick up the slack. Meanwhile, Texas is hoping Case McCoy can rise to the occasion. Baylor 37, Texas 35
Rose’s pick: Texas doesn’t want to go to New York with Robert Griffin III. The Baylor quarterback could really help his Heisman chances with a strong game against the Longhorns. Griffin III has thrown for 3,678 yards and 34 touchdowns (with just five interceptions). But the Bears also have a 1,000-yard rusher (Terrance Ganaway with 1,195 yards and 14 touchdowns) and a receiver with nearly 100 catches (Kendall Wright with 95 catches for 1,406 yards and 12 touchdowns). The Longhorns’ defense is ranked ninth nationally (298 yards per game) and has played well since the blowout loss to Oklahoma. But expect Griffin III to have a big game as he adds to his Heisman portfolio. Baylor 31, Texas 23
SEC championship, at the Georgia Dome: No. 14 Georgia vs. No. 1 LSU (-13.5), 4 p.m.
Henry’s pick: Some believe it’s unfair that LSU has to put its unblemished record and national title hopes on the line, while Alabama doesn’t. Tigers fans don’t need to worry, because Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson will keep LSU’s offense running like the well-oiled machine its been all season. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray will keep it close, but not close enough. Look for LSU to run away from the Bulldogs in the second half. LSU 44, Georgia 20
Rose’s pick: Georgia has won 10 straight games and is really playing at a high level. LSU, along with Alabama, is playing at an even higher level. In fact, there’s LSU and Alabama and then everybody else. LSU’s ride to the Georgia Dome has included wins over Oregon, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Auburn. There are obvious questions about Georgia’s strength of schedule. But the Bulldogs have quarterback Aaron Murray (2,698 yards and 32 touchdowns) and a solid defense that is ranked fifth nationally (271 yards per game) and 10th nationally in scoring (18 points per game). It’s just hard to see Georgia having enough to beat LSU. The Tigers are second nationally in total defense (248 yards per game) and second nationally in scoring defense (10.58 points per game). LSU’s offense can also pound an opposing defense with its strong offensive line and group of effective runners. Jordan Jefferson has looked very good at quarterback and has plenty of options at wide receiver. Plus, Tyrann Mathieu had an electrifying game against Arkansas and appears to be back to his big-play ways. LSU 38, Georgia 17
No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 3 Oklahoma State (-3.5), 8 p.m.
Henry’s pick: Oklahoma would love nothing better than to dash the Cowboys’ razor-thin chance at a national championship. The Oklahoma defense, despite holding Iowa State to six points, has been leaking a bit lately. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden is out for redemption after his three-interception performance against Iowa State two weeks ago. Weeden threw for 476 yards, but it wasn’t enough and it potentially cost his team a shot at the national title. That won’t happen twice. Oklahoma State 47, Oklahoma 31
Rose’s pick: Bedlam has a lot riding on it this season and should be a very entertaining game. The winner gets the Big 12 title and BCS automatic bid. The Cowboys also have a slight chance of landing in the BCS title game with a win. Oklahoma’s defense will need to step up. Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden has thrown for 4,111 yards and 34 touchdowns, running back Joseph Randle has 1,042 yards and 21 touchdowns and wide receiver Justin Blackmon has 103 catches for 1,241 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Sooners’ loss to Baylor a few weeks back is still fresh in a lot of minds. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III threw for 479 yards and four touchdowns, including leading the Bears on the game-winning drive in the final minute of the game. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones has also put up big numbers this season with 4,052 yards and 28 touchdowns. Oklahoma State’s defense is one of the worst in the country (107th, allowing 454 yards per game). It’s true that Oklahoma State has lost nine straight to Oklahoma. But this seems like Oklahoma State’s year in the Big 12. Oklahoma State 41, Oklahoma 37
ACC championship, at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte: No. 20 Clemson vs. No. 5 Virginia Tech (-7), 8 p.m.
Henry’s pick: Clemson dominated the Hokies the last time the two met. But this game will be on a neutral field and Virginia Tech’s defense has limited four of its last six opponents to 17 points or less. Clemson, on the other hand, got blitzed two weeks in a row by North Carolina State (37-13) and South Carolina (34-13). The Tigers also gave up four touchdowns in a 31-28 win over Wake Forest. Virginia Tech 31, Clemson 17
Rose’s pick: This is a rematch of a game way back on Oct. 1 when Clemson went to Blacksburg and shut down the Hokies in a 23-3 win. Since then, the teams are headed in opposite directions. Virginia Tech has won seven straight and is coming off a 38-0 demolition of Virginia. Quarterback Logan Thomas continues to get better and running back David Wilson has been running wild on defenses. Clemson has lost three of four and could not do much last week in a 34-13 loss to South Carolina. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has had a solid season with 3,338 yards and 28 touchdowns. But he has struggled over the past month, throwing seven interceptions. Virginia Tech 27, Clemson 17
Big Ten championship, at Lucas Oil Field: Indianapolis, No. 15 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Michigan State (+9.5), 8:17 p.m.
Henry’s pick: It’s going to be strength vs. strength when Michigan State’s sixth-ranked defense takes on Wisconsin star running back Montee Ball. As well as Ball has played this season, he struggled against physical defenses. He had just 115 yards in Wisconsin’s 37-31 loss to the Spartans in October and 85 yards against Ohio State. It will be slim pickings for Ball again. Michigan State 24, Wisconsin 16
Rose’s pick: This is a rematch of perhaps the best game of the season. Michigan State won a memorable 37-31 game against Wisconsin on Oct. 22 when Kirk Cousins connected with Keith Nichol on a Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired. Wisconsin was in control early in the game, enjoying a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Michigan State had a 31-17 lead in the fourth quarter before Wisconsin rallied to tie it and lost on the Hail Mary play. Michigan State’s offensive success depends on Cousins (2,735 yards and 21 touchdowns) being effective with his passing. Wisconsin has more balance on offense with Russell Wilson (2,692 yards, 72.7 comp. pct., 28 touchdowns) and Montee Ball (1,622 yards and 34 total touchdowns). Both teams have defenses ranked nationally in the top 10. Wisconsin has more options on offense and the defense is playing very well. Wisconsin 27, Michigan State 23
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