Our Five Burning Questions for Championship Saturday:
1) Does No. 16 Missouri (10-2) “really” have a chance to beat No. 1 Alabama (11-1) in the SEC Championship game? The Tigers have won five division titles (3 Big 12, 2 SEC) and played in three championship games since 2007 but haven’t won a conference title of any kind since 1969. But two things give them a shot at the Georgia Dome:
- Alabama is minus-2 in turnover margin this season while Missouri is plus-nine. If Mizzou can force three turnovers or more the Tigers have a shot.
- Alabama gave up 456 passing yards to Auburn last week, including seven plays of more than 21 yards. It’s hard to make a living driving the ball 80 yards against Alabama. But some big plays are there to be had.
Having said that, I’m picking Alabama to win 34-27.
2) If Alabama loses, does the SEC really get shut out of the college football playoff? After winning seven of the past eight national championships, how can that be possible?
Just do the math. In the latest CFP rankings, Alabama is No. 1, Mississippi State (10-2) is No. 10, Ole Miss (9-3) is No. 12 , Georgia (9-3) is No. 14 and Missouri (10-2) is No. 16. If Alabama loses, its hard to see the Crimson Tide staying in the top four. It’s hard to see the other teams making up that much ground,
3) Florida State is the defending national champions and has won 28 consecutive games. Can you give me “one” good reason Georgia Tech can beat them in the ACC Championship game?
Actually, I can give you five. Here are some key NCAA rankings for the Yellow Jackets:
Rushing, 333.8 ypg (3rd)
Third down conversions. 57.4 % (1st)
Fourth down conversions, 73.3% (7th)
Time of possession, 34 minutes per game (3rd)
Turnover margin, plus-11 (10th)
If Georgia Tech can surpass 35 minutes in time of possession and forces three turnovers or more, the Yellow Jackets will win.
And there is this. A year ago Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston threw 40 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. This season those numbers are 21 and 17. Florida State is minus-4 in turnover margin.
4) Can Ohio State win the Big Ten championship over Wisconsin with a third-team quarterback? The No. 5 Buckeyes (11-1) lost the Big Ten offensive player of the year (Braxton Miller) before the season started. Then they lost starting quarterback J.T. Barrett to a broken ankle last week against Michigan. Now they go with Cardale Jones, a 6-5 sophomore from Cleveland, who was neck-and-neck with Barrett last spring and summer when they were competing for the No. 2 job. Now all Jones is being asked to do is make his first career start in the Big Ten title game, which the Buckeyes must win to keep their hopes alive of making the college football playoff. Wisconsin (10-2) is a four-point favorite and has the nation’s top rusher in Melvin Gordon (188.3 ypg).
So the short answer is: No. I think the Badgers get it done.
5) Does the CFP selection committee have any surprises left? I wrote earlier this week that if the top four (Alabama, Oregon, TCU, Florida State) all won then the final rankings would be unchanged. But consider this: No. 4 Florida State plays No. 11 Georgia Tech while No. 3 TCU plays Iowa State (2-9). If Florida State wins it would be 13-0 to TCU’s 11-1 and could jump back into No. 3. If No. 5 Ohio State loses to Wisconsin and No. 6 Baylor beats No. 9 Kansas State, then it would then be a square head-to-head comparison between TCU and Baylor for the final spot. It would give the committee one last chance to give Baylor credit for beating TCU on the field (61-58).
I’m just sayin’.