Friday, December 04, 2009

Conference Championship Games

The two major conferences that have conference championship games play tomorrow. Some leagues without divisions, like the Big Ten, don't do this. Those conferences lose out on a substantial money maker, but also don't have their top two teams beating the bejeepers out of each other right before Bowl season either. I guess it is a pick your poison situation.

The SEC has undefeated No. 1 Florida and undefeated No. 2 Alabama going head to head. Florida has basically gone wire to wire this season as No. 1. There was one week where the AP poll had Alabama at No. 1, but the BCS rankings poll always had Florida at No. 1. I will call that a regular season wire to wire No. 1, seeing as Florida deserves to be No. 1 as they are the defending national champs until proven otherwise on the field.

This game is basically a rematch of last years SEC championship game. Both teams were undefeated then as well. The kicker this year is that Florida is weaker than last year's squad, and Alabama is stronger than last year's squad. How that will play out in the SEC Championship game is anyone's guess, but I think it is a good omen for the old Crimson Tide, as they gave last year's Florida team all it could handle, much to everyone's surprise.

I've noticed it has been trendy by sports talking heads to pick Alabama as the mild surprise upset. In my heart of hearts, I tend to agree. I think Florida's lack of a deep threat in passing combined with Tennessee's coming up with a defense that contains the spread option earlier in the season that teams have been recycling could make for a frustrating night for Tebow, et al. But love him or hate him, Tebow has a knack for being a feisty fighter. He is truly a powerful force on the field. After the sickening love fest that was his last game at the Swamp, I can't imagine someone with Tebow's ego would not go all in to end his in conference career in a blaze of glory.

Alabama is certainly not without its foibles either, likewise as evidenced by the Tennessee defense. In fact, had Tennessee been able to kick a field goal (on more than one occasion), they would have beaten 'Bama. Alabama does have a young quarterback, who can get flustered at times if the offense isn't clicking. Probable Heisman trophy finalist Mark Ingram has had a stellar year, but sustained a hip bruise after last week's Iron Bowl against Auburn.

I am going to tacitly pick Alabama by three, but I really think this game will come down to one play, and whoever blinks will lose.

Then, of course, there is the Big XII championship game of undefeated Texas and Nebraska.
This game seems to be a no brainer on paper. Texas is undefeated, and a win assures them of a berth in the BCS National Championship game against either Alabama or Florida. Although this game reminds me a bit of the Big XII championship game about 5 years ago when Oklahoma was undefeated and had been labelled as one of the best teams of All Time, and then got smacked around in the Championship game.

Nebraska did beat Oklahoma this year, although so did a lot of other people. They had spurts of brilliance, and the defense has carried the team time and again. Nebraska was 2 plays away from being a 10 win team. They had a last second 60 yard brain cramp against Virginia Tech (which only produced 12o total offensive yards that entire game) and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. And then they had the completely inexplicable loss to (I can't hardly bring myself to type it:) Iowa State at home, in which the Huskers had more turnovers than points scored in the game. (4 of the 8 turnovers by the way came inside the Iowa State 10 yard line.)

Nebraska's offense had been in disarray most of the season, as I have talked about before in previous posts. They seemed to change offensive systems every game for about 6 weeks, but teams finally caught onto the fact that the reason for that was not a well oiled offensive machine but a rust bucket that had to be patched back together every game. But in the Husker's defense, they did finish the season with 5 straight wins, something I thought was impossible after the Iowa State debacle. They beat all 5 of those opponents (including Oklahoma and Kansas) by a touchdown or more, and appeared to have solidified an offensive power running scheme that, while not the prettiest system, is quasi-functional and did win them those last 5 games.

All that having been said, I think if Nebraska still had last year's offense with this year's defense, they could give Texas a run for their money. I still think Nebraska is the one team from the Big XII that might make a game of Texas, at least for a few quarters. They do have a jolly good defense, but alas this year's offense is anemic at best.

Texas, on the other hand, has a well oiled offense that has scored 34 points or more a game in every game except Oklahoma where they scored 16, and a defense that allowed only 2 teams to score over 20 points. Nebraska on the other hand has only scored over 30 points in one conference game (31 at Kansas). The old aphorism is, "Offense wins games, Defense wins championships." Tomorrow that will be put to the test.

I do hope Nebraska wins, just to see the BCS implode. If Texas loses, the winner of Florida/Alabama with either have to play one of the piddly undefeated teams like Texas Christian or Cincinnati (and people will scream bloody murder), or a one loss major conference team will leapfrog (no pun intended) undefeated TCU (and people will scream bloody murder.) That will be one Texas-sized BCS cowpie.

I doubt this will happen, but one can dream.

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