Well, the final week of the college football regular season has arrived and the Picks and Pans are ready to be dealt out a final time before bowl season. There will be more picks than pans this week, primarily owing to the fact that I am still a bit steamed at having to watch Alabama and Georgia – two teams that a healthy Florida squad would beat, of this I am 100% certain – play for the SEC championship and a spot in the national championship game – both of which should rightfully be Florida’s if not for six turnovers, one for each of our debilitated linemen, in Jacksonville. With that, I am not in the humorous mood to crank out as many one-liners as usual, but I will nonetheless try to insult as many programs and people as possible.
Louisville at Rutgers (Thursday)
The Big East does not have a conference title game, but on the weekend of BCS conference championship games across the country, they’re going to pretend. That’s because Thursday night’s tilt between Louisville and Rutgers will serve as the de facto Big East Championship Game, with the winner claiming the league title. No, I spelled that correctly: de facto. Because what else can you call a Big East title-deciding finale between a team that is abandoning the conference for the Big 12 and another team that is fleeing the league to the ACC? It is only fitting that the Big East’s BCS berth will be decided between two teams vacating the conference in 2014, the same year that the Big East will be forcibly vacating its automatic qualifier status in the BCS. Even more appropriate is that the league title will be fought out between a team that has lost two straight and a team that last week blew its chance to clinch the championship by being embarrassed by six-loss Pittsburgh, yet another terrible team that nonetheless can’t bear life in the Big East and is leaving for another awful league. Once the conference realignment settles, it should just change their name to The East. There is nothing big about it.
The ‘Ville: 22
The ‘Gers: 21
No. 20 Boise State at Nevada Speaking of teams leaving the Big East, it appears as if Boise State will leave before it even officially joins — much like its fellow BCS-busting program TCU did last year. This is not so much reneging on their commitment as it is refusing to jump off the high dive into a pool that has been drained of all its water. Not that Boise State is much better off. When all the expansion moves were taking place and Boise inexplicably decided to go with the Big East, it was akin to signing up to join Custer’s 7th Cavalry Regiment … AFTER the fighting at Little Bighorn had already started and the early returns were being reported by CNN.
Lead a Horse to Drink: 26
Hungry Like the Wolf Pack: 23
Navy vs. Army (Dec. 8)
Some people wonder when was the last time Army could compete with Navy on the football field enough to eke out a win.
Don’t ask, don’t tell.
MAC Championship Game: No. 21 Northern Illinois vs. No. 17 Kent State (Friday, Detroit)
This is the biggest MAC Championship game in history. It is also the first MAC Championship game in history, or maybe the last. … Who could possibly care to the point of knowing? But this year, college football fans need to care, because if Kent State wins and increases its BCS ranking just a smidge, they will be guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl. As a benchmark to its worthiness, Kent State lost 47-14 to Kentucky, the worst team in the SEC. … Although the Golden Flashes did beat Rutgers, which plays for the Big East title Thursday night. It is most likely that KSU would end up playing either the ACC champ or the SEC at-large team Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Gators versus the Golden Flashes? I thought that game was already played in Tallahassee last week.
I don’t think there is any real worry about Kent State making it to a BCS bowl, because this MAC title game is being played in Detroit. Anyone who saw Kentucky Fried Movie knows that is worse than torture, worse than beheading. They will not return.
But I wish they would. Because they are going to win this game and I would love to see Florida State’s miserable season end with the most unthinkable insult of being rewarded for winning the ACC title by playing in a BCS bowl against Kent Freaking State.
Golden Flashes: 25
Golden Retrievers: 19
Big 10 Championship Game: No. 12 Nebraska vs. Wisconsin (Indianapolis)
You would think that only in a conference like this — a conference that can’t even correctly count how many teams it has — wouldn’t be able to figure out that the league championship game is to be played between the first place teams in the each division, not between one first place and one third place team. But when a conference is so full of arrogance that it names its divisions “Legends” and “Leaders” you can’t expect them to bother to field teams that actually conform to any semblance of those terms. So you have what we have here: two of the three best teams in the conference are on probation, so a team with a .500 conference record gets to play in the title game. But as we’ll find out in the next pick, the Big “10” can’t even distinguish itself by sending a third place team to its championship game due to multiple top teams on probation. Legendary Leaders … but of what, nobody seems to know.
Big Red: 20
Little Red: 10
ACC Championship Game: No. 13 Florida State vs. Georgia Tech (Charlotte)
How big is this game? How impressive is the ACC brand? Tickets to the ACC Championship Game are selling on Stub Hub for $2. Four weeks … 20 papers … that’s $2. Twoooo doooollaaars. That’s less than half the price of the cheapest parking pass for the game ($5). It’s a dollar less than a small box of Junior Mints at the movies (they’re junior mints!). It’s $1.29 less than a milkshake at Chick-fil-A. It’s $1.27 less than it would cost in gas to drive a Ford F-250 to the game if you lived 10 miles from the stadium. In fact, a ticket to the ACC Championship Game costs $3 less than the Stub Hub processing fee to buy the ticket.
Conversely, the cheapest ticket available to the SEC title game is $289, and that’s Upper End Zone, the last section in the stadium, Row 20. There are over 4,000 tickets remaining to the ACC title tilt, with fewer than 700 seats left in the Georgia Dome.
But that’s what you get when the two participants in the ACC title game have eight losses between them and get throttled by SEC teams the week before by a combined score of 79-36. Oh, and like the Big 10 title game, one the contestants is actually the third place team in the division but is showing up at the game because the two teams in front of them are on probation.
Florida Tech…or whatever: As if it matters
Georgia State…or whatever: Cheapest ticket to the MAC title game is $6
Pac-12 Championship Game: No. 16 UCLA at No. 8 Stanford (Friday)
Yes, the Pac-12 Championship Game is a home game for Stanford. No neutral site? In the entire United States east of the Mississippi, there was no municipality that respects this conference enough to let them hold their title game at their stadium? And what kind of scheduling is this? How do both these teams front-load their three out-of-conference opponents and how does the conference not schedule divisional foes in the last week to avoid two teams playing the same game two weeks in a row? Maybe UCLA really did lose on purpose last week … with this kind of Mickey Mouse conference, any level of absurdity is possible. Try or not, they’re losing again this week.
Not Oregon: 24
Not Oregon Either: 21
SEC Championship Game: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia (Atlanta)
In his latest desperation move to motivate his team, Mark Richt reached into his bag of juvenile tricks and came up with a gem. He sent his starting team to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport with bags full of eggs. There they waited hiding behind the luggage cars for the Alabama Crimson Tide’s charter plane to arrive and load the players onto the team bus on the tarmac, at which time they then pelted the bus with said eggs. Like most of Richt’s stunts, this one too backfired as due to an error reading the flight schedules: the team they bombarded with eggs was in fact the New Orleans Saints, in town to play the Falcons this weekend. Strategic planning was never their strong suit in Athens.
Despite this setback, all across Dawg Nation, false bravado has given way to actual bravado. They are starting to think they really can win this thing. The players are sending the Tide care packages filled with bulletin board material, shouting to anyone vaguely resembling a journalist that they have better players, better coaches, stronger athletes, and even a couple more forks in their family trees (which is to say, a couple forks in their family trees). But the big news is that the fans have started to shift from sheepishly whining about how they are going to lose again to annoyingly boasting that they are going to roll the Tide. They believe that Texas A&M wrote the blueprint to beating Alabama: up-tempo offense. Yep, that’s it. That’s what they think will do it. They are blissfully ignoring the fact that Aaron Murray is no Johnny Football, and Mark Richt is no Kevin Sumlin.
But the reason the Dawgs will lose begins and ends with one simple fact: the Georgia offense is not good. Against bad or average defenses, they do a great job of running up the score. Bully for them. But they have faced only two great defenses this year — South Carolina and Florida — and against them, the Georgia offense wet the bed like a blotto frat boy passed out with his hand in a bowl of warm water. Against the other 10 opponents on the easiest SEC schedule in over twenty years, the Dawgs averaged 43.2 points per game. Against Florida and Carolina, they averaged 12. Against the only two strong defenses it faced, UGA averaged just 1.5 touchdowns per game, while averaging two interceptions. The great Murray could only manage a 41.8 completion percentage in the only two games that mattered — against the only difficult defenses he faced. Against any strong defense, Georgia’s offense is a farce to be reckoned with.
And Alabama has a strong defense.
No. 4 Florida: Idle
With no game to play this week (or any week before the Sugar Bowl), the Gators get to enjoy watching two teams that they would beat handily now that they are healthy, play for the SEC title and spot in the national title game that they deserve. As bitter as that pill will be to swallow, there is one silver lining for Gators players and fans: the fate of the hated Georgia Bulldogs. It is no small consolation that the team that took the charity of Florida’s six turnovers to knock them out of the SEC and BCS title games, will in all likelihood end up by virtue of winning in Jacksonville having a lesser season that Florida. Here are the scenarios for Georgia. Pick which one you’d like to see:
Scenario 1: Georgia loses to Alabama and gets shipped off to the Capital One Bowl while Florida plays in the BCS Sugar Bowl. What’s in your wallet? A Dawg nation full of whiners who spend all year in the misery of knowing that in the best season they’ve had in 32 years, finally beating Florida a second-consecutive year for the first time in 23 years, they still couldn’t finish ahead of Florida in the national polls or in the eyes of college football.
Scenario 2: Georgia beats Alabama, ending the reign of Saban the Great, and then goes to the BCS title game jacked to the sky and gets sent home losers by an inferior Notre Dame team that nobody thinks could beat a top-tier SEC team. Georgia becomes the program that lets the conference down, whose ineptness ends the historic streak of consecutive national titles by one league. And the Dawg Nation is left to ponder the fact that this was its best chance to win a national title probably ever again and blew it.
Scenario 3: Georgia beats the Tide and the Irish to win their first national title since 1980. They get to chew on the fact that in their history, the only time they can win it all is when facing Notre Dame teams that have no business in the national title game. What’s more, the program loses almost all of its defensive talent that made this title run possible. Will Muschamp and Steve Spurrier carry their programs back past Georgia in the East in 2012. Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M continue to widen the gap between their programs and the one in Athens. And Dawgs fans are shaken out of their celebratory bliss very early to the rude awakening that it will likely be another 32 years before they sniff another national title, and they are exactly one half a football season away from wanting to fire their head coach again. Only, unlike their archrivals Auburn (which will eventually work its way back ahead of them in the SEC food chain, as well), they won’t be able to fire their coach just a year or two after winning a national championship, because Mark Richt will always win enough not to get canned.
Personally, I am pulling strongly for Scenario 1. I don’t think Richt can beat Saban, but the Tide are experiencing a large enough number of injuries to major players that the Bulldogs could steal one from them like they stole one from Florida. And I likewise do not think Richt can out-coach Irish head man Brian Kelly. The only thing worse than seeing the SEC title streak end is to see Notre Dame win another one. This would be a double-whammy. And the fact that Alabama would win their third in this SEC streak — surpassing Florida’s two — does not faze me much. Firstly, I want Florida to be the one to dethrone Alabama and reclaim its rightful place as the top program in the SEC. I don’t want Georgia to take that honor or satisfaction from us. Secondly, Florida simply needs to win the national title next year to even it up at three titles apiece between the Gators and Tide in this SEC streak.
Florida Gators: Schadenfreude
Idle: No chance