Bowled over: Championship weekend arrives as playoff and bowl bids heat up

12/06/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak



Before the College Football Playoff plays out and before Bowl Season begins, there is Conference Championship weekend. Let's take a look at some of the conference title clashes, which may play a role on who gets to play for the National Championship.
SEC Championship
#1 Alabama vs #16 Missouri

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The 11 and 1 Crimson Tide control their own destiny. Win in the SEC title game, and they'll keep the top spot heading into the College Football Playoff. For the 10 and 2 Tigers, it will be their second appearance in the championship game in the past three years. Both teams come in hot as well, with Alabama winning their past 7 games, while Missouri has won 6 in a row. Both of these teams rank in the top-15 in the nation in scoring defense. The Tigers rank 13th, giving up an average of 19.7 points against per game, while the Crimson Tide's 16.9 points against average ranks 5th. Alabama has the edge in scoring offense, averaging 36.7 points per game versus the Tigers 28.6 points per contest. This game will be played at a neutral site, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Missouri is a perfect 5 and 0 away from home in 2014. Alabama can it done on the ground or through the air on offense. Blake Sims has passed for 2,988 yards and 24 touchdowns, with his main target being Amari Cooper. Cooper has 103 catches on the season for 1,573 yards and 14 TD's. Cooper has more catches and yards than Missouri's top two receivers do combined. Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt have combined for 99 catches for 1,433 yards this season for the Tigers. Alabama also features the running back combination of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry. The duo has combined for over 1,600 yards on the ground and 16 rushing touchdowns. Missouri is led by Maty Mauck, who has thrown for 2,279 yards and 22 scores. The Tigers running back tandem of Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy have also combined for over 1,600 yards rushing and 13 TD's. This is the first meeting between these schools since 2012, a 42 to 10 Alabama win.
ACC Championship
#4 Florida State vs #11 Georgia Tech
28. That's where the Seminoles winning streak sits at heading into the conference title game. 6. That's the number of games Florida State has won by single digits this season. 5. That's the number of games Georgia Tech has won in a row. 17. That's the number of turnovers the Yellow Jackets defense have forced in those 5 games. On paper, these teams are pretty even. Florida State averages 34.6 points per game and gives up 22 points against. Georgia Tech averages 37.2 points per game and give up an average of 24.1 points against. The Yellow Jackets defense will have to deal with the tandem of QB Jameis Winston and WR Rashad Greene. Winston has passed for 3,250 yards and 21 TD's. Greene has 86 catches for 1,183 yards and 5 scores. The negative is Winston has also thrown 17 interceptions this season, which could be a problem against a Georgia Tech defense that is on a roll in the turnover department. For the Yellow Jackets, the offensive strategy is much more ground based with a triple-option attack. Georgia Tech averages 333 rushing yards per game, and Justin Thomas, Zach Laskey, and Synjyn Days all have rushed for over 600 yards this season. For the Seminoles on the ground, Dalvin Cook and Karlos Williams have combined for over 1,300 yards rushing and 17 TD's. These teams last met in the 2012 ACC title game, which Florida State won 21 to 15.
Big Ten Championship
#5 Ohio State vs #13 Wisconsin
The Buckeyes remain on the outside looking in on the CFP. And they'll be trying to get in with their 3rd string quarterback under center in the championship game. With J.T. Barrett being lost for the season in last weeks win over rival Michigan, Cardale Jones will get the start at quarterback. The loss of Barrett is a huge loss for the Buckeyes, as he had passed for over 2,800 yards and 34 touchdowns. He also rushed for over 900 yards and scored 11 rushing TD's. Jones will face a Wisconsin defense that ranks 4th in the country in points against, giving up an average of 16.8 points per game. Since losing to Virginia Tech in their second game of the season, Ohio State has won 10 in a row coming into the title game. Wisconsin also comes in on a roll, having won their past 7 games. The Buckeyes defense will have to deal with trying to stop Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon. Gordon has rushed for a Big Ten record 2,260 yards and 26 touchdowns. These teams met in the regular season last year, with Ohio State winning 31 to 24. But more impressively, the Buckeyes held the Badgers to 104 yards rushing in that game.
#3 TCU vs Iowa State
The Big 12 doesn't have a conference championship game, but TCU will be looking to hold onto their spot in the CFP in their season finale against 2 and 9 Iowa State. TCU ranks third in the nation in scoring, averaging 46.1 points per game. That doesn't bode well for the Cyclones, who rank 115th in the nation in points against, giving up 37.4 points against per game. The Horned Frogs also rank 3rd in passing yards per game, and are led by Heisman hopeful Trevone Boykin. Boykin has over 3,800 yards in total offense this season, and has thrown for 26 TD's and rushed for 8 scores. Iowa State is 0 and 8 in conference play and have lost their past 5 games, giving up 34 or more points in each of those losses.

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