Dr. Pepper ACC Championship, Bank of America Stadium, Sat. Dec. 4, 7:45pm
No. 21 Florida State (9-3, 6-2 ACC) vs. No. 15 Virginia Tech (10-2, 8-0 ACC)
Virginia Tech has reeled off 10 consecutive wins since they lost to James Madison back on Sept. 11, and they don’t seem to be letting up any time soon. This is bad news for Florida State, as they have been inconsistent throughout this season under first year head coach Jimbo Fisher. The Seminoles have looked dominant at times (45-17 win at Miami) and awful at other times (47-17 loss at Oklahoma). Their defense has been one of the more consistent parts of their team, though, as they are only giving up 17.8 points per game this season (11th in the nation). The Hokies defense hasn’t been quite the traditional, stingy, Bud Foster unit we have come to know over the past decade or so. But when they need to force a turnover or come up with a big stop, these guys have been rising to the occasion (with the exception of the Boise State game). Tech certainly holds the advantage in the running game, using the three-headed monster of quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running backs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams. As a team, the Hokies are averaging 211.4 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 17th nationally. The dominant running game and ability to force Seminoles quarterback Christian Ponder into making mistakes will be the keys to a Hokie victory. I just don’t see Florida State being able to contain the Hokies offense for the entire game, which is why I think the Hokies will win a close one, 27-23.
Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship, Cowboys Stadium, Sat. Dec. 4, 8:00pm
No. 9 Oklahoma (10-2, 6-2 Big 12) vs. No. 13 Nebraska (10-2, 6-2 Big 12)
Both the Sooners and Cornhuskers come into this match up with identical records, but very different styles of offense. Oklahoma has more of an aerial attack while Nebraska likes to keep the ball on the ground. Quarterback Landry Jones and his Sooners boast one of the top passing games in the nations, averaging 336.3 yards per game. The sophomore has been brilliant so far this season throwing 34 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions while completing 66 percent of his passes. Two other players that have been vital to the Sooner offense this season are running back DeMarco Murray (240 carries, 1,053 yards, 14 touchdowns) and wide receiver Ryan Broyles (115 receptions, 1,391 yards, 13 touchdowns). Jones, Murray and Broyles have been a nightmare for opposing teams to defend, even for the No. 8 ranked defense of Nebraska. The Huskers have been a difficult unit to score on this year, but will need to be great in order to hang with the Sooners and their array of offensive weaponry. On offense, the Huskers are virtually one-dimensional and could never seem to get into any type of rhythm when it came to moving the ball through the air. The game plan for the Huskers in this one has to be to try and control the clock and hope their defense can slow down Jones and the Sooner offense enough to give them a chance to win. I don’t see that happening, though, as I think the Sooners take this one by at least a touchdown, 30-20.
Dr. Pepper SEC Championship, Georgia Dome, Sat. Dec. 4, 4:00pm
No. 1 Auburn (12-0, 8-0 SEC) vs. South Carolina (9-3, 5-3 SEC)
A trip to the national championship game is at stake in this crucial match up between Auburn and South Carolina. Auburn kept their hopes for a national title alive last week after erasing a 24-point deficit in the second quarter to beat the Crimson Tide 28-27. This Saturday, Cam Newton and his Tigers face a South Carolina team they beat 35-27 at home back in late September. The Gamecocks led 20-7 at one point in the game, but couldn’t find a way to stop Newton, as he finished the game with two passing touchdowns and three rushing scores. Stopping Newton has been troublesome for every team he has faced this season, so the only thing the Gamecocks can try and do is slow him down as much as possible. The key to slowing Newton and the offense down is for the defense to keep their heads on a swivel. There are so many moving parts to the offensive game plan that sometimes the defenders get caught sleeping. If South Carolina can keep Newton in check, they have a very good chance of knocking off the No. 1 team in the country. South Carolina’s offense, led by freshman running back Marcus Lattimore (232 rushes, 1,114 yards, 17 touchdowns) and Alshon Jeffery (75 receptions, 1,351 yards, eight touchdowns), is going to give the Tigers’ defense fits. And if there’s any part of Auburn that teams can expose, it’s their defense. Lattimore is a beast and if he can consistently pound the ball and control the clock while tiring out the defense, his team will be in great shape. Let’s not forget, Lattimore had 192 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting between these two teams, but the Gamecock’s four turnovers were the difference in the game. So, if South Carolina can control the clock and protect the ball, they can win. I think that happens and they crush Auburn’s title hopes, 37-35.
Submitted by Steve Giles