2018 NCAAF Week 14 Weekend Preview

November 30, 2018

Championship Weekend has finally arrived.

As it stands, we’re looking at about six teams remaining that have a realistic shot at making the College Football Playoff.

To avoid drawing things out, I’ll share my Three Thoughts from last weekend.

  1. Ohio State may have been hiding things prior to the Michigan game. The Buckeyes went out and did everything we thought they were capable of and made it look easy.
  2. Washington State did not disappoint. I love the Pirate, but he always comes up short when it matters (except in press conferences, of course).
  3. USC clearly has the talent to win the Pac-12 Conference, it just doesn’t have the discipline. Which makes the school’s decision to keep Clay Helton around as head coach all that much more head-scratching…

In the final weekend of applicable games counting towards the head-to-head prediction game, it would take nearly a miracle for the guests to beat me overall. Zach did not have a good Rivalry Week, going 1-4 while I went 4-1.

The overall standings now look like this, and I can tell you right now I’m not picking differently against this week’s guest four times.

K. Becks – 45-20

Guests – 41-24

Speaking of this week’s guest, my buddy Billy and I made a drunken bet the night before Thanksgiving and somehow remembered to make good on it this week.

Let’s take a look at the slate of games.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

#17 Utah vs. #11 Washington [game in Santa Clara, CA] (Friday, 8 PM ET)

While this game doesn’t have any impact on the Playoff outcome, both of these teams are coached by guys you know will have their squad prepared. Chris Peterson and Kyle Whittingham are two of the best in the college game at their craft and have had a bit of a history coaching against each other, both as members of the Pac-12 and previously in the Mountain West.

Utah and Washington are extremely evenly matched on paper, with good defense carrying both programs to this game. But while Jake Browning may have had a disappointing senior campaign in the purple and gold, his counterpart for the Utes in this game is still very green. Freshman Jason Shelley, filling in for normal Utes starter Tyler Huntley since a broken collarbone sidelined him in early November, will be a target for this Huskies defense. Kyle Whittingham may be a great coach, but this task is too great for his young signal-caller.

My Pick: 24-16 Washington

Billy’s Take: Washington – It’s hard to beat a team twice, but I think Washington pulls this one out.

#14 Texas vs. #5 Oklahoma [game in Arlington, TX] (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

All eyes will be on the Big 12 title game early Saturday afternoon, making a return for the first time since 2010. Not only is this a rematch of the Red River Shootout, but save a big upset in Atlanta later on in the day, it has the single greatest impact on determining what will likely be the final spot in the CFP quartet.

Kyler Murray is a legitimate Heisman candidate threat and given the fact that he’s actually had to guide his team to victory in the fourth quarter this season, truly deserves the award. He may need to exhibit the heroics that nearly brought the Sooners back against the Longhorns in round one to win this game, too. Texas’s defense has proven its worth all season and Sam Ehlinger is positioning himself as one of the country’s best passers. Let’s just say that Tom Herman was saving his token of gratitude for Urban Meyer for an extended period of time.

My Pick: 38-34 Texas

Billy’s Take: Oklahoma – As a Buckeye I really hope I’m wrong about this one. Either way, I win (or lose if you’re a pessimist)!

#1 Alabama vs. #4 Georgia [game in Atlanta] (Saturday, 4 PM ET)

Under normal circumstances, a top five game between two SEC powers would be the most anticipated game of the weekend (and perhaps the entire regular season). But we’re talking about a game featuring the 2018 Alabama Crimson Tide, already being christened by many as the eventual 2019 national champions. It feels like it would take a massive effort from Kirby Smart’s squad to dethrone the Tide, and even that may not knock the current No. 1 team out of the Playoff picture.

On paper and based on the eye test, Georgia has everything it needs offensively to engage in a close game with Alabama. Jake Fromm is one of my favorite players in the game right now and is just as talented as Tua Tagovailoa from an arm strength perspective. His ability to stretch the defense along with the talented two-step of D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield in the backfield should give the Bulldogs confidence that it can score on the Crimson Tide. But what about the defense? No one has stopped Alabama this season, including Mississippi State’s, which is statistically superior to even Nick Saban’s defense. While this game may bring with it enough fireworks to keep viewers entertained for four quarters, it won’t feel like Alabama ever lost control of the final outcome.

My Pick: 35-24 Alabama

Billy’s Take: Alabama – I think this one is over early.  After all, Georgia is no Citadel.

#2 Clemson vs. Pittsburgh [game in Charlotte] (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The only reason that this is being featured as a game to watch is because Clemson is poised to make a return to the Playoff for a fourth consecutive season. And unless Pittsburgh rekindles some of its magic from a 2016 upset of the Tigers, this one is likely to be a one-sided affair that ends with a Dabo Swinney postgame locker room dance.

Pittsburgh’s plodding offensive style is not a good matchup against the stout Clemson front, which will make sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett prove he can throw downfield early in the game to soften up the middle of the Tigers defense. Don’t be surprised if the Panthers are out of this one by halftime thanks to a few costly turnovers. If Pittsburgh somehow wins that battle, it may be able to make this one worth watching for three quarters, but don’t count on it.

My Pick: 45-10 Clemson

Billy’s Take: Clemson – I’m not sure I’ve seen a larger spread in a championship game before.

#21 Northwestern vs. #6 Ohio State [game in Indianapolis] (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Jim Delany has always had a penchant for being the center of attention, which makes it appropriate that the Big Ten title game is customarily the final one to conclude during both college football and basketball’s championship weekend. Delany has reason to want it on display this season, as the Buckeyes may need to earn some style points to gain the approval of the CFP Committee.

There’s really no reason why the Buckeyes shouldn’t “Wisconsin” Northwestern in this one. While the Wildcats are well coached and play the hard-nosed style of play characteristic of head coach Pat Fitzgerald, there is simply too much talent on Ohio State’s offense for the squad not to put up a bunch of points on the men in purple. With a potential spot in the Playoff on the line, expect Ryan Day’s playbook to be wide open again, showing off the ability of Dwayne Haskins to carve up just about any defense he faces. If the Buckeyes don’t win by at least three touchdowns, something went wrong.

My Pick: 52-17 Ohio State

Billy’s Take: Ohio State – The team knows they probably need to impress a-la the Big Ten Championship in 2014 to have a shot at the Playoff, so I expect a 3rd straight 50+ point outing from the Dwayne-train.

5 Games to Flip To

Louisiana-Lafayette at Appalachian State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Ragin-Caguns are led by a two-headed monster in the backfield with Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell but will deal with a defense that has only allowed 11 total rushing touchdowns this season.

UAB at Middle Tennessee State (Saturday, 1:30 PM ET)

The C-USA title game is unique in that it is actually a “second leg” of a regular season matchup played just last week. The Blazers will try to chock a two game losing streak and bring home hardware just two seasons into the program’s revival.

Stanford at California (Saturday, 3 PM ET)

Neither of these teams bring a lot of sex appeal to the table this season, but those hungry for some Rivalry Week leftovers should be mildly interested in this annual battle.

Memphis at #8 Central Florida (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Those who weren’t aware of who McKenzie Milton was prior to his horrific knee injury last week may gain an understanding of just how important the quarterback was to UCF’s current 24-game winning streak.

#25 Fresno State at #22 Boise State (Saturday, 7:45 PM ET)

A rematch of a very exciting regular season game takes place on the blue turf Saturday evening, where defense will set the tone. Fresno State’s top ranked unit in the Mountain West will try to stifle Brett Rypien in his final game at Albertsons Stadium.

In the past, I’ve asked readers to let me know if they’d like to be guests on Around The Corn to make weekly college football picks. And while that invite still stands (email kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter if interested), the truth is that I’m basically asking friends and family on a weekly basis. Writing is a passion of mine, as is commenting on sports. But sharing those two passions with others are what has always made this worthwhile. So tell me what you think of the site and let me know what could be done better, or what would make you come back without prompting. I’d really appreciate it.

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