2019 NCAAF Championship Weekend Preview

December 6, 2019

I’m not sure about all of you, but for me Championship Weekend is bittersweet.

Yes, it’s the gateway to the College Football Playoff field unveiling, which is really the entire point of the regular season. But the postseason (and this is technically the first week of that) also means fewer games to entertain oneself with, coupled with the somewhat sobering feeling that the end is near.

For example: since there are only ten games total this weekend, every single one is featured on this week’s slate of games to watch.

And in the head-to-head prediction game, thanks to yet another tie, I have to hope for a miracle to beat the guests on the year. And despite history suggesting otherwise, I’m not predicting miracles this weekend.

As of Week 13, the records are now:

K. Becks – 44-27

Guests – 47-24

This week, my buddy Jack will make guest picks. Given that he had not yet submitted them to me by 9:45 Thursday evening and mentioned he would make them during bar trivia, it will hurt me that much more when he ultimately ends up beating me.

All of that aside, let’s take a look at the full slate of FBS games being played during Championship Weekend.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

#5 Utah at #13 Oregon (Friday, 8 PM ET)

The Skinny: The Utes have the opportunity to take care of their business and then sit back and watch everything unfold on Saturday. On one hand, this could be an enviable position if things go to plan. Kyle Whittingham’s squad will still become huge cheerleaders of LSU on Saturday afternoon, however. Oregon squandered its CFP chances two weeks ago and will simply look to play spoiler.

Why to Watch: A large portion of the country probably hasn’t seen Utah play since the opening week of the season, which is too bad. This team has been dominant on both sides of the football all year long. Now, it will finally get a chance to back up the statistics with a quality victory. Also, this could be the final collegiate start for future NFL first rounder Justin Herbert if the senior decides to sit out Oregon’s bowl game.

What Will Happen: The Utes are a bit too strong defensively for the Ducks, who didn’t have quite the cast at the skill positions to help Herbert to the Playoff in his final season in Eugene.

My Pick: 34-28 Utah

Jack’s Take: Oregon takes a win in this matchup (35-14). In the Pac-12 you have Utah, USC and Oregon on one level and everybody else on a tier below. Even putting USC on that higher tier is questionable. USC’s 7-2 conference play speaks more to the softness of the Pac-12 South than USC’s ability to win games. Back to the title matchup, Oregon is not going to stop Utah completely. They have a stronger ground game that Oregon ultimately will be able to slow down just enough to strike back quickly through the air. Let’s look at the USC games. Again, USC is not a power house this year, but given USC squeaked by Utah and was pummelled by Oregon is telling of this title matchup. Simply, Utah does not have the secondary to stop Oregon’s high powered air attack, led by the 6’6″ 238 pound Justin Herbert, from answering any points Utah manages to put on the board.

#7 Baylor vs. #6 Oklahoma [game in Dallas] (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Skinny: A rematch of the Big 12’s highest profile game of the regular season provides an opportunity, however slight, for the conference to remain in Playoff contention. Both teams will need help from around the country even with a victory in this one, but there is arguably only one better matchup all weekend.

Why to Watch: Baylor’s epic collapse in the second half of Game 1 robbed it from a chance to be in prime position for a Playoff bid heading into this weekend, but what’s worse is that the Bears didn’t have to cover CeeDee Lamb in that one, either. Lamb’s frustration from lack of touches in the Oklahoma State game last week could provide the motivation needed to have a career day.

What Will Happen: Despite Lamb’s presence in this one, Oklahoma hadn’t hit a defense like Baylor’s all season, and it showed in the first half. If the Bears can hold it together for the second half, there’s no reason why their offense won’t exact revenge at the expense of an awful Sooners defense.

My Pick: 44-40 Baylor

Jack’s Take: Oklahoma takes this win to the bank. Earlier this season the Sooners were able to snag a victory from the Baylor Bears, 34-31. After jumping to an early lead, the Bears were stopped in their tracks, remaining scoreless in the second half. The difference maker in this matchup with be if the Sooners defense decides to show up in the first half or at all. The Sooners tend to outscore their opponents as opposed to making defensive stands. Allowing a slightly above average Kansas State team to score 48 points and Iowa State to score 41, it is the Sooners defense that will dictate the victor. Oklahoma 35 – Baylor 28

#20 Cincinnati at #17 Memphis (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Skinny: The AAC title game is also most likely a play-in game for the Group of Five’s automatic bid to a New Year’s Six bowl game. The Bearcats and Tigers will be very familiar with each other, too, as the teams played just last week.

Why to Watch: Memphis’s potent offense got the best of the stingy Cincinnati defense last weekend, but it’s extremely difficult to beat the same team twice, especially one that just saw you a week prior. The Bearcats also made some key mistakes late in last week’s game that, if avoided, would have made for a much different ballgame near the end.

What Will Happen: The Tigers have the benefit of a home crowd, but Cincinnati appeared to be the conference’s most dominant team until the last three games of the regular season. Playing the same team in back-to-back weeks benefits the overall better squad, which is Luke Fickell’s. Expect a much different story this week.

My Pick: 24-20 Cincinnati

Jack’s Take: Cincinnati. The University of Cincinnati has found a true leader in Luke Fickell and what he has able to do with the Bearcats program is telling of his ability to out-coach the competition. Memphis stole a win from the Bearcats just a week ago 34-24, if there ever was a coach that could mentally prepare Cincinnati to come back after a tough loss and face the same competition, it is Luke Fickell. Coach Fickell has brought the Bearcats back from demoralizing losses in the past, such as a 52-0 loss to the OSU Buckeyes earlier this year. I think he can do it again. Cincinnati 27 – Memphis 24

#4 Georgia vs. #2 LSU [game in Atlanta] (Saturday, 4 PM ET)

The Skinny: No other conference title game in the country can boast that both of its teams could legitimately make the CFP. That only happens if Georgia wins, but the Bulldogs are one of the few teams in the country with a defense capable of slowing down Joe Burrow & Co.

Why to Watch: Burrow, the former third stringer at Ohio State, will wrap up the Heisman Trophy with anything other than a total dud performance. Given that his mentor is out of the CFP running for the first time ever, it would seem like the perfect year for Kirby Smart to finally break through with the Bulldogs. Luckily for Smart, unlike a lot of teams this weekend, his team controls its own destiny.

What Will Happen: No team has been able to slow down LSU’s offense this season, the tall task Georgia faces in this one. While the Bulldogs may slow it down, it won’t halt it to the extent that the offense will need to win this game. Inconsistency offensively will prevent the Bulldogs from taking advantage of a questionable Tigers defense.

My Pick: 34-24 LSU

Jack’s Take: LSU. The Tigers’ Joe Burrow is going to strap the team on his back like a jetpack and rocket past the Bulldogs. To Georgia’s credit, this matchup is going to be incredibly hard fought. Both teams have played strong competition, finding victory against fierce competitors Auburn and Florida. However, Georgia’s non-conference win against Notre Dame is not quite as strong as LSU taking wins from Auburn and Alabama in back-to-back contests. Some might say the bye was crucial in LSU’s ability to prepare for the rolling tide, but any game on the road in Bryant-Denny Stadium is going to be a battle. LSU 42 – Georgia 34

#1 Ohio State vs. #8 Wisconsin [game in Indianapolis] (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The Skinny: As long as the Buckeyes don’t let the Badgers do to them what Urban Meyer’s 2014 squad did to Wisconsin in that season’s Big Ten title game, Ryan Day is headed to his first Playoff as head coach. To truly shake things up, the Badgers don’t just need to win – they need to win huge. Ohio State is essentially playing for Playoff seeding here, which does have a lot of importance.

Why to Watch: The Buckeyes have done an excellent job maintaining focus for entire games, only once this season really getting pushed by a team due to sloppy play. Since the consensus is that Ohio State is in the Playoff even with a loss, it will be interesting to see just how disciplined the Buckeyes are in this game. Like many other future pros, this could also be the final collegiate game for Wisconsin’s Jonathon Taylor if he decides to forgo his team’s bowl game. He’s been a ton of fun to watch for the Badgers.

What Will Happen: The Buckeyes may not play their best game of the season here, but can you really blame them? Defensively there may be some lapses, but Coach Day would much rather play whomever grabs the No. 4 seed than potentially a Clemson or LSU in the CFP semis. At the end of the night, Ohio State will still have taken care of business.

My Pick: 45-24 Ohio State

Jack’s Take: Ohio State takes this one to the house. Just about every analyst and average Joe who has ever watched a football game can agree the 2019 Ohio State Buckeyes have the most balanced team in college football. This rematch is nearly a no-contest, given Wisconsin’s Jonathon Taylor was held to a mere 52 yards in their last matchup. Without the ground game, Wisconsin’s offense will have no legs to stand on. Wisconsin will have near-zero stability on offense and fall victim to the incessant pass rush powerhouse defense, led by Ohio State’s Chase Young. True to his name, Chase will track down Wisconsin’s Jack Coan, crushing any hope the Badgers can take this one from the Buckeyes. Look for flashes of excellence from the Buckeyes’ J.K. Dobbins on the ground, as Justin Fields will be a bit more reluctant to scramble for extra yards due to recent injuries. Ohio State 31 – Wisconsin 10

5 Games to Flip To

Miami (OH) vs. Central Michigan [game in Detroit] (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

It was a wild year in the MAC, indicated by the two teams playing in this title game. The Redhawks have had a terrific season, but it will be tough to stop Central Michigan’s potent offense in a dome filled primarily with Chippewas fans.

Jack’s Take (special): Central Michigan. Miami hasn’t had a football team since the internet was made of wood.

UL-Lafayette at #21 Appalachian State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

It’s unlikely that the Mountaineers will grab the Group of Five’s auto-bid to a NY6 bowl, but with a win Eliah Drinkwitz’s team will have already had one of the most successful seasons by a Sun Belt team in conference history.

UAB at Florida Atlantic (Saturday, 1:30 PM ET)

What UAB has been able to do since reinstating its program in 2017 is simply incredible. The Blazers will look to capture back-to-back C-USA titles against Lane Kiffin’s Owls

Hawaii at #19 Boise State (Saturday, 4 PM ET)

A loss by Memphis in the AAC title game theoretically opens the door for the Broncos to grab the Group of Five’s NY6 bowl auto-bid, but Bryan Harsin’s team will probably need to amass some style points in this one to avoid being overtaken by Cincinnati in that scenario.

#23 Virginia vs. #3 Clemson [game in Charlotte] (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

In consecutive seasons the ACC title game has been the least anticipated of the Power 5 conferences, but that doesn’t take away from the great season Virginia has had. The Cavaliers just don’t have enough firepower to hang with the Tigers.

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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