College football fans, it’s almost time to rejoice!
Tomorrow, twelve games will take place to close out the college football regular season (barring the Army/Navy game), with each one holing a lot of weight in determining the four playoff teams in the FBS’ first ever non-BCS season since the 1990s.
But, while the final rankings will not be released until Sunday morning, there are two games taking place tonight that are pretty important. The first, while not relevant in the playoff rankings, is a conference championship that should be a terrific appetizer for the next game.
The nightcap is the PAC-12 Championship, and this one holds a lot of importance in the rankings. The second-ranked Oregon Ducks, a team that’s been highly ranked and fallen short of being an NCAA football champion every season since 2007, will be taking on a team in the Arizona Wildcats that seems to be the only one that can beat them. Both games are rematches of very entertaining ones, and each on should be a thrill to watch.
Northern Illinois (10-2) vs. Bowling Green (7-5) (7/6c, ESPN2)
A seven-win team in a conference championship game, facing a double-digit win team that has been a powerhouse in that conference? Surely, this will be a one-sided beatdown, right?
Well, that’s how it was supposed to be last season. These two faced off in last year’s MAC Championship, and while Bowling Green was 10-2, Northern Illinois was undefeated and poised to make a run at a BCS Bowl. Quarterback Jordan Lynch was a Heisman Trophy contender, and the Huskies were expected to roll.
While Lynch amassed nearly 350 yards in that game, his counterpart Matt Johnson threw for 393 yards and five touchdowns. The Falcons led 31-13 at halftime, and rolled to a 47-27 win.
Neither team is as good this season, but it’s hard to pick the Falcons this go around. Northern Illinois quarterback is not as good as Lynch was, but he has run for nearly 800 yards this season. The team has run for nearly 3000 yards this season, and on the receiving end, Da’Ron Brown is one of the best home run threats in college football.
Bowling Green is solid, but nowhere near as good as last year. They have various reliable rushers and receivers, but have allowed a lot of points. They will score some points, but the defense will cost them any chance of winning. I see Northern Illinois winning by double digits. Prediction: Northern Illinois 38, Bowling Green 23.
#7Arizona (10-2) vs. #2 Oregon (11-1) (9/8c, FOX)
In perhaps the biggest game of the week, the highly-ranked Oregon Ducks take on the one team that has won against them over the past two seasons, the Arizona Wildcats. Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (3,470 pass yards, 36 pass touchdowns, 636 rush yards, 11 rushing touchdowns) is a Heisman candidate, while the opposing quarterback, freshman Anu Solomon is also a dual threat quarterback.
Both teams boast running backs that have amassed 1,000 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns in Royce Freeman and Nick Wilson, multiple speedy receivers, and wins against big-time opponents.
That said, if there was ever a season where Oregon should prevail, this might be the one. This is not the best running game they’ve ever had, but Mariota is playing better than any Ducks quarterback ever has. This is his moment to shine, and while he’s failed before, I see him succeeding this go-around. Prediction: Arizona 38, Oregon 48.