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Week 14 Recap: Championship Week

by Big Al

The season is in the books and we have ourselves a playoff bracket. Sadly, there is more contention about the teams... which is absolutely to be expected. As I have pointed out in the past, do you know why there are four play-in games for the NCAA basketball championship? Because only including 64 teams in the bracket was not enough to find the best team in the country. Which is stupid. If you're not good enough to get into the field of 64, a field of 68 ain't gonna make a difference. So we will get the inevitable playoff creep. Oh well, that's what people want.

USC 31 - Stanford 28

Stanford was close to pulling off the upset, but not quite. Nothing too surprising, though. USC dominated Stanford in the regular season, and they had a week off while Stanford was banging against Notre Dame last week. So USC made it to this year's Rose Bowl substitute: the Cotton Bowl. With USC playing Ohio State, it's pretty much more of the same, just farther east. I know I should be excited about a matchup between two top-10 teams in a major bowl, but it's kind of a "been there-done that" kind of feeling for me. But I can't think of any team I'd rather see either Ohio State or USC play, so this one is about as good as any other.

Ohio State 27 - Wisconsin 21

Which brings me to the other team in the Rose Bowl substitute. A lot of Ohio State fans are upset because their team didn't make it into the playoffs. But, as I said, there wasn't much chance that a two-loss Ohio State team would make it in over a one-loss Alabama. As much as Ohio State does have better wins, it's not Alabama's fault that their matchup against a #4 ranked Florida State team turned out to be a win over a 6-loss team. Well, okay, it's kind of their fault, they did injure Deandre Francois in that game, which really sent the Seminoles' season into a tailspin. The recent loss to Auburn did leave a bad taste in peoples' mouths, but Alabama was still Alabama all year up to that point. The playoff committee made the right choice here.

Anyway, the game. Ohio State was clearly the better team in this game. But their incessant mistakes kept Wisconsin in it throughout. It really did look like last year's Ohio State-Penn State game where Ohio State just could not put the other team away until the other team found a way to win. However, this year's Ohio State team figured out a way to win, which says a whole heck of a lot about them. They are a tough bunch.

In other news, I actually felt slightly bad about my team beating Wisconsin here. I realized before the game started that, if Ohio State didn't win, I would be rooting for Wisconsin through the playoffs. Not that I'm going to be disappointed in my team winning, but there is a bittersweet aspect to it.

UCF 62 - Memphis 55

It occurred to be after I wrote my week 14 preview that, had UCF had more recent and sustained success, they might have been taken more seriously by the playoff committee. But because they are only two years removed from 0-12, there is a certain doubt about their pedigree. In college football, it takes time to gain respect. Which, while unfair in some regards, is rather fair in the fact that a football team requires so many players doing so many different things that it's the traditional powers who tend to not only have the most success, but they are often able to take advantage of top-to-bottom quality at every position to find mismatches that they can exploit against the teams that only recently appeared on the scene. It's not just your best players that make a great football team, it's often your worst players on the field that make the difference between winning and losing.

It should also be noted that the playoff committee might have taken UCF's playoff bid more seriously had their own coach taken it more seriously. I figured Scott Frost was going to Nebraska: he has too many attachments not to go home when "momma called". Still, it does leave soemthing to be desired on the eye test with Frost leaving when he did.

In other news, I wonder if Memphis would have been taken more seriously than UCF if they had been able to beat UCF this year. Their win over UCLA was a very big deal and much-watched game that put them on the map. And their only two losses this season are to UCF, so it doubly sucks for them, since they would otherwise be going to a big time bowl but for that team down south.

Oklahoma 41 - TCU 17

Oklahoma's defense stood tall once again again TCU and, despite my expectations, got themselves a Big XII championship and a berth in the playoffs. Now they need to worry about their quarterback being ready for said playoffs while he's touring the country as the Heisman Trophy winner. I've seen a lot of quarterbacks who were underprepared for their bowl games after winning the Heisman, and hopefully Baker Mayfield will not be one of them. Whether or not they win, well, that's another matter. But I would at least like to see Oklahoma play well.

Clemson 38 - Miami 3

Not entirely unexpected, but still surprising to see it happen. Miami's defense has been excellent, but their offense has been a liability. Clemson was the best defense they played all year, so Miami's offense had nowhere to hide. And Clemson's offense was plenty good enough to go toe-to-toe with the Hurricane defense. Miami made some big strides this year, but Clemson is still the team to beat in the ACC. And they reminded Miami of that with an ignominious foot to the face.

But Miami does have a very interesting Orange Bowl matchup against Wisconsin that, regardless of how it actually turns out, is one of the most intriguing games of the bowl season. Very different styles of football matching up against each other is one of my favorite aspects of bowl season.

Georgia 28 - Auburn 7

Something of a relief, seeing that I didn't want to see a two-loss team in the playoffs. Well, okay, maybe Ohio State, but I knew they weren't deserving all the same.

Whatever Georgia was doing in the first game, they figured out what was wrong in the second. I think it probably helped them a lot that the game was not at Auburn, which seems to be a very tough place to go to get a win.

Auburn kept looking like they were just about to get going on offense, but then the drives would peter out unexpectedly. Not sure why, but they couldn't get those last few yards to put themselves into scoring position. Georgia, meanwhile, kept the pressure on all game until they finally broke through and put the game away. I can't quite wash away the memory of Georgia getting slobberknocked by Auburn in their first game, so I have some questions about Georgia in the playoffs. But figuring it out the second time does show me that Georgia is worthy of the chance they have there.

In other news, the Auburn-UCF Peach Bowl is my favorite bowl matchup of the year. Yes, including the playoffs. A very good SEC team taking on a UCF team we know almost nothing about will be a great test for both teams. This could along the lines of the Boise State-Oklahoma game that put Boise State on everyone's lips for years afterwards. It might also be the second coming of the Hawai'i-Georgia game that was the last we heard of Hawai'i. I'm excited to see how that one turns out.

Boise State 17 - Fresno State 14

And speaking of Boise State, congratulations to them on winning the Mountain West conference. We sometimes forget about them these days, but they are still chugging along, doing their usual job of playing good football.

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