Senior College Football Columnist

Weekend Watch List: Turning attention from turmoil to conference title games


In a week that included more mindless conference realignment, leverage for a Les Miles extension and NCAA shenanigans, we end another year of Weekend Watch List where we began in August, breaking down some actual football ...

SEC championship game: The game's gaudiest stat is misleading: Aaron Murray and AJ McCarron are 1-2 nationally in pass efficiency. That suggests the game is going to be some sort of shootout. It isn't. McCarron is going to be without Kenny Bell and still has to fight off perceptions of being a game manager. In Georgia's best victory, Murray was the least bad quarterback in the Cocktail Party.

If Alabama's defense can flush Murray out of the pocket, it's over. If Georgia can make McCarron one-dimensional, same thing. It's hard to do either. One List's opinion: The game hinges on Georgia being able to establish a running game through the A and B gaps -- up the middle, blood and guts football. That would allow Murray to work some play-action down the field.

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Alabama has looked vulnerable defensively at times. Zach Mettenberger passed for 298 yards and Johnny Manziel ... well, you know. Since the Dawgs are the team with something to prove, it's hard to pick against Bama, but the line (seven points, Tide) is way out of whack. This is a field goal game. SEC title preview: Alabama-Georgia

Big Ten championship game: Maybe it's me, but what is it with Nebraska coaches? The Huskers' history is littered with guys nicknamed "Hurry Up" (Fielding Yost), "Bummy" (Walter Booth), William "King" Cole, "Jumbo," "Doc," "Biff" and "Potsy." That isn't a coaching roster, it's a frat initiation.

Into this mix lately has dropped "Mark" Bo Pelini. (Or is it Mark "Bo" Pelini?) Nebraska needs to beat Wisconsin to end an at-times dreary 13-year drought without a conference championship. During that time, the Huskers have played for a BCS championship (2001) and three other conference title games. But in their hands, the Huskers hold the current perception of their program and the Big Ten.

If the Huskers don't beat a mediocre Wisconsin (7-5), then when are they going to win another conference title? Probably 2013 or the next year. Nothing is certain in the Big Ten, starting with membership. Ziiiing! Big Ten title preview: Nebraska-Wisconsin

ACC: Georgia Tech is the most secure sub-.500 team in the nation. The NCAA has granted it a waiver to go bowling in the event it loses. As it is, the Yellow Jackets are here because of a hall pass. Thank you, Miami (Fla.).

This has the look of a rout. Florida State, even coming off a brutal Florida loss, should have enough emotion left to claim its first conference title since 2005. Look for a fast start. FSU has outscored opponents by 98 points in first quarter.

An upset could trigger Orange Bowl Armageddon. ACC title preview: Florida State-Georgia Tech

Conference USA: Bill Blankenship amazes me. In 2005, he left Oklahoma high school power Tulsa Union having won three state titles in four years. Blankenship wanted to begin the long, hard climb to becoming a college head coach.

In January 2011, he was Tulsa's receivers coach when Todd Graham bolted for Pittsburgh. In the 22 months since he took over, the Golden Hurricane have won 17 of 25 games and have reached the Conference USA title game for the third time in six seasons.

Tulsa holds the moral high ground in this one because UCF gamed the system by appealing a bowl ban until next season. C-USA title preview:

Notre Dame: Feet up. Remote in hand. Snacking on a bag of Bugles. Waiting for the world to come to it. Enjoy it boys. You've earned it.

Best storylines of The Lost Weekend, er, last weekend

Georgia: The most to lose this weekend. Alabama will win another national championship at some point. Georgia needs to win another SEC title at this point.

SEC: It is assured of playing for a seventh consecutive national championship. Random thought: The SEC title game might not even include the conference's best team. Anyone else falling in line with Florida?

Collin Klein: Johnny Football and Manti Football are done with their regular seasons. Kansas State's quarterback gets one final statement in prime time against a brand name opponent (Texas). Can CKMVP get back in the Heisman race?

One man's ballot going into the final weekend: 1. Manziel; 2. Teo; 3. Tajh Boyd.

The Big 12's brilliant scheduling: When the league went to 10 teams, it -- or ESPN/ABC -- purposefully moved some games to the final Saturday to have a presence up against those conference championship contests. Great move. The move basically won Robert Griffin III the Heisman last year after a masterful performance against Oklahoma. Oklahoma State clinched the Big 12 in prime time against Oklahoma with Mike Gundy making his final case for the BCS title game.

He made several good points, but his team was still .0086 of a point short of Alabama.

On Saturday, it'll be Oklahoma State-Baylor, Oklahoma-TCU and Texas-Kansas State. The conference race goes down to the final day with Oklahoma and Kansas State fighting it out. The Wildcats would clinch at least a tie -- and the BCS bid -- with a victory against the Longhorns.

TCU: The Horned Frogs could be the 2013 Big 12 favorite. A program that began the year with a drug scandal can finish with a flourish -- beating Texas and Oklahoma.

Gary Patterson is 7-4 in his first year in the Big 12 playing with a roster that is 70 percent freshmen and sophomores. There is one senior on the entire defensive depth chart. Taking a step up in competition, Patterson still has stayed true to his values, fielding a top-20 defense. Some of the credit goes to the new linebackers coach -- Randy Shannon.

Strange fact of the weekend: A victory against the Sooners would be TCU's first at home in the Big 12. There are many more to follow.

Coaching carousel: Be alert for these names possibly coaching their last game at their current school:

Gus Malzahn (Middle Tennessee at Arkansas State): The Auburn search committee is apparently split between the Tigers' former OC and Charlie Strong.

Butch Jones (Cincinnati at Connecticut): Would be a good look at Purdue or Tennessee.

Skip Holtz (Pittsburgh at South Florida): South Florida has gone South quickly under Dr. Lou's son. (4-15 in the past 19)

Jimbo Fisher (ACC title game): Until Auburn fills its opening, best to keep a close watch on FSU's coach.

WAC: The late, great, wacky WAC plays its final games this weekend. At one time, the conference played the most entertaining offensive football in the country. The league that gave us LaVell Edwards, BYU, Steve Young, the first 16-team superconference and Boise State will be missed.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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