2020-12-16 08:28

The conference finals are coming and the last 2 weeks were ... as expected chaotic and surprising.

Week 14 recaps:
Louisiana did beat Appalachian State 24-21 and did once again show they are inside the conference one of the best teams. For me clearly the 2nd best team right now.
Alabama did beat their rival LSU 55-17, which is really a tough loss for the Tigers. That kind of game could cost you the job. Lucky for the HC of LSU, he won the National Championship last season and lost his starting QB and we have Corona. I think he will be back next year.
Clemson won against Virginia Tech 45-10 and did therefore get the ticket for the conference final.
Ohio State did crush the Michigan State Spartans 52-12 and got their 5th win.
Iowa State did their beating on West Virginia with 42-6 to secure their participation in the conference final 1st time ever.
Indiana won against Wisconsin 14-6, which kept the Hoosiers in the hunt at that moment.
Because of Covid-19 did BYU adapt their schedule and found high flying Coastal Carolina. Their goal was to beat a higher ranked opponent to boost their playoff chances. It was a very open game and BYU was trailing by 5 when they got the ball back for a final drive. On 4th and DAMN-WE-MUST-SCORE with 7 ticks left to play they throw the ball to receiver who was tackled 1 yard short the goal line. CCU won 22-17. Coastal Carolina got the boost, BYU got the boot.
TCU did win against Oklahoma State 29-22, which did seal all hopes for a conference championship spot for the Cowboys.
Rice did upset Marshall 20-0. That did hut for the Thundering Herd, but they have roster problems and right now are still meant to play the conference final.
Stanford did win against Washington 31-26. The Huskies did at that point look at a critical upcoming Oregon game for the division title.
Ball State won against Central Michigan 45-20, which did lead to the ultimate showdown between Ball State and Western Michigan for the division title.
Because Eastern Michigan won against Western Michigan 53-42. 1st won for EMU this season and a bad showing by WMU to get into the conference finals.
Arkansas State won against Louisiana-Monroe 48-15, which did cost the ULM HC the job. Well, this loss and the 9 other losses also, this season.
San Jose State did beat Hawai'i on the road 35-24, which boosted their ambitions for the conference title. Great season for the Spartans.
USC won against Washington State 38-13, which did punch the ticket for the conference final.

A lot of games were canceled/postponed (8 games), including the quite important game between Buffalo and Ohio.

Shortly after the gameday it became clear that the Ohio State - Michigan game, THE GAME, would be canceled.
From the entertaining point of view this was no big loss this season, Michigan did look awful in most games and the Buckeyes did look like a team in a different league.
Ohio State could have lost the game and would still be inside the conference championship game, but of cause out of the playoffs, likely.
But ... the rule for participating inside the conference championship game are inside the BIG10 to have at least 6 games played, Ohio State had 5 games at that points.
It was speculated that either the rule would be dropped or a different opponent would be selected, since Michigan was the problem, not OSU.
Well ... the BIG10 did drop the rule and Ohio State was set to play Northwestern in the conference final. Yeah, Covid-19-special rules.
Don't know why they had that rule in 1st place anyway, but ... OK, now it is gone.

Week 15 recaps:
It became clear that most conference championship game participator were already set, but some stuff was still open.
Arizona State won the rival game against Arizona, the so called 'Duel in the Desert', 70-7. That did ultimately brought everyone on Wildcats campus on the fences and the HC was let go.
The San Jose Spartans needed the win against next in line Nevada to seal the conference title matchup spot and they did it with a 30-20 win.
LSU did try to get some pride back and won against favored Florida 37-24. A key scene was when a Gators player did throw after a successful tackle a lose LSU players shoe far away and the player got a penalty as in 'unsportsmanlike conduct'. That did give LSU a new 1st down and brought them into field goal range to kick the game winner. Florida will still play Alabama for the conference title the upcoming week, but this here did not help their playoff ambitions.
UNC won against Miami 62-26. Quite a beating for a supposed to be quite equally matched game.
USC did win the 'Battle of LA' against rival UCLA 43-38. It seems UCLA is gaining some strength, maybe next year they will compete.
Ball State did play Western Michigan for the division trophy and won 30-27. Ball State will now play Buffalo for the conference title.
UAB did win against Rice 21-16. Now here is some interesting stuff. UAB has 3-1 inside the conference, next in line is UTSA with 5-2. UAB won the division. Not sure they won because of less losses, better win-loss-ration or something else. But they also won against UTSA during the season, so this seems to be OK. Overall is a different amount of games hard for tie-breakers I guess.
Army won against Navy 15-0. They will play Air Force the upcoming week to determine the commander in chief on the field.
Boise State did win against Wyoming 17-9 and got the other MWC conference title spot.
Auburn did win against Mississippi State 24-10, but that was not enough to keep the Tigers HC spot. Malzahn is out, even with 20+ million in buyouts. Pffffff.
Virginia Tech won the rivalry game against Virginia 33-15. So called Commonwealth Cup goes back to VT.

14 games were canceled/postponed. That included the high anticipated Cincinnati vs Tulsa game, which is now the Conference Championship game. Also not played was the important Oregon vs Washington game, which might have put Oregon into the conference game. At this point Washington was scheduled to play for the title. But then, a few day later it became clear that Washington (who had already a betting line for their game against USC, USC: -7.0) was unable to field a big enough number of players for the game, so they were exchanged by Oregon to play for the title. Pffffff.

So with the next week another valid regular season gameday, the conferences did try to play some of the postponed games on that day, if the teams are not inside one of the conference title games.

Upcoming games in Week 16:
UAB at Marshall, the Conference USA Championship game. Marshall is favored to win this, 5.5 points right now, which likely is based on the fact that UAB did not play a game for a whole month prior to last weeks win against Rice. And Marshall has a better overall record. I guess it can become quite open, if both teams bring their A-game.
Ball State at Buffalo, the MAC Championship game. Buffalo did show so far only dominance, so no wonder they are favored here by 12 points. If the Cardinals win this, it would be a major upset.
Oregon at USC, the PAC12 Championship game. USC played a perfect season so far with just 5 games under the belt. Oregon got here by Covid-19 curse on Washington and is now 3.5 points underdog (Fun fact, Washington was a 7 point underdog). I think Oregon has a chance here, but USC might have the preperation advantage and is a bit stronger.
Northwestern vs Ohio State, the BIG10 Championship game. Northwestern did play a very good season, but so far is Ohio State way favored here, by 20.5 points. I hope it will be a close game, but my gut feeling is, it will be over early.
Oklahoma vs Iowa State, The BIG12 Championship game. Despite that the Cyclones did win early in the season against the Sooners, they are a 6.0 points underdog. I guess it's the name, the Cyclones are more known for losing than winning and the Sooners are synonym for good if not great football over the past 20 years. I think it will be close one, if Iowa State can make the players click. Such games are a bit different and the Sooners are much more experienced in those kind of games. Could be a very important factor.
Air Force at Army, the last game of the Commander-In-Chief-Trophy-Series. Air Force is favored by 2.0 points, which is nothing. The Trophy was won by Navy last season, but they lost both games against Air Force and against Army. Therefore, this game here is it. The winner takes it all.
Louisiana at Coastal Carolina, the Sun Belt Championship game. CCU is only an FBS program since 2018 and had 2 5-7 seasons under 2 different coaches and this season they are now 11-0, ranked #9 now in the AP polls this week. As Sun Belt team. But they are only 3.5 points favorite to win the conference.
Clemson vs Notre Dame, the ACC Championship game. A rematch here and Clemson is a 10.5 point favorite, even Notre Dame is ranked higher in polls and conference standings. The difference is Travor Lawrence, who is back and will test the Irish defense likely a bit more than his backup in the 1st game did.
Minnesota at Wisconsin, the oldest rivalry played, 'Paul Bunyan’s Axe', 129 Meetings in total and annually played since 1907. All were sad, when the game was canceled in November. Here it is again. Wisconsin is favored to keep the trophy with 11.0 points.
Boise State vs San Jose State, the Mountain West Conference Championship. Both teams were supposed to play against each other during the season, but the game was canceled. Now they meet for the title. Boise State is 6.5 points favorite here, I think the Spartans do have a good chance to win.
Alabama vs Florida, the SEC Championship game. Alabama is favored, no doubt. But 17.0 points is heavy. I think Florida could challenge Alabama, but they need all they have.
Tulsa at Cincinnati, The American Athletic Conference Championship game. The Bearcats are 15.0 points favorite, which is a bit surprising, since Tulsa was perfect inside the conference also. They only lost against Oklahoma State on 1st gameday of the season by 9 points, not so bad. I hope for an open game.

Those are the important games.

Now let's start talking playoffs.

Right now the setting is this way with only the eventually relevant players from each conference and independent.

1 Alabama 10-0
2 Notre Dame 10-0
3 Clemson 9-1
4 Ohio State 5-0
5 Texas A&M 7-1
6 Iowa State 8-2
7 Florida 8-2
9 Cincinnati 8-0
10 Oklahoma 7-2
12 Coastal Carolina 11-0
13 USC 5-0
14 Northwestern 6-1
17 BYU 10-1
19 Louisiana 9-1
23 Tulsa 6-1

Let's face it, if Alabama wins, Notre Dame wins, Ohio State wins, and Iowa State wins, likely this 4 teams will get a spot, with Iowa State the most unlikely.
Texas A&M and Georgia will play mid level to low level SEC teams, so this will help to stay in the rankings, close to their current spots, but will it help to prevent the BIG12 Champ to leapfrog them, if he won against a high ranked opponent as underdog?
Not sure. The cryout will be big if a 9-2 BIG12 champ would be left out for a 9-2 Clemson team, which lost the championship game or some teams from the SEC who did not even win their divisions.

Interesting will it become if Alabama and Notre Dame would lose.
Alabama then with 1 loss, against a strong SEC team. Could be stronger, but I think they would not drop behind Texas A&M, whom they defeat during the season.
So they would stay in TOP 4, likely. Notre Dame did lose only once also, against a very strong team, Clemson. Would they fall from the TOP 4? Could be. But could also not be.
If Ohio State wins, they are in I guess, or not? Could Florida jump with a win against Alabama? They will jump, but how far?

What if all power 5 highest ranked teams do lose? Could Cincinnati sneak in? Or even Coastal Carolina?
Honestly I doubt that. Florida would make jump, Alabama would likely stay in TOP 4, Clemson would rise, Oklahoma would rise, but likely not enough, Cincinnati … I think they would rise to 5 to 6 somewhere, but TOP 4 would be either all ACC and SEC or maybe Oklahoma would crash in.

Right now it's not clear, whether some of the games might even be canceled because of Covid-19 or whether some of them teams then get exchanged like Washington was exchanged by Oregon.

A strange season for sure.

'Til next time

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