Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 7:30 PM
Hey, we can't blame you at all for staying glued to your couch this week/weekend as a slew of big-time College Football games come down the pike - starring #2 Alabama vs. #3 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday (of course!) but here we set the table for the big pigskin weekend with a pair of conference championship games on Friday night plus it's Heisman Trophy talk ... so here goes. Note that the numbers preceding team names below reflect the current BCS Standings:
MAC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - at Ford Field in Detroit, MI
#17 KENT STATE (11-1, 8-0 MAC) vs. #21 NORTHERN ILLINOIS (11-1, 8-0 MAC) - 7 p.m. ET, espn2
The better-than-you-think Mid-American Conference pits two league unbeatens here but only one of 'em has a "history" in this MAC Championship Game:
The NIU Huskies last year overcame a double-digit deficit to beat Ohio 23-20 plus the Dawgs played in the 2010 title game too and were stunned 26-21 as 19-point pup Miami-Ohio pulled the shocker. So, now Northern Ill's second-year boss Dave Doeren - who these days is one red-hot commodity (someone in the Big 10 is gonna sign him up!) -- looks to string together back-to-back league championships and the nation's eighth-ranked rushing game (averaging 245 yards) is the key with QB Jordan Lynch (team-high 1,611 yards rushing and 16 TDs) at the helm.
If Lynch can bang out a few "chunk plays" here against a Kent State defense that ranks a more-than-respectable 27th in the nation against the run (yielding 129.3 ypg) than Northern Illinois will wind up the only perfect team in MAC play this year but the Golden Flashes - who enter this one on a 10-game SU (straight-up) winning streak - have their own ammo with breakaway threat RB Dri Archer (1,337 yards rushing and 14 scores) a real head-turner and highlight reel-maker ready/willing/able to pull off the upset here.
Spread Notes - Kent State's an amazing 10-2 ATS (against the spread) overall this season and note the Golden Flashes are a tasty 12-4 versus the vig in MAC games since the start of the 2011 season (that's a .750 winning rate). On the flip side, Northern Illinois enters this title tilt with a sweet 9-3 spread mark overall this year and the Huskies are 19-6-1 vig-wise in conference games the past three years (an even better .760 winning percentage).
PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#16 UCLA (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) at #8 STANFORD (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) - 8 p.m. ET, Fox
Lots of folks hatin' the fact that these two teams just played one another last Saturday in Pasadena with the 3-point road favorite Stanford Cardinal banging out a workmanlike 35-17 win - but than did you really think that when this season started UCLA v. Stanford would be the Pac-12 Championship Game matchup?
If the TD-plus favorite Cards are gonna snag back-to-back wins against the Uclans here than three things must happen:
The nation's top-ranked rushing defense (allowing just 71.4 ypg) must turn the Bruins into a one-dimensional team here and so expect a fair share of blitzes against frosh QB Brett Hundley (26 TDs and 10 INTs) who must not throw multiple INTs and must make real smart red-zone decisions;
Secondly, Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor (1,364 yards rushing and 11 TDs) must be able to squeeze out gains on third-and-short and in goal-line situations too - he didn't do that in the much-ballyhooed 20-13 OT loss at Notre Dame last month;
Finally, Stanford PK Jordan Williamson - who's been a real bust this year with just 13 made field goals in 23 trties (and remember his Fiesta Bowl meltdown in last year's loss to Oklahoma State) - must rise to the occasion here or else Jim L. Mora's club could steal this one after last year's UCLA club was clocked 49-31 versus Oregon in the league's debut championship game.
Spread Notes - Stanford is a rock-solid 8-4 against the Las Vegas prices so far this 2012 season and that includes a current four-game spread winning streak with covers against Colorado, Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA. The Cardinal is 29-15-1 vig-wise in all conference games since the start of the 2008 season (a .659 winning rate). UCLA, meanwhile, enters its second straight Pac-12 Championship Game with a modest 7-5 spread mark on the '12 season but the Bruins have failed to cover their last four in a row against Stanford.
THE HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH LIST
MANTI TE'O, LB, NOTRE DAME - Hey, when your team is 12-and-oh and headed straight for the BCS Championship Game than that "breaks all ties" and thus our choice here for the late-season leader in this year's Heisman Trophy chase (and, obviously, one that's not likely to change).
Te'o's stats stand up pretty darn good on their own as the senior 'backer has registered 103 total tackles including 52 of 'em being solo stops plus there's those 7 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries and need we remind you good folks of that goal-line stand last Saturday night at USC.
Maybe there is a built-in bias against defensive players winning the most coveted college sports award of 'em all - after all the bronzed statue does feature a player holding a football! - but Te'o has turned in a slew of absolute superstar showings and when you're the heart-and-soul leader on the #1 team in the land than you get the benefit of the call.
JOHNNY MANZIEL, QB, TEXAS A&M - Please let's not hear any junk regarding the fact that we have "Johnny Football" in second place because he's "only a freshman".
The fact of the matter is we zoomed Manziel up our Jim Sez Heisman Trophy charts this year following that Nov. 10th signature win against Alabama and nobody's here to knock the kid's stats which include 3,419 yards passing with 24 TDs and 8 INTs to go along with those amazing rush numbers: That's 1,181 yards rushing (a 6.4 yards-per-carry average) with 19 TDs.
Still, if you wish to "take a shot" at Manziel than you can considering his Aggies lost to Florida and LSU and didn't score more than 19 points in either one of those SEC tilts. The most exciting college football player we've seen in years? No doubt. The winner of this year's Heisman Trophy? No sir.
COLLIN KLEIN, QB, KANSAS STATE - Here was our Heisman leader for a couple of weeks in November but the 52-24 loss at Baylor two weekends ago hurt and three INTs in that loss in Waco really eroded his lead and now both Te'o and Manziel simply have zoomed past him the past two weeks (note that Klein also was hurt by having his club in a bye week last Saturday while the other guys were playing great football).
True, the 6-foot-5 senior has engineered key wins against the likes of Oklahoma, West Virginia and Oklahoma State - he will enter Saturday's home game against Texas with 2,306 yards passing with 14 TDs and 6 picks to go along with 787 rushing yards (4.6 ypc) and some 20 TDs -- but he would need an absolute monster game to get back into the discussion for Heisman winner and odds are he will be a third-place finisher in the upcoming balloting.
BRAXTON MILLER, QB, OHIO STATE - Anyone that watched the Buckeyes roll to a 12-0 record know that things were not always artistic when it came to the team's sophomore signal-caller but he always got the job done and that included last week's scary 26-21 win against Michigan when Miller took some ferocious hits in the pocket en route to a 14-of-18, 189-yard passing performance that included one "touch" and no INTs.
No doubt that playing for an unbeaten team helps his cause here but Miller did post some nice figures this year such as 2,039 yards passing and 1,271 yards rushing while accounting for 28 TDs (that's 15 passing and 13 rushing) - he should get one of those fancy invitations to the NYC ceremony next month.
KA'DEEM CAREY, RB, ARIZONA - First time we've popped up the name of this Pac-12 star who - BTW - leads the country in rushing with 1,757 yards for a bowl-bound 'Zona bunch. Note that Mr. Carey averaged a haughty 6.4 yards a carry this year and scored 20 rushing TDs for Rich Rodriguez's squad and we have him nudging out the likes of USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, Baylor WR Terrence Williams and Texas Tech QB Seth Doege for that final spot in the top five.
NOTE: There's more big-time NCAA Football Previews straight ahead as we get you the key Saturday showdowns including #2 Alabama vs. #3 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game and much more!