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National Preview: Regular Season Finales, Conference Championship Games, and Conference "Championship" Games

Kirk Irwin

Games of the Week
MAC Championship Game: (17)Kent State vs. (21)Northern Illinois ESPN 7 p.m. (Friday)
Leave it to MACtion to have the only championship game that features two teams with perfect conference records. Kent State is likely the best story of the 2012 season, and their story could become much sweeter with a potential trip to the Orange Bowl on the line. Head Coach Darell Hazell has been a miracle-worker to help a program with no tradition and an indifferent student body to climb all the way to #17 in the BCS ranking. Defending MAC champs Northern Illinois are no slouches either. The Huskies have won 11 consecutive games after a narrow week one loss to Iowa and rank 12th nationally in scoring offense and 15th in scoring defense. Don't be surprised if dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch finishes in the top five for the Heisman.
Prediction: Kent State- 35 Northern Illinois- 31

SEC Championship Game: (2)Alabama vs. (3)Georgia CBS 4 p.m.
This game works out to be the national semi-final game as the winner goes on to play Notre Dame in the BCS Title Game. Both teams have a single loss to an SEC foe, but Georgia getting crushed by #12 looks much worse than Alabama's narrow defeat against #9 Texas A&M. The Tide obviously has more recent success, but on paper this is a fairly even contest.
Prediction: Alabama- 21 Georgia- 17

Worth Watching
Big Ten "Championship" Game: (12)Nebraska vs. Wisconsin FOX 8:17 p.m.
Leave it to the Big Ten to have a championship game between the Legends Division winner that had two games delivered to them in colorful packages with pretty bows by the refs and the team that finished third in the Leaders Division. As my grandmother used to say, "Jo istenem." Nebraska defeated Wisconsin 30-28 in the regular season in a game that saw the Badgers dominate the first-half, only to have the 'Huskers return the favor in the final 30 minutes.
Prediction: Jim Delany glances at his TV monitor and screams "MONEY!!" before returning to his conference call to welcome Brown Mackie and Elizabethtown College into the Big Ten.

(18)Texas at (6)Kansas State ABC 8 p.m.
Kansas State has to be kicking themselves for falling apart against Baylor and costing themselves a slot in the BCS Title Game. It's highly doubtful Bill Snyder will allow his team to have a letdown. Expect the Wildcats to come out swinging, while Texas must wait another year to fight its way back to respectability.
Kansas State- 42 Texas- 20

PAC-12 Championship Game: (16)UCLA at (8)Stanford
These two teams meet for the second time in a week. Stanford had little difficulty dispatching UCLA on the road, and now get to take on the Bruins at home for the rematch. Weirder things have happened, but it's hard to imagine UCLA will be able to find a way to one-up the Cardinals in a matter of days.
Prediction: Stanford- 35 UCLA- 20

Keep an Eye On
ACC Championship Game: (13)Florida State at Georgia Tech ESPN 8 p.m.
This game should have been a re-match of Florida State and Miami, but the Hurricanes are sitting this one out after sanctioning themselves in the hopes of avoiding harsher sanctions from the always unpredictable NCAA infractions committee. In a sign of little faith, Georgia Tech has petitioned the NCAA to remain bowl-eligible in the case they lose to finish 6-7. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a drubbing against in-state rival Georgia and appear to be completely outmatched by Florida State.
Prediction: Florida State- 45 Georgia Tech- 19

(20)Boise State at Nevada ABC 3:30 p.m.
This game has evolved into a nice rivalry thanks to some heated battles the past few years. There are no national title/BCS implications this season, but it should make for a fun afternoon of college football.
Prediction- Boise State- 34 Nevada- 28

(23)Oklahoma State at Baylor Noon FX
This has all the makings of a back-and-forth, point-per-minute, 4 1/2 hour game. A nice way to start off the final Saturday of the season.
Prediction: Oklahoma State- 63 Baylor- 56

(11)Oklahoma at TCU
TCU used a stifling defense to pull off a Thanksgiving night upset against Texas. Pulling off two consecutive upsets will prove much harder against Oklahoma. The Sooners will be fighting to remain in the BCS picture, and they have a bad habit of sealing the deal when the stakes are high.
Prediction: TCU- 24 Oklahoma- 20

Louisville at Rutgers ESPN 7:30 p.m.
Thanks to conference realignment, a Big Ten and an ACC team will battle for a Big East title. This isn't a can't-miss game by any means, but it's the last chance to enjoy Thursday night football for a long time.
Prediction: Rutgers- 16 Louisville- 13

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