Auburn, Stanford, Michigan State, Florida State, Fresno State, Rice and Bowling Green All Win Conference Championship Games

Sometimes baseball is a lot like football. It was Yogi Berra that said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Yogi wasn’t much on grammar and sensibility, but he sure was right about when it’s over. For instance:

You thought that Alabama had an excellent chance to win its 3rd straight national championship and 4th in 5 years. And the undefeated Crimson Tide did, until they traveled to Auburn for the last game of the season.

‘Bama lost to the Auburn Tigers 34-28, who were now the AP Top 25 Poll’s #3 Auburn Tigers (12-1) and hosting the #5 Missouri Tigers (11-2) for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) title. Auburn beats Missouri 59-42 (101 total points) in a porous, no-defense contest to earn the right to play Florida State (13-0) in the BCS National Championship Game on Monday, January 6th in Pasadena.

The SEC title game was only the 2nd championship game in FBS history to match 2 teams coming off a season with losing records. Auburn went 3-9 last year, and Missouri ended up at 5-7. The Conference USA (C-USA) title game in 2005 marked the only other tilt where both teams had losing records the prior year—Central Florida was 0-11 in 2004, and Tulsa was 4-8 in 2004. Tulsa won, 44-27.

You thought that the perfect 12-0 Ohio State Buckeyes had a real shot at the BCS title game when Alabama lost, and the decision for the BCS title game was easy because the then undefeated #2 Buckeyes would face #10 Michigan State for the Big Ten title. Ohio State promptly lost to the Spartans (12-1) by 10, 34-24.

Many thought the Buckeyes (now 12-1), who had won 24 straight games over 2 seasons under new Coach Urban Meyer, would win. But the Michigan State defense, rated #1 nationally in Total Defense and #4 in Scoring Defense, held fast to win the Big Ten title, and earn the right to face #7 Stanford in the BCS Rose Bowl.

Michigan State’s win broke Ohio State’s 24-game winning streak, the longest current winning streak among major 1-A schools, and the longest in Ohio State’s long and storied football history. The best of the best this year is, without doubt, the Michigan State Spartans.

The Buckeye-Spartan tilt was really topsy-turvy. Michigan State led 17-0 after 21 minutes, then Ohio State bounced back with the next 24 points, and the Spartans won by scoring the last 17 points, 34-24.

The upset victory over Ohio State also gave Michigan State its first ever 12-win season, and the Rose Bowl appearance will be the Spartans first since 1988, 25 years ago.

The Ohio State Buckeyes will get Clemson (10-2) in the Discover BCS Orange Bowl, and Alabama (11-1) faces Oklahoma (10-2) in the Allstate BCS Sugar Bowl.

You thought the Oregon Ducks were unstoppable earlier in the year, rolling to a 8-0 mark before traveling to Stanford and losing, 26-20, and then losing again on-the-road to unranked Arizona, 42-16. So much for Oregon’s national championship hopes this season.

#7 Stanford (11-2) kept right on butt-kicking to the Pac-12 Championship Game, upending #11 Arizona State (10-3), 44-14, to capture the Pac-12 title, and a spot in the BCS Rose Bowl against Michigan State. The Sun Devils had won 7 in-a-row before meeting Stanford.

This game was the only conference championship game that offered up a rematch of a regular season contest, when Stanford jumped to a 29-zip halftime lead before dispatching Arizona State, 42-28.

By winning, Stanford will be able to defend its Rose Bowl championship won last year against Wisconsin, 20-14.

The biggest surprise of the season pitted #20 Duke (10-3) against the #1 Florida State Seminoles, who turned out to be the only unbeaten team so far this year at 13-0. Duke was ultimately no match for Florida State as the Seminoles won, 45-7, to claim the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship.

Duke, a basketball school at soul, has become prominent because of Coach David Cutcliffe, who inherited a dog of a football program that had won only 10 games in 8 years of competition. Duke really was a consistent loser in football.

Cutcliffe changed the culture at Duke. It took 5 years, but the Blue Devils won 10 games this year for the first time EVER, and earned their first ACC Coastal Division title. Cutcliffe never gave up hope that the program could change, and eventually instilled that hope in his players, the leftovers who did not get scholarships to the good schools, like Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina.

Heck, Duke’s 13-10 win over West Virginia this year was its first against a ranked team on the road in 42 years. Man, give Culcliffe and his Blue Devils some props for crawling out of a crap hole and into the national spotlight. Duke will get to show off its talents again in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Johnny Football and the Texas A&M Aggies.

In a sad note, the #16 Northern Illinois Huskies had build a perfect 12-0 record on their way to the Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship game against the 9-3 unranked Bowling Green Falcons.

The Huskies had been playing poor to bad talent all year. Their strength of schedule was 113th among 124 major college teams; in other words, they were playing cupcake opponents while reading their hometown news clippings about how great their were. Bowling Green wasn’t a bit better, with a SOS of 123 among 124 teams.

Both teams were paper tigers and, to make matters worse for Northern Illinois (now 12-1), the Huskies lost the MAC championship game, 47-27, to Bowling Green (now 10-3). Northern Illinois is why the MAC is not a big 6 conference, but rather a mid-major.

Northern Illinois will get Utah State in the San Diego County CU (as in Credit Union I guess) Poinsettia Bowl, and Bowling Green will face Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

Fresno State is another paper tiger. The #24 Bulldogs rolled to a perfect 10-0 record in the weak Mountain West Conference (MWC), and then ran into unranked San Jose State and lost, 62-52. That said, Fresno State (now 11-1) outlasted unranked Utah State (8-5) to win the MWC title, 24-17.

Fresno State is air crazy, the Bulldogs 83 touchdown passes since the start of last season are tops among major college schools, not to mention the fact that Fresno State has the #1 passing offense in the nation at 409 yards per game. That’s a lot easier to do when you face easy teams with no real secondary players.

When you beat an 8-5 by a touchdown to win a mid-major championship, you are not that good. Fresno State will now face Southern California in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.

At least you know that Little Caesars is pizza. Apparently Royal Purple is synthetic oil and performance lubricants, no wonder they are sponsoring a bowl game to get exposure. If it worked for Go Daddy, maybe it will work for Royal Purple, that is, if the model hawking the products is near naked and really good looking.  

The 7th conference championship game saw unranked Rice (10-3) take down unranked Marshall (9-4) to claim the Conference USA title, 41-24. By winning, Rice claimed its first outright conference title since 1957 (that’s 56 years!), when the Owls competed in the Southwest Conference.

In other results, #9 Baylor (11-1) beat #23 Texas (8-4), 30-10, to win the Big 12 title. Baylor will now face Central Florida (11-1), the American Athletic Conference (AAC) winner, in the Tostitos BCS Fiesta Bowl.

The 35 NCAA bowl games this season start on December 21 when Washington State (6-6) faces Colorado State (7-6) in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. That should be interesting, since Washington State has played the toughest schedule in the nation this year, and Colorado State has played the 105th weakest strength of schedule. The WSU Cougars should win this contest against the Rams, and end the season at 7-6.

Don’t even ask me what “Gilden” is. All I know is they sure as hell need more advertising.

The bowl season ends with the BCS National Championship Game on January 6 with Florida State and Auburn. This could be a high-scoring game.

Pass me the Jameson. I’m outta here for another week.

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