*Note: All football rankings are BCS rankings unless otherwise stated.
2011 Pacific 12 Conference Championship Game
UCLA Bruins at #9 Oregon Ducks
The Oregon Ducks are far and away the most sympathetic two loss team in the country. Their only losses came against unbeaten #1 LSU at a neutral site and the USC Trojans, currently ranked #9 in the AP poll.
The Ducks have no chance…zero…of playing in the BCS Championship game unless an historic chain of losses were to occur to the top 10 teams. Still, the Pac-12 North Champion Ducks should put on a clinic against the (6-6 overall, 5-4, conf.) Pac-12 South champion Bruins, and their lame duck head coach, Rick Neuheisel, who was fired earlier this week, but will finish the season.
This should make great television. First of all, it is historic, the first ever Pac-12 Championship Game. Second, the country gets to see the LaMichael James show (1472 yds., 14 TD, 7.2 avg.). James is in a crowded Heisman field this year, including Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. This will be James’ final audition for the Heisman.
Fortunately for James, the Bruins’ defense is not much to write home about. Surrendering 31 points per game, UCLA’s only realistic hope is to engage Oregon in a shootout. That has not worked out so well for most of Oregon’s opponents. UCLA does have a credible running back in junior Jonathan Franklin (912 yds., 5 TD, 6.1 avg.), but comparing Franklin to James is like comparing a Corvette to a Camaro.
|Only by default, Coach. 1|
#9 Florida Gators at #3 Syracuse Orange
I will only discuss basketball in reference to Syracuse. I am sure most of you, reading a sports blog, are aware of the other issues surrounding the university and its basketball program. Since I have no new information or insight, I will not comment further on their unfortunate situation.
Florida is a team that I have said, time and time again since last year, is good but not ready for prime time. In some ways they have proven me right, losing to then #3 Ohio State (for the second year in a row) earlier this season, losing to Butler in the Elite Eight round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, being throttled twice by Kentucky last season.
In some ways they have proven me wrong, ranked in the top 10, simply reaching the Elite Eight, and winning four regular season and conference tournament games against ranked opponents. This is a real test for Gators guard Kenny Boynton (19 PPG, 3 APG) and crew.
Syracuse is loaded. The Orange have a passing, rebounding, and scoring trio of Scoop Jardine (7 PPG, 4 APG), C.J. Fair (8 PPG, 6 RPG), and Kris Joseph (15 PPG, 6 RPG), respectively. All three of them tasted the bitter waters of defeat in the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament last year at the hands of underdog Marquette.
The Orange are averaging 83 points per game. Facing their first ranked opponent of the season, they take on a Gators team averaging over 90 per game. Both teams have a chip on their shoulder. Someone is getting it knocked off. Call me “Missouri”, however, because Florida has to show me.
|My position on Syracuse basketball is the same as that of Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim: "I do my job." 2|
2011 SEC Championship Game
#14 Georgia Bulldogs vs. #1 LSU Tigers
While technically at a neutral site, the Bulldogs will endure fewer travel pains, playing at the Georgia Dome, less than two hours away from their home town of Athens. LSU is playing for its fourth SEC Championship since the SEC Championship Game was instituted. With its spot in the BCS Championship Game all but assured, regardless of the outcome of this game, one may expect LSU to soften up.
Being an LSU graduate who has observed LSU Head Coach Les Miles for the past seven seasons, I wouldn’t count on it. Miles is familiar with the delicate threads that guide the BCS voting. Based on the circumstances of the game and the context of Miles’ commentary during the week, I doubt Miles will leave his team’s BCS fate to chance.
Georgia has a lot to play for. While UGA Head Coach Mark Richt is likely no longer on the hot seat, as he was when the season started, he has an opportunity to play his team in to a BCS bowl game. This would be a considerable achievement for a team that many wrote off as a BCS participant, in any capacity, at the start of the season.
Georgia is going to be a challenging matchup for LSU. They have a solid ground game, led by freshman sensation Isaiah Crowell (832 yds., 5 TDs, 4.8 avg.), and a tough defense, allowing just 18 points per game. All of that said, LSU-light is less than LSU.
|LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu A.K.A. "The Honey Badger" takes what he wants! 3|
#10 Oklahoma Sooners at #3 Oklahoma State Cowboys
There is a lot at stake in this game. Oklahoma is shooting for a Big XII conference championship and a BCS Bowl invitation. Okie State, possibly, could leap into the #2 spot in the BCS poll with a Big XII conference championship clinching win over the Sooners. Cowboys Heisman hopeful quarterback Brandon Weeden (4111 yds., 34 TD, 12 INT, 73%) will get an opportunity to erase the image of the their surprising loss to upstart Iowa State.
With the absence of receiver Ryan Broyles (out for the season – injury), Oklahoma wide receiver Kenny Stills (52 rec., 755 yds., 8 TD) has had to step his game up. Stills is not Broyles, but he will pose a threat to an often porous OSU defense that surrenders 27 points per game. I am of the widely held opinion that Oklahoma State is playing above its ability to be in the #3 ranked position and possess the gaudy stat lines it often puts up. They will have a chance to prove otherwise; that doesn’t mean it will happen.
|The win over OSU was Iowa State's Super Bowl. Oklahoma had better be Okie State's if they want a chance at the BCS Championship. 4|
#5 Virginia Tech Hokies at #20 Clemson Tigers
The Hokies get a chance to avenge their only loss, earlier in the season, to Clemson. Clemson has a chance to stop a two game skid (losing three of their last four), which has completely eliminated them from the BCS Championship conversation, and salvage their season with a BCS Bowl invitation. The Hokies also have a realistic shot at playing for the BCS Championship if they win. Personally, I would cast my number two vote for Virginia Tech with a win. I don’t live in a vacuum.
Running back David Wilson (1595 yds., 9 TD, 6.3 avg.) has been the backbone of the Hokies’ offense and continues to be a workhorse, rushing for no less than 82 yards in every game this season. Clemson, meanwhile, has lost a lot of its early season luster. Virginia Tech is hot and I expect them to strike early and often against Clemson.
Advantage: Virginia Tech
|David Wilson putting on the jukes against Georgia Tech. 5|
Sunday, December 4
Atlanta Falcons (7-4) at Houston Texans (8-3)
The Houston Texans have had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them in losing their starting quarterback in Matt Schaub and their backup quarterback in Matt Leinart in the span of two games. Rookie T.J. Yates is the next man up for the Texans. This morning, Houston signed veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme to add some insurance under center.
The Texans bring a much tougher fight from the friendly confines of Reliant stadium, with a 4-1 record at home, than they do on the road. The Falcons also have a better record at home than away. The Texans are at home, but Yates is going to have to be certain to not lose the game while the Texans defense, ranked third in the NFL, running back Arian Foster (805 yds., 7 TD, 4.2 avg.), and returning receiver Andre Johnson (27 rec., 374 yds., 2 TD) will have to carry the load for the Texans to continue pushing forward in the AFC playoff race.
The Falcons are also in a tough spot. Trailing the Saints by one game, plus being on the losing end of a tiebreaker with the Saints, the Falcons need to continue winning. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is coming off of a 3 touchdown, no interception performance against the Vikings last week. He cannot take his foot off of the gas, facing a tough Texans defense on the road. Both teams are going in similar directions, but the Texans are at home. I think the 12th man tips this game in the Texans’ favor.
|Many dark clouds have a silver lining. Matt Leinart may be out for the season, but not the Houston Texans quarterback can get back to recreational activities. (Lucky $#@$%^&!) 6|
Detroit Lions (7-4) at New Orleans Saints (8-3)
NBC Sports utilized its flex scheduling option to move this game to the Sunday Night Football time slot. As good of an NFC matchup as I expect this to be, the Saints will have much less to prepare for offensively. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is suspended, minimally, for this game, after stomping an opponent on Thanksgiving Day.
This bodes very badly for the Lions. The Saints offense is high-octane without opponents missing their star defensive lineman. The Saints have are #1 in the NFL in total offense and are scoring 33 points per game. The Lions have been stout against the pass, but will not have Suh involved in the pass rush. They are already collectively mediocre against the run. The Saints are at home, where they are unbeaten in 2011. The Lions are slumping, losing four of their last six. Connect the dots.
|If you are a Saints fan, you should buy a 2011 Saintsations calendar. If you are not a Saints fan, but are a man, you should STILL buy a 2011 Sainsations calendar! 7|
Don't forget to vote in the fan polls!
To advertise with The Daily Hat Trick, or to submit a guest column, please contact the editor at email@example.com.
The Daily Hat Trick is sponsored by Sports N Stuff. For great deals on jerseys, shirts, cologne, and other guy stuff, visit http://www.sportsnstuff.biz/.
1) Image from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/
2) Image from http://www.espn.com/
3) Image from http://www.theadvocate.com/
4) Image from http://www.ksat.com/
5) Image from http://www.zimbio.com/
6) Image from www.thedirty.com via http://thesportsinformer.blogspot.com/
7) Image from http://www.blackandgold.com/