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NCAA Week 15 Recap – Championship Week

Week 15 of NCAA football is Championship Saturday.  All the conference championship games or races are tied up this weekend.  While not every conference champion is going to the BCS, all conference championships are still important.  In alphabetical order, here is how all the conference championship games, or the closest a conference can get to a championship game, break down.

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American Athletic Conference
#19 Louisville 31 Cincinnati 24 (OT)
– The American does not have a championship game, but this game decided who was going to the BCS as the conference representative.  With UCF having the tie breaker over Louisville, the Cardinals were playing for a Russell Athletic Bowl bid while Cincinnati still had a shot to get ahead of UCF via a tiebreaker should they win and UCF lose and fall behind the Bearcats in the BCS rankings.  With the final edition of the Keg of Nails up for grabs, both teams played a spirited game with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater making some amazing clutch plays to help keep the Cardinals in the game.  Bridgewater finished 23-37 for 255 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception while Brandon Kay finished 22-40 for 304 yards with 2 early interceptions for the Bearcats.  While Cincinnati tied the game with a late field goal to force overtime, they could not answer Louisville’s touchdown.  Cincinnati has accepted an invitation to the Belk Bowl.

#16 UCF 17 Southern Methodist 13 – It was an ugly ice filled game that was affected so much by the weather, fans were allowed to go to the game for free and had to sit on the home side of the field due to safety issues.  This game is also notable in that it is the coldest game UCF has ever played in.  After a slow half  between both frigid teams, UCF was down late in the 3rd quarter before quarterback Blake Bortles scored and helped give UCF the outright conference title.  Bortles went 24-35 for 229 yards while running 10 times for 36 yards and the team’s 2 touchdowns.  Neal Burcham led SMU, going 24-34 for 222 yards with a touchdown.  UCF should end up in the Fiesta Bowl against the Big XII champion.  With SMU getting their 7th loss, their season ends.

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Atlantic Coast Conference
#1 Florida State 45 #20 Duke 7
– In this game, it was never about if Florida State would win, but how long it would take for Florida State to flat out dominate.  Duke should be given a lot of credit for holding Florida State to 0 points in the 1st quarter and only 17 points in the half.  The 2nd half was a blowout as the depth of Florida State completely outclassed the Blue Devils.  Duke got on the board in the ending minutes of the game.  Overall, Florida State outgained Duke 564-234.  Heisman favorite Jameis Winston finished 19-35 for 320 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions for the Seminoles while Anthony Boone finished 20-40 for 139 yards and 2 interceptions for the Blue Devils.  Florida State has cemented itself in the BCS championship game.  Duke will find out Sunday where they will be playing.

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Big Ten
#10 Michigan State 34 #2 Ohio State 24
– In a game of streaks, Michigan State had the last streak and won themselves the Big Ten Championship and a spot in the Rose Bowl.  Michigan State scored the first 17 points while Ohio State answered back with the next 24 points.  Michigan State then added 17 more points to seal the deal.  Connor Cook finished 24-40 for 304 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception while Jeremy Lanford added 24 carries for 129 yards and a touch down to lead Michigan State.  Ohio State was led by Braxton Miller, who finished 8-21 for 101 yards and a touchdown.  The Buckeyes’ strength is their running game as Miller ran 21 times for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns and Carlos Hyde ran 18 times for 118 yards.  While the running game was strong for the Buckeyes, the Spartans had key stops at the right time to derail drives and keep Ohio State from coming back.  Ohio State will find out where they will be bowling, but a BCS bowl is rather likely.

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#17 Oklahoma 33 #6 Oklahoma State 24
– There is a reason this game is called Bedlam.  Oklahoma caused Bedlam by upsetting Oklahoma State and eliminating the Cowboys from the conference championship race.  With the Cowboys losing, the conference title falls to the winner of Baylor and Texas.  The Sooners pulled all the stops out in this game with a punt return for a touchdown, a fake field goal for a touchdown and a fumble recovery to close the game for another touchdown.  If you look at the stat sheet, 4 different Sooners passed at least once.  Blake Bell led the Sooners by going 10-16 for 140 yards and a touchdown while Clint Chelf led the Cowboys, going 19-35 for 232 yards with a touchdown and an interception.  Desmond Roland also paced the Cowboys on the ground by running 21 times for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Jalen Saunders had a 64 yard punt return for a score for Oklahoma and kick holder Grant Bothun had a touchdown pass to kicker Mike Hunnicut.  Both schools are waiting on the BCS to find out what their bowl game fate is.

#9 Baylor 30 #25 Texas 10 – With Oklahoma State losing earlier, this became the de facto conference championship game with the winner taking all.  Both teams had a slow first half, but the second half was all Baylor.  The Bears outgained the Longhorns 523-216 with QB Bryce Petty going 21-37 for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns for Baylor while Case McCoy went 12-34 for 53 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions for Texas.  The Longhorns relied on Malcolm Brown on the ground as he rushed 25 times for 131 yards.  Baylor relied on their double rushing attack of Glasco Martin and Lache Seastrunk, who each ran for over 90 yards and Martin added a score.  With this win, Baylor will represent the Big XII in the Fiesta Bowl while Texas awaits their fate.

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Conference USA
Rice 41 Marshall 24
– With power, poise and the homefield advantage, Rice ran for their first conference title since 1957 with a convincing win over the Thundering Herd.  Rice outgained Marshall 486-370 with big play Taylor McHargue setting the pace for the Owls.  McHargue went 8-15 for 196 yards with a touchdown.  Also, Luke Turner went 2-3 for 43 yards and 2 more touchdowns.  Charles Ross added 109 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 carries for the Owls.  For Marshall, the bulk of the offense came from Rakeem Cato, who went 24-41 for 265 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception.  He also ran 8 times for 32 yards.  After the win, Rice accepted a bid to the Liberty Bowl while Marshall will go to the Military Bowl.

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Mid-American Conference
Bowling Green 47 #14 Northern Illinois 27
– In a midweek game with a lot of BCS implications, the BCS dream ends for the Huskies as Bowling Green takes the MAC title at Ford Field.  Bowling Green struck heavily early on as the Falcons went from a 17-7 lead after the 1st to a 31-13 halftime lead.  Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson was unstoppable, going 21-27 for 393 yards and 5 touchdowns while his Northern Illinois counterpart and Heisman candidate Jordan Lynch went 21-40 for 219 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions.  As expected, Lynch added 2 more touchdowns on the ground by running 26 times for 126 yards.  With Northern Illinois losing, this opens up an at-large spot in the BCS and will most likely shuffle UCF to the Fiesta Bowl.

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Mountain West Conference
#23 Fresno State 24 Utah State 17
– Despite being the unlikely winner of the Mountain division, Utah State gave Fresno State all they could handle.  Even when Utah State had to go to their 3rd string quarterback, they didn’t go quietly into the night.  The Bulldogs were paced by Derek Carr, who went 36-53 for 404 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.  Utah State originally had Darrell Garretson, who went 12-26 for 198 yards and an interception.  He was later replaced by Craig Harrison, who went 4-9 for 55 yards and an interception.  Fresno State last week fell from the BCS bowl chase, but can still call the season a success with winning a conference championship.  Fresno State has accepted an invitation from the Las Vegas Bowl while Utah State’s status is still up in the air.

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#7 Stanford 38 #11 Arizona State 14
– The second meeting between these two meetings ended up in similar fashion as Stanford powered their way to a PAC-12 championship and Rose Bowl bid.  Stanford dominated from the opening whistle.  Tyler Gaffney scored on the first drive with a 69 yard run and while Arizona State answered back, Stanford was never really threatened.  Stanford outgained the Sun Devils 517-311 with Kevin Hogan pacing the Cardinal.  Hogan finished 12-18 for 277 yards and a touchdown while workhorse Tyler Gaffney finished with 22 carries for 133 yards and 3 touchdowns.  For Arizona State, they were led by Taylor Kelly, who finished 16-24 for 173 yards and a touchdown, but it was not enough.

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Southeastern Conference

#3 Auburn 59 #5 Missouri 42 – In a game that defense needs not apply, Auburn one-upped Missouri on the way to the SEC championship in Atlanta.  Auburn outgained Missouri a whopping 677-534 with 545 of it coming on the ground.  Nick Marshall had an amazing day for Auburn by going 9-11 for 132 yards and a touchdown while running 16 times for 101 yards and another touchdown.  The real star for Auburn was Tre Mason, who ran the ball 46 times for 304 yards and 4 touchdowns.  For Missouri, James Franklin went 21-37 for 302 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception while Henry Josey added 123 yards on 9 rushing attempts.  Dorial Green-Beckham was the star receiver, catching 6 passes for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns, but was not able to make the play on big 4th downs.  Auburn will end up with no worse than the Sugar Bowl.  There is a chance they could end up in the BCS Championship Game.  Due to BCS limitations, it’s likely that Missouri will not be in a BCS bowl, but will still be in a high ranked SEC bowl game.

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Sun Belt Conference
South Alabama 30 Louisiana Lafayette 8
– While ULL already accepted a bowl bid to the New Orleans Bowl as the Sun Belt champion, this is the only and final game of the SBC slate.  With that said, it’s fitting that the Ragin’ Cajuns are a part of the final game.  However, the result didn’t work our as expected as South Alabama won their 6th game with a convincing win over Louisiana-Lafayette.  South Alabam was paced by Ross Metheny, who went 13-23 for 171 yards while Jay Hones added 105 yards on 19 carries.  ULL was just a mess as their leading passer was Jalen Nixon, who went 4-9 for 94 yards and their lone touchdown.

Special Notes – The bowl season kicks off on December 21st with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl on ESPN.  Of all the 35 bowl games, only 2 games will not be on an ESPN or ABC based station.  An interesting note in the bowl schedules will have the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl scheduled against each other on Friday, January 3rd.  ESPN will carry the Orange and Fox will carry the Cotton.  On New Years Day, there will be 6 bowl games, including 4 games that will overlap: Gator, Heart of Dallas, Capital One, and Outback all start between noon and 1pm on different ESPN/ABC channels.

Host of the OT with Andrew G for the Sports Chronicles Radio Network

Host of The College Cram, NFL and NCAA writer on the National Gridiron Network

Contributing writer for Pro Player Insiders

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Ralph Garcia


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