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The end is not near; it’s here. But what an ending it is.
The final week of the 2009 college football regular season may as well be called championship week. The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference and Southeastern Conference will play conference championship games this weekend. Adding more spice to the loaded lineup are de-facto championship games in the Big East and Pac-10 conferences.
In our own little bubble at the CU Independent, it’s basically a two-horse race between staff writer Chris King and our weekly guest picker. If King holds on, it will be a major comeback after he started the season 6-10.
Meanwhile, CU:I football beat writer Alex K.W. Schultz, CU:I co-sports editor Cheng Sio and CU:I men’s basketball beat writer David Starcer have slim hopes of winning it all.
This week’s guest picker is Doug Looney, a 1963 CU graduate. Looney is a former Sports Illustrated senior writer and is an adjunct professor at CU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Perhaps his wisdom can overtake King and be this year’s CU:I Pick’em champion.
P.S. If you want former Sports Illustrated senior writer Rick Reilly to be a guest picker, e-mail us demanding you want Reilly and we’ll try to accommodate you next season.
Guest picker this season — Overall: 61-35, Last week: 5-3
Doug Looney, former Sports Illustrated senior writer; adjunct professor in CU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication
No. 7 Oregon 35, No. 16 Oregon State 14: As Oregon State knows all too well, there’s nothing like a game in the rain in Eugene, Ore. to douse an opponent. Best windshield wipers win. Victor goes to the Rose Bowl. Oregon State will sink to the occasion and go home muttering about the officiating.
Central Michigan 30, Ohio 20: Central Michigan has the 14th best scoring offense in the country led by a quarterback only .763 percent of the fans in the U.S. can name — Dan LeFevour. He has passed for 99 career touchdowns and ran for 46. Will Ohio have any answer to LeFevour? Certainly not.
No. 5 Cincinnati 35, No. 15 Pitt 31: Cincy is the feel-good story of the year. Undefeated, yet seriously tested in recent weeks by Connecticut and West Virginia. That’s good. It takes fire to forge steel. This game will be closer than it should be because of distractions over whether Cincy head coach Brian Kelly will be hired by Notre Dame.
No. 21 Houston 40, East Carolina 21: Who cares? Houston has a grand tradition of being erratic. It lost this year to the University of Central Florida and to UTEP. Yuk. But it beat Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Hooray. Erratic is plenty good enough this time.
No. 18 USC 30, Arizona 25: Two mediocre teams which both think erroneously are better than their records. Not true. USC (8-3) should play with bags over each player’s head. Great talent grossly underachieved this year. Regardless, the Trojans will hang on for a pathetic and ugly win over Wildcats.
No. 1 Florida 33, No. 2 Alabama 15: Easy win for Gators. Really easy. The Tide is overmatched but it’s kind of cute it thinks it has a chance. Florida QB Tim Tebow will put a giant exclamation point on a career full of exclamation points. Fans everywhere expect a superb game. Nope, it’s a snoozer.
No. 10 Georgia Tech 38, Clemson 13: Former Buff chancellor Bud Peterson is now president at Georgia Tech. His 10-2 team has given him much to cheer about. Earlier this year in this match up, Tech prevailed by three. It won’t be anywhere near as close this time.
No. 3 Texas 40, No. 22 Nebraska 21: What’s hysterical about this game is the Cornhuskers are pretending they have a chance. Ridiculous. Nebraska, on its best day, is a tick above average. Texas, on its best day, is National Champion. Huskers have won five in a row but one was over the woeful Buffs, so it doesn’t count. NU head coach Bo Pelini is No. 1 in one category: Most Dour Countenance. Longhorns head coach Mack Brown is No. 1 in one category: Best Coach in America.
Cheng Sio — sports editor — Overall: 58-38, Last week: 3-5
No. 16 Oregon State 38, No. 7 Oregon 29: Bad blood will fill Autzen Stadium on primetime Thursday night in the 113th edition of the Civil War. This will be the rivalry’s first winner takes all situation as the Pac-10 Championship and a Rose Bowl berth are on the line. Since beating USC on Halloween, Oregon has lost at Stanford, blown out Arizona State and survived at Arizona. Meanwhile, Oregon State head coach Mike Riley has a reputation for having his team play its best football at season’s end, which is what the Beavers are doing as they have won four straight after losing to USC. Gimme the team on the upswing.
Central Michigan 35, Ohio 27: LeFevour can pass (leads the MAC in touchdown passes, QB rating and completion percentage), he can run (has a team-high 650 rushing yards) and he can win a big game (beat Michigan State 29-27 on the road). Why pick against this monster?
No. 15 Pittsburgh 41, No. 5 Cincinnati 33: I’ve waited for Cincinnati to crack in its last two Big East games, and they came close. They held on to beat Connecticut 47-45 and slipped past West Virginia 24-21. The Bearcats’ defense is average at best and with rumors floating around about Kelly going to Notre Dame, they won’t win the Big East on the road against a pissed off Pittsburgh team who lost the Backyard Brawl by three last week.
East Carolina 40, No. 21 Houston 33: The thing about a team such as Houston is the high-flying offense may be there every game, but the defense may not. Both of the Cougars’ losses have come on the road (58-41 to UTEP and 37-32 to UCF) and even in their wins, they allowed 35 points to Oklahoma State and 45 to Tulsa. I don’t see the Cougars getting the stops necessary to win C-USA.
No. 18 USC 38, Arizona 23: Technically, both teams have nothing to play for. But knowing USC head coach Pete Carroll, I’m sure he doesn’t want to show the country what a down year his program is having.
No. 2 Alabama 24, No. 1 Florida 16: In the last two CU Independent Top 10 college football polls, I’ve picked ‘Bama as the No. 1 team in the nation and the Gators No. 4. Who have the Gators played? Not one worthy soul outside of LSU. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide has beaten four ranked teams this season, including LSU. ‘Bama’s been challenged and Florida has not. The battle-tested team wins the SEC.
No. 10 Georgia Tech 30, Clemson 23: I was almost sold on Clemson, but then they lost to South Carolina last week in the in-state rivalry game. When Georgia Tech and Clemson met earlier this season, the Yellow Jackets dominated 24-0 before rallying to a 30-27 win. Unless Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney was smart enough to prepare for the ACC Championship Game two weeks ago after they beat Virginia, which might explain why they lost to the Gamecocks, I’m going with the Ramblin’ Wreck.
No. 3 Texas 43, No. 22 Nebraska 12: Unless Nebraska defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick make Colt McCoy’s life a living hell Saturday, the Longhorns will cruise.
Ron Knabenbauer — sports editor — Overall: 53-43, Last week: 4-4
No. 7 Oregon 35, No. 16 Oregon State 31: Facing their in-state rivals at home with the Pac-10 Championship on the line, I like the Ducks to take care of business and head to Pasadena, Calif. for the Rose Bowl.
Ohio 26, Central Michigan 23: Central Michigan may have the home field advantage, but the Bobcats will head back to Ohio on Friday night with the MAC Championship.
No. 5 Cincinnati 37, No. 15 Pittsburgh 21: Cincinnati needs to pray for a miracle and needs a big win to play for the national championship. They will get half of the equation with a victory over Pitt.
No. 21 Houston 27, East Carolina 17: Somehow, the Cougars made it to the C-USA Championship Game. They will finish their journey with a win and their second C-USA title in four years.
No. 18 USC 31, Arizona 27: Arizona is on the upswing and will be a contender in the Pac-10 next season. However, I just don’t see them beating a still pretty good USC team.
No. 1 Florida 37, No. 2 Alabama 35: A repeat from last season’s SEC Championship Game and the game everyone has been waiting for all season long. The Gators will continue their dominance and end the Crimson Tide’s dream of a national championship.
No. 10 Georgia Tech 23, Clemson 21: The winner of this ACC Championship Game gets a berth in a BCS game, even though both teams probably don’t deserve to be there. I’m going to give Georgia Tech the slight nod in this one.
No. 3 Texas 27, No. 22 Nebraska 23: I would prefer if neither of these teams were playing. But since there are no ties in college football, I like the Longhorns to squeak by the Huskers for the Big 12 Championship.
Alex K.W. Schultz — CU:I’s football beat reporter — Overall: 59-37, Last week: 5-3
No. 7 Oregon 31, No. 16 Oregon State 20: The Civil War is one of college football’s greatest rivalries. Oh, and if there isn’t enough emotion between these two schools already, the Pac-10 title will be on the line Thursday. Autzen Stadium is unkind to many opponents and the Beavers won’t be too pleased at the end of this one.
Central Michigan 35, Ohio 21: One name: Dan LeFevour. The Chippewas senior QB has tossed for 25 TDs and nearly 3,000 yards this season. The guy can’t be stopped. Look for him to continue his aerial assault en route to winning the MAC championship.
No. 5 Cincinnati 27, No. 15 Pittsburgh 17: I just think the Bearcats’ offense is too good to be stopped. Cincinnati senior QB Tony Pike’s forearm injury appears to be no more as he tossed for six TDs last weekend against Illinois. When Pike is healthy, good luck stopping him.
East Carolina 34, No. 21 Houston 30: Don’t really care about this one, but I’ll take the Pirates just because I like ECU head coach Skip Holtz’s father, Lou Holtz.
No. 18 USC 24, Arizona 13: I lost a lot of respect for Carroll last weekend when he opted to throw a Hail Mary with under a minute to play and the game already in hand. But when you’re good, I guess you can do what you want. USC handles the Wildcats here.
No. 1 Florida 20, No. 2 Alabama 14: I don’t like the Gators. I don’t like UF head coach Urban Meyer. But man is Florida good. When a QB can jump and complete a TD pass, um, yeah, that’s pretty good.
No. 10 Georgia Tech 30, Clemson 20: Even though the Yellow Jackets’ offensive attack sputtered a little last weekend against in-state rival Georgia, it sure is good to see the triple-option offense work today when so many coaches are going to the spread. Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson should have the kinks worked out, though.
No. 3 Texas 28, No. 22 Nebraska 17: As much as it hurts to pick against Big Red — my brother graduated from Nebraska — I don’t see the Children of the Corn pulling this one out. I mean, c’mon, CU only lost to Nebraska by eight points. The Longhorns want to get to the BCS National Championship Game and the only way to do that is by beating the Huskers.
Chris King — staff writer — Overall: 62-34, Last week 5-3
No. 7 Oregon 45, No. 16 Oregon State 38: The Pac-10 BCS berth comes down to this. A battle between bitter rivals, all for the right to go to the Rose Bowl, this is a winner takes all game. The Civil War is always a heated rivalry, but robbing your biggest enemy a chance at a BCS bowl game? That’s fuel to the fire. Oregon State has been hot, winning six of its last seven with the one loss a narrow battle with USC. If this game was in Corvallis, Ore., I’d give the Beavers the advantage. But in Eugene, in the Autzen Zoo, the Ducks have the advantage. QB Jeremiah Masoli willed his team to a victory against Arizona, and he can do it again.
Central Michigan 45, Ohio 20: This one will be brutal for Ohio Bobcats fans. The Central Michigan Chippewas not only ran the table in the MAC, but the average margin of victory was almost 23 points. The Bobcats managed to sneak their way into the title game, winning four of their MAC games by a touchdown or less. Chippewas QB Dan Lefevour is the best QB no one knows about — he single-handedly led CMU’s upset of in-state rival Michigan State earlier this year — and he is on fire as of late. In the last seven games, he has accounted for 25 total touchdowns and one interception. Good luck stopping him now.
No. 5 Cincinnati 45, No. 15 Pittsburgh 30: This game lost a lot of luster last week when Pitt was upset by West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl. Frosh running back sensation Dion Lewis had another strong day for the Panthers (155 rushing yards on 26 carries), but QB Bill Stull, who had been magnificent this year after a disastrous year last season, reverted to his old form by throwing two costly interceptions. Meanwhile, Cincy continued its unbeaten streak, thumping Illinois 49-36. In his first start since Oct. 15, Pike threw a school-record six touchdowns. Cincy head coach Brian Kelly may be looking at another job, but he wants to win another Big East title. His high-octane spread attack will be too much for Pitt.
No. 21 Houston 50, East Carolina 35: Poor Case Keenum. The Cougars junior quarterback’s Heisman Trophy hopes took a hit when his team lost to UTEP 58-41, and they were destroyed after they lost to UCF 37-32. That’s a shame because Keenum led his team to wins over Texas Tech, Mississippi State, and then No. 5 Oklahoma State — the latter two on the road. He needs 78 yards to break the 5,000 yard passing mark for the second straight season. While Keenum may not win the Heisman nor earn a BCS berth, they can win a C-USA title. He should be able to feast on ECU’s 86th-ranked pass defense. The Pirates don’t stand a chance.
No. 18 USC 20, Arizona 17: How about Carroll talking out of both sides of his mouth? First, he questions Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh after Harbaugh called for a two-point conversion in Stanford’s rout of the Trojans. Then last week, Carroll calls a deep pass play against UCLA in the final minute despite the fact they could have kneeled and ran out the clock. As much as I would love to watch Arizona head coach Mike Stoops knock that smug surfer boy smile off Carroll’s face, I just don’t know if the Wildcats have the heart after a narrow win against rival Arizona State and their painful overtime loss to Oregon.
No. 2 Alabama 13, No. 1 Florida 10: Wow. It’s really all you can say about what looks to be the match up of the year. Two top 5 defenses, old SEC rivals, brilliant coaches and college football’s most prominent figure all meet in this epic showdown. Questions abound: Is ‘Bama star RB Mark Ingram healthy? How will the Gators’ defense play with the loss of defensive end Carlos Dunlap, the defensive MVP of last year’s BCS Championship Game? And who will smile first, Urban Meyer or Nick Saban? Florida rode Tebow to a win last year, but he hasn’t been the same this year. The Tide is poised to win a down and dirty battle.
No. 10 Georgia Tech 35, Clemson 28: What did we get last week from the ACC division champions? Losing to middle of the road SEC teams. When does basketball season kick into gear? Georgia Tech’s loss to in-state rival Georgia, who is having a terrible year by their standards, was the most egregious of the two. They gave up more than 300 rushing yards in the process. But Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson is a smart guy and he knows how important the ACC title is to the folks in Hotlanta. Clemson RB C.J. Spiller may put up some numbers, but the Tigers “D” won’t be able to handle the complex triple-option the Ramblin’ Wreck runs.
No. 3 Texas 21, No. 22 Nebraska 6: Giving Nebraska six points might be generous considering how abysmal their offense is and how hard Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp must have worked his squad after their pathetic showing against Texas A&M. McCoy made his Heisman statement last week and he better have saved the highlights because this one won’t be as much fun. Nebraska’s “D” is good and Suh is an absolute force inside. Nebraska has a shot if they can force the Longhorns into turnovers, but it’s a long shot.
David Starcer — CU:I’s men’s basketball beat reporter — Overall: 58-38, Last week 3-5
No. 7 Oregon 48, No. 16 Oregon State 34: The Civil War won’t be very civil this year as bragging rights and a trip to the Rose Bowl are on the line. The Rodgers brothers, Jacquizz and James, and head coach Mike Riley deserve praise for their underrated season, but the Ducks at home will be too much to overcome. Oregon wins to meet Ohio State in Pasadena.
Central Michigan 45, Ohio 21: LeFevour is the best gunslinger nobody has heard of. Lefevour and Central Michigan’s high-scoring attack will be too much for head coach Frank Solich’s Bobcats to handle.
No. 5 Cincinnati 35, No. 15 Pittsburgh 20: Pike is back with a passion and Cincy is a team of a destiny. Their offense will win the battle over Pitt’s tough defense and the Bearcats will stay undefeated heading into their BCS bowl game.
No. 21 Houston 42, East Carolina 21: Yes, Houston is on the road and has been upset by two C-USA foes this season. That won’t be enough to stop Keenum and his 38 TD passes this season from coming out on top.
No. 18 USC 30, Arizona 14: Arizona had its shot to grab the reins in the Pac-10 and blew it in the final seconds of regulation to Oregon. The letdown will linger when they go into the Los Angeles Coliseum and face an equally disappointed Trojans squad, who will finish tied third at best in the Pac-10. Who would’ve thunk it!
No. 1 Florida 20, No. 2 Alabama 17: The game of the week — and maybe the season — that every college football fan has circled for a while. These are the two most talented teams in the nation. What will be the difference? Two words: Tim Tebow. He doesn’t lose, plain and simple. The push for championship No. 3 continues in a close win for the Gators.
No. 10 Georgia Tech 34, Clemson 31: I waffled on this game for a long time. The two great running backs in this game, Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer and Clemson’s C.J. Spiller, will have big days. This game comes down to consistency. Both teams have had slip-ups this season, but the Yellow Jackets have had less. Georgia Tech takes this one in a squeaker.
No. 3 Texas 45, No. 22 Nebraska 17: This one shouldn’t be much of a game. If things go the way I think they will, the result will set up another classic premier quarterback showdown in the title game: Tebow vs. McCoy. I just hope Texas embarrasses Nebraska on national TV.
Compiled by Sports Editor Cheng Sio. Contact Cheng Sio at Cheng.firstname.lastname@example.org.