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Championship Weekend Preview.

– Sgt Shamrock

Notre Dame is not playing this weekend, but there are some really good games to watch this weekend as we all wait to see where the Irish will play their bowl game. Its conference championship week and there are some really good games that have huge implications on the National Championship game as well as the other BCS bowl games. What makes the games this weekend even more interesting, is that there is a very real possibility that when its all said and done, there will be NOT be an SEC team in the championship game which will make everyone not living in the southeast very happy.

20 Duke vs. 1 Florida State- Duke has been one of the surprise stories in college football this season. For a school that is known as a basketball school, the Blue Devils were able to win 10 games and earn a spot in the ACC championship game. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Duke has to play Florida State. The Seminoles are playing for a spot in the National Championship and will have Heisman favorite Jameis Winston as news broke today that he will not charged in the sexual assault case. Florida State has an insane amount of talent on both sides of the ball. Their offense has been rolling for the majority of the season and its not going to stop this weekend. Florida State 45 Duke 14

10 Michigan State vs. 2 Ohio State- Besides the SEC championship game, the Big 10 title game is one of the best games on the slate for this weekend. Its a game that puts Michigan State’s top notch defense against the Buckeye’s explosive offense. Ohio State has one of the best rushing attacks in the nation behind Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller but they are going to have a tough challenge running on the Spartans front 7 who have been outstanding against the run all season long. This is going to be a very close game and probably low scoring but Michigan State’s offense has been the weak part of this team all year and this weekend it will cost them again as Ohio State will pullout a victory en route to the Nation Championship. Ohio State 21 Michigan State 17  

5 Missouri vs. 3 Auburn- After two straight miracle games, Auburn finds themselves in the SEC championship game, only one season removed from a 3-9 season and the firing of Gene Chizik who lead Auburn to a National Championship. Auburn has found their success in running an offense that is very similar to the Cam Newton days. The Tigers are one of the nations best rushing teams and were able to continue their success in rushing the football against Alabama’s stout defense last weekend. Missouri is going to be another tough opponent for Auburn. Mizzou’s only loss came to South Carolina without their starting quarterback James Franklin, who was out with a shoulder injury. Mizzou also has a tough defensive front, however I don’t think they are better than Alabama. If Auburn runs the ball well again, they should win. Auburn 31 Missouri 21

17 Oklahoma vs. 6 Oklahoma State If not for a very bizarre loss to a horrid West Virginia team, Oklahoma State would be playing for a shot at the National Championship. The Cowboys have been known for their high octane offense under Mike Gundy and this year is no different. The defense for the Cowboys has also played above expectations this season, with their best game being against Baylor. Oklahoma has switched from Blake Bell to Trevor Knight at quarterback and have had trouble finding an offensive identity this season. The Cowboys are playing for the Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta bowl. They should have no trouble this weekend. Oklahoma State 38 Oklahoma 24

11 Arizona State vs. 7 Stanford- Another example of where good defense meets good offense in this years PAC 12 Championship. Arizona State has an outstanding offense that is led by their quarterback. Since the Sun Devils lost to Notre Dame, they have bounced back and gotten their offense clicking on all cylinders. Stanford brings a tough defense to this matchup, however they seem to have some issues against the passing game, which is not a good weakness to have against a team like Arizona State. Arizona State 30 Stanford 24    

Familiar Foe sails to town. A Navy Preview

The first football weekend of November is upon us, and with it brings a visit from longtime rivals from the Naval Academy. The Notre Dame vs. Navy matchup, which began in 1927, is the longest uninterrupted rivalry game in the country. This will be the 87th consecutive meeting between these two schools in what has been as lopsided a matchup as they come. Notre Dame leads the overall series 71-12-1 and held the longest winning streak over an opponent at 43 games before the 2007 overtime loss. Brian Kelly has lost to Navy once in his short career, the 2010 disaster that all of us would like to forget. However since that loss Brian Kelly and his staff seemed to have altered the game plan and  figured out the option attack and have not lost since winning the remaining matchups to date by a large margin. Notre Dame is coming into this matchup off of a shellacking of Air Force last week in Colorado Springs 45-10. All aspects of the Irish team played well last week  and its safe to expect the same against the Midshipmen

Last week I really thought the Irish were going to take advantage of the weak Air Force rushing defense to establish the running game, something the Irish really need to improve on if they want to make a run at the BCS. I did think that Tommy Rees would have a good game but I did not expect him to throw 5 touchdowns and play a practically flawless football. I have been very critical of Rees in the past and very outspoken about his limitations, but he is playing the best football of his career right now and its happening at the best time of the year as we head into November. Coming into the weekend Tommy Rees has throw for 20 TD’s only 6 interceptions and 1944 passing yards, which is 25th in all of FBS schools. However his greatest improvements are the intangibles. His pocket presence, his ball placement, and decision making have all improved vastly and are a key factor to his success. What may be the biggest improvement to me though, is his ability to distribute the ball evenly to different receivers. Last season and in 2011, Tommy Rees had the tendency to lock into his favorite targets of Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert. This season Rees has been throwing to all of his receivers which makes the passing attack that much more lethal.

Unlike Air Force however, Navy had a pretty good passing defense giving up only 204.4 passing yards per game which ranks 21st nationally. The rushing defense is a different story. Navy is giving up 187.9 yards per game ranking 89th in all FBS schools which provides yet another chance for the Irish to get their running game going against a poor rushing defense. The Irish need to find the running game this week to get some much needed improvement before playing the stout defense of BYU and Stanford later in the season. A healthy dose of Cam “Blue Steel” McDaniel and Tarean Folston would be the ideal situation, since George Atkinson III and Amir Carlise have not been getting the job done.

The Irish defense has an almost identical matchup as they did a week ago. Its the staple of triple options teams. They run the ball very well and cant pass to save their life. This week is no different. Navy ranks near the bottom of the barrel in passing offense at 120th nationally averaging only 103.9 yards through the air per game. The strength of the Navy academy has been and continues to be their triple option rushing attack. The Midshipmen are averaging 292.1 yards on the ground putting them as the 10th best rushing attack in the nation. The Irish defense looks to face a bit more or a physical running attack than they did against Air Force but I expect more of the same and should have no problems stopping Navy from scoring.

Overall I expect Notre Dame to dominate this game as they should. Good teams do not lose to teams like this and good teams don’t even let teams like this hang around. Expect this game to be over by half time with Tommy Rees playing well again at home and the rushing attack to add some much needed balance before heading into a tough stretch to end the season. Navy will come out fired up like they always do, but Notre Dame is just a flat out better team in all aspects of the game.

Players to watch

Offense- Will Fuller caught is first touchdown pass of his young career last week against Air Force, showing off some serious speed as well. With the offense air attack getting hot at the right time of the season, I really see Fuller starting to get a bigger role. Im looking forward to seeing some of that speed this weekend.

Defense- Kavaire Russell played outstanding last week sealing the edge and making some key tackles. Facing another triple option team this week should be another chance for Russell to show his versatility on defense. After an outstanding rookie season last year, Russell seemed to have some sophomore struggles early in the season but over the last few weeks he has started playing at the level we expect from him

Prediction

Notre Dame 49 Navy 13

Other games around the country

7 Miami at 3 Florida State- This may be the most lopsided top 10 matchup of the season. Miami, in my opinion, is one of the most over rated teams in the country and its going to show this weekend. Miami has played one of the weakest schedules of any of the top 20 teams in the country and have needed two straight 4th quarter comebacks to avoid the upset. Florida State is one of the hottest teams in the country and is oozing with NFL talent. Florida State is going to embarrass Miami this weekend. Florida State 41 Miami 17

21 Michigan at 22 Michigan State- Michigan State boasts one of the toughest defenses in the country this year. Michigan has had its struggles after beating the Irish earlier in the season. Michigan is going to have a tough time with that defense of the Spartans and Devin Gardner will probably continue to be a turnover machine. Michigan State 24 Michigan 21

18 Oklahoma State at 15 Texas Tech- Texas Tech has benefited from playing a very week schedule and finally lost when they played a good team in Oklahoma. Both Oklahoma State and Texas Tech rely on their offense to win but the Cowboys will bring a few more bullets to this shootout.  Oklahoma State 45 Texas Tech 41