While a lot of fans around the country might assume it is a given that LSU will leave the Georgia Dome on Saturday night carrying the SEC Championship Trophy, I don’t think that is a certainty.
Yes, LSU has played like the best team in the country and is 12-0 against a challenging schedule, but that doesn’t mean the Georgia Bulldogs are going into this game without a chance. I believe Georgia can make this game competitive for several reasons and has a chance to succeed Auburn as SEC champ.
I have a lot of respect for the way Georgia is playing defense now. The Bulldogs have been tough to run on and because of that I think their defense matches up well with LSU’s offense.
LSU’s defense is tough for anybody to deal with, but a team with a strong passer, and solid pass protection, has a chance to move the football against almost any defense. Georgia has a solid offensive line and a talented quarterback in Aaron Murray, who can be a difference-maker.
However, I still like LSU. That is a strong, physical and aggressive football team that has met every challenge this season. I am not buying the theory that LSU won’t be motivated to play the game because the Tigers will likely play in the BCS Championship Game even if they lose to Georgia. If that does happen, a loss in the SEC Championship Game will take some of the luster off what is shaping up as the best season in LSU history, and I believe the LSU players and coaches will do everything they can to keep that from happening.
This showdown on Saturday in Atlanta is a big, big game for LSU, and there is no question about it, so look for LSU to improve to 13-0.
In other league championship games as well as regular seasons contests around the country.
Virginia Tech vs. Clemson (ACC Championship Game)--I have got to pick Virginia Tech with the way the Hokies are playing even though Clemson won at Blacksburg during the regular season. Tech’s quarterback is performing a lot better than he did earlier in the season. Also, a young Virginia Tech defense has improved since the first time the two teams met when Clemson was playing its best football. Clemson is not playing its best football now. The Tigers have struggled in recent weeks and that will continue as Virginia Tech earns a BCS bowl trip.
UCLA at Oregon (Pac 12 Championship Game)--This looks like a major mismatch in the league’s first try at putting on a conference championship game. A rout was not what the Pac-12 had in mind when it went the championship game route, but barring a surprise of epic proportions that is what they will get. The Bruins enter the game with a 6-6 record and no chance.
Southern Miss at Houston (Conference USA Championship Game)--The Cougars put their unbeaten record on the line vs. twice-beaten Southern Miss in what should be a competitive contest. Quarterback Case Keenum is a difference-maker and will have a big day throwing the football as Houston improves to 13-0 as the Cougars win a high-scoring game.
Wisconsin vs. Michigan State (Big Ten Championship Game)--Like the Pac 12, the Big Ten is following the SEC’s lead by staging a conference championship game. Unlike the Pac 12, this game is at a neutral site in Indianapolis. Also unlike the Pac-12, it should be competitive.
Both teams are 10-2 overall. Michigan State has just one conference loss while the Badgers have two. Both are solid on defense and the Badgers, who are couple of plays away from being unbeaten, have a major advantage on offense. With this game being played indoors Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson will lead the Badgers to a Rose Bowl bid.
Syracuse at Pitt--Both are 5-6, but Pitt has played better in Big East games and this is a Big East game so I am going with the Panthers. A four-game losing streak by Syracuse is another reason to pick the Panthers.
Iowa State at Kansas State--The visiting Cyclones have won three of their last four games, including the shocker vs. Oklahoma State, so they could make this game interesting. Kansas State is 9-2 with the only losses to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. That should still be the case after this game is finished so my pick is Kansas State.
Wyoming at Colorado State--The Cowboys have a winning record so homefield advantage shouldn’t be enough to make a difference for a Colorado State team that has lost seven consecutive games. However, the Cowboys better come to play because this is a serious rivalry, one of those blood feud games.
UNLV at TCU--TCU’s 9-2 and UNLV’s 2-9. Look for the Horned Frogs to pick up victory 10 without too much drama.
Fresno State at San Diego State--Fresno State has slumped down the stretch. San Diego State’s only loss in the last month was to Boise State so look for the home team to win again.
Texas at Baylor--Robert Griffin III?is back for Baylor this week and that should put the Bears over the top in this matchup of ranked teams. Texas will rely on its defense to pull the road victory, but that shouldn’t be enough as long as Griffin plays. Since he is supposed to play, I believe Baylor is supposed to win this game.
Utah State at New Mexico State--Utah State is on a four-game winning streak and should make it five in a row before the Aggies go bowling.
Troy at Arkansas State--The Trojans are struggling while Arkansas State is 7-0 in the Sun Belt Conference and 9-2 overall. Look for the home team to continue its winning ways.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State--I still can’t figure out how the Cowboys lost to Iowa State and in the process lost their inside track into the BCS Championship Game. Both the Cowboys and Sooners are in the Top 10 this week, but the home team has the higher ranking and the type of passing attack that should give the Sooners’ fits. Look for OSU to clinch the Big 12 title outright on Saturday in Stillwater.
Editor’s Note: Coach Dye finished 7-1 on his SEC picks last week and 17-3 overall. His record for the season is 80-16 on this SEC picks and 196-67 overall.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
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