Campus Corner

Sizing up college football’s conference championship games

In October, Arizona’s Scooby Wright III (left) strips the ball from Oregon’s Marcus Mariota during the fourth quarter of their game.
In October, Arizona’s Scooby Wright III (left) strips the ball from Oregon’s Marcus Mariota during the fourth quarter of their game. The Associated Press

Conference championship games

Pac-12 (Friday): Arizona vs. Oregon

The teams meet in Santa Clara, Calif., and this is the only one of the major conference championships that is a regular-season rematch. On Oct. 2, Arizona, as a 24-point underdog, traveled to Eugene and won 31-24. Marcus Mariota was sacked seven times. Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright stripped the ball from Mariota to seal the game. The Ducks were struggling with offensive line injuries then, and are in better shape now. But the Wildcats have matched up well in this series. They beat also upset Oregon in 2013.

▪ Winner: Oregon

Southeastern: Missouri vs. Alabama

The Crimson Tide started the year without definition at quarterback. But offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has put Blake Sims in positions to succeed and Sims has guided the Crimson Tide to a division championship. How about this contrast? When Missouri entered the SEC, league veterans scoffed the Tigers uptempo offense. Now, many SEC teams, including Alabama, are running versions of the hurry-up, and Mizzou has reached its second straight league title game in Atlanta on the strength of what could be coach Gary Pinkel’s best defense.

▪ Winner: Alabama

Big Ten: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State

Braxton Miller to J.T. Barrett to Cardale Jones. It’s been next man up at quarterback all season for Ohio State. Jones is a load at 6 feet, 5 inches and 250 pounds and has a strong arm, but he has little experience with 19 pass attempts in two years. He finished off the Michigan victory after Barrett was injured. Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, who leads the nation with 2,260 rushing yards, returns to the Lucas Oil Stadium field where he burst onto the scene two years ago, rushing for 216 yards in nine carries against Nebraska.

▪ Winner: Wisconsin

Atlantic Coast: Georgia Tech vs. Florida State

The Seminoles bid for consecutive victory No. 29. They haven’t been blowing anybody off the field, at least not lately, and quarterback Jameis Winston isn’t the same dominating player he was last year when he won the Heisman Trophy. But Florida State has found a way to defeat every opponent. Georgia Tech was underdogs in its previous two games but beat Clemson and Georgia. To have a chance for its first ACC title, Tech has to continue to get superb play from quarterback Justin Thomas and its defense. The Yellow Jackets have scored 123 points off turnovers this year, and Winston has thrown 17 interceptions.

▪ Winner: Georgia Tech

Mid-American (Friday): Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green

The Huskies are bidding for their third MAC title in four years, and the Falcons arrive on a two-game losing streak. But they beat Northern Illinois 47-27 at Ford Field in Detroit last year.

▪ Winner: Northern Illinois

Conference USA: Louisiana Tech at Marshall

The Thundering Herd was undefeated and in position to gain a spot in a major bowl until losing to Western Kentucky last week. Louisiana Tech is looking to win the title in its second season in the league.

▪ Winner: Marshall

Mountain West: Fresno State at Boise State

Major implications here. Boise State is the only team in the College Football Playoff committee top 25 and is in a position to receive a bid to one of the four New Year’s Day bowls. The Broncos defeated Fresno 37-27 during the regular season.

▪ Winner: Boise State

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @BlairKerkhoff.

Friday’s Top 25 Game

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 8 Arizona, Pac-12 championship, at Santa Clara, Calif., 8 p.m.

Saturday’s Top 25 Games

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 14 Missouri, SEC championship, at Atlanta, 3 p.m.

No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech, ACC championship, at Charlotte, N.C., 7 p.m.

No. 4 TCU vs. Iowa State, 11 a.m.

No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 9 Kansas State, 6:45 p.m.

No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Wisconsin, Big Ten championship, at Indianapolis, 7 p.m.

No. 18 Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State, 2:30 p.m.

No. 22 Boise State vs. Fresno State, Mountain West championship, 9 p.m.

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