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Grading CFB’s Conference Championship Games

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  • F: ACC (Florida State vs. Georgia Tech)

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    Conference Championship Weekend starts Friday. We assign letter grades to each of the six contests based on the regular season resume of the teams involved and the implications of the end result.

    When StubHub is offering $3.50 seats less than a week before the game, you know you’re struggling to be relevant. No small surprise considering that Georgia Tech is just 6–6. The Yellow Jackets got the nod over UNC (8–4) and Miami (7–5) since neither of those schools is eligible.

    No. 13 Florida State is significantly better at 10–2. But in its regular season finale against Florida, the ‘Noles turned it over five times and hardly looked BCS worthy. Tickets for this might go for under $1 when it’s all said and done.

    Photo Credit: Sam Sharpe/US Presswire

  • D+: Big Ten (Nebraska vs. Wisconsin)

    Like the ACC, the Big Ten Championship suffers in quality due to postseason bans. Ohio State (12–0) and Penn State (8–4) were first and second in the Leaders Division, but with both the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions done for the year, an underperforming Wisconsin team (7–5) goes to Indianapolis instead.

    There it faces Nebraska, whom the Badgers already lost to this fall, 30-27. Bo Pelini and company are to be commendeded for their 10–2 record and No. 12 ranking, but it’s hard to take them seriously as a marquee team in light of their 25-point loss at Ohio State — by far the best team on their schedule this year — in October.

    Big Ten fans take solace. Should you be bored at the prospect of this year’s title game, just pull up highlights of last year’s barnburner between the Badgers and Michigan State.

    Photo Credit: Bruce Thorson/US Presswire

  • C-: Conference USA (UCF vs. Tulsa)

    C-USA football is still small potatoes, yet that didn’t stop each of the previous three conference title games from featuring at least one Top 25 team. Last year, undefeated and No. 6 Houston had a legitimate shot at a BCS bowl berth, only to be stunned by No. 24 Southern Miss, 48–24.

    That Top 25 streak ends in 2012. While both UCF and Tulsa enter the game a respectable 9–3, neither team has done anything of great note this season aside from close losses to SEC schools (UCF fell to Mizzou by five, Tulsa to Arkansas by four). Regardless of who wins or loses, both teams will head to a low-profile, late December bowl game.

    Oh, and these teams just played two weeks ago, a 23-21 win by Tulsa. We’re not trying to take anything away from non-AQ conference championship games. But ... yawn.

    Photo Credit: Beth Hall/US Presswire

  • C+: Pac-12 (UCLA vs. Stanford)

    Wait, didn’t these two face off last week?

    The answer is “yes.” However this time UCLA and Stanford are competing for a berth in “The Granddaddy of Them All.” For South Division winner UCLA, whose 9–3 mark in Year One of the Jim Mora Era is more sparkling than any Bruins fan would’ve expected, it’s icing on the cake. Stanford, meanwhile, is chasing its third straight BCS bowl berth and first Rose Bowl appearance since 2000.

    Still, nobody likes reruns in college football (e.g. the LSU-Alabama rematch in last year’s BCS title game). Our best hope for being entertained is a good game and harboring hope that the always-entertaining Stanford Band comes up with a halftime skit making fun of the scholarship UCLA gave to P. Diddy’s son.

    Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US Presswire

  • B+: MAC (Northern Illinois vs. Kent State)

    For fans of Cinderella, this is a dream game. For BCS higher-ups, it’s a nightmare.

    2012 is the first year in the history of the MAC title game in which both teams (No. 17 Kent State and No. 21 Northern Illinois) are ranked in the Top 25. Of even greater note: If the winner of this game rises to 16 or higher in next week’s BCS rankings and is ranked ahead of the winner of an AQ conference, by rule they will receive a BCS bid (most likely to the Orange Bowl).

    So why only a B+ grade? Let’s call it the If-a-Tree-Falls-in-the-Forest Principle. The stakes couldn’t be higher for this game, but it’s unlikely many will be there to see it. In the eight previous years it’s been staged at Detroit’s Ford Field, the MAC title game’s average attendance has been 18,294 — a paltry 28.1% of the stadium’s typical seating capacity.

    Photo Credit: Jim O’Connor/US Presswire

  • A: SEC (Georgia vs. Alabama)

    We know what we’re doing Saturday night starting at around 7:00 PM ET. How about you?

    For the fifth straight year, college football’s most prestigious conference title game will feature either the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country. Both second-ranked Alabama and third-ranked Georgia come into Atlanta at 11–1 (7–1 SEC). Both have been paced by offenses and defenses that rank in the FBS Top 20 in scoring.

    Oh, and did we mention that the winner advances to the BCS title game against No. 1 Notre Dame - a game guaranteed be a ratings bonanza whether the Irish play the Tide or the Bulldogs? Posturing by SEC fans gloating about their superiority is often annoying, but it’s completely justified in this instance with the conference gunning for its seventh straight national title.

    Photo Credit: Derick Hingle/US Presswire

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