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Championship Week Pickoff: Auburn-Missouri, FSU-Duke; more

Photo: Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

Michigan State's defense will look to slow Ohio State's high-scoring offense in the Big Ten title game.

Championship Saturday has finally arrived, and it brings no shortage of intriguing matchups. Will Auburn continue its magical ride against Missouri? Will Ohio State keep its perfect season alive against Michigan State in Indianapolis? Does Duke stand any chance of hanging with top-ranked Florida State?

My picks for all of this week's top games are below. For more coverage, check out the Mailbag, my bowl projections, my BCS schedule analysis, Andy Staples' Power Rankings and Michael Rosenberg's feature on the Spartans' road to the Big Ten title game.

Saturday, Dec. 7
 
Noon ET (ABC) No. 18 Oklahoma (9-2) at No. 6 Oklahoma State (10-1)
The Cowboys are scoring 47.8 points a game since Clint Chelf was reinstated as the starting quarterback. The Sooners' 30th-ranked defense limits big plays, so Chelf and company must be able to sustain drives. But Oklahoma State's defense, which surrendered just 13 points to Texas and 17 to Baylor, will stifle Oklahoma's rushing attack and force quarterback Trevor Knight into making turnovers.
 
Noon ET (ESPN) No. 15 UCF (10-1) at SMU (5-6)
The BCS-bound Knights have looked shaky recently, enduring late-game drama against 2-10 Temple and 2-9 USF. The Mustangs, who need a win to become bowl eligible, are desperate. SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who missed last week's 34-0 loss to Houston with a knee sprain, is pushing to return. If he does, UCF will win in another nail-biter.
 
Noon ET (ESPN2) Marshall (9-3) at Rice (9-3)
The Thundering Herd's 18th-ranked offense, led by quarterback Rakeem Cato, is peaking at the right time; Marshall clobbered a very good East Carolina team to clinch the East Division. Meanwhile, the Owls' surprisingly strong defense (No. 37 nationally) keyed their 17-13 win over Tulane last week. Rice earned home-field advantage through a tiebreaker, but the Herd are too explosive.
 
3:30 p.m. ET (FOX) No. 22 Texas (8-3) at No. 9 Baylor (10-1)
As crazy as it seems, the Longhorns -- who were 1-2 at one point -- are playing for at least a share of the Big 12 title. But so are the Bears. While Baylor's offense is no longer unstoppable, expect quarterback Bryce Petty, tailback Lache Seastrunk and wideout Antwan Goodley to be fired up for the final game at Floyd Casey Stadium. This won't be pretty.
 
4 p.m. ET (ABC) No. 3 Auburn (11-1) vs. No. 4 Missouri (11-1)
Auburn is riding some ridiculous momentum. It may be futile to apply logic to this prediction, but Missouri's defense, which held Texas A&M to 21 points last week, rotates four talented defensive ends who will contain quarterback Nick Marshall and Auburn's prolific rushing attack. Meanwhile, Mizzou's big receivers could exploit a vulnerable Auburn secondary.
 
7:45 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 7 Stanford (10-2) at No. 11 Arizona State (10-2)
The Sun Devils have been sensational at home, while the Cardinal have struggled on the road. Still, it's hard to forget their first meeting this season; on Sept. 21 in Palo Alto, Stanford led 39-7 after three quarters. Arizona State's offense is rolling, but the Cardinal's front seven will shut down a rushing attack missing tailback Marion Grice. Quarterback Taylor Kelly will be rendered one-dimensional.
 
8 p.m. ET (ABC) No. 1 Florida State (12-0) vs. No. 20 Duke (10-2)
It's the Blue Devils' moment, and coach David Cutcliffe will have them ready. For Duke to stand a chance, it will need big games from running backs Josh Snead and Jela Duncan, and some explosive plays from receiver/punt returner Jamison Crowder. But realistically, quarterback Jameis Winston and the Seminoles' offense -- which scores 53.7 points a game -- will have this game put away by the half.
 
8:17 p.m. ET (FOX) No. 2 Ohio State (12-0) vs. No. 10 Michigan State (11-1)
Carlos Hyde will be the second running back to surpass 100 rushing yards against the Spartans' No. 1 defense. (Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah was first.) Hyde might not get much help from quarterback Braxton Miller, who will face stiff pressure from Shilique Calhoun and Michigan State's defensive line. Ohio State will win with its defense, led by Ryan Shazier, which will stymie tailback Jeremy Langford.
 
10 p.m. ET (CBS) Utah State (8-4) at No. 24 Fresno State (10-1)
The Bulldogs' BCS hopes went up in smoke last week, but don't expect a letdown. The Red Wave will be rocking as Fresno plays for its first outright conference title since 1989. Quarterback Derek Carr (4,462 yards, 45 touchdowns, five interceptions) and wideout DaVante Adams will have their usual big games, and the Aggies aren't explosive enough to exploit the Bulldogs' anemic defense.
 
Saturday, Dec. 14
 
3 p.m. ET (CBS) Army (3-8) vs. Navy (7-4) in Philadelphia
In his last outing, the Midshipmen's Keenan Reynolds set an NCAA record for quarterbacks with seven rushing touchdowns in a 58-52 triple-overtime win at San Jose State. The sophomore, who previously rushed for 226 yards against Hawaii, has Navy's flexbone offense clicking. The Black Knights came close last season, but Navy's 11-game winning streak doesn't seem likely to end this year.
 
*UPSET SPECIAL*
 
Friday, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2) No. 16 Northern Illinois (12-0) vs. Bowling Green(9-3)
It's probably not smart to pick against the Huskies given their 25 straight league victories. But the Falcons are sneaky good. Dave Clawson's team is actually rated slightly higher (48th) than NIU (52nd) in Football Outsiders' F/+ efficiency rankings. Huskies star Jordan Lynch will get his yards, but Bowling Green leads the nation in red-zone defense (57.7 percent). It will make a few key stops down the stretch.
 
Record Last Week: 12-6               Record This Season: 116-53
 

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