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College Football Pickoff: Week 14

College Football Pickoff: Week 14
 
Friday, Dec. 3
 
7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)MAC Championship: No. 24 Northern Illinois (10-2) vs. Miami (Ohio) (8-4)
RedHawks coach Mike Haywood, 1-11 in his debut season last year, has orchestrated the biggest turnaround in the country this season thanks to the nation's 27th-ranked defense. But a team needs to score points to keep pace with the Huskies, winners of nine straight. Northern Illinois has scored 65, 59 and 71 points in its last three outings. Star running back Chad Spann will have huge day.
 
10:15 p.m. ET (ESPN2)Illinois (6-5) at Fresno State (7-4)
Friday nights in the WAC have been a nightmare for visitors: Home teams are 4-1 dating to Nevada's 52-31 win over Cal on Sept. 17. Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure, a first-team All-Big Ten honoree, should have another big night, but Fresno quarterback Ryan Colburn, an underrated veteran playing his last home game, should outduel Illinois redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase.
 
Saturday, Dec. 4
 
4 p.m. ET (CBS)SEC Championship: No. 2 Auburn (12-0) vs. No. 18 South Carolina (9-3)
It's hard to gauge much from the Tigers' 35-27 win over the Gamecocks on Sept. 25. Cam Newton was sensational, but Stephen Garcia and Marcus Lattimore played sparingly in the second half for South Carolina. Bottom line: Auburn is the better team and has met every challenge so far. The NCAA cloud no longer hovers over Newton. He'll lead his team to a title.
 
8 p.m. ET (ABC)Big 12 Championship: No. 10 OU (10-2) vs. No. 13 Nebraska (10-2)
For the second time this season, I'm doubting my original projection. I was initially drawn to the fact that the Huskers' secondary will be Landry Jones' worst nightmare -- and it will be. But Nebraska's offense has been increasingly dysfunctional. Quarterback Taylor Martinez's status -- and attitude -- is under question. Bob Stoops gets ring No. 7.
 
7:45 p.m. ET (ESPN)ACC Championship: No. 12 Virginia Tech (10-2) vs. No. 20 FSU (9-3)
A healthy Christian Ponder makes all the difference for Florida State, which snapped out of an offensive funk in last week's 31-7 rout of Florida. He'll cause some problems for Virginia Tech's defense. But Hokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor has played at a high level all season, and his team hasn't allowed more than 21 points since Oct. 2. Frank Beamer gets ACC ring No. 4.
 
3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)No. 1 Oregon (11-0) at Oregon State (5-6)
Stranger thinks have happened -- like West Virginia's home loss to 4-7 Pittsburgh the last night of the 2007 regular season -- but an upset here would require the Beavers playing their best game of the season, the Ducks their worst. Oregon State's defense isn't on the same level as Cal's, and its offense will have a hard time keeping pace if Oregon gets rolling.
 
8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)Connecticut (7-4) at South Florida (7-4)
This is the de facto Big East title game for Connecticut. Both teams come in with momentum -- the Huskies have won four straight (including three over bowl-bound teams), while the Bulls are coming off a huge win at Miami. Quarterback B.J. Daniels is questionable for USF, so I should probably pick UConn. But somehow the BCS gods won't allow a four-loss champ.
 
Noon (ESPN2)Conference USA Championship: SMU (7-5) at UCF (9-3)
The conference's most efficient passer, UCF freshman Jeffrey Godfrey, goes up against the league leader in pass attempts and completions, SMU's Kyle Padron. The Mustangs will be playing for their first conference title since 1984, and June Jones will have them ready. But George O'Leary's team leads the league in total defense and pass efficiency defense.
 
10:30 p.m. ET (FSN)USC (7-5) at UCLA (4-7)
After struggling mightily during his first five starts, Bruins quarterback Richard Brehaut inexplicably exploded for 321 yards on 33-of-56 passing against Arizona State last week. Unfortunately for him, UCLA still lost, 55-34. The Trojans, meanwhile, are expecting to get Matt Barkley back after he missed a week with a high ankle sprain. He still inspires more confidence.
 
7 p.m. ET (Versus)Washington (5-6) at Washington State (2-9)
UPSET SPECIAL: Jake Locker came back for a chance to lead the Huskies to their first bowl berth since 2002. Though banged up and hardly having the season he envisioned (71st in pass efficiency), he did rally with a nice performance against Cal to keep UW's bowl hopes alive. But the Cougs have had three weeks of rest since their 31-14 win over Oregon State. They'll play spoilers.
 
Record Last Week: 6-8               Record This Season: 91-43
 
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