The regular season might be over, but conference championships are around the corner. Whether you're rooting for a team or against one because they beat yours, you can't miss this weekend's matchups. In the SEC Championship Game, a win for Auburn would reserve them a spot in the National Championship, but South Carolina is no pushover; they did knock off a previously top-ranked team this season. The Nebraska-Oklahoma matchup consists of two evenly matched teams for the most part. Nebraska hasn't won the Big 12 Championship since 1999, but they will get one last chance at it this weekend, as they head to the Big Ten next year.
The Florida State-Virginia Tech matchup is an intriguing one. These are two teams that have had their ups and downs this season, but have turned it around late this year. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top. Oregon has one last game before the National Championship—the Civil War against in-state rival Oregon State. The Rutgers- West Virginia matchup was a shoo-in. The Big East has been a big joke all season, but there could be some dramatics this weekend, as Rutgers has absolutely nothing to play for but spoiling West Virginia's chances of a BCS berth.
Be sure to check back Monday to see the final regular season Xtra Point Football's NCAA Top 25 Rankings.
Auburn vs. South Carolina
The Xtra Point Football Game of the Week. Fans, coaches and players, you can now take a deep sigh of relief since quarterback Cameron Newton was declared eligible to play for at least the rest of this season. It's pretty much expected, but Auburn will need a great performance out of him this week. Earlier in the year, Newton led Auburn from behind to beat South Carolina. He rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns and passed for two more scores. But in that game, it was the defense that came up huge and forced four fourth quarter turnovers. In this week's matchup, Auburn is going to need a little different performance out of him. He struggled early in their previous matchup, and if that happens again, it wont be the same result. This time it's a little different, not only do they have the #1 target on their backs, but they are fighting for an SEC Championship. If they stall early, look for the improved South Carolina offense to take advantage of the opportunity. On defense, they are going to have their work cut out for them. They have a secondary that is very vulnerable, which could be a problem for Auburn if the offense doesn't start well. They will have to contain running back Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery; however, most likely they will cause problems for the defense. With all this said, Auburn has proved to be a very resilient team with a winner at quarterback, two things that most teams would like to have.
South Carolina will be motivated and ready to play in this game. Not only do they get to face and potentially beat another #1 ranked team, but they have an opportunity for revenge after losing a game that they should've won earlier this season. The four turnovers on offense in the fourth quarter is very alarming, but the offense has improved since then. They definitely can't have the same four-turnover performance in any quarter, let alone the 4th quarter. Therefore, quarterback Stephen Garcia will be the key to the offense. If he can lead the team like he did the first half in their last matchup (three touchdowns, no interceptions) and stretch that to the whole game, then South Carolina should be sitting pretty. Running back Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery are also important to South Carolina's success. For Lattimore, they didn't use him much in the last game, but look for him to be used more this week. For Jeffery, he had a huge game, catching eight passes for 192 yards and a touchdown. Look for him to have similar success if Auburn continues to have breakdowns in the secondary. There could be an upset here, you won't want to miss it.
Oklahoma vs. Nebraska
Oklahoma barely got into this Big 12 Championship. After their win over Oklahoma State, Oklahoma was in a three-way tie for the South with Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. But since the Sooners were the highest ranked of the three in the BCS, they get the opportunity to play for a conference championship, while the others wait to play for a minor bowl.
In this week's matchup we have two similar teams. For Oklahoma, on offense they need quarterback Landry Jones to have a big game. In last year's matchup, Jones had a performance that he would like to forget. He threw five interceptions and led an offense that went 1 for 14 on third downs. But this year he comes into this matchup with a lot of momentum. Over his last five games, Jones has thrown for 1,853 yards with 17 touchdowns, a nations best. Will Nebraska's defense get the better of him, or will he lead his team to victory? With the way he's been throwing, it looks as if the answer is the latter.
For Nebraska, the key to their success is the defense. They rank second in pass efficiency, and rank 8th in points against with an average of 16.8 points per game. Even though Landry Jones has looked unstoppable recently, the Nebraska defense should bring him back to earth. Nebraska has two shutdown cornerbacks that lead the defense, Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard. These two shutdown defensive backs have caused problems for quarterbacks and wide receiver all season, as they allow just 5.26 yards per throw. It will be interesting to see who gets the better of the two, look out for this matchup.
Oregon at Oregon State
Its real simple, a win would mean a spot to play in the National Championship. Even though Oregon State is not ranked, they still have talent. Therefore, Oregon should look no further than their opponents this week and need to focus on them and not the National Championship. They're using last week's Boise State's game as an example. Like Nevada, Oregon State could surprise everyone with an upset. But that idea could be thrown out if Oregon is focused on the task at hand. It's usually a battle between these two teams, with last year Oregon winning a close one, 37-33. The key for Oregon is to get the offense going early. If they can score at will early on, and they should, then it won't be close. However, on the flipside, if Oregon State is somehow able to keep it close at the beginning of the game, then they might have a chance.
Florida State vs. Virginia Tech
Both teams have had their share of struggles during the regular season, but they both turned their season around and now are fighting for a BCS berth. In the past, Florida State has been very successful against Virginia Tech. The Seminoles beat Virginia Tech for the National Championship in 2000 and they beat them again in the ACC Championship in 2005 when they were unranked. But in the overall picture, Virginia Tech has been more successful. While Virginia Tech has won ACC Championships in 2004, 2007, and in 2008, Florida State fell hard resulting in the firing of longtime coach Bobby Bowden.
In this week's matchup, the key for Florida State is the play of quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder is basically the Florida State offense, if he's not playing well then the offense is not playing well. He might struggle this week against always-solid Virginia Tech defense. Regardless of the facts, Jimbo Fisher is playing for his first conference championship as head coach; he will have his team motivated to play.
Virginia Tech has more than a quarterback; they also have a solid rushing attack. Last week against Virginia, they scored four touchdowns from three running backs, David Wilson, Darren Evans, and two touchdowns from Ryan Williams. A solid rushing attack will only complement the play of Tyrod Taylor. If they can establish a running game like they did last week, then it should open up the passing game, with Tyrod Taylor picking apart the defense. If they can do that, then it should be a win for Virginia Tech.
Rutgers at West Virginia
This game was featured as one of our Wagering for Charity picks. A win for West Virginia would not necessarily mean a BCS berth. They need to win this week's matchup and need a Connecticut loss to South Florida in order to make it to a BCS Bowl. A win this week for the Mountaineers should not be an issue, as Rutgers has had plenty of drama and bad play, resulting in a 4-7 record. The important players to watch out for in this week's matchup are quarterback Geno Smith and running back Noel Devine. Both should have huge games this week, even if Devine hasn't played as expected all season. They will be going up against a Rutgers defense that has played terrible over the last two games, allowing 1,088 yards and getting outscored 109-51. But for how scary those numbers are, don't count out Rutgers just yet; they are playing for nothing other than to spoil West Virginia's chances. So there is a chance.
Player to keep your eye on: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma. Landry Jones has looked unstoppable in his last five games. But they haven't faced a defense even close to the talented Nebraska defense. Will he be able to continue his success? Or will he play another terrible game against the Nebraska defense? - Jared Levine
Jared is a Journalism and Sports Administration major at the University of Miami providing introspective, insight, information and opinion on the world of College Football.
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