What's the Word - Week 14 Football

Stanford College Football Stepfan Taylor

What's the Word - Week 14 Football

In the spirit of Pardon the Interruption, let’s play “What’s the Word”? in relation to championship weekend in college football.


UCLA vs Stanford

What’s the Word?:  Depth

This is a little bit new for the Pac-12.  The Pac-12 has not had a team not named Oregon or USC win the conference since 2008, back when the conference was still the Pac-10.  Even when California and Arizona State won the conference in 2006 and 2007, respectively, they still shared the regular season title with the Trojans.  2012 will be a little different out west.

UCLA was in the title game last year, but only because USC was ineligible for the postseason.  This year, UCLA is back based on their own merit.  They came out of the gates swinging and had a great season in Jim Mora, Jr.’s first year.  After an early season victory over Nebraska, the conference was put on notice that the Bruins came to play.  Their quarterback Brett Hundley has played above his head as a freshman.  Leadership from senior tailback Jonathan Franklin was on display week in and week out.  He was one of the best backs in the Pac-12 with 1,506 yards. 

Funny enough, one of UCLA’s stumbling blocks this season was just last weekend against the same Stanford team they see on Saturday.  It’s the same Stanford team that snatched the Pac-12 North away from the Ducks.  Stanford boasts the best defense in the conference, and one of the best in the country.  They lead the nation in sacks and tackles for loss.  Stanford got a shot in the arm this season when David Shaw chose to bench Josh Nunes for Kevin Hogan in for the Colorado game.  The Cardinal never looked back.  They have won four straight games, including the division clincher in Eugene.  It was the only defense to stop Oregon all season.  They handled UCLA pretty easily last Saturday to reach 10 wins.

This is going to be a good game for a few different reasons.  First, UCLA has a better offense.  Stanford has a better defense.  Defense won last time.  Has UCLA made any adjustments since last weekend to try and exploit Stanford?  Considering history, this is a big deal for the conference as a whole.  It’s been since 1999 that neither Oregon nor USC has had at least a share of the title.  Sure, other teams have been to BCS bowls in the meantime.  But now a new king emerges.  It proves the Pac-12 is one of the strongest and deepest leagues in the country.


Alabama vs Georgia

What’s the Word?:  Opportunity

Alabama has proven this season that they can be beaten by a team other than LSU.  Georgia is catching Alabama in a year where they can beat the Crimson Tide and it would not be as much of a surprise as in years past. 

America has grown accustomed to seeing Alabama or LSU in the SEC championship game.  Recently, in the national championship game as well.  In the SEC East, it’s usually a three horse race between Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.  The East is more compelling since there appears to be a revolving door at the top.  In 2012, the door to the national championship is open for Georgia.  No one is disputing that Alabama is one of the best teams in the country.  Once again they lead the nation in total defense with an ability to force turnovers and keep teams out of the end zone.  Quarterback AJ McCarron has had one heck of a season after being just another quarterback in the SEC last season.  He did not throw his first interception until the Texas A&M game, which ended up being the Tide’s only loss of the season.  They have a superstar running back in Eddie Lacy, who just picked up right where Trent Richardson left off.  They have the make-up to win the national title for the second year in a row…

…But A&M proved that the giant could be slain.  An offense that can find holes in the Tide defense has a shot.  Johnny Manziel had a heck of a day against them.  He had over 100 yards rushing and threw two touchdowns.  A&M was up three touchdowns during that game, and Alabama could not recover.  They are not a team built to come from behind or to win a shootout.  As strong as their offense is, McCarron ends up pressing and has some trouble with efficiency when he’s under the pressure to put the team on his back.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has been in the championship game before.  He has not won.  This could be his year.  The Bulldogs have excellent running backs.  Tim Gurley and Keith Marshall have nearly 2,000 yards between them and 22 touchdowns combined.  More impressive, they are both freshmen.  He also has a great receiver in Tavarres King who has picked up the slack since Malcolm Mitchell went down several weeks ago.  Georgia’s stats are not gaudy, but they have a defense that needs to be respected as well.  Other than a lopsided loss to South Carolina, the Bulldogs have been dismantling teams.  Their closest win was a five-pointer against Kentucky on the road.  This team is rolling.  If ever there were a time for the SEC to have a new representative in the BCS title game, this is it.


Texas vs Kansas State

What’s the Word?:  Supremacy

For the better part of the season, there was no one playing better or more exciting football than Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.  Known as Optimus Klein, the 6’5” senior took the country by storm by his athletic playmaking ability and leading the Wildcats to victory.  He would have had them in the BCS championship game had they not fallen short against Baylor last week. 

Bill Snyder has returned to Manhattan and totally revitalized a program that for years had been mediocre at best.  He has gotten great talent to come play for him.  The players buy into his system.  The fan base believes in Snyder and this team.  They led the Big 12 in almost every special teams category, which set Klein up for short, successful drives.  The defense led the conference in sacks at 2.5 per game.  They racked up over 200 yards rushing per game by using Klein as the dual-threat that he is.  More than anything, Kansas State was tops in the country in turnover margin.  In such a key component to any game, that statistic tells you why they have found their way to 10 wins.  This is a gifted team that is seeking their first conference title since 2003 and only their second overall.

They face a Texas team that is improved from last year.  They are not world beaters, but they are capable of knocking Kansas State out of their first place slot in the Big 12.  They apply a lot of pressure to the quarterback.  The question for Texas all season has been quarterback play.  They have been going with David Ash for much of the season, but Case McCoy got playing time last weekend after Ash injured his ribs.  Both have played quite a bit, but neither has really stood out as the superior signal-caller.  McCoy has an opportunity to shine on a big stage.  As long as he limits his mistakes and the defense can contain the Kansas State backfield, then the Longhorns have a legitimate chance to dash the Wildcats’ BCS hopes.

This is the first time in a decade that Kansas State has an opportunity to overtake Texas and Oklahoma as conference powerhouses.  Oklahoma State broke the streak for the two big boys last year.  The Wildcats hope to keep it going.  They can claim they beat both Texas and Oklahoma in the same season, which teams rarely do.  Kansas State would be able to claim undisputed Big 12 supremacy even if only for 2012.

Kent State vs Northern Illinois

What’s the Word?:  BCS

Okay, more of an acronym than a word.  But this is a big game in the MAC.  Both schools are undefeated in the conference.  Both only have one loss.  These are running football teams.  Kent State has two 1,000 yard rushers.  Northern Illinois’s Jordan Lynch has over 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns, and he is just the quarterback.

The winner of this game is the most likely candidate for the final BCS bid.  It is a game that is not on many people’s radars, but these teams are good.  Kent State beat Rutgers, the possible Big East champion.  Northern Illinois’ only loss was to Iowa in Week 1.  They are both rolling as they head for this collision course.  This may be the most underrated game of the weekend.