I can’t believe that I’m writing this, but here is the last Fearless Friday Forecast for the 2010 regular season:
1. Auburn vs. South Carolina (SEC championship): I didn’t think the SEC championship game could ever get better than the last two between Florida and Alabama. In both cases the winner knew it would be in the BCS championship game. But this game is just as big because of some additional storylines:
**–The controversy surrounding Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, which has subsided just a little with a controversial ruling by the NCAA that he is eligible.
**–Auburn having a shot to play for its first national championship since 1957 and perhaps getting payback for 2004, when the Tigers went 13-0 and didn’t a chance to play for the crystal football.
**–Auburn having a chance to give the SEC its fifth straight national championship.
To those good story lines you add the return of Steve Spurrier–The Head Ball Coach–to the game for the first time in 10 years. He won it six times as a Florida Gator and now has the Gamecocks in Atlanta for the first time ever.
If Spurrier wins he would have seven SEC championships and would be second on the all-time list only to Alabama’s Bear Bryant.
This is great stuff. The game? If South Carolina can run the ball a little bit, then this will be a nail-biter until the very end. And there is something special about this Auburn team, which has rallied from double-digit deficits four times this season to win. The Tigers won’t fall behind by double digits but it will fall behind and then rally in the fourth quarter. The final, in an instant classic: Auburn 35, South Carolina 31.
2. Virginia Tech vs. Florida State (ACC championship, Charlotte): If Virginia Tech (10-2) had not stumbled out of the gate at 0-2 with close losses to Boise State (33-30) and James Madison (21-16) the Hokies would be in the national championship discussion right now. But now Virginia Tech has won 10 straight games and will be trying to win its fourth ACC championship in seven years of membership. Florida State (9-3) made huge strides under first-year coach Jimbo Fisher, who replaced the legend, Bobby Bowden. I like the Hokies in a close game. Virginia Tech 28, Florida State 24.
3. Oklahoma vs. Nebraska (Big 12 championship, Arlington, Tex.): It’s kind of fitting that Nebraska’s last game as a member of the Big 12 should be against Oklahoma. For so long these old rivals played “The” game in the old Big Eight. And when the Big 12 conference was formed the yearly battle went away. The game features two old friends as coaches–Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and Nebraska’s Bo Pelini. They both grew up in Youngstown, Ohio and played at Cardinal Mooney High School. I’m going with Oklahoma because the Sooners have the hot quarterback. Landry Jones has thrown for 1,853 yards and 17 touchdowns in his last five games. Oklahoma 27, Nebraska 21.
4. Oregon at Oregon State (The Civil War): It’s very simple for No. 2 Oregon. Go to Corvallis and win and the Ducks have a date with somebody for the BCS national championship on Jan. 10. The Ducks missed a big bullet on Nov. 13 when they won at California 15-13. The rest of their opponents could not keep up with a fast-break offense that leads the nation in scoring (50.45 points per game). This game will be close for a half because of the emotion involved. But the Ducks wear you down with a relentless pace. Oregon 42, Oregon State 21.
5. Connecticut at South Florida: Randy Edsall, a former assistant coach at Georgia Tech, did one of the best coaching jobs ever in 2009 when he held his team together after the death of popular player Jasper Howard. That Connecticut team won its last four games, including a victory over South Carolina in a bowl game. This season the Huskies started 3-4 overall and 0-2 in the Big East. If they can win at South Florida (7-4) on Saturday, Connecticut will go to the first BCS Bowl (Fiesta) in school history. USF is coached by Skip Holtz, who was the head coach at UConn from 1994-98. The Bulls are coming off a 23-20 upset of Miami last week. Connecticut 21, USF 20.