MAC; PAC-12 title games previewed

December 1, 2016

PAC-12 CONFERENCE: #4 Washington (11-1) vs #8 Colorado (10-2); Santa Clara; 9 PM ET; FOX … Hands up anybody who had Washington versus Colorado in their pre-season conference championship pool. Hey! hands up anybody who even had either the Huskies or Buffs as their pick. Didn’t think so! But here we are with Washington playing Colorado in one of the two of this weekend’s conference championship games that actually means something. And it means something – at least in college football’s grander scheme – because it appears that the 4th ranked Huskies will probably be one of the four teams to make this year’s national championship playoff with a win over Colorado. We say Washington probably makes the national playoff because the sad truth is that while college football is one of greatest games in the world between the white lines, outside the lines it’s a half-assed organization run by a half-assed committee which seems to make up the rules as it goes along! On the other, there just doesn’t seem to be a path for 8th ranked Coloado to the CFP playoff, but a win over Washington would send the Buffalos to the Rose Bowl which in itself would be a remarkable achievement for a program that was 14-48 the previous 5 years and had not had a winning record since 2005.

The Washington-Colorado game also has the distinction of featuring what may be the best one-on-one match-up of the weekend when the Huskies’ star big-play junior WR John Ross goes against Golden Buffalos’ All-America CB Chidobe Awuzie. Ross isn’t all that big but he has track speed along with outstanding quickness and agility making his breaks. In fact, nobody should be surprised at all if Ross is ultimately a top 10 pick if he enters the 2017 draft. In fact, the Huskies have as many as 4 other underclassmen who could get some first-round consideration this coming April including juniors CB Sidney Jones, FS Budda Baker and 5-tech DE Elijah Qualls, along with redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Vita Vea. Meanwhile, CB Kevin King also has second day potential. The Huskies’ key players against Colorado, though, may be true sophomores Jake Browning, who is alraedy a leading candidate to be the first player selected in 2018, along with RB Myles Gaskin.

Along with CB Awuzie, a solid second-day prospect for the 2017 draft, who could ultimately get some late first-round consideration, the other Buffalo scouts will be watching is DE/OLB Jimmie Gilbert, a rangy edge rusher with a quick first step who had 9.5 sacks this fall. Overall, though, Colorado doesn’t have the draft potential of Washington, but the Buffs do have a number of solid collegiate seniors who could get some late round or free agent consideration including QB Sefo Luifau, TE Sean Irwin, C Alex Kelley, DE Jordan Carrell, NT Josh Tupou, SS Tedric Thompson, CB Ahkello Witherspoon and MLB Kenneth Olugbode, along with junior RB Phil Lindsay (no relation). Prospects to watch:

WASHINGTON                                                             COLORADO

#3 QB Jake Browning, 6-2, 210, SO                                #13 QB Sefo Luifau, 6-3, 230
#9 RB Myles Gaskins, 5-10, 195, SO                               #23 RB Phillip Lindsay, 5-8, 185, JR
#1  WR John Ross, 5-11, 190, JR                                     #81  TE Sean Irwin, 6-3, 245
#11 DE Elijah Qualls, 6-1, 325, JR                                  #74   C   Alex Kelley, 6-2, 315
#50 DE Vita Vea, 6-4, 335, RSO                                     #98 DE Jimmie Gilbert, 6-5, 230
#20 CB Kevin King, 6-2, 195                                           #55 DT Josh Tupou, 6-3, 325
#26 CB Sidney Jones, 6-0, 185, JR                                #92 DE Jordan Carrell, 6-3, 295
#32 FS Budda Baker, 5-10, 195, JR                                #31 LB Kenneth Olugbode, 6-1, 225
#15 TE Darrell Daniels, 4-3, 240                                    #4   CB Chidobe Awuzie, 6-0, 205
#48 PK Cameron Van Winkle, 5-10, 190                      #9   SS Tedric Thompson, 6-0, 205

MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE: #17 Western Michigan (12-0) vs Ohio (8-4); Detroit; 7 PM ET; ESPN2 … More often than not nobody outside the MAC cares that the conference is holding a championship game. Heck, there are years when much of the country doesn’t know that the MAC even has a championship game! Not this year, though, as Western Michigan, which plays Ohio for the conference title on Friday evening in Detroit, has been one of the better stories in college football. Indeed, the Broncos are one of only two still unbeaten FBS teams along with top-ranked and defending national champion Alabama. Beat the Bobcats and WMU will have the inside track to the non-power 5 conference spot in this year’s Cotton Bowl. However, as noted above, the half-assed committee that runs the half-assed bowls still have the final say and there is considerable sentiment around the country that despite two losses Navy will have a better resume if the Middies hold serve in the AAC title game against Temple on Saturday and then in the Army-Navy game next week. More on that below.

The politics aside there are at least a couple of other reasons to watch this game as Western Michigan has a couple of players who’d be in the running for the ‘best player in the country no one has seen’ in star WR Corey Davis (#84, 6-3, 195) and veteran OT Taylor Moton (#72, 6-5, 330). Davis, in fact, became the NCAA’s all-time career leader in receiving yardage earlier this year and finished the season with 83 catches for almost 1,300 yards and 17 TDs. Davis may lack the pure sprinter speed to end up as a first-round pick this year, but he has all the other tools to become a quality go-to receiver at the next level including outstanding hands, an impressive catching radius and excellent body control and should start to get some consideration early in the second round this April. Meanwhile, LT Moton is a rising prospect who also currently rates a second-day grade. He’s a massive road-grader with surprisingly light feet who reportedly ran  the 40 in the 5-flat range coming out of high school. WMU is led by an underrated senior QB in Zach Terrell (#11, 6-2, 205) an ultra-efficient passer who completed 72% of his pass attempts this fall, while throwing for 30 scores against just 1 interception. The Broncos defense lacks the star power of the offense, but does have a pretty good edge rusher in DE Keion Adams (#1, 6-2, 245) who had 7.5 sacks this fall and could get looks from 3-4 team’s looking for an OLB that can get after the QB in the later rounds. Same story for Ohio DE Tarell Basham (#93, 6-4, 260), the Bobcats only legit prospect for the upcoming draft after he posted 11 sacks this fall.

And just as an aside to the Western Michigan-Navy Cotton Bowl controversy, the half-assed committee that run the half-assed organization that is college football reportedly has its collective undies all up in a collective knot because if WMU loses and Navy wins this weekend then the whole bowl schedule may have to be delayed as the Midshipmen still have to play that little thing the Army-Navy. And lord knows we couldn’t send the Navy to the Cotton if they were to lose to army. Indeed, there are rumblings that the Grinches on the half-assed committee that runs the half-assed organization that is college football will be cheering for Temple to defeat Navy on Saturday so they can get on with their schedule. Yeah those Navy kids will be off defending their country when they graduate so what a thrill for them to be able to play in the Cotton Bowl but hey there’s money to be made here. So here are a couple of suggestions. Put both Western Michigan AND Navy in the Cotton if they both win. And who cares what happens next week. OR if they both win, put one in the Cotton, but give the other a decent game, or at least something more prestigious than the GoDaddy or Belk Bowl. Sure there are contractual issues, but they’re YOUR contracts. Go for it. However, the rest of us won’t be holding our breaths! ed