The Observer’s Roundtable Week 13
Conference Championship week is here! The following matchups have huge implications for the playoffs going forward and, with all top five teams playing this weekend, someone is bound to drop out of the playoff race. It is set to be an exciting weekend and we cannot be more excited here at The Observer’s Roundtable!
NCAA Games of the Week
No. 1 Georgia @ No. 3 Alabama
No. 2 Michigan @ No. 15 Iowa
No 9. Baylor @ No. 5 Oklahoma State
Sam Ouhaj — Sports Writer
I could not be more excited for this matchup. All year long, we knew that when it came down to championship weekend, it would be Georgia vs Alabama in the SEC. While we all thought Alabama would be the powerhouse this year, it actually turned out to be Georgia. Sure, their offense is not out of this world, but Georgia’s defense is among the best I have ever witnessed. Alabama has had a few close calls with lower opponents by letting them hang around. However, Georgia is not a team you can simply hang around with and if Alabama cannot figure things out offensively, they are going to get annihilated.
Georgia 28, Alabama 17
After what felt like centuries, Michigan had finally done it — they beat Ohio State. I was shocked by the Wolverines’ upset over the Buckeyes. Michigan running back Hassan Haskins had a field day against an Ohio State defense that has been subpar at best; his matchup against the Hawkeyes will not be easy. Iowa has a top-three defensive unit in college football, and if it were not for their lackluster offense, they would most likely be in the College Football Playoff. As much as I want to think Michigan should not face any issues, I have a feeling Iowa is going to be the heartbreaker and shock the world during championship weekend.
Michigan 24, Iowa 28
The Baylor Bears vs. The Oklahoma State Cowboys for the Big 12 championship is a matchup I never expected at the beginning of the season, but here we are. After OSU battled back against Oklahoma to win it in the last minutes, the Cowboys are now ranked fifth in the nation. However, something both of these teams have in common is a win over Oklahoma. The Baylor Bears played the Cowboys better than OSU played Oklahoma, which is why I believe this game is going to be close. If the Bears win, they won’t get into the playoffs, but they could create some chaos in terms of bowl seeding which I am all for. I have the Bears winning a close one.
Baylor 38, Oklahoma State 35
J.J. Post — Sports Writer
This is a really interesting litmus test for both teams. Georgia has been dominant all year; no team has even come close to beating them since week one. They truly are the undisputed No. 1 team in the rankings right now. But, on the other hand, they also haven’t played a real contender yet this season. Due to no fault of their own, Georgia’s schedule didn’t end up including a single top 20 team as marquee matchups. Their week one clash with Clemson ended up meaning far less than before, and their in-conference slate failed to produce the SEC’s three other top teams this year. Alabama is the opposite end of that conundrum — we know what they can do against top 20 teams… and it’s not all that much — they’re a relatively unconvincing 2-1 against the top 25. Despite loads of talent and the best coach in the sport, it just hasn’t clicked for Alabama this season. They’ll come out hungry for sure — they have plenty of doubters this year, and a win in primetime over the Dawgs would lock up both a playoff spot and plenty of national title momentum. But at the end of the day, I think Georgia is the more impressive team overall this season, and I think they edge out a tense one.
Georgia 24, Alabama 20
This may not be the most fun game to watch this weekend, and it also will not be the most interesting. Iowa shouldn’t be slept on — their defense is excellent, but their offense has plodded through the season as a serviceable, and often an unimpressive, unit. They’re more than capable of pulling an upset here in the right circumstances. But at the end of the day, it’s difficult to ignore Michigan’s massive momentum (riding high on the backs of the rivalry win over Ohio State they’ve been waiting years in Ann Arbor for) and star talent (Aidan Hutchinson should be a top five pick lock), which should be enough for them to power through the Hawkeyes and seal their spot in the playoff.
Michigan 30, Iowa 17
The Big 12 Championship is traditionally the most fun game of championship weekend. And that particular competition is usually not close. Three of the last four Big 12 titles have produced games with over 50 points of scoring, and the one exception was last year which went for 48. But this year might be an interesting change from the tradition of high flying shootouts. Oklahoma State’s defensive unit is one of the best in the nation, and Baylor’s has proven stout as well. Baylor is an interesting test for the Pokes — the Bears have played contender killer on more than one occasion this season, downing both top 15 BYU and Oklahoma. Notre Dame fans will be hoping hard they can make it three Saturday, but I think Gundy and Co. come prepared and pitch the complete game they need to close out their season… mainly because I don’t want to jinx my own Notre Dame hopes.
Oklahoma State 34, Baylor 27
Tom Zwiller — Sports Writer
I honestly thought Alabama would be the team to beat this year, with Georgia as the underdog. However, with the Bulldogs as nearly a touchdown favorite (-6.5), I think that Georgia can finally finish off the Tide. And it’s not just me. College Football References Simple Rating System has the Bulldogs as a 24.29 with Alabama as an 18.06 (where 0 is average). Auburn held the Tide to 10 points in regulation time (and Alabama needed ALL 60 minutes to get 10). The Tigers have a DSRS of 2.79; the Bulldogs are a 20.17. I like Georgia to win, but it might be a little close for comfort.
Georgia 21, Alabama 17
As I watched the Wolverines roll down the field on their opening drive to score a touchdown, I thought to myself, “this is a different Michigan.” And it was. The Wolverines are genuinely a good team, and I believe they will beat the Hawkeyes to capture the Big Ten Championship. Michigan has an SRS of 20.9, whereas the Iowa Hawkeyes are 12.07. Michigan possesses a top-six defense at 10.33, Iowa is close behind at 9.65. The difference, however, is offense. At 10.56, Michigan is one of the best in the nation; the Hawkeyes are 2.42. This one ought to be a low scoring defensive battle.
Wolverines 24, Hawkeyes 10
If you are a Notre Dame fan, you are 100% rooting for the Baylor Bears, as it would create a two-loss Big 12 Champion. Unfortunately, I do not see that being the case. Besides the fact that the Cowboys won the regular-season meeting 24-14, I think that the Cowboys have the more complete team. While the Baylor Bears have the better offense (an OSRS of 3.34 to Oklahoma States’ 2.63), the Cowboys boast the better overall SRS 13.08 to Baylor’s 10.63, which is to say that the Cowboys have a significantly better defense. I think that it was shown in the game between these two; it was low scoring, with the OSU defense allowing only 14 points. I also think Spencer Sanders has gotten better since they last played. His three interceptions were a season-high and made up a good portion of his eight on the season.
Baylor 17, Oklahoma State 24
Jamison Cook — Sports Writer
A week ago I would have thought that this SEC Championship game would be an instant classic. After Alabama’s performance against Auburn this past week, however, I am not so sure this game will be all that competitive. The Crimson Tide looked horrendous against Auburn: not scoring until the fourth quarter and only putting up 10 points in regulation. They struggled to stop Auburn’s backup quarterback, who couldn’t run on his injured ankle, and they honestly wouldn’t have won this game had Auburn’s running back not gone out of bounds with 1:47 remaining in regulation. Saban will probably get his team to perform better next week, but if Alabama can’t score on Auburn, they definitely won’t be able to score against Georgia. The Dawgs defense will make life hell for Bryce Young and the rest of the Bama offense and control the line of scrimmage all day long. Georgia will be the undefeated No. 1 seed in the CFP, and Bama will have to wait to see who else loses next week.
Georgia 27, Alabama 16
It would be classic for Jim Harbaugh to finally win a big game and beat Ohio State, only to fall to lowly Iowa in the Big Ten Championship a week later. However, I don’t think Iowa is quite good enough to pull off this upset. Michigan RB Hassan Haskins put the Wolverines on his back last week against Ohio State, and the Buckeyes simply could not stop him. I would expect Michigan to rely on Haskins once again this coming weekend, and I don’t think Iowa will be able to do much about it. The Wolverine defense, led by Aidan Hutchinson, should limit the Hawkeyes offense as well. As much as it pains me to say, it looks like Michigan will be making their first appearance in the College Football Playoff. The Michigan -10.5-point line seemed like a lot at first, but they did beat Ohio State by 15, and I think the Wolverines will cover comfortably in this one.
Michigan 31, Iowa 13
Oklahoma State showed some true grit in their comeback win over Oklahoma this past week and the Cowboys have already beaten the Bears once this season, but this should be a close game. If OSU can win, they will likely jump Notre Dame and land in the College Football Playoff — provided that Georgia beats Alabama — making this a massive game for the program. QB Spencer Sanders has been getting it done through the air and on the ground for the Cowboys, and RB Jaylen Warren has notched a 1,000-yard season. Baylor has a similar duo in QB Gerry Bohanon and RB Abram Smith, but Bohanon has turned the ball over less. This should be a high-scoring game, and I think it will come down to the final possession. I haven’t watched a ton of these teams play this season, but I do know that the Big 12 usually does its best to keep itself out of the CFP every year. For that reason, I’m taking the Bears.
Baylor 30, Oklahoma State 28
Matt Smith — Sports Writer
About a month ago, the SEC Championship between Georgia and Alabama seemed like it would be better than any of the actual CFP games. However, the Crimson Tide have not looked too sharp in recent weeks. With narrow wins over LSU, Arkansas and Auburn, Alabama has not been the dominant force that it was early on. Meanwhile, Georgia has not missed a beat. The Bulldogs have stomped every opponent they’ve faced, and they’ve only given up an absurd 6.9 points per game. With QB Stetson Bennett also looking more comfortable in charge of the Georgia offense, the Bulldogs should capture their first SEC title since 2017.
Georgia 31, Alabama 14
What a scene in Ann Arbor last weekend. Harbaugh and the Wolverines finally got over the hump and beat Ohio State for the first time since 2011, clinching a spot in the Big Ten Championship in the process. But that doesn’t mean they can just cruise into the CFP. Iowa has a strong squad with one of the top defenses in the country, and they’ve rattled off four straight wins to make it to Indianapolis. However, the Hawkeyes’ putrid offense will hold them back, as they only have the 87th-best scoring offense in the country. If Michigan could hold off Ohio State’s top-ranked attack, the Hawkeyes don’t stand a chance against Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. I’ll take the Wolverines to win their first Big Ten title game and clinch their first CFP appearance.
Michigan 27, Iowa 17
Oklahoma State pulled out a thriller in Bedlam, holding the high-flying Sooners offense to zero points in the second half. The Cowboys’ defense has been carrying the team all year, giving up only 16.4 points per game. The offense has steadily improved as well, but QB Spencer Sanders’ turnover problems in big games could cost the Cowboys against Baylor. In the early October matchup between these two, which Oklahoma State won 24-14, Sanders threw three interceptions. He tossed two against Oklahoma last weekend as well. For this rematch, I think the Bears and RB Abram Smith will punish Sanders for his mistakes. Give me Baylor in an upset that will shake up the CFP race.
Baylor 24, Oklahoma State 21
John Stolmeier — Sports Writer
The Georgia Bulldogs haven’t had a one-possession game since their season opener against Clemson. Alabama has had three in the past four weeks. There’s always something to say about strength of schedule, but Georgia has been truly dominant this year and doesn’t look to be slowing down. The Tide is in for a challenge this weekend, and if Bryce Young and the Alabama offense can’t get a foothold, they’ll be getting blown out. For the first time since 2007, I think Georgia will take the win over the Tide and bounce them out of playoff contention.
Georgia 24, Alabama 13
Last week, Jim Harbaugh broke the drought and took down Ohio State. They’ve looked solid all season with an explosive backfield and, debatably, the best edge rushers in college football. The Wolverines passed my eye test, and Iowa hasn’t in the back half of the season. At the beginning of the year, Iowa looked like an elite defensive team, and to some extent, they still are. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, they don’t have the offense to bury a team like Michigan, who will find a way to score. I don’t see this game being close.
Michigan 31, Iowa 14
Baylor and Oklahoma State played earlier this season and the Bears lost by 10 (24-14). Both teams have solid defensive units and the capacity to run the ball, and it’s really up in the air as to who does it better. This top 10 matchup is massive in regards to the playoff picture as Oklahoma State is ranked as the fifth best team in the country. The only thing I’m reasonably certain about is that the Big 12 isn’t a no-defense conference this year and this game is shaping up to be a nail-biter. The Bears came out to play against Oklahoma, and if they can do the same thing this weekend, I think they’ll come away with a win against the Cowboys.
Baylor 20, Oklahoma State 17