Weekend watch list

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The two games on my must watch list this weekend have the potential to really shake up the rankings. As we enter the second half of the season and get closer to playoff season, game outcomes are event more important.

The first Saturday match up is in SEC country with No. 1 Alabama traveling to No. 9 Tennessee.

Tennessee has put up quite the impressive performance this year. It has just one loss and that was in Week 6 against Texas A&M in double overtime. But perhaps the most notable Vol stat is that in five of six games this season, they have turned up the heat in the second half to come from behind and either win or force overtime.

Alabama has been the undoubted favorite since the beginning of the season. Nick Saban’s Roll Tide won’t go down easy, but this is their second straight road trip. Last week they were at No. 16 Arkansas, which actually put up a challenge. Bama only won 49-30.

I believe Roll Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts will decide the game. Hurts has 256 yards of total offense this season and he could be a real struggle for a Vol defensive line down two starters.

The Vols have more on the line with this game than the Tide. If Tennessee loses, the University of Florida is right back in the mix for the SEC East. If that is the case, Tennessee would need Florida to lose one more time. With both teams having two losses, the Vols would own the tiebreaker.

It wouldn’t be a huge deal to Bama if they lost to the Vols. Suffering just one loss the Tide would most likely still be in playoff contention but the pressure would be on to win out the season. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m.

A few hours later is the biggest match up in the Big Ten: No. 8 Wisconsin versus No. 2 Ohio State. A Badger win could heavily change the playoff picture, but this game is more about the Buckeyes and other Big 10 opponent, University of Michigan, than it is the Badgers.

The Buckeyes need the win in order to cement themselves over the Wolverines until they face off on Nov. 26. Plus a Buckeye win over the Badgers on the road would be much more impressive than the Wolverines’ win over the Badgers at home, 14-7.

The loss to the Wolverines is the only loss for Wisconsin this season. A win over the Buckeyes and winning out the remainder of the season is needed to keep the Badgers’ playoff hopes alive. If Wisconsin wins on Saturday, it will be the third win over a top-10 team this season.

This game will come down to defense (Wisconsin) versus speed (Ohio State). Wisconsin has one of the best defenses in the country, but Ohio State has more playmakers, including one named J.T. Barrett. The Badgers have proved themselves a lot more than the Buckeyes this season as well, with games against LSU, Michigan State and Michigan. Ohio State’s toughest opponent was Oklahoma, who maybe wasn’t as big of a deal as we thought.

MLB

In case you haven’t heard, it’s postseason in Major League Baseball. Friday night starts the race for the American League pennant and Saturday for the National League pennant.

In the American League Championship Series, we have the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians. Both teams are unbeaten in the postseason. Toronto started by having to beat Baltimore in the AL wild card game, and the Indians had to beat the Red Sox at Fenway. This should be a series for the books with both teams red hot, not to mention on July 1 they competed through 19 innings to determine a winner. Cleveland has home field advantage to start, and first pitch is at 6 p.m.

In the National League Championship Series we have the headline winners of the month: the Chicago Cubs. If anyone has heard anything about the MLB postseason, it has most likely been about the Cubs. Chicago had to take down San Francisco in order to enter the pennant race, and not many thought it was possible — it is an even year mind you — but they got the job done. Joining Chicago is the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers and Washington Nationals faced off Thursday night in the NLDS Game 5 with Los Angeles taking it, 4-3.

Bowl Seaon: Week 2

With Week 1 of bowl games wrapped up, we venture into Week 2. This next week brings some bigger name bowl games along with some bigger name teams into the lineup. Greatest of all, we end this rundown with the college football playoffs semifinal games.

I am currently 5-5 on predictions, not counting Christmas Eve games.

DEC. 26

• ST. PETERSBURG BOWL: CONNECTICUT (6-6) VS. MARSHALL (9-3)

The Huskies’ Jamar Summers is third in the nation with seven interceptions, helping his team rank in at No. 17 for FBS scoring defense. UConn allows 10.8 points per game, but while its defense is tight, the offense is where the team will struggle.

Offensively the Huskies are averaging just 13 points per game. If you thought UConn’s defense was strong, Marshall’s is even better, ranking it at No. 14.

Prediction: Marshall

• SUN BOWL: MIAMI (8-4) VS. WASHINGTON STATE (8-4)

Washington State hasn’t won a bowl game since 2003 but is hoping quarterback Luke Falk can help change that. The Cougars went 6-7 with Falk as their starting quarterback with their only loss coming to Stanford. Falk has thrown for 4,266 yards and 36 touchdowns this season.

Falk went down with an injury half way through the season but is expected to be ready to go against the Canes. Miami hasn’t won a bowl game since 2006 and has made five postseason appearances since. Former Georgia head coach Mark Richt will take over in the 2016 season.

Prediction: Washington State

• HEART OF DALLAS BOWL: WASHINGTON (6-6) VS. SOUTHERN MISS (9-4)

Washington has the best defense in the Pac-12 and should be able to slow down Southern Mississippi’s offense led by Nick Mullens. He connected with the end zone for 36 touchdowns this season.

The Huskies’ rookie quarterback should be able to continue his successful campaign against a weaker defense. Jake Browning completed 62.9 percent of passes for 2,671 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Prediction: Washington

• PINSTRIPE BOWL: INDIANA (6-6) VS. DUKE (7-5)

Both teams struggled down the final stretch, but overall Indiana had a tougher schedule. Two of the Hoosiers losses came from two of the nation’s best teams: Michigan State and Ohio State. Indiana lost by only one score in both matchups.

All-Big Ten Indiana running back Jordan Howard also looks to return after missing the regular season finale. Howard ran for 1,213 yards and scored nine touchdowns.

Prediction: Indiana

• INDEPENDENCE BOWL: TULSA (6-6) VS. VIRGINIA TECH (6-6)

There is no better way for the Hokies to send head coach Frank Beamer into retirement than with a bowl win over Tulsa. Tulsa has a stronger looking quarterback than Virginia Tech with Dane Evans calling the plays, but the VT’s special team units will make all the difference. All of Tulsa’s losses have been by more than 13 points this season.

Prediction: Virginia Tech

• FOSTER FARMS BOWL: UCLA (8-4) VS. NEBRASKA (5-7)

Nebraska is another one of those teams that is not deserving of a bowl opportunity, but the 5-7 Cornhuskers are being underestimated because of it. Nebraska almost pulled off wins against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa. It beat Michigan State.

UCLA came out strong with wins over BYU and Arizona, but in September the Bruins couldn’t seem to pull it off. A surprising loss to USC kept UCLA out of the Pac-12 championship game against Stanford.

Prediction: Nebraska

DEC. 28

• MILITARY BOWL: PITT (8-4) VS. NAVY (10-2)

Pitt has one of the best run defenses in the country but it is going to have some trouble stopping Navy’s triple option offense. The Midshipmen averaged 319.2 yards per game with quarterback Keenan Reynolds at the helm. Reynolds broke the NCAA Division I career record this season with 85 rushing touchdowns. He also has 1,229 yards and 21 touchdowns in the season.

Some other things Navy has going for them: home-field advantage and a shorter break due to the Army vs. Navy game.

Prediction: Navy

• QUICK LANE BOWL: CENTRAL MICHIGAN (7-5) VS. MINNESOTA (5-7)

Central Michigan has won five of its last six games to finish the season 8-5 after a 2-4 start. Minnesota is on a seven-game losing streak. The matchup pits the Chippewas’ No. 21 defense against the Gophers’ No. 105 offense.

Minnesota is the third and final team to play in a bowl game with a losing record this season.

Prediction: Central Michigan

Dec. 29

• ARMED FORCES BOWL: AIR FORCE (8-5) VS. CALIFORNIA (7-5)

California looks to potential top QB draft pick Jared Goff to lead it to a win. Goff has 4,252 yards and 37 touchdowns in the season. Air Force is coming off two tough losses to New Mexico and San Diego State.

Prediction: California

• RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL: NORTH CAROLINA (11-2) VS. BAYLOR (9-3)

These two teams are expected to deliver a high-scoring game to viewers. Both teams have top-rated spread offenses. Baylor has the No. 1 offense in the country but injuries at multiple positions looks to be deathly. The Bears averaged 48 points and 605 yards a game, but in their last two games scored a grand total of 31 points.

The Bears announced that they will be playing without three key offensive components: wide receiver and Biletnikoff Award winner Corey Coleman, running back Shock Linwood and QB Jarett Stidham.

Prediction: North Carolina

• ARIZONA BOWL: NEVADA (6-6) VS. COLORADO STATE (7-5)

The Arizona Bowl brings up a Mountain West Conference matchup. Due to different divisions, this will be the first meeting this season for the two teams. It’s almost like a second conference championship. Colorado State enters the game with a higher-ranked defense and offense.

Prediction: Colorado State

• TEXAS BOWL: LSU (8-3) VS. TEXAS TECH (7-5)

Texas Tech will have some difficulties trying to slow down LSU’s Leonard Fournette. He averaged 271.8 rushing yards per game and needs just 259 more yards to reach a season total of 2,000.

The Red Raiders allowed 271.8 rushing yards per game. In their worst loss of the season, 63-27 defeat at the hands of Oklahoma, they allowed 405.

Prediction: LSU

DEC. 30

• BIRMINGHAM BOWL: AUBURN (6-6) VS. MEMPHIS (9-3)

It’s the attack of the Tigers as this game features one of the seasons’ biggest disappointments, Auburn, and one of the seasons’ biggest surprises, Memphis. With Will Muschamp leaving Auburn for South Carolina, the Tigers will attempt the win without a defensive coordinator. Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch is another QB looking to go high in the draft, and with 3,670 yards, 28 touchdowns and three interceptions, that may just happen.

This is Memphis interim coach Darrell Dickey’s big opportunity to prove himself.

Prediction: Memphis

• BELK BOWL: NC STATE (7-5) VS. MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4)

It will be a battle of quarterbacks between Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and NC State’s Jacoby Brissett. Prescott had 3,413 yards, 25 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. Brissett had 2,448 yards, 19 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Prescott is the bigger asset. He was also the Bulldogs’ leading rusher with 541 yards and 10 end-zone appearances.

Prediction: Mississippi State

• MUSIC CITY BOWL: TEXAS A&M (8-4) VS. LOUISVILLE (7-5)

The Aggies are dealing with some issues as quarterback sophomore Kyle Allen has already left and now rumors are flying that freshman Kyler Murray is considering transferring.

Aggies receiver Christian Kirk is one of the country’s top freshmen, leading the team with 70 catches for 925 yards and six touchdowns, but without a QB, Kirk won’t be seeing success.

Prediction: Louisville

• HOLIDAY BOWL: USC (8-5) VS. WISCONSIN (9-3)

USC has had a strong second half of the season with losses only to top-15 opponents. The Trojans also won impressively against city rivals UCLA and Utah. Wisconsin has no wins against top-ranked opponents, making me think it won’t be able to outscore Cody Kessler and the rest of the Trojan offense.

Prediction: USC

DEC. 31

• CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL: HOUSTON (12-1) VS. FLORIDA STATE (10-2)

Florida State’s Dalvin Cook ran for 1,658 yards and 18 touchdowns. He had more than 100 yards in eight games, four of which closed out the regular season. Houston is 12-1 under first season coach Tom Herman. If the Cougars win, it will be their first 13-game winning season since 2011. Can wins against Navy and Temple sway you enough to bet against the 2013 national champions and last year’s playoff finalist? Herman did work under Urban Meyer; I’m going with the upset.

Prediction: Houston

• CAPITAL ONE ORANGE BOWL: OKLAHOMA (11-1) VS. CLEMSON (13-0)

With a win in the college football playoff semifinals, the Tigers will be a stunning 14-0. Clemson is lead by sophomore quarterback and Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson. He had a completion percentage of 69.5 and passed for 3,512 yards with 30 touchdown and 11 interceptions. He also ran for 887 yards for 11 scores.

But Oklahoma is coming in with a strong offensive attack as well. Since their loss to Texas, the Sooners have won out and beat all but one opponent, TCU, by more than 10 points. October proved that the Big 12 Conference was tougher than the ACC.

Prediction: Oklahoma

GOODYEAR COTTON BOWL: MICHIGAN STATE (12-1) VS. ALABAMA (12-1)

The key to shutting down Alabama in the college football playoff semifinals will be shutting down Heisman winner and Alabama running back Derrick Henry. He set an SEC record this season with 1,986 rushing yards. Michigan State enters the game with the seventh ranked run defense in the nation, allowing only 113.1 yards per game.

Michigan State will have to try and force the Tide to put the ball in quarterback Jake Coker’s hands. Coker has only had one game where he’s thrown for more than 250 yards. If the Spartans can shut down Bama’s offense, there will be no stopping them. Michigan State’s Connor Cook is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. Cook has thrown for 2,921 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, and is 34-4 as a starter.

Prediction: Michigan State