6:17 PM EST, November 28, 2012
Stanford will take on UCLA on Friday for the Pac-12 championship and a spot in the Rose Bowl. Stanford beat the Bruins 35-17 in the regular-season finale. Stanford has the top defense in the league and will once again shut down UCLA's high-powered offensive attack to wrap up a spot in the BCS.
Nebraska is only in its second season in the Big Ten, but the Huskers have made their way to the conference championship game. Meanwhile, Wisconsin finds itself back in the Big Ten championship game despite finishing third in the Leaders Division because Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible to play for the title. Riding a six-game winning streak, Nebraska will make it seven in a row with a victory over the Badgers.
Stanford plays a de facto home-and-home with UCLA, having beaten the Bruins on the road by 18 on Saturday. Beating a team twice in the span of six days probably sounds more difficult than it is. Stanford's defense is sharp, and the Pac-12 title game is in Palo Alto: Cardinal 31-20.
The vibe will be very different for the Big Ten championship game. Nebraska has won six straight, four via comebacks, since giving up 63 points to Ohio State. Wisconsin has lost three of its last four, all in overtime. But because of NCAA sanctions to Ohio State and Penn State, the Badgers are playing for their third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl. Running back Montee Ball has a big day as Wisconsin wins 24-21.
One rule of picking football games is in rematches, take the team that lost the first time. Nebraska rallied for a 30-27 victory over Wisconsin on Sept. 29 in Lincoln. And the Badgers' running game is much improved since then. But Nebraska has the determined Rex Burkhead and a confident trigger-man in Taylor Martinez. So I like the Huskers.
I'm picking UCLA in the Pac-12 game because I violated the rematch rule in the Big Ten and it must be true at least once, right? Stanford has the momentum. But there's the thought that UCLA held back when these teams met Saturday to avoid a title game showdown at Oregon. That seems far-fetched, but what is the world without a good conspiracy theory?
Los Angeles Times
Stanford dominated Saturday's game at the Rose Bowl, but the Cardinal needed to win that game to clinch the North. UCLA already had clinched the South and, no matter how hard Jim Mora said his team tried, it sure looked like the Bruins protected quarterback Brett Hundley. It's hard to beat a team twice, though, so I'm picking UCLA.
The Big Ten title game is a joke unless 10-2 Nebraska defeats five-loss Wisconsin. The Badgers finished third in the Leaders Division but got a free pass to Indianapolis because Ohio State AND Penn State are ineligible. For the sake of Rose Bowl integrity, GO BIG RED! Thank goodness Nebraska really is the better team: The winner: Nebraska.
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