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College Football Week 15 Picks: Conference Championship Edition

Max Meyer, Mike Piellucci, Gabe Quintela, Marc Sallinger, Darian Nourian, Andrew Tweedy |
December 6, 2013 | 6:23 p.m. PST

Staff Writers


(Creative Commons)
(Creative Commons)
After a thrilling rivalry week, there's only one week of the college football season left until bowl games. With a lot still on the line in all of these games, our experts pick the winners in the big-time contests.

#5 Missouri at #3 Auburn

Max Meyer (@TheMaxMeyer): Auburn 31, Missouri 28

With the way that their season has gone, I fail to see an ending in which Auburn doesn't win the national championship (this foreshadows a later pick). This season led by the strong running game of Nick Marshall and Tre Mason will continue as the college football gods continue to laugh with Auburn winning the SEC championship.

Andrew Tweedy (@nyy_baseball): Auburn 35, Missouri 31

This was a really tough pick because both teams are hot and are coming off big wins last week. But seriously, will this Auburn team ever lose another game? Auburn is coming off two of the most incredible, miraculous, insane finishes that you will ever see to beat both Georgia and Alabama. Behind their power running game and maybe yet another magical finish, I think the Tigers will beat the Tigers — Auburn beating Missouri that is.

Marc Sallinger (@marcsallinger): Auburn 42, Missouri 35

Both Mizzou and Auburn are having dream seasons in which neither team thought be playing for the SEC championship. Auburn is coming off two straight games with truly insane finishes. After knocking off Alabama in one of the best finishes in college football history, they’re ready for anything. Although either team will probably not make it into the National Championship game, even with a win, both teams are playing to be known as SEC champions. I think Auburn takes home the title in a close one. 

Mike Piellucci (@mikelikessports): Auburn 33, Missouri 24

Missouri's balance - they have a playmaker at just about every position group - is worth admiring, and the skyscraping WR duo of L'Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham merits being feared. I swore I wouldn't make fun of Nick Marshall and his passing game for a month after that historic win over Alabama, and frankly I don't even need to now that Auburn emphatically proved that even the scariest run defense on the planet can't stop Marshall and Tre Mason. As much as I like Mizzou, I don't see them bucking that trend.

Gabe Quintela (@gabequintela11): Auburn 30, Missouri 21

Auburn has great momentum, stealing the Iron Bowl away from their biggest rival in storybook fashion. The Auburn pass game also has potential to seriously hurt the Missouri pass defense that is dead last in the SEC, giving up an average of 266 yards a game through the air. 

Darian Nourian (@dariannourian24): Auburn 28, Missouri 27

Coming off an unbelievable Iron Bowl victory against Alabama, Auburn will be looking to show the BCS and voters that they are worthy of a shot at the national title game. It's going to be the Auburn rushing attack versus the stout Missouri defense, but the Tigers' Nick Marshall has proven himself as a dual-threat quarterback that is tough to stop. 

#2 Ohio State at #10 Michigan State

Max: Michigan State 31, Ohio State 27

Here's my upset pick. Ohio State's defense has been miserable this season, and Michigan State certainly has a formidable unit that can stop the Buckeyes from scoring on quite a few possessions in this game. I am fully on board the Auburn to the BCS Championship train, so this is the result that has to, and will, happen. 

Andrew: Ohio State 27, Michigan State 24

Ohio State has been waiting a very long time to get a shot at the national title game and although this game will be close, there is no way the Buckeyes relinquish this opportunity. This is the matchup everyone has been hoping for in the Big Ten, pitting Michigan State’s stifling defense against Ohio State’s unstoppable offense. While the Spartans will put up a very good fight, Braxton Miller’s ability to step up to the plate in the biggest game of his career will be the key, and I think he’ll hit this one out of the park.

Marc: Ohio State 31, Michigan State 24

A win for either team all but guarantees a trip to Pasadena. If the Buckeyes win, they’ll be playing for the BCS National Championship. If the Spartans win, they’ll play on New Year's Day for the Rose Bowl. The stakes are high, but there is still a lot of football to be played. Braxton Miller has been playing inspired football and the Buckeyes look nearly unstoppable. However, if Michigan State can contain the Ohio State running game, they have a chance at winning. This should be a close one, but I think the Buckeyes book their trip to the championship.

Mike: Ohio State 24, Michigan State 17

There's nothing sexy about what Michigan State does - punishing ground game, menacing defense - other than their doing it so well that they plausibly hand Urban Meyer his first-ever defeat as Buckeyes head coach. But the difference between Ohio State and everyone else in the Big Ten is Braxton Miller, and while I could see Sparty possibly being able to account for Carlos Hyde's brawn, I can't envision them stopping Miller's speed.

Gabe: Ohio State 35, Michigan State 21

Ohio State comes into this game with a well-balanced offense that allows them to build up their offensive scheme to whatever the game is dictating. The Buckeyes like to get quarterback Braxton Miller going early, but won't be afraid to let Carlos Hyde run wild behind a strong offensive line. Michigan State isn't prepared to stop the offensive momentum that this hungry Ohio State team is carrying into this game. 

Darian: Michigan State 35, Ohio State 31

The Spartans have the nation's top-ranked defense and Ohio State has really struggled stopping opposing offenses this year. As long as Michigan State is able to somewhat slow down Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, and also keep up in the scoring column, they have a great shot at upsetting the Buckeyes. 

#7 Stanford at #11 Arizona State

Max: Stanford 24, Arizona State 21

With stud running back Marion Grice out for Arizona State, I think that they will be a little too reliant on their passing attack. This bodes well for Stanford's defense, because when they've dealt with one-dimensional offenses, they've thrived. Even though they are on the road, I trust this Stanford team more, and they definitely have the coaching advantage with David Shaw over Todd Graham.

Andrew: Stanford 28, Arizona State 24

I believe Stanford is a much more balanced team than Arizona State but because this game is being played in Tempe, it will be very close. ASU is much stronger at home, riding a seven-game win streak in the desert, and both of Stanford’s losses have come on the road to Utah and USC. In the end though, Stanford’s run game is too strong, and if they are able to dominate time of possession, they’ll come out on top.

Marc: Arizona State 35, Stanford 31

Stanford beat Arizona State handedly 42-28 earlier this season when the two teams met in Palo Alto. However, this game will be far from a blowout. The Sun Devils have improved dramatically since the loss, going 8-1 along the way. With the game being in Tempe, ASU will have the home crowd on their side, a potential factor in this tight of a game. The Sun Devils have looked very good as of late, while Stanford has looked a little shaky. I think ASU will have their revenge, and book their trip to the Rose Bowl.

Mike: Stanford 30, Arizona State 23

If Marion Grice were healthy, I really could see the Sun Devils winning the game with their mix of superb skill weapons (Grice, Taylor Kelly, DJ Foster and Jaelen Strong) plus the Cardinal's occasionally conservative play calling. But no Grice usually means no ground game for ASU, and the steady, unspectacular, reliable line play Stanford enjoys trumps ASU's Jekyll-and-Hyde act, especially playing short-handed.

Gabe: Stanford 31, Arizona State 28

Stanford embarrassed the Sun Devils in their matchup earlier this season. Although this Arizona State team is a different one from the team that played in September, I still think this Stanford team is too disciplined and well-coached not to make another Rose Bowl appearance. The Cardinal will need running back Tyler Gaffney to step up against an improved ASU defense. 

Darian: Stanford 21, Arizona State 14

For Stanford to win, they are going to have to slow this game with their exhausting rushing attack. Tyler Gaffney and the rest of the Stanford running backs will, however, be facing a tough Sun Devils' front seven led by Will Sutton. I can see this one being a barn burner, as both teams will struggle to score. The team who commits the most mistakes will lose this game, as the other moves on to Pasadena for the 100th Rose Bowl Game. 

#20 Duke at #1 Florida State

Max: Florida State 49, Duke 10

This may be one of the easier conference championship picks ever. There is no way that the best team in the country loses to Duke. Jameis Winston will play angry and for the Heisman, and expect the Florida State offense to clobber the Blue Devils.

Andrew: Florida State 45, Duke 10

This is by far the most lopsided conference championship game on our slate this week. Give credit to Duke for turning their program around in such dramatic fashion, but Florida State is considered one of the best programs in the country, if not the very best.  Seminole quarterback Jameis Winston, even amidst all of the sexual assault drama brewing this week, will continue to dominate as a true freshman, leading his team to back-to-back ACC championships.

Andrew: Florida State 42, Duke 17

With Jameis Winston being cleared of sexual assault, he can now focus solely on football and making it to the National Championship. Although Duke is having one of the best years it has ever had, the team still is nowhere near as talented as FSU. The Seminoles have dominated every team they have played this year, and this week will be no different. The Seminoles are one game away from the big game, and it should be an easy win.  

Mike: Florida State 45, Duke 21

The easiest pick of the day goes to the biggest gap in talent in the conference championship games. Everyone loves plucky Duke's turnaround under David Cutcliffe, but they are an entire stable short of having horses to run with a Florida State team that's within sniffing distance of the national championship game.

Gabe: Florida State 38, Duke 28

The only thing that worries me in picking Florida State is whether or not the team will be able to remain focused in light of quarterback Jameis Winston's sexual assault scandal. Assuming the team is able to focus on the football they've played this season, leading to an average margin of victory of 42 points, they should have no problem with this Duke team. 

Darian: Florida State 49, Duke 14

Now that Jameis Winston is off the hook, he can focus on what he is best at, football. The likely Heisman winner will likely carry the number-one ranked Seminoles in the ACC championship game en route to the national title game. This Duke team does not stand a chance at stopping Winston and the Seminole offensive attack. 

#17 Oklahoma at #6 Oklahoma State

Max: Oklahoma State 35, Oklahoma 20

Oklahoma State's loss to West Virginia has to be the most baffling result of the year. Nonetheless, this is still a very impressive team, and they are a lot more talented than their rival. Add in the fact that this game is being placed in Stillwater and Oklahoma's passing attack is dreadful, I really like the Cowboys in this game.

Andrew: Oklahoma State 35, Oklahoma 24

Although Oklahoma is coming off a big win against Kansas State, I’m not sure that freshman quarterback Trevor Knight is ready to face one of the nation’s top defenses. Oklahoma State has been stifling this season, limiting both Texas and Baylor to 17 points or fewer in consecutive weeks. With a freshman quarterback and a run-oriented offense, the Sooners will have their hands full against a veteran Cowboys’ defense and an explosive offense.

Marc: Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 34

The Oklahoma State Cowboys will look to win their second Big 12 Championship in three years, while the Sooners look to take the title back to Norman. This game is a close one that could really go either way. Oklahoma State would be undefeated if it were not for a freak loss to West Virginia, while Oklahoma has looked very solid in their last couple of games after their loss to Baylor. I believe Oklahoma State will win this one, and bring the title back to Stillwater. 

Mike: Oklahoma State 41, Oklahoma 28

Losing to Oklahoma State is as reviled and unacceptable in Norman as USC dropping a game to UCLA. Prepare to be furious, Sooner fans, as this is probably the biggest gap in quality between the two teams that the Cowboys have enjoyed in a very long time, which owes itself to a shorthanded Sooner roster as it does Mike Gundy's best coaching job yet.

Gabe: Oklahoma State 40, Oklahoma 31

This Oklahoma State defense is the best in the Big 12, it's a unit that has dominated both Texas and Baylor this season. Games between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State tend to be shootouts, and with OU's run-heavy offense against the Cowboys defense, the Sooners seem unfit to keep up. 

Darian: Oklahoma State 28, Oklahoma 17

The Cowboys have the edge in this interstate rivalry this year with quarterback Clint Chelf at the helm. Running back Desmond Roland balances out their offense with his legs, rushing for a little more than four yards a carry. On the other hand, the Sooners' passing attack ranks among one of the worst in the nation.


1. Max 44-21

2. Gabe 42-23

3. Andrew 39-26

4. Mike 37-28

5. Marc 36-29

6. Darian 33-32




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