Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Saturday's Conference Championship Game Previews

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Saturday's Conference Championship Game Previews

Article excerpt


NO. 20 TEMPLE (10-2, 7-1) AT NO. 17 HOUSTON (11-1, 7-1)

When: Noon (ABC)

Line: Houston by 6

The skinny: The winner will be the Group of Five representative and go to either the Peach or Fiesta Bowl. Houston is looking for its first conference title since winning Conference USA in 2006; Temple is looking for its first conference title. ... Houston averages 42 points per game and QB Greg Ward Jr. has 17 rushing touchdowns. ... The Cougars scored over 30 points in every game except a 20-17 loss to UConn. ... Temple LB Tyler Matakevich (above), a finalist for the Bednarik Award and the Nagurski Trophy, is the active NCAA leader with 473 tackles. ... The Owls are headed to a bowl game for the first time since 2011.



When: Noon (ESPN2)

Line: Western Kentucky by 7 1/2

The skinny: Before this season, the Golden Eagles were 4-32 in the previous three years, including a winless 2012. Todd Monken, a former Jaguars assistant, took over in 2013 and has helped mold QB Nick Mullens (3,578 yards, 32 TDs, 8 INTs), into one of college football's top playmakers. Yet Mullens' stats pale to Western Kentucky's sixth-year senior Brandon Doughty, who has thrown for 9,014 yards and 91 TDs the past two seasons, including 4,184 and 42 TDs this year. Western Kentucky is 5-0 at home this season, but Southern Miss is the last road team to win the championship game dating back to 2011. Expect plenty of points in this one.


AIR FORCE (8-4, 6-2) AT SAN DIEGO STATE (9-3, 8-0)

When: 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Line: San Diego State by 5 1/2

The skinny: Air Force is attempting to win its first MWC championship and will depend on its ground game. The Falcons average 323.5 yards per game rushing, third-best in the nation, yet surprisingly doesn't have a 1,000-yard rusher. ... The Falcons' passing game is mostly an afterthought - they have 75 completions in 12 games. ... San Diego State lost senior QB Maxwell Smith to a knee injury. Redshirt freshman Chrisian Chapman will replace him. ... RB Donnel Pumphrey is third in the MWC with 1,464 yards rushing. ... The Aztecs also have the conference's top-ranked scoring defense and a turnover ratio of plus-20, best in the nation.


NO. 24 USC (8-4, 6-3) VS. NO. 7 STANFORD (10-2, 8-1)

When: 7:45 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Santa Clara, Calif.

Line: Stanford by 4 1/2

The skinny: The Cardinal still have hopes of squeezing into the College Football Playoff with a conference title and an upset or two in other title games. The Trojans are trying to cap a drama-filled season with a title in Clay Helton's first game as USC's permanent coach. ... Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, is the third player in FBS history with at least 3,000 all-purpose yards in a single season. …

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