NCAA football heats up with championship games in MAC, Pac12, C-USA, SEC, ACC and Big Ten

By Tom Comi

The Bowl games obviously draw the most attention in college football, but sometimes it’s the conference championships that end up providing the most excitement. Not only are the rivalries much more intense, but the outcomes of these games can have a major impact on which teams play in the coveted Bowls.

With that in mind, here is our preview for the conference championship games tonight and tomorrow for the MAC, Pac12, C-USA, SEC, ACC and Big Ten.

MAC (tonight, 7pmET, ESPN2), Northern Illinois vs. Ohio: Both teams come into this contest unranked and with three losses, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that this could be a very good game. The outcome will be determined by which quarterback has the better night — Ohio’s Tyler Tettleton or NIU’s Chandler Harnish.

Pac-12 (tonight, 8pmET, FOX), UCLA vs. #9 Oregon: This is arguably the least competitive matchup of this weekend’s title games, as the Ducks are favored by some sites as much as 30 points and are all but assured a berth in this year’s Rose Bowl. UCLA might feel inspired to play for outgoing coach Rick Neuheisel, but that won’t be nearly enough to pull the monumental upset.

C-USA (Saturday, 12pmET, ABC), #24 Southern Miss vs. #6 Houston: The Cougars have yet to lose this year, and much of that can be attributed to Case Keenum’s 43 touchdown passes to only three interceptions. However, the Heisman candidate will be tested tomorrow against a Golden Eagles defense that has scored seven times this year on errant passes.

SEC (Saturday, 4pmET, CBS), #14 Georgia vs. #1 LSU: The top-ranked Tigers are most likely in the BCS title game regardless of tomorrow’s outcome, but they would be foolish to take the surging Bulldogs lightly. Led by Aaron Murray’s 32 touchdown passes, Georgia has reeled off 10 straight victories — and it doesn’t hurt that this game is being played in Atlanta.

ACC (Saturday, 8pmET, ESPN), #5 Virginia Tech vs. #20 Clemson: The last team to beat the Hokies was these very Tigers, but the two schools appear to be heading in different directions. Tech has won seven straight games since that loss, and Clemson has dropped three of its last four. The Hokies are favored by a touchdown, which seems about right for this matchup.

Big Ten (Saturday, 8pmET, FOX), #15 Wisconsin vs. #13 Michigan State: With a spot in the Rose Bowl on the line, this rematch in Indianapolis is also intriguing due to the Hail Mary win the Spartans pulled off against the Badgers in October. The pain of that torturous loss may never go away for Wisconsin fans, but a win tomorrow will go along way toward making it a distant memory.