Daily MikeDrop – Winners and Losers

Today’s Daily MikeDrop features picks for college football championship weekend, some thoughts on the firing of Ron Rivera, and a preview of tonight’s Cowboys vs Bears game.

College Football Conference Championship Weekend

10 championship games on Saturday. Some with playoff implications. All with some kind of bowl implications.

Everything you need to know about conference championship weekend

LSU vs Georgia – Georgia has the best defense in the country, allowing the 4th fewest yards and 2nd fewest points per game. This is an amazing contrast of styles. LSU scores 48.7 ppg, while Georgia allows 10.4 ppg. LSU is led by QB Joe Burrow, the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. He is averaging 390 yards passing per game, which is second in the country. Georgia allows 186 passing yards per game (16th in the country). The thing about this game is even if Georgia limits the LSU offense, I have no faith in the Georgia offense to take advantage of the situation.

Pick – LSU

Oklahoma vs Baylor – Sooners won the regular season matchup 34-31, after Baylor blew a 28-3 (HA!) lead. Oklahoma’s last four games have included a lot of close calls (more below). I think Baylor is a better team and they pull off the upset Saturday.

Pick – Baylor

Utah vs Oregon – Utes have absolutely dominated all season. Since losing to USC early in the season, 7 of their 8 straight wins have been by 18+ points. The only close game was at Washington (their second ever win against the Huskies). I have watched Justin Herbert enough to know he’s a decent QB, who might succeed in the NFL with his arm strength and size, but I don’t trust him. Utes are known for their defense. They allow just 240 yards per game, which ranks third in the country. Oregon’s offense is good but it isn’t the old Oregon offense.

Pick – Utah

Ohio State vs Wisconsin – As much as I love Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor, I think this could get ugly early. Badgers once lost 52-0 in the B1G Championship Game to Ohio State in 2014. They lost 38-7 earlier this year. This score could fall somewhere in between.

Pick – Ohio State

Clemson vs Virginia – Virginia is the 7th different ACC Coastal team in 7 years to play in this game. Amazing. They’ll also be the 7th different ACC Coastal team in 7 years to lose this game.

Pick – Clemson

Cincinnati vs Memphis – Bearcats lost their first conference game last Friday, with a backup QB. Now, with a healthy starter, Cincinnati comes in knowing what it will take to beat the Tigers. Desmond Ridder has helped lead Cincinnati to 20 wins in 23 games. Make it 21.

Pick – Cincinnati

Boise State vs Hawaii – Boise beat Hawaii 59-37 earlier this year. Despite putting up 438 yards of offense, Hawaii allowed 518 yards to Boise and turned the ball over 4 times. This is Hawaii’s first ever Championship Game. I expect them to be prepared and come out with some “Boise style tricks” up their sleeves, leaving it all on the blue turf.

Pick – Hawaii

Miami Ohio vs Central Michigan – Chuck Martin was on the verge of being fired by Miami. Jim McElwain is using CMU to rehab his image after a disastrous ending at Florida. Both coaches have proved a lot, but still have a little more to prove. Did you know Blaine Gabbert’s younger brother, Brett is the QB at Miami?

Pick – Miami

Appalachian State vs Louisiana – App State is 7-0 all-time vs Louisiana, including a 30-19 win in last year’s Sun Belt Championship Game.

Pick – App State

Florida Atlantic vs UAB – Two of my favorites coaches in college football. I’ve always loved Lane Kiffin. And Bill Clark has done an absolutely outstanding job the last two years at UAB, considering this program died, was shut down and then brought back to life and is now winning more than it ever did before. This is the one game I have zero confidence in and is a total toss up to me.

Pick – UAB

The Debate Between Utah vs Oklahoma

It’s a fascinating debate between these two teams as to who should make the Playoffs, IF Georgia loses to LSU. If Georgia wins the SEC Championship, they are in and both of these schools are out.

Right now, Utah is ranked 5th and Oklahoma is ranked 6th.

Oklahoma has a stronger resume – they have 2 top 25 wins (Baylor, Oklahoma St) and their 1 loss came to 8-4 Kansas State.

Utah does not have a win over a ranked team (though that will change if they beat Oregon). Their 1 loss came to 8-4 USC, who is currently ranked, and Utah was without star RB Zach Moss.

Utah, in my opinion, has the better team. Since losing to USC, 7 of their 8 wins have come by at least 18 points and the one that didn’t was at Washington. 3 of Oklahoma’s last 4 wins came down to the final possession (42-41 vs Iowa State, 34-31 vs Baylor, 28-24 vs TCU).

What happens next Sunday will be a perfect example of the committee’s inconsistency of their criteria. Do they give the nod to the better team or the better resume? Committing to the better team sets a horrible precedent for the future because the “better team” is not always the most deserving. Last year, Georgia was definitely better than Notre Dame. But the Irish were 12-0 and Georgia had 2 losses. This situation is a little different, but it’s so close to call that does the eye test come in to play here?

Or does Georgia beat LSU or Oregon beat Utah and make this whole conversation meaningless?

Traveling?

Pretty bad no call here…

Panthers firing Ron Rivera was the right move

2019 was Ron Rivera’s 9th season as Panthers head coach. He has compiled a record of 76-63-1. Panthers made the playoffs 4 times in his 9 seasons, including a trip to Super Bowl 50 in 2015. He was a 2-time NFL Coach of the Year, winning the award in 2013 and 2015.

Panthers fell to 5-7 on Sunday after losing to the lowly Redskins. With the season virtually done, Panthers front office felt this was the appropriate time to make this move. Rivera is an excellent coach, but it seemed as if he had peaked in Carolina. They went 11-5 in 2017 and started 2018 6-2, before losing 6 of their last 7 to finish 7-9.

There is no doubt Rivera, who is only 57 years old, should and likely will get another head coaching job in 2020. A team like the Giants, who are looking for stability, would make perfect sense. Plus, GM David Gettleman (if he’s retained) worked with Rivera in Carolina. But it’s unclear what their relationship was like, if they even got along.

Another option would be the Bears. It’s probably unlikely Matt Nagy gets fired, but maybe Rivera sits out 2020 to wait until 2021. Rivera was a star linebacker on the 1985 Bears that won Super Bowl XX. He is still beloved in Chicago and would certainly be welcomed there. If he got the 2020 job, perhaps he could bring QB Cam Newton with him to replace Mitchell Trubisky?

Cowboys vs Bears Preview

Cowboys come into Thursday night at 6-6 and lead the division by one game, ahead of the 5-7 Eagles. Amazing. Bears are 6-6 and two games behind the Vikings for the second Wild Card and three games behind the Packers for the NFC North.

What makes both of these teams losers?

Cowboys – For some insane reason, they have employed Jason Garrett as their head coach for the past decade.

Bears – In 2017, they traded UP to draft Mitchell Trubisky, who started just 12 games in college at UNC, and drafted him ahead of National Championship winning Deshaun Watson and gun-slinging Patrick Mahomes.

Recent history

Last game between these teams was 2016, during week 3 of the rookie seasons of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot. Cowboys won 31-17. Zeke ran for 140 yards on 30 carries. Prescott completed 19 of 24 passes for 240 yards and a TD.

Recent Trends

Cowboys have lost 3 of their last 4 games, with the only win coming against the Jeff Driskel-led Lions.

Bears have won 3 of their last 4, with two of those wins came against the Jeff-Driskel-led Lions and the David Blough-led Lions, plus the Giants.

Who is winning?

Cowboys will win. It won’t be pretty. Ezekiel Elliot has not eclipsed 90 yards the last 4 weeks and I think Thursday will be 5 weeks. The offense is stuck. I don’t know if the players don’t trust the coaches, the coaches don’t trust the players, maybe the players simply aren’t good enough? Whatever the reason, I do trust Dak Prescott more than Trubisky and think the Cowboys can find a way to get the job done and build some momentum in the final month to make their push to the playoffs.

Stat of the Day

NY Giants QB Eli Manning is expected to start on Monday Night against the Eagles due to a foot injury suffered by rookie QB Daniel Jones in last week’s loss to the Packers.

Eli has a career record of 116-116. I believe 100% that he should be a Hall of Famer. But if the Giants lose Monday, and his career record falls below .500, does that hurt his case? How many QBs have made the HOF with a losing record?

Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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