Week 15 NCAA Predictions

Scores from every upcoming game
By Paul Bessire, WhatIfSports.com
December 1st, 2008

Each Monday morning, we will preview every college football DI FBS game of the upcoming week. All of our college football content, including our most recent power rankings and links to the pre-season preview are located here. If you want to take WhatIfSports weekly college football and/or NFL picks with you (to your MySpace, Facebook or personal homepage), please see the widget below on the right or at this page.

The inputs to the 10,001 simulations of these games are based on a rigorous analysis of each team that considers strength-of-schedule-adjusted team and player ratings and then makes modifications for injuries and depth at each position.

Games of the Week: #2 Florida 32 vs. #6 Alabama 18
While we encourage every one to check out our true college football playoff, December Madness, beginning next week, college football does have a semifinal of sorts, where the SEC Champion will almost assuredly earn a spot in the BCS National Championship game (more on the other "semifinal" below). As is evident in our latest Power Rankings, the top three teams in college football are pretty clear - Oklahoma, Florida and USC. The next two teams according to the rankings - Texas and Penn State - are on the next tier. Then, there are about four more teams, including the three of the four unbeatens, but not Utah, that could make a legitimate claim for a national title - either through a playoff or based on performance this week and in the bowls. Of those nine contenders, Florida is in the clear top three and Alabama is in the bottom four. Playing 12 games against the 28th toughest schedule in college football, the Gators are in the top five in the country in scoring offense, scoring defense, turnover margin, yards-per-carry (for - 16th against), yards-per-pass-attempt (for and against) and punt returns (against - 7th for). In other words, kickoff returns and coverage are the team's only weaknesses. Against the 73rd toughest schedule in college football, Alabama is only in the top five in scoring defense, yards-per-carry against and yards-per-pass-attempt against. It's that simple. Florida is the far more dominant team overall. In the simulations, the Gators win and advance to the National Championship 88.5% of the time by an average score of 32-18.

#1 Oklahoma 43 vs. #14 Missouri 35
In the other "semifinal," Oklahoma is pretty safe to assume that if it wins the Big 12 Championship, it will make the National Championship (according to the sim that means they can be about 80.2% sure of that - but we will get to that in a little bit). However, if the Sooners do not win (Missouri hits its 19.8%), its not their opponent who will play for the trophy, but likely Texas (or USC, or Texas Tech...). Since this game lost some of its luster with Missouri's loss to Kansas on Saturday and only appears close in the sim because, by nature, Big 12 teams score a lot of points, allow me to rant briefly. Mack Brown, and for some reason the overwhelming majority of people talking about it on my TV and radio, are wrong. And Brent Musburger is way wrong. Regarding the Big 12 South, only one question is being asked right now - Which team is most deserving of playing for the conference championship? That's it. There are three teams with identical records that are all involved in the conversation. They all lost to a different one of the other teams and beat everyone else. So... the team that deserves to play for the conference championship is the team that defeated the best opponents. With wins over BCS bound Cincinnati and the BCS' eleventh ranked team in TCU, that team is pretty clearly Oklahoma. Problem solved. Incorporating strength of schedule to determine a team's legitimacy is why there is a BCS and BCS conferences. It's why we look at computer polls. None of the three teams can be thrown out arbitrarily. The BCS, the system that we live under and work within, stated clearly long ago that how a team wins should have nothing to do with how it is ranked. Furthermore, if scoring margin were to be incorporated, Mr. Musburger, it would have to be discussed before the season - not 14 weeks in - so Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford can play every snap against Texas A&M and others in attempt to win by 100 every game. If you put Texas in because it beat Oklahoma, then you have to put Texas Tech in because it beat Texas, then you have to put Oklahoma in because it beat Texas Tech, then you have to put Texas in because it beat Oklahoma, then you have to put Texas Tech in because it beat Texas... that's the only way that argument can go. The real debates should focus on why some conferences have an extra game or how we determine which team is the best as opposed to the most deserving (see: Power Rankings) or why we have all of these bowls with ties to conferences that cannot fill them or why we don't actually crown a true national champion (see December Madness).

Other Conference Championship Games
Ball State remains undefeated and wins the MAC by destroying a beleaguered Buffalo squad 45-17. They may have taken odd, winding roads to get there, but the contrasting styles of Tulsa and East Carolina should make for an interesting C-USA title game. In the simulations, Tulsa emerges victorious 86.9% of the time by an average score of 38-24. USC wins the Pac-10 outright by throttling rival UCLA 55-6 - and we don't even add a "trying for style points" factor. And, in the least exciting BCS conference championship game ever, Boston College squeaks by Virginia Tech 17-11.

Week 15 Scores for Every FBS Game

MatchupHome Win%Avg Score
Buffalo vs. Ball State9517-45
Washington @ California957-43
Arizona St. @ Arizona7915-26
Western Kentucky @ Fla. Int.77.412-24
Louisville @ Rutgers74.821-32
Mid Tenn @ LA-Laf70.921-30
Virginia Tech vs. Boston College63.611-17
Pittsburgh @ Connecticut50.818-20
Arkansas St. @ Troy48.722-23
South Florida @ W. Virginia45.822-22
Oklahoma vs. Missouri19.843-35
Tulsa @ East Carolina13.138-24
Florida vs. Alabama11.532-18
Navy @ Army10.132-15
Cincinnati @ Hawaii730-13
USC @ UCLA555-6

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