Preview and Predictions for Week 14 NCAA Top 25 Conference Championship Weekend
Off a big rivalry weekend and a pair of Week 13 winning Picks on Michigan and South Carolina outright as big 'Dogs, we move onto college football conference championship weekend with some key games to determine College Football Playoff positions. We finish the regular season 11-7 ATS on our weekly Top 25 ranked vs ranked side picks with a few bonus picks added. Our Top 25 coverage included Picks, Opinions and Leans each week on those select Top 25 match-ups.
There are five conference championship games with Top 25 match-ups. It starts Friday night in Las Vegas just a few miles from my home base near the Las Vegas Strip at Allegiant Stadium with the Pac 12 Championship Game. I have Opinions and Leans only in the Top 25 match-ups in conference championship games.
All lines courtesy of BetOnline. All times Eastern.
Friday, Dec. 2
Pac 12 - No. 11 Utah at No. 4 Southern California (-2.5) - Total 67 (at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, NV) | 8 p.m. | FOX
Saturday, Dec. 3
Big 12 - No. 10 Kansas State vs. No. 3 TCU (-2.5) - Total 62.5 (at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX) | 12 p.m. | ABC
SEC - No. 14 LSU vs. No. 1 Georgia (-17.5) - Total 52.5 (at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA) | 4 p.m. | CBS
AAC - No. 22 UCF at No. 18 Tulane (-3.5) - Total 57 (at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans, LA | 4 p.m. | ABC
ACC - No. 23 North Carolina vs No. 9 Clemson (-7.5) - Total 63.5 (at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC) | 8 p.m. | ABC
Also, additional conference championship games include:
Conference USA - North Texas vs UTSA (-9) - Total 70 (Alamodome in San Antonio, TX | 7:30 p.m. | CBSSN (Friday, Dec. 2)
Saturday, Dec. 3
Big Ten - Purdue vs No. 2 Michigan (-16) - Total 52 (at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN) | 8 p.m. | FOX
Mountain West - Fresno State at Boise State (-3) - Total 55 (at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, ID) | 4 p.m. | FOX
MAC - Ohio vs Toledo (-3) - Total 54 (at Ford Field in Detroit, MI) | 12 p.m. | ESPN (I bet under)
Fewer pre-game and pre-flop picks, but plenty of live, in-game wagering opportunities at the leading online sportsbooks for these big conference championship games.
No. 11 Utah at No. 4 Southern California (-2.5)
For many top online sportsbooks, the biggest bet conference championship game is the Pac 12 showdown between USC and Utah. In fact, Caesars Sportsbook reports that the Trojans are the most lopsided spread bet on the board so far by tickets, racking up 84.0% of them to cover against Utah. USC has actually gotten over 37% more spread bets than the next-closest team this slate (LSU). Caesars took the largest bet of the college football season with a $901,000 moneyline bet on USC (-130).
This game is a rematch from an epic meeting on October 15 in Salt Lake City, where the Utes handed the Trojans their only loss of the season, 43-42. The Trojans never trailed in the game until Utah QB Cameron Rising scored the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion with 48 seconds left to lift the Utes to victory.
Utah's offense is not as explosive at USC's, but the Utes do have a '200 Club' strong, balanced offense that both runs and passes for at least 215 yards per game (vs FBS foes). Although the Utes defense is not dominant, it is stronger than USC's. And Utah is better in yards per game and points per game margin despite playing a slightly tougher schedule. The Trojans have more pressure, but no doubt the conference (and refs?) would like a Pac 12 team in the College Football Playoff. USC does lead the country in turnover margin (+22), and a few more likely gets them a Pac 12 title and into the CFP.
Opinion: Over and Lean Utah
No. 10 Kansas State vs. No. 3 TCU (-2.5)
TCU goes from 5-7 last season to 12-0 in head coach Daniel "Sonny" Dykes first year in Fort Worth. TCU and K-State rank No. 14 and No. 15 in the nation in net yards per play. Earlier this season, Kansas State led TCU 28-10 before both Wildcats QB's went down and the Horned Frogs stormed back to win 38-28. Another game with a bit more pressure on TCU while K-State may play both QB's and the Wildcats excel in special teams and are No. 2 in the country in turnover margin.
No. 14 LSU vs. No. 1 Georgia (-17.5)
Georgia lost 15 players to the NFL Draft following last season's championship season. But the Bulldogs dominant defense has allowed just 136 points this season - or 11.3 points per game. Georgia's offense is still strong with QB Stetson Bennett leading a 488 YPG offense with efficient balance (203 rush, 285 pass). The Bulldogs will run over and through a Tigers defense that is wearing out and was gashed for 274 rushing yards on 50 carries by A&M last week. LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels injured his ankle in last week's loss at Texas A&M, and Georgia rolls in the SEC Championship after losing in last year's game.
In the past two years, Georgia has faced six top-15 teams not named Alabama. The Bulldogs have allowed 13, 3, 11, 13, 0 and 3 points in those games and have won each of them by an average of 24.0 PPG. All six went under the total, and Georgia covered the spread in five of them. Since 2018, Georgia has faced 16 top-15 teams not named Alabama, and the game total has gone under in 14 of those contests.
No. 22 UCF at No. 18 Tulane (-3.5)
Tulane's tight 27-24 road win at Cincinnati last week sets the Green Wave up to win the conference for the first time in program history. Tulane will have to reverse the results from the 38-31 loss to Central Florida on Nov. 12 when the Knights went wire-to-wire for the win and rushed for 336 yards and a total yards edge of 468-391 while controlling the ball for more than 35 minutes. Tulane RB Tyjae Spears was injured in that game, and he's rushed at least 120 yards in six straight games and 8.4 YPR over his last four contests. Central Florida QB John Rhys Plumlee left last weeks win over USF in the second quarter with a hamstring injury, so monitor his status as he's also been less effective since a concussion a month ago. This line is up a notch and can only lean Tulane's way.
No. 23 North Carolina vs No. 9 Clemson (-7.5)
The Clemson Tigers are 7-1 SU/ATS in ACC Championship Games. We called for last week's upset by South Carolina (+14) over Clemson, and the 'Cocks rose to the occasion to win 31-30 after spotting Clemson a 13-0 lead. North Carolina's defense is the worst in the ACC, allowing 441 yards per game at 6.1 yards per play. Combined with Clemson's below-average pass defense and a bounce back from fabulous Tar Heels freshman QB Drake Maye, we should see a shootout in the ACC Championship Game.
Opinion: Over 63.5
We'll have more Picks and information you can bet on during the college football bowl season.
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Fairway Jay is a proven sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. He chips in additional sports betting coverage and reporting on industry news and events. Follow FairwayJay here at OSGA.com and on Twitter @FairwayJay for more sports and betting insights.