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College Football Conference Championship Week

College Football: Week 13 was another winner. After a nice 3-0 start, our last two picks blew their games late. Memphis gave up a late TD to inevitably lose by five and failed to cover by a point. However, underdogs Army and Virginia Tech won outright, while Navy easily covered against Temple.

Thanks to yet another 3-2 week, we are now 32-29 on the year. We have now closed the season at 52.5%. It wasn’t a slam dunk, but it was a winner. Even if we didn’t blow the doors off the season, you can say, “at least we had some fun along the way.”

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A Look Ahead to Conference Championship Week

Week 14 has a championship slate for us to choose from. We have #1 Georgia vs #3 Alabama for the SEC title game. #5 Oklahoma State plays #9 Baylor in the Big 12 title game. Utah State faces #19 San Diego State in the Mountain West title game. #21 Houston will play #4 Cincinnati in the American Championship. #2 Michigan will face #13 Iowa in the Big 10 title game, and #15 Pitt will play #24 Wake Forest in the ACC Championship game.

We don’t have a big slate this week, so we’re going to go with only four games this week. There aren’t much for angles on such a limited slate, so keep in mind none of these are slam dunks.

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

 

#1 Georgia -6.5 vs #3 Alabama

I’m going to say it and I’m sure many will understand. Alabama is very overrated. They shouldn’t be a top 5 team right now. Their one impressive win this season was at home against Ole Miss. Aside from that, they haven’t done anything impressive, aside from winning all but one game.

Bama beat a heavily overrated Miami team, barely beat a Florida team we now know to be horrible, and needed a collapse from an Auburn team starting their backup QB to stay in the CFP hunt. The Alabama offense looked great to start the season but has since done little to impress. Defensively, they aren’t shutting anyone down lately. Alabama has some holes on defense, and lacks consistency on a drive-to-drive basis.

Georgia has been an absolute juggernaut this season. With Alabama now on the docket, they’ll face the best offense they’ve seen all season. When you think about the offenses the Bulldogs have seen this season, it’s not a tremendously impressive list, but they did hold Arkansas, Auburn, and Florida to a combined total of just 17. It’s all lining up for a CFP title run.

I like Georgia to control the tempo in this game, frustrate the Alabama offense, and wear down the Alabama defense. The Bama defense has some holes, and we should expect the Bulldogs to find them and exploit them. I like Georgia to get out to a decent lead, before ultimately holding off Bama down the stretch.

Georgia 31 Alabama 20

 

#9 Baylor vs #5 Oklahoma State

One surprising bit about Oklahoma State this year has been how good their defense is. It’s not common we’re praising a team for their defense in the Big 12. Regardless, the Cowboys are 11-1 and looking at a potential CFP appearance. If they can take care of business this week, they could be facing the Michigan Wolverines in the CFP next month. After shutting out OU last week in the 2nd half, you have to love the momentum coming into this week.

Oklahoma State is 6th in the country in points allowed per game (16.4) and has the offensive chops to keep the pressure off that defense. OSU is only 80th in passing YPG but 35th in rushing. Baylor is a lot like OSU, except a little worse on defense and a little better running the ball. Baylor is 7th in the nation (227 RYPG) in rushing, which didn’t help the situation the first time around.

In their first matchup, OSU managed to hold the Bears to just 107 yards rushing on 29 attempts (3.7 YPC). Aside from the 55-yard TD run by Baylor in the second half, Baylor was held to just 52 yards on 28 carries. OSU has the formula for stopping Baylor, but Baylor needs to find creative ways to exploit gaps in the OSU defense.

If Baylor wants to win, they’re going to have to take some chances, and that’s where they could find themselves in trouble. Given the result of their first matchup, it’s easy to ride OSU here, but the key is that one team figured it out the first time around, while the other didn’t. I trust OSU to get it done a second time this season.

OSU 27 Baylor 20

 

#21 Houston +10.5 vs #4 Cincinnati

I’m going to be up-front with this matchup. These teams are relatively close in talent, but this is a pick based solely on the impending CFP situation. Cincinnati is under tremendous pressure to be the first team outside a Power 5 conference to make the CFP. Cincy has had a few squeakers this season (Navy and Tulsa) with no real explanation other than just possibly a down week.

Unlike Georgia, seemingly every other team this season has had a down week or two. With Cincy, they have their elite defense to lean on. On the other side, Houston has had similar success on the defensive end. Houston allows less than 290 yards of offense per game but 19.8 PPG. Conversely, Cincy averages 303 YPG but just 15.8 PPG. Though Cincy has the better red zone defense, the two teams are very similar otherwise.

The rub I see here is Cincy’s rush defense. It’s giving up a whopping 141 YPG. Consider how often Cincy is winning by a considerable margin, thus putting the opposing team in negative game scripts, and there’s a formula for moving the ball against them. Also, consider Houston has a solid run defense (91 YPG). Running on Houston will not be easy. To me, this game should be closer than the 10.5-point spread indicates.

Cincinnati 30 Houston 27

 

#2 Michigan vs #13 Iowa

The longer I look at this matchup, the more I wonder just how Iowa is going to keep-up in this game. A week ago, Iowa mounted a massive late comeback to beat a three-win Nebraska team. A month ago, Iowa was completely manhandled by Wisconsin. Iowa has been fortunate in a number of games this season, but none more so than Penn State.

By virtue of the division, Iowa dodged playing Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan. To this point, Iowa has been one of those survivor teams we see every year who gets completely blasted in a few of their games and barely wins the rest. I love the Iowa defense, but that offense is not going to be proficient enough to score against this Michigan defense.

The best hope Iowa has in this game is for their defense to create for their offense. If Iowa can limit the big plays and bait Michigan into trap coverages, they can have a shot to win and an even better shot to keep the game close enough to cover. Realistically, I fear Michigan’s offense is too good for Iowa to keep pace and a late attempt to pull the game closer will snowball into a Michigan cover.

Michigan 27 Iowa 13

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