Here are our staff picks for this weekend’s conference championship games, which are listed in standard Vegas rotational order.
Last week and year-to-date standings are at the bottom.
At Detroit, Central Michigan was 1-11 last season before bringing in former University of Florida coach Jim McElwain as head coach. Even he’s surprised at the stunning progress of the Chippewas, who were picked to finish last in the MAC West.
“From where these guys have come from, and how far they’ve taken this season, I just can’t tell you how happy I am for them,“ the coach said. “Now we’ve got to hopefully go down [to Detroit] and play well against a really good football team.“
App State beat the Ragin’ Cajuns 17-7 on Oct. 9 in Lafayette.
“To assume that the game will be similar in nature to the one we played previously would be a false narrative going into the game," said Appalachian State coach Eli Drinkwitz. "I think both teams have changed whether it’s due to injuries or whatever the season has brought about.”
If it was that simple, the play would be Lafayette and over. But please note that six of ULL’s last seven have hit under.
At Arlington, Texas.
Baylor’s only loss was to Oklahoma when they blew a 25-point lead three weeks ago. Otherwise, they’d be 12-0 and a step away from the college football playoff.
“That game can do nothing but help us as long as we make sure that we learn from it, which I think we have,” said Baylor’s Matt Rhule, recently named the Big 12 coach of the year.
Baylor has covered its last four, including the 3-point loss to Oklahoma when they were 10-point underdogs. The Bears are the only major conference team to go from 11 losses to 11 wins within two years. Wonder if Jerry Jones knows that.
FAU gets lots of attention because of coach Lane Kiffin, but Alabama-Birmingham’s second straight appearance in the Conference USA title game after suspending the program in 2015-16 is remarkable.
This will be their first meeting with FAU since 2014. Four of UAB’s last five have been under.
This will be the fourth time since 2012 that college football teams are meeting in consecutive weeks. Middle Tennessee-UAB last year, and Fresno State-Boises State in 2017 each split. Stanford swept UCLA seven years ago.
Memphis beat Cincy by 10 last week, so it might be worth it to buy an extra point. Most importantly, Cincinnati will have Desmond Ridder back from a shoulder injury. The Bearcats started a freshman last week.
“[Ridder’s] been our starting quarterback for two years,“ Cincy coach Luke Fickell said. “That’s who we are, what we do. Obviously last week was a unique situation, but that doesn’t change what he has done.“
Boise State’s only loss (11-1) was to Brigham Young on Oct. 19 when a couple of late Boise State TDs made it a three-point margin. They lumped Hawaii the week before 59-37. That line was 12.5.
At Atlanta, LSU is second in the nation in points per game (to Ohio State). Georgia’s defense allows the second fewest points per game (only Clemson allows fewer). LSU (12-0) should still get into the playoff with a loss unless it’s catastrophic. Georgia (11-1) does not have that luxury.
The most points scored against Georgia came in their 20-17 loss at home to South Carolina — and that game went double overtime.
LSU is just 2-3 against the spread in its last five. UGA is 4-1 ATS since October.
The Buckeyes drilled Wisky 38-7 on Oct. 26 when quarterback Justin Fields had three touchdowns and stud defensive end Chase Young had four sacks and forced two fumbles.
Ohio State’s only competitive game was against Penn State, which they won by 11 but failed to cover a 21-point spread.
Wisconsin’s last four have hit over. The only time they’ve scored less than 23 was against Ohio State.
At Charlotte, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s whining about criticism for his schedule has grown tiresome.
“People should spend more on who we are and not on who we so-call play,“ Swinney said. “I could understand if we were a new kid on the block, but we’ve been around here for a long time.“
The Tigers (12-0) are third in the CFP on merit. They do not deserve to be ahead of LSU or Ohio State, but they will be in the playoff with a win or even a forgivable loss. They oughta be grateful we’re in the four-team playoff era. There was a time they’d really be whining.