After an incredible slate of fixtures last week, we’re welcomed with by far the biggest slate of the season so far. Each of the major conference championship games are occurring this week, headlined by a barnstormer in Atlanta as Georgia takes on #1 Alabama. We get another instalment of the epic Texas and Oklahoma rivalry, whilst Utah and Washington kick things off in one of the tighter matchups of the week. This preview will cover our best bet in the 7 biggest conference championship games of the week.
WASHINGTON VS UTAH (12PM AEDT SATURDAY)
Pac-12 Championship Game
The Huskies enter this one at 9-3 after a huge win over in-state rivals Washington State last week. QB Jake Browning has had a largely solid season for the Huskies, throwing for a shade under 2700 yards and 16 touchdowns, compared to just 9 interceptions. It was the Washington ground attack that stole the show in the snow, totalling 258 yards and 3 touchdowns in a dominant display. Defensively, it was an excellent display from the Huskies. They allowed only 85 total rushing yards and 152 yards through the air, registering 2 interceptions in the process. This defence will need another strong performance against this dynamic and versatile Utah offense.
Utah enter this one as the #17 ranked team in the country, making the Pac-12 Championship off the back of 3 straight wins. Freshman QB Jason Shelley has performed admirably since becoming the starter, going 3-0 in effective game-managing performances. His dual-threat ability has been much-needed for a Utes rushing attack that regularly eclipses 150 yards on the ground. Utah has also been very strong defensively of late, playing excellent complementary football in this week. They held BYU to just 3.3 yards per carry last week, allowing only 204 passing yards in the process.
Prediction: Washington -4.5
The Huskies enter this one in great form and I think they’ve got the significant talent edge on this one against a Freshman QB. Jake Browning leads a very solid offence that has enough of a matchup edge here to put up some big numbers.
OKLAHOMA VS TEXAS (4AM AEDT SUNDAY)
Big-12 Championship Game
The 11-1 Sooners enter this one as one of the form teams in the country, winning each of their last 6 games. Junior QB Kyler Murray has been fantastic this season, completing over 70% of his passes for 3600 yards and 37 touchdowns. His dual-threat ability has also been excellent to watch, eclipsing 850 rushing yards and 11 scores on the ground so far. The Sooners defence has largely struggled of late, allowing 46 or more points in each of their last 4 games. Just last week they allowed an astounding 539 passing yards and 8 total touchdowns to West Virginia. Whilst the offence has made up for it in recent weeks, this performance will need to improve to take this game out.
Texas enter this Big-12 Championship game off the back of 3 straight comfortable victories. The Texas rushing attack continues to lead the way for this offence, with Running Backs Tre Watson and Keaontay Ingram forcing a nice 1-2 punch. Whilst he hasn’t set the world alight, QB Sam Ehlinger has been effective in his game manager role. The Longhorns defence has been very strong in recent weeks, allowing just 27 total points in their last 2 games. They completely shut down the Kansas passing attack last week, allowing just 159 yards on 4.5 yards per attempt. Whilst it won’t be easy against Kyler Murray, they’ll need to keep up this performance level here.
Prediction: Oklahoma -7
I think Oklahoma is substantially the better team in this one. I just don’t see how Texas can limit their high-flying and versatile offence. Supported by the key number of 7, there is simply immense value on the Sooners here.
UCF VS MEMPHIS (7:30AM AEDT SUNDAY)
American Championship Game
University of Central Florida Knights
The Knights enter this one as the #9 ranked team in the country, comfortably winning all of their 11 games by double digits. It’s been an excellent rushing attack that has largely got the job done, totalling an immense 391 yards and 4 touchdowns in last week’s win over South Florida. QB Darriel Mack struggled mightily, going only 5/14 for 81 yards, and may find himself playing second fiddle to McKenzie Milton here. Defensively, the Knights have been very good of late, holding their last 2 opponents to a combined 23 points. They allowed just 113 yards on 29 passing attempts last week, good for a 3.9-yard average.
Memphis enter this one a somewhat less impressive 8-4, winning each of their last 4 games by double digits. The rushing attack continues to lead the way, totalling an immense 401 yards and 6 touchdowns against Houston. QB Brady White will need to improve his performance against this strong UCF defence. The Memphis run defence has largely been very good this season, holding Houston to just 3.4 yards per attempt last week. They also allowed only 18/43 pass completions last week, making for a complete display. This level of performance will need to keep up for them having a chance to win here.
Prediction: UCF -4.5
Having won each of their games by double digits so far, I’m confident the Knights can continue that trend here. I think they have an advantage on both lines of scrimmage that propels them to victory here by 7-14 points.
GEORGIA VS ALABAMA (8AM AEDT SUNDAY)
SEC Championship Game
Georgia enter this huge matchup as the #5 ranked team in the country, buoyed by their 11-1 record. Sophomore QB Jake Fromm has been fantastic this season, completing 70% of his passes for 24 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. The rushing attack has also been outstanding, going off for 285 yards and 2 scores in last week’s win over Georgia Tech. This Bulldogs defence has the reputation of being one of the best in the country, holding their opponents under 20 points in 9/12 games this season. Their excellent front seven has consistently generated pressure so far but will have their hands full with an excellent Alabama offence.
Alabama Crimson Tide
The Tide enter this matchup as comfortably the best team in the country, winning each of their 12 games by 22 points or more. QB Tua Tagovailoa was again excellent against Auburn last week, completing 25/32 passes for 324 yards and 5 touchdowns. The rushing attack had somewhat of an off-game, with the Running Backs failing to score or eclipse 100 total yards. Defensively, the Tide have really turned it on of late, failing to allow more than 21 points in each of their last 6 games. Their ferocious front seven completely disrupted Auburn last week, allowing under 5 yards per pass attempt and only 3 yards per rush.
Prediction: Alabama -13.5
I’ve had immense success betting on Bama this year and have vowed not to bet against them this season. Under the key number of 14, I think there’s great value on the Tide here. I expect their defence to do a good job confusing Jake Fromm, whilst Tua continues to put up big numbers on offence.
BOISE STATE VS FRESNO STATE (11:45AM AEDT)
Mountain West Championship Game
Boise State Broncos
10-2 Boise State enter this one as the #23 team in the country, winning each of their last 7 games, including a very impressive win over Utah State last week. RB Alexander Mattison was tremendous, totalling 200 yards and 3 touchdowns on his 37 carries. QB Brett Rypien was also very efficient, going 23/32 for 310 yards and a score. The defence also did a very good job against this strong Utah state offence, holding them to just 3.3 yards per rush attempt and managing 2 crucial turnovers. Buoyed by their raucous home crowd, I think they’ve got every chance of taking this one out.
Fresno State also enter this one at an impressive 10-2, with each of their wins coming by more than a touchdown. Senior QB Marcus McMaryion has been fantastic this season, completing 70% of his passes for 3300 yards and 24 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. The rushing attack has also been excellent, totalling 198 yards and a score in last week’s win over San Jose State. Fresno State’s defence has also been outstanding all season, holding their opponents to 14 points or less in 9 of their 12 games. They completely shut down San Jose State’s rushing attack last week, allowing just 60 yards on 22 total attempts.
Prediction: Boise State -2.5
These are two very evenly matched teams, but Boise State’s incredible home-field advantage swings this one for me. I believe their balanced offence can have success against stout Fresno State defence, with their rushing defence also showing up huge. Broncos by 3-7 points in this one.
PITTSBURGH VS CLEMSON (12PM AEDT SUNDAY)
ACC Championship Game
In one of the bigger mismatches of the week, Pittsburgh enter this one with a relatively mediocre 7-5 record. Junior RB Cade Carney has led the way on offence this season, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt and totalling 8 touchdowns. QB Jamie Newman has added a new element to this offence, throwing for 8 touchdowns to 2 picks in his 3 starts. Whilst this Pittsburgh defence has been average this season, I’m not sure they match up well with this dynamic Clemson offence. Just last week they gave up 293 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground to Miami, which doesn’t bode well here.
Clemson enter this one as the #2 ranked team in the country, with a dominant 12-0 record this season. The rushing attack is simply one of the best in the country, totalling 351 yards and 7 touchdowns last week. QB Trevor Lawrence has also been very solid, going 27/36 for 393 yards and a touchdown last week. Defensively, the Tigers have also been very strong this season, allowing 10 points or less in 8 of their games so far. Their excellent front seven has been able to consistently generate pressure on opposing QB’s, limiting opposition rushing attacks in the process.
Prediction: Clemson -25.5
It’s always tough laying so many points in a championship game, but Clemson are clearly the better team here. If their defence can put in another strong performance here, I’m confident that the offence will put up enough points to comfortably win and cover.
OHIO STATE VS NORTHWESTERN (12PM AEDT SUNDAY)
Big-Ten Championship Game
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State enter this one at an impressive 11-1, enjoying a huge win over rivals Michigan last week. QB Dwayne Haskins was simply outstanding, throwing for 396 yards and 6 touchdowns in a fantastic display. This was balanced by a controlled performance on the ground that totalled 171 yards. The Buckeyes defence has been a bit hit or miss this season. They’ve allowed 31 or more points in 3 of their last 4 games, yet still managing to win all 4 of them. The pass rush has been an issue without injured Nick Bosa, however their matchup advantage here should be enough to see them home.
Fresh off of 3 straight wins, the Wildcats enter this one as the #19 ranked team in the country with an 8-4 record. The rushing attack was again excellent in last week’s win over Illinois, totalling 261 yards and a touchdown. QB Clayton Thorson somewhat struggled however, totalling only 110 yards on his 18 attempts. Defensively, the Wildcats have been very much improved of late, holding their opponents under 20 points in 6 of their last 8 games. With the offense struggling of late, this will need to be a defensive battle for Northwestern to pull it out.
Prediction: Northwestern +14
One of the few underdogs I fancy this week, I think Northwestern are more than capable of keeping this one close. Their defence is amongst the better units in college football and Ohio State are coming off a very emotional game. Supported by 14 points, the Wildcats definitely won’t give up in this one.