College Football Conference Championships: Against the Spread Picks

The last week of college football before the final Playoff Committee rankings come out. All-important conference championships are at stake, and the best teams in the country have everything to play for. A fitting end to a fantastic season. Like most of the teams below, I’ve had a solid year (39-33 ATS) but have a little to prove before bowl season. It’s nice to know that I’ll be over .500 as long as I don’t get every game below wrong. You can find the spreads listed below at Bodog, if you’re keen to place a wager.

2017 ATS record: 39-33

PAC-12: Stanford vs USC (-4)

Stanford has been on something of a tear recently, handing previous playoff favorites Notre Dame and Washington their second loss each. That’s the same Notre Dame team that trounced USC in October. It’s possible that we’re seeing Stanford and USC’s early September matchup shaping this line. The Trojans ran over Stanford, 42-24, in southern Cal. But USC has struggled against strong opponents since the Stanford game, losing to Washington State and Notre Dame and playing Utah, UCLA, and Texas quite a bit closer than any bettor was comfortable with. Yet analytical systems have USC ahead nonetheless.

The PAC-12 championship game is taking place in Santa Clara, or within Uber distance of Stanford’s biggest alumni base. That will be a slight advantage for the Cardinal, though this game is about as tight as the line would suggest.

My pick: Stanford (+4)

AAC: Memphis vs UCF (-7)

This could very well be the best game you see all weekend. UCF vs USF was by far the best game of Rivalry Week (and maybe the season) and this game features the two most fun, highest scoring, and most exciting G5 teams we’ve seen in a while. Gone is Houston’s stodgy two-first-downs-and-the-best-punt-unit-you’ve-ever-seen strategy. UCF and Memphis are both here to score, score often, and make a New Year’s Six bowl.

I like Memphis a lot more than the people who made this line. Analytics systems like Memphis slightly more than the people who made this line. Also: take the points in a shootout, which this will be. Both Memphis and UCF have top-10 offenses paired with middling defenses, and that’s a recipe for big point totals.

My pick: Memphis (+7)

SEC: Georgia vs Auburn (-3)

Most analytical systems have Georgia a little ahead of Auburn, but because Auburn won the earlier head-to-head, bettors are going to favor Auburn. That sample size of one is college football’s favorite method of analysis.

However: Auburn just played Alabama — which has an effect on performance in the following week regardless of result — and might be without Kerryon Johnson, who is at least banged up. Taking the points in this game, and hoping that Jarrett Goddamn Stidham doesn’t play out of his mind again and Georgia doesn’t flub three snaps in a row in the second half, seems like a good bet. Add in that the game is taking place inside the state of Georgia and you have to give the Bulldogs at least part of your home-team bonus.

My pick: Georgia (+3)

Big 12: TCU vs Oklahoma (-7.5)

Again, Oklahoma gets a big line here (for a neutral-site game between elite opponents) because they won the last matchup handily. As a bettor, however, you have to ask yourself: is this line really accurate? Is one game enough information? Is Travin Howard’s return to health at all reassuring to TCU fans? How about Oklahoma’s defense, which is below replacement level in FBS and has yet to settle on a real identity?

TCU is a very good football team, one that Oklahoma beat soundly just a few weeks ago, but one that we can’t confidently say will likely get beat by more than a touchdown, particularly against one of the worst defenses playing this week.

My pick: TCU (+7.5)

 

Photo: Matthew Blouir (CC License)

ACC: Miami vs Clemson (-10)

The last time you saw Miami, they were losing to Pitt and not looking good in the process. It’s a pretty tall order, you think, for that team to suddenly beat Clemson.

Only it wouldn’t be sudden. The only large difference between Miami and Clemson is that Clemson suffered its embarrassing loss of the season in mid-October, to the broadly comparable Syracuse. Otherwise, Miami has played fantastically all year, and compares favorably to the Tigers. Clemson has an elite defense and a good offense; Miami is great on both sides of the ball, though not quite as good as Clemson’s defense. In a matchup between roughly similar defensive powerhouses, bettors are expected to spot Clemson 9.5 points because … why?

My pick: Miami (+10)

Big 10: Ohio State (-6) vs Wisconsin

This one is a little less complicated: Ohio State isn’t that much better than Wisconsin in terms of sheer talent; Wisconsin’s defense is the best in the country; and Ohio State is inconsistent. This could absolutely be a Buckeye blowout, but Wisconsin could force (an injured?) JT Barrett to make the kind of big plays that have eluded him on occasion. Ohio State is also going to force Alex Hornibrook to do things he isn’t comfortable with, and the matchup is likely going to come down to which quarterback does better in a few key moments, and so taking the points seems advisable.

My pick: Wisconsin (+6)

Geoff Johnson

MTS co-founder Geoff Johnson is a lifelong Mets fan, something he can't do anything about. He has a great track record when it comes to wagering on baseball – largely because he's more than willing to bet against the Mets. His career profits are impressive, but not quite as good as his handsome friend Frank Lorenzo. He wishes he hadn't let Frank write his profile.