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The Clemson-Notre Dame rematch highlights Championship Weekend

The Fighting Irish and Tigers not only are battling for the ACC Championship, they are also looking to solidify their spots in the College Football Playoff.

NCAA Football: Miami at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Last week ATS: 4-7 (2-4 National, 2-3 B1G)

Season ATS: 70-68-2 (48-46 National, 22-22-2 B1G)

If you missed picks for Northwestern-Ohio State and the other three Big Ten games this weekend, you can find them here.

National games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):

Conference USA Championship Game: UAB v. Marshall (-4.5) - Friday 12/18 7:00 PM EST - CBS Sports Network

Marshall was flying high this season before a shocking 20-0 loss to Rice two weeks ago. Redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells threw five interceptions in the upset, and won’t have an easy time this week against a UAB pass defense that ranks 12th in FBS. Luckily Wells can lean on running back Brenden Knox to try and soften up the defense of the Blazers.

What UAB is going to try to do is keep the football on the ground to burn some clock and keep the football out of the hands of the Thundering Herd. The problem is Marshall allows just 73 yards per game on the ground, which could mean it’ll be tough sledding on Friday night for running back Spencer Brown.

It’s easy to overreact to Marshall’s loss to UAB. The good news for Marshall is they had a week off to reset things and prepare for the Blazers. I think Marshall has just a little too much all-around for UAB to keep up with. The Blazers put up a good fight, but Marshall creates a little separation in the second half.

Marshall 31, UAB 20

MAC Championship Game: Ball State v. Buffalo (-13.5) - Friday 12/18 7:30 PM EST - ESPN

Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson has been insane this year. In just five games, Patterson has rushed for 1,025 yards and 18 touchdowns. Imagine what Patterson would have done if the Bulls had played a full schedule this year.

Ball State has had a lot to offer on offense in 2020, averaging over 450 yards per game. What will hurt the Cardinals here is they’ll be without running back Caleb Huntley, who rushed for 437 yards and six touchdowns this year. Huntley decided to opt out of the rest of the season to prepare for the NFL Draft. This puts even more pressure on quarterback Drew Pitt, who has tossed 13 touchdowns this year.

Buffalo has scored at least 42 points in all five of their games this year. Ball State has seen five of their six games decided by seven points or less. I’m leery of laying a big number against a potent offense, but I think Patterson is on another planet right now. The Bulls run away from Ball State as Patterson breaks 100 yards for the fifth time in six games this year.

Buffalo 45, Ball State 27

Pac-12 Championship Game: Oregon v. No. 13 USC (-3) - Friday 12/18 8:00 PM EST - FOX

Normally this feels like a game that USC would lose. I’ve come around a bit on the Trojans lately, though. They not only came back to win their first two games of the year, they also found a way to rally last week against UCLA after being down by 18 in the third quarter. Kedon Slovis is already planting the seeds to be a part of the Heisman Trophy conversation next year, and a big performance here could strengthen his case.

After starting the season 3-0, Oregon has really faltered in their last two games, losing to Oregon State and Cal. What has been really concerning about the Ducks is how bad their defense has been. If Oregon hasn’t worked on tightening their defense up over the last two weeks, it could be a long night against the Trojans.

Oregon wasn’t even supposed to be here, which could allow them to surprise USC in this spot. I’m not counting on it, though. USC knows what they have to do, and I don’t really think they care who they are playing. The Ducks give USC a fight, but the Trojans are too battle-tested to see their undefeated season ruined.

USC 38, Oregon 31

No. 5 Texas A&M (-14) v. Tennessee - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN

Are we really trusting Tennessee to do something positive? Of the three wins by the Volunteers this year, two have come against teams that have already fired their coach this year. Basically to lose to Tennessee you have to be a bigger dumpster fire than the Volunteers.

Texas A&M at least does their part to keep their hopes alive of earning a College Football Playoff spot. Their efforts are going to fall just short of being a part of the playoff, but they at least will be able to easily handle what Tennessee throws at them.

Texas A&M 41, Tennessee 17

Big 12 Championship Game: No. 10 Oklahoma (-6) v. No. 6 Iowa State - 12:00 PM EST - ABC

Iowa State won’t be seeing the same Oklahoma team that they saw in early October in Ames. The Sooners have been considerably better on defense lately, allowing 14 points or less in four of their last five games. And it wasn’t even like the Sooners were playing that bad against the Cyclones early on in their first meeting, taking a 17-13 lead into halftime.

What worries me about Iowa State is how much the talk of Matt Campbell possibly exploring other head coaching jobs will effect the team. There’s no doubt the offense of the Cyclones is talented with Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, and Charlie Kolar. The problem is Oklahoma will have a better idea of how to slow the trio down.

This will be the fourth straight year Oklahoma has played in the Big 12 Championship Game. Familiarity with heading to Dallas for the game will be a big edge for the Sooners, where Iowa State might not be ready for the spotlight that the conference championship game will bring.

Oklahoma 37, Iowa State 27

ACC Championship Game: No. 3 Clemson (-10.5) v. No. 2 Notre Dame - 4:00 PM EST - ABC

After the first meeting between the two teams, we knew that there was going to be a rematch. We just had to see how Notre Dame would fair against Trevor Lawrence after avoiding him in early November’s contest because Lawrence had tested positive for COVID-19. D.J. Uiagalelei held his own in the double overtime thriller, throwing for 439 yards and two touchdowns.

Notre Dame has a quarterback of their own in Ian Book. The senior has been outstanding this year, throwing 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Kyren Williams has helped keep opposing defenses on their toes, rushing for 1,011 yards and 12 touchdowns this year. The defense of the Fighting Irish got a taste of the Clemson offense, and now they’ll get the full plate with Lawrence back in action.

So far this week’s picks have been pretty chalky. At some point an underdog is going to cover and I think Notre Dame is that team. It’d be great to see the Fighting Irish knock off Clemson again, I just don’t think it is in the cards. This time the Tigers win a tight battle to secure their College Football Playoff spot.

Clemson 34, Notre Dame 31

Mountain West Championship Game: Boise State (-6.5) v. No. 24 San Jose State - 4:15 PM EST - FOX

An undefeated San Jose State team getting nearly a touchdown in this game? Sign me up. Boise State is good, they just aren’t as invincible as they used to be. Mississippi State transfer can outduel Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier (I will never not think of Brockmire when somebody says his name). Even if Boise State wins this one, they don’t win by more than a touchdown.

San Jose State 31, Boise State 28

American Championship Game: No. 23 Tulsa v. No. 9 Cincinnati (-14.5) - 8:00 PM EST - ABC

Cincinnati hasn’t played in nearly a month and they have to feel defeated after falling a few spots in the rankings while they have been on the sidelines. The Bearcats will have some rust to work off, which could be bad news against a sneaky good Tulsa team.

It feels like this Tulsa team was born to play close games. Five of Tulsa’s seven games this season have been decided by nine points or less. Even though Cincinnati has been nails all year, there are a number of factors that make it hard for me to see them beating the Golden Hurricanes by more than two touchdowns.

Cincinnati 27, Tulsa 24

SEC Championship Game: No. 1 Alabama (-17.5) v. No. 7 Florida - 8:00 PM EST - CBS

Dan Mullen guaranteed a win over Alabama when he spoke with the media on Thursday, so it’s a lock that Alabama is going to win now. Making Nick Saban angry is not the way to go about things, and you know that Saban will use what Mullen said to fire up his team.

Florida is a very talented football team, they just aren’t a smart team sometimes. I mean, who throws a shoe near the end of a tight game? The Gators might think they can spoiler in this game but you know they aren’t really ready for the smoke that Alabama is going to bring. I mean if Florida can’t take care of the shell of the team that was LSU last week in Gainesville, what hope do the Gators have against Alabama in Atlanta?

Florida has the tools on offense to at least put some points on the scoreboard, they just don’t have the defense to keep Mac Jones, Najee Harris, and Devonta Smith out of the end zone. Florida keeps the final score inside the number but the Crimson Tide aren’t really threatened in this one.

Alabama 45, Florida 31