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MC&J: Conference Championship Weekend will determine who makes the College Football Playoff

Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati, and Oklahoma State look to state their case on why the belong in this year’s playoff.

Michigan v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Last week ATS: 5-9-2 (1-6-2 National, 4-3 B1G)

Season ATS: 104-77-5 (49-40-2 National, 55-37-3 B1G)

Much like Ohio State last week, MC&J got run over. At least we were 4-3 in B1G picks to offset the terrible 1-6-2 national picks we posted. We have one weekend to try and stack some more wins before bowl season starts up.

Conference championship games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):

(All lines courtesy of Draftkings sportsbook.)

Conference USA: Western Kentucky (-3) v. UTSA - Friday 7:00 PM EST - CBS Sports Network

Western Kentucky’s offense this year was ridiculous. Bailey Zappe threw for nearly 5,000 yards and 52 touchdowns, as the Hilltoppers went 8-4. Tyson Helton’s team really could have come into this game at 11-1, as three of their losses were by six points or less. One of those setbacks was a 52-46 loss to UTSA in early October, where Zappe threw for 523 yards and five touchdowns.

UTSA fell from the ranks of the unbeaten last week after North Texas took down the Roadrunners 45-23. While I picked UTSA to cover against North Texas, I should have seen the writing on the wall. The Roadrunners weren’t playing great football down the stretch. Maybe the pressures of trying to complete an undefeated regular season finally caught up with them.

I feel like it’s going to be tough for UTSA to bounce back to win the conference championship. Western Kentucky is rolling, and already pushed UTSA to the limit once this year. Even though the Roadrunners have plenty of offense between Frank Harris and Sincere McCormick, I don’t think they have quite enough to keep pace with the Hilltoppers.

Western Kentucky 45, UTSA 38

Pac-12: No. 10 Oregon v. No. 17 Utah (-2.5) - Friday 8:00 PM EST - ABC

What exactly has changed in the last two weeks that makes you think that Oregon is going to go into Salt Lake City and defeat the Utes? Maybe the Ducks have a little better idea of how to attack Utah after the 38-7 defeat, I just don’t think they’ll be able to execute enough of the changes to flip the result.

Utah is just too well coached to let Oregon win this game. Kyle Whittingham knows a win here could send the Utes to the Rose Bowl. The result will be close than the 38-7 game we saw this week, but I don’t think Oregon gets revenge. The Ducks are too banged up on offense, and even if they were healthy they’d still have trouble cracking the Utah defense.

Utah 27, Oregon 20

Big 12 : No. 9 Baylor v. No. 5 Oklahoma State (-5.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ABC

As much as I hate to go this route, this feel like Oklahoma State’s game to lose. I’d like the Bears a lot more if quarterback Gerry Bohanon’s status wasn’t uncertain because of a hamstring injury. I’m going to assume that Baylor’s quarterback will play, I’m just not convinced he is going to be as effective as he normally is.

While I don’t think Spencer Sanders is all that good, what I do like about Oklahoma State is the pressure they create on defense, recording nearly 50 sacks this year. If Bohanon plays, he’ll likely not be as mobile as usual. If Bohanon isn’t able to go, that leaves freshman Blake Shapen to take the snaps for Baylor. Either way, the Cowboys should be in the backfield early and often on Saturday afternoon.

Oklahoma State 28, Baylor 17

MAC: Kent State (-3) v. Northern Illinois - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN

The MAC title game always seems like it is full of shenanigans. The last three years, the team with the worse record has gone on to win the game. Not that there is a huge difference between the teams, with Kent State coming in with a 7-5 record, while Northern Illinois is 8-4.

If this game is anything like the 2012 MAC Championship Game, we are in for a treat. Northern Illinois beat Kent State nine years ago 44-37 in double overtime. The win by the Huskies denied the Golden Flashes their first conference title since 1972. Kent State finally return to the top of the MAC, using a balanced attack to beat Northern Illinois and former Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi.

Kent State 41, Northern Illinois 31

Mountain West: Utah State v. No. 19 San Diego State (-5) - 3:00 PM EST - FOX

I have no idea how San Diego State went down 16-3 to Boise State last week, and still won 27-16. The Aztecs might be limited offensively, but they do what they have to do to win. The star of the show for San Diego State is the defense and the punter. I have no idea how the Aztecs are 11-1 this year, at this point I figure the smartest move is just to roll with them.

Utah State has been quite a surprise this year, going 9-3. I just don’t think they have enough to win the Mountain West in Blake Anderson’s first year with the Aggies. We’ve seen this movie before, with a team that is on fire offensively coming in to play San Diego State, only to have the Aztecs shut them down. Instead of trying to fight it, I’ve learned to accept what San Diego State does.

San Diego State 23, Utah State 14

Sun Belt: Appalachian State (-2.5) v. No. 24 Louisiana - 3:30 PM EST - ESPN

Third time is a charm, right? Appalachian State has won the first two Sun Belt title games, with both of them coming at home in Boone against Louisiana. This year’s edition is a little different since the Ragin’ Cajuns will be the hosts.

Louisiana’s only loss came in their first game of the season against Texas. One of the wins for the Ragin’ Cajuns was a 41-13 romp over Appalachian State. While Louisiana is preparing for life after Billy Napier, who is leaving for Florida, at least they can try and send Napier off with a win that has eluded him since he got to Lafayette. The Mountaineers have put together a great season, it’s just hard to pick against an emotional Louisiana team here.

Louisiana 34, Appalachian State 24

SEC: No. 1 Georgia (-6.5) v. No. 3 Alabama - 4:00 PM EST - CBS

This isn’t quite the same Alabama team that we have become used to over the years. While Bryce Young has been phenomenal for the Crimson Tide this year, it’s obvious the Alabama offense doesn’t have quite as much pop as it used to. Jameson Williams does have big play ability, but Georgia’s defense doesn’t get beat.

Is this finally Georgia’s year? Even though the offense of the Bulldogs might not be anything special, the same certainly can’t be said about the defense, which is nasty. Georgia has given up 10 points or more in just four games this year. If Auburn’s defense can hold the Crimson Tide in check, I don’t see any reason why Georgia can’t at least keep Alabama from scoring less than 21 points.

It’s entirely possible that Nick Saban has a game plan to stick it to Kirby Smart yet again. I’m not buying that is the case, though. This is a really good Alabama team, they just aren’t as unstoppable as they have been recently. Georgia does what they’ve done to everyone this year, grind away at opponents and wear them down on their way to a double-digit victory.

Georgia 27, Alabama 17

American: No. 21 Houston v. No. 4 Cincinnati (-10.5) - 4:00 PM EST - ABC

Following a string of underwhelming performances in the middle of the season, Cincinnati has handled their business recently, leaving no doubt in wins over SMU and East Carolina. Now all that could stand in the way of Cincinnati and a spot in the CFP is Houston, who is 11-1 on the season. The Bearcats do get a little bit of an edge since they do get to host this game.

These teams look like mirror images of each other. The only real noticeable difference is Houston lost their first game of the season. Clayton Tune has thrown for 3,013 yards and 26 touchdowns, while Desmond Ridder has amassed 3,000 yards passing and 27 touchdowns. This feels like a game that is going to go back-and-forth. I do like Houston with the points, while I think Cincinnati squeaks out a victory to stay undefeated.

Cincinnati 33, Houston 30

ACC: No. 15 Pitt (-3) v. No. 16 Wake Forest - 8:00 PM EST - ABC

Pitt plays defense. Wake Forest doesn’t. The Demon Deacons are sort of limping to the finish line of the season, splitting their last four games. On the other hand, Pitt has been solid from the start of the year, with a couple fluky losses before finishing the regular season with four straight wins. Kenny Pickett strengthens his case for a spot in New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

Pitt 41, Wake Forest 28

Big Ten: No. 2 Michigan (-10.5) v. No. 13 Iowa - 8:00 PM EST - FOX

If Michigan plays like we saw them play against Ohio State last week, Iowa has no chance. The Wolverines just bullied the Buckeyes, and I can’t see the Hawkeyes having anywhere close to the offense to stay within shouting distance of the Wolverines. Cade McNamara didn’t do anything special against the Buckeyes, instead Michigan relied on a ground attack that racked up nearly 300 yards rushing.

It sounds like Spencer Petras is going to take the snaps for Iowa this week. It doesn’t really matter if it is Petras or Alex Padilla, whoever is at quarterback for the Hawkeyes is going to have a long night trying to avoid Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. The Iowa offense is tough to watch, and that’s not going to change this week.

The petty in me wants to see Iowa deny Michigan a trip to the playoff. The realist in me knows that probably isn’t going to happen. Maybe the Wolverines have a letdown after such a big win, I just doubt we are going to see that. This feels like the Hawkeyes get beat a lot like they did against Wisconsin earlier in the year, where the Michigan methodically wears the Hawkeyes down.

Michigan 28, Iowa 13

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.