Last week ATS: 7-7-1 (3-3-1 B1G, 4-4 National)
Season ATS: 92-99-5 (44-50-2 B1G, 48-48-3 National)
Since the USMNT tied England on Friday in the FIFA World Cup, I guess my picks decided the record for the week should end even. Honestly though, after watching the Ohio State debacle on Saturday, a 7-7-1 record feels like a win. One more week to try and get as close to even as possible before bowl season.
Conference championship games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):
(All lines courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook.)
Conference USA: North Texas v. UTSA (-9) - Friday 7:30 p.m. - CBS Sports Network
UTSA is back in the Conference USA Conference Championship Game for a second straight season. While the Roadrunners beat Western Kentucky 49-41 last year, the week before they lost to North Texas 45-23, which ruined their dreams of an undefeated season. UTSA got a bit of revenge earlier this year when they beat the Mean Green 31-27 in San Antonio.
This game has the makings of a shootout. Both teams are great on offense and awful on defense. Frank Harris will get most of the attention because of what he has done for UTSA the last two years, but don’t sleep on North Texas quarterback Austin Aune, who has thrown for over 3,100 yards and 31 touchdowns this year. While I think the Roadrunners win, the Mean Green will make them work for their second straight conference title.
UTSA 38, North Texas 34
Pac-12: No. 11 Utah v. No. 4 USC (-3) - Friday 8:00 p.m. - FOX
These teams met earlier this year, with Utah winning a thrilling contest in Salt Lake City, beating the Trojans 43-42. Cameron Rising accounted for five touchdowns, throwing for two and running for three more. Caleb Williams matched Rising, with five touchdowns of his own, all of them coming through the air. The Utes earned the victory when they went for two after scoring a touchdown with under a minute to go.
Both teams are a little lighter in the backfield heading into this game, as Utah will be without Tavion Thomas, and USC lost running back Travis Dye to injury a few weeks ago. Even though the Trojans have been playing without Dye, their offense has still been humming, as Lincoln Riley’s team scored 48 points against UCLA, followed by a 38-point game against Notre Dame last week.
I know last year Utah came into the Pac-12 Championship Game against a team they played earlier in the year and destroyed Oregon to earn a spot in the Rose Bowl. The same thing isn’t going to happen this year. After a couple of sluggish games following the loss to the Utes, USC has found its groove over the last few games. This feels like a game where Caleb Williams solidifies himself as this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, and the Trojans earn a spot in the CFP.
USC 37, Utah 27
Big 12: No. 10 Kansas State v. No. 3 TCU (-2.5) - 12:00 p.m. - ABC
Since I think USC is going to win on Friday, that means TCU will have to lose to Kansas State if Ohio State has any chance of making the College Football Playoff. The Wildcats already had the Horned Frogs on the ropes earlier this year when the teams played in Fort Worth, taking a 28-17 lead into halftime before TCU outscored Kansas State 21-0 in the second half.
The first meeting between the schools was a little strange, as Adrian Martinez was injured early in the game against TCU, leaving Will Howard to take snaps at quarterback. The injury severely changed Kansas State’s offensive attack, since Martinez can run and pass, while Howard is really just a passing threat. The Wildcats have found a rhythm under Howard, scoring 126 points over the last three games.
Following what felt like an endless string of close games, TCU got to breathe a bit last week with a 62-14 win over Iowa State. The Cyclones are putrid though so I’m not putting a lot of stock in the big win. Max Duggan has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country this year, while Keandre Miller is a huge threat on the ground. Still, I’m not convinced this TCU team has enough to go undefeated and make the CFP.
Kansas State has already had one crack at TCU, so they know what they’ll get from the Horned Frogs. The Wildcats are a well-coached team, so it’s hard to see them losing twice. Deuce Vaughn has a big day, as the Kansas State offense isn’t thrown off by an injury early in the game to their quarterback. Once again TCU is left out of the CFP, except this time they got the chance to state their case in a conference championship game, while Ohio State watches at home.
Kansas State 34, TCU 30
MAC: Toledo (-1.5) v. Ohio - 12:00 p.m. - ESPN
This game lost a lot of its luster with injuries to the quarterbacks of both teams over the last month. Dequan Finn injured his ankle last month against Buffalo, leaving Tucker Gleason as the starter for Toledo. Then Gleason broke his hand against Bowling Green a couple of weeks ago, but he was able to play last week against Western Michigan. Even though Finn played a little last week backing up Gleason, it was obvious he wasn’t the same quarterback we saw earlier this year.
One thing we do know is that we won’t see Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke on Saturday, as he suffered a torn ACL against Ball State two weeks ago. CJ Harris got his feet wet as the starter last week against Bowling Green in the 38-14 win. I like the Bobcats here because they have been rolling of late, while the Rockets have lost two in a row. Even if Harris isn’t effective, they can lean on running back Sieh Bangura, who has 884 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns this year.
Ohio 31, Toledo 20
Sun Belt: Coastal Carolina v. Troy (-8.5) - 3:30 p.m. - ESPN
Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell just told @HorowitzJason and me on @SXMCollege that he's hopeful Grayson McCall can get healthy enough and practice over the next three days to be available for the Sun Belt title game. But, if the game were today, he would be a "no."— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) November 30, 2022
It doesn’t sound like Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall is trending in the right direction to play on Saturday, which really hurts the Chanticleers. Backup Jarrett Guest has been really bad in the two games McCall has missed, completing less than 50 percent of his passes and throwing three interceptions.
On the other side, Troy has won nine straight games, only allowing more than 20 points in one of those games. Kimani Vidal has rushed for 1,006 yards and nine scores this season, taking some of the pressure off quarterback Gunnar Watson, who has thrown 10 interceptions this year. Even though the Troy offense has been inconsistent for much of the year, they have been better over the last two games, scoring 82 points against Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas State.
Troy 31, Coastal Carolina 17
American: No. 22 UCF v. No. 18 Tulane (-3.5) - 4:00 p.m. - ABC
UCF has already beaten Tulane in New Orleans. The Knights do have an injury concern to deal with since quarterback John Rhys Plumlee suffered a concussion in last week’s win over USF. At least for UCF, it does sound like Plumlee is going to play, which adds a huge dynamic to their offense since the Ole Miss transfer can not only pass, he is a tremendous runner.
I know Tulane just came up to Cincinnati and beat the Bearcats. UCF provides a totally different challenge. I just don’t think the Green Wave has the pace to keep up with the Knights here. While Tulane has already faced the UCF offense once this year, I’m sure Gus Malzahn will have a few more wrinkles that the Green Wave might not be prepared for. Even with the loss, it still has been a great season for Tulane and Willie Fritz.
UCF 42, Tulane 34
Mountain West: Fresno State v. Boise State (-3) - 4:00 p.m. - FOX
These teams already met once in Boise this year, with the Broncos winning 40-20 in early October. This matchup will be a lot different since Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener wasn’t able to play because of an ankle injury. The Bulldogs are a different team with Haener, and they have made so many trips to Boise over the years that the blue turf shouldn’t throw them off their game.
Fresno State 28, Boise State 24
SEC: No. 14 LSU v. No. 1 Georgia (-17.5) - 4:00 p.m. - CBS
Just a couple of weeks ago we were wondering if LSU could make the CFP with two losses if they beat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Then the Tigers laid an egg against Texas A&M last week. Jayden Daniels is extremely ordinary when you can contain him on the ground. Where he is dangerous is when he can find room to run and keep defenses guessing on whether he is going to run it or throw it.
Georgia’s defense definitely won’t let Daniels get loose, as they’ll be pressuring the LSU quarterback all game long. While sometimes it does take the Bulldog offense some time to get going, they are great at wearing down their opponents on both sides of the football. I don’t really think Georgia will have to work all that hard to break LSU’s spirit on Saturday since the Tigers have to be deflated from losing to the Aggies last week. The Bulldogs solidify their spot at the top of the CFP rankings with an easy win.
Georgia 38, LSU 14
ACC: No. 9 Clemson (-7.5) v. No. 23 North Carolina - 8:00 p.m. - ABC
Right now I don’t think I’d trust a team starting D.J. Uiagalelei as a half-point favorite, let alone a 7.5-point favorite. I know North Carolina has had their own issues the last few weeks, but I feel like they want to be here more than Clemson does, as the Tigers had their eyes on a CFP spot, which has disappeared after losses to Notre Dame and South Carolina. Let’s get wild and pick Drake Maye to lead the Tar Heels to victory on Saturday night.
North Carolina 35, Clemson 31
Big Ten: Purdue v. No. 2 Michigan (-17) - 8:00 p.m. - FOX
Last year after Michigan beat Ohio State and made it to the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time, there was little doubt the Wolverines would beat up on Iowa to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. While it seems like a given Michigan will again win in Indianapolis, they might get a little more of a fight from the Boilermakers.
Some of the football the Boilermakers have played lately hasn’t been pretty, but in the end, all that matters is they won their final three games to secure the Big Ten West for the first time. Aidan O’Connell and Charlie Jones are a dangerous combination, and the Boilers can run the football a little bit with Devin Mockobee. Jones is three receptions away from 100 catches for the year, and just a yard away from 1,200 receiving yards.
Who knows how healthy Blake Corum will be for this game? Even if Corum is limited, Michigan still has Donovan Edwards, who eclipsed 200 yards last week against Michigan. Even though Purdue might not have the talent Ohio State has on defense, talent doesn’t matter if you are undisciplined as the Buckeyes were. The Boilers were quietly solid throughout the year, giving up less than 350 yards per game.
It’s weird to call a conference championship game a hangover/sandwich game, but I could see the Wolverines coming out of the gates a little slow. Last year Michigan didn’t really turn it on until the fourth quarter, as the score was 21-3 at the end of the third. There’s no question the Wolverines are the class of the conference, 17 points just seem like a little too much to give in this spot.
Michigan 33, Purdue 21
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.