Conference Championship Week of the college football sports betting is here at DraftKings Sportsbook, BetStars Sportsbook, and FanDuel Sportsbook. Each week during the NCAA football season, we’ll break down the biggest games of the week from a sports betting perspective and give you a pick or a lean for the games you, and the rest of America, are going to be watching.
Please note we’ll be referencing only legal, regulated sportsbook betting odds and totals here at PlayPicks. A “pick” is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we feel confident recommending. A “lean” is a wager we favor over the other side. It could end up in our plays after additional research or information is released.
2018 picks record to date
(14) Texas vs. (5) Oklahoma
DraftKings Sportsbook Odds: Oklahoma -7.5 / Total 78
The first game of Championship Saturday will be a rematch of the Red River Rivalry. However, this game is not being played at the Cotton Bowl. Instead, Jerry’s World in Arlington will play host to the Big 12 Championship Game as Oklahoma tries to make a case to the Playoff Selection Committee. Everyone will want to see how the Sooners fair against their arch rival a second time around.
If Oklahoma can avenge their only loss of the season, the 48-45 defeat to Texas in October, they have a solid chance of being picked over Ohio State for the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. You can argue that getting to play Alabama isn’t a great reward, but the Sooners want the opportunity nonetheless.
Overall, this has been a bizarre season for OU. Their offense, led by a star baseball player in QB Kyler Murray, is the best in the country. Yet Oklahoma has an awful 4-8 record ATS this season. The Sooners haven’t covered as a favorite since late October, including last week when they were 3-point favorites on the road at West Virginia and won the game 59-56.
If you are sensing a trend here, you wouldn’t be alone. The Sooners simply can’t stop anyone this year. Their defense is giving up a ridiculous 32.8 points per game. If it wasn’t for their amazing offense, they wouldn’t even be in this conference title game. Over the last four games, OU’s defense has given up over 47 points per game. To think that Texas won’t score over 40 points, then, would be a stretch.
For Texas, Tom Herman is a wizard. I’ve said that numerous times this season, and it’s especially true when he’s getting points. This year, the Longhorns are 2-0-1 in that pose and won outright as 7-point underdogs in this matchup in October.
QB Sam Ehlinger has been outstanding this season. Even though he has been slowed by a shoulder injury recently, he’s still managed to register 34 total touchdowns. Massive Texas wideouts Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson have been highly productive targets for Ehlinger. They combined for 15 receptions, over 200 yards, and two touchdowns in the first UT-OU meeting.
In the first matchup, OU turned the ball over three times but only lost by three. If the Sooners hang onto the football, it could be a long day for UT. For that reason, I’m not going to pick Tom Herman here. Rather, I’m going to just lean toward the Longhorns.
What I will take is the over at 78. Oklahoma is going to score at least 45 points, and given their pathetic defense, it’s really hard to see how Texas isn’t going to be in the forties as well.
Pick: Over 78
Lean: Texas +7.5
(1) Alabama vs. (4) Georgia
DraftKings Sportsbook Odds: Alabama -13 / Total 52.5
The second big game on Saturday is the SEC Championship Game. Alabama knows they are in the playoffs regardless of the outcome. The same can’t be said for the SEC East Champ, however.
Georgia has been favored in every game this season and has lost only once. If it wasn’t for their slip-up on the road at LSU, the Bulldogs would feel good about their chances of making the College Football Playoffs. Instead, Georgia has to pull the upset of the undefeated Crimson Tide to punch their ticket. That’s going to very tough against a team that has yet to play a close game this season.
The Bulldogs have been making money for backers for the last two months. Georgia has covered five of its last seven games, and, really, if you bet them to cover the 41-point line versus UMass, you were asking for trouble. Yes, they were favored against LSU, but that’s the only game UGA didn’t win this season.
Alabama is a historically great team this year. Winning the SEC West was the first step, but this game in Atlanta is the second opportunity for the 2018 team to win some hardware. Even though they won the National Championship last season, the Tide didn’t play in this game a year ago. They were upset in the Iron Bowl. Bama is 7-4 in this game overall and hasn’t lost an SEC Championship Game since Nick Saban’s second year in Tuscaloosa.
QB Tua Tagovailoa has thrown for 3,189 yards, 36 touchdowns, and two interceptions in 2018. That’s just ridiculous for a player in his first full season playing college football. Georgia has simply not played a quarterback with his skills this season. Missouri’s Drew Lock would be closest, and he only threw for 221 yards and one interception. Tua is much, much better than Lock, and Bama’s defense is better than anything Georgia has seen this year.
The one common opponent here is LSU. Alabama shut out the Tigers 29-0 while Georgia lost 36-16. That’s pretty much all you need to know about this game. Don’t get in front of the Alabama train here. Lay the points.
Pick: Alabama -13
(6) Ohio State vs. (21) Northwestern
DraftKings Sportsbook Odds: Ohio State -14 / Total 63.5
We’ve been pretty good this year picking games but, boy, did we get it wrong last week with Ohio State.
Picking Michigan to cover the 4.5-point spread was as backward as wearing a winter coat in a Las Vegas July. The Buckeyes played their best game of the year and scored the second-most points ever allowed by Michigan — 62. The game was never close, and Michigan fell to 0-4 versus Ohio State under Jim Harbaugh.
Ohio State’s 11-1 record isn’t as strong as the numbers would indicate, but they are here in the Big 10 Championship game against a Northwestern team who won the Big 10 West title. The Buckeye offense was hitting on everything last week, but you have to wonder about them getting up for another huge game just one week after taking down their hated rival.
One additional thing to pay attention to is that Ohio State will know the outcome of the Big 12 Title game before they kick off. If Oklahoma wins big and Georgia loses to Alabama, there will be nothing Ohio State can do to make the playoffs unless they put up a monster score. Even if they do that, the likelihood they jump OU is very small.
As for common opponents, Northwestern and Ohio State have both played Michigan State, Michigan, Rutgers, Nebraska, Purdue, and Minnesota. Both teams went 5-1 against that bunch. The Wildcats lost to Michigan while Ohio State lost to Purdue. Northwestern lost three games in a row in September but since have only lost once, to Notre Dame, and come into this game with an 8-4 record. Ohio State is averaging 44 points per game since losing to Purdue in late October and are rightfully big favorites on Saturday night.
A major difference between these teams is that, in conference play, Ohio State hasn’t covered as a favorite of more than three points. In fact, Ohio State is just 2-6 ATS this season in the Big 10 when laying points. Northwestern, on the other hand, has covered as double-digit underdogs against Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa. They also covered as 4.5-, 3- and 1- point underdogs against Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Purdue. Coach Pat Fitzgerald is a master at motivating his team to play above their talent level. In this game, his team is getting 14 points.
I know Ohio State has way more talent and should win this game easily, but I can’t go against Northwestern here. There are thousands of Wildcat fans heading to Indianapolis, and the building won’t be overwhelmingly pro-OSU. I’m taking the points.
Pick: Northwestern +14
(2) Clemson vs. Pittsburgh
DraftKings Sportsbook Odds: Clemson -26.5 / Total 54.5
This is another example of the sportsbook telling us what is going to happen.
The Tigers haven’t lost a contest this season and are heavy favorites again. However, the total in this game is below 55. Assuming Clemson is expected to score near or above their average of 45.5 points per game (third best in the country), the book is telling you Pittsburgh will not be scoring much on Saturday.
A play on the under wouldn’t be a bad idea, but it’s hard to paint a picture here where Clemson doesn’t cover this line. Pitt is 7-5 and coming off a 24-3 loss to Miami last week. The Panthers on average give up more points than they score and have yielded more than 30 on five occasions this season. To say they are going to have their hands full with Clemson would be a massive understatement.
Sure, folks are going to point to wins over Syracuse and how Pitt played Notre Dame close, but this is for the ACC Championship. Clemson wants to cement itself as the second-best team in the country behind Alabama and hasn’t scored fewer than 27 points this season. They’re also coming off a 56-35 beatdown of in-state rival South Carolina last week.
Dabo Swinney wants another crack at Alabama and knows his team is only two victories away from getting that opportunity. QB Trevor Lawrence has been outstanding since taking over the QB position and led the Tigers to over 740 yards of offense a week ago. Running back Travis Etienne is finally getting the attention he deserves and should have a monster game. Pitt is giving up over 400 yards of offense per game, and over 185 yards of that is on the ground.
Clemson will score and keep scoring while Pittsburgh will have a long day against a defense giving up just 14.6 points per game (fourth in the nation).
Pick: Clemson -26.5