Week 14 Edition
Last Week: 3-6 (.333)
Last Six: 31-24 (.563)
Total: 64-54-1 (.542)
*Note- home team in italics, although many of this weekend’s games are at neutral sites
*Special Edition Friday Picks
*MAC Championship: Ohio (+17.5) over #17 Western Michigan
Let’s start things off with the best game of the weekend: the MAC championship! Yeah, I know, it’s not the best game of the weekend. But Western Michigan is looking to cap off an undefeated season and, potentially, a spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowls. I can’t guarantee the bowl selection committee will put the Broncos into the Cotton Bowl given that they’ve played the 125th toughest schedule in the country (there are 128 DI teams, by the way). But I do like them to move to 13-0 considering they are playing an inferior Ohio team.
Actually…check that last statement. If you look at what Ohio has done of late, particularly on defense where they’ve only allowed 4.4 yards per play since November, I think the Bobcats can hang with the Broncos. Simply put, I love Ohio +17.5!
*Pac-12 Championship: #8 Colorado (+8.5) over #4 Washington
I like quarterback Jake Browning and Washington to cap off a terrific campaign with a Pac-12 Championship. While Browning and the offense receives most of the credit, I actually think the Huskies defense is just as important. They’re fifth overall in Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric (FEI) and they’ve allowed the 12th fewest points in the country. After shutting down a potent Washington State offense last week, Washington shouldn’t have much trouble containing a pretty pedestrian Colorado offense ranked only 70th in the nation in yards per play.
With that said, 8.5 points is too much to back the Huskies with the spread. As good as Washington’s defense is, Colorado’s is just as strong. They’re particularly good against the pass, as they rank 7th in the country in opponent passing yards allowed per attempt. The Buffaloes should stifle Jake Browning enough to make this a close contest.
#10 Oklahoma State (+10.5) over #9 Oklahoma
Since losing to Ohio State in the third week of the season, Baker Mayfield and the Sooners have averaged 49 points per game. What makes anyone think that Oklahoma State, a team ranked 53rd in defense according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, will stop them? Well, consider that the Cowboys defense has improved of late. For instance, they just held TCU, one of the Big 12’s better offensive teams, to just six points last week. Plus, their offense has been great recently as well. Granted, they’ve played some suspect defenses over the past month, but they’re averaging close to 40 points per game over their last five contests.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Oklahoma has a horrific defense of their own. I still think the Sooners will do enough to win at home, but Oklahoma State will keep it close.
SEC Championship: #1 Alabama (-23.5) over #15 Florida
As good as the Crimson Tide are, is it possible that they are actually undervalued in this matchup? Alabama leads the country in nearly every important defensive metric, from points allowed to yards per play. Fortunately Florida has a pretty strong defense of their own, but they have arguably the worst offense of any team in the Top 25. I like Alabama to score early and often and I like Florida to perhaps not score at all.
ACC Championship: #23 Virginia Tech (+10) over #3 Clemson
I went on record during our latest Check Down broadcast saying that Virginia Tech will win this game outright. I know, I know, that’s bold. Don’t take that prediction to the bank. However, I think if Virginia Tech can protect the ball, I think they have a great chance to maybe pull it off. In their three losses this season, the Hookies had a turnover differential of -9. They can’t afford to lose that battle if they expect to hang around with Clemson tomorrow night; but if they protect the ball, they should hang around.
Another reason why I think Clemson could be on upset alert is that they have been exposed on more than a few occasions this season by some suspect opponents. They lost to Pittsburgh, for instance, a team that Virginia Tech defeated. The Tigers also should’ve lost to a pedestrian N.C. State squad had their field goal kicker not missed a chip-shot. Granted, Clemson isn’t that likely to lay an egg, seeing they have a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line. Nonetheless, I think Virginia Tech can at least keep it within ten points.
Big Ten Championship: #7 Penn State (+2.5) over #6 Wisconsin
Penn State’s best offensive player, running back Saquon Barkley, is expected to play after suffering a foot injury last week against Michigan State. But that’s only one of the reasons why I like Penn State to beat Wisconsin relatively handily tomorrow night. The Nittany Lions have been one of the nation’s best teams after a 49-10 loss to Michigan seemingly ended their dreams of playing for a Big Ten championship in October. Since then, they’ve notched impressive victories over Ohio State and Iowa. And from a statistical perspective, Penn State is better than Wisconsin. Their net yards per play differential is superior (+1.7 vs +0.6); and if we look only at each side’s last three games, it’s noticeably higher (+2.7 vs +0.9). Despite this seemingly clear advantage, keep in mind that the Nittany Lions are underdogs in this neutral setting.
I’ve been burned betting against Wisconsin on multiple occasions this year. But I still don’t like their offense, which ranks 88th in yards per play, at all. I expect Penn State to put together such a convincing win that the playoff committee will be forced to look at their playoff candidacy very closely.