Championship Saturday Edition
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Last Week: 4-1 (.800)
2017: 48-30-1 (.614)
*Total: 120-89-2 (.573)
*Total dates back to last season
#12 Stanford (+4) over #10 USC
The Cardinal had two wins over Top 10 opponents in November: a 30-22 win over #9 Washington and a 38-20 win over #8 Notre Dame. Both games stand out for different reasons. The win over Washington was impressive because Stanford scored 30 points on the nation’s third-ranked defense, while the Notre Dame victory seems important because that same Notre Dame team throttled USC 49-14. The Trojans have consistently underachieved from a betting standpoint, going just 3-8-1 against the spread in the regular season. I think they’ll come up short against a Stanford team that is playing its football of the year.
#20 Memphis (+7.5) over #14 UCF
These teams might break a record for total points, as Memphis and UCF rank 1st and 3rd respectively in points per game. UCF won its regular season tilt against the Tigers 40-13, but one of the prevailing themes of this Spread Bet Saturday is revenge. I like Memphis’ terrific offense to lead the way to victory.
#11 TCU (+7.5) over #3 Oklahoma
The Sooners beat the Horned Frogs with relative ease when these sides met three weeks ago. But Oklahoma certainly had an edge in that matchup because the game was in Norman. I like TCU’s chances much better this Saturday because it doesn’t have to contend with a hostile environment. Plus, the Horned Frogs have one of the nation’s ten best scoring defenses. So though I’m ultimately picking Oklahoma and its prolific offense to prevail, I think TCU will keep this game within a touchdown.
#6 Georgia (+2.5) over #2 Auburn
I like Georgia to exact revenge on Auburn, who it lost to 40-17 in the regular season. Why do I like the Bulldogs after such a big loss? For starters, Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson is a game-time decision due to a shoulder injury — that could hinder the Auburn offense even if he plays because its above-average running game runs through him. Also, Georgia has a great running game of its own. After being held to just 27 rushing yards by Auburn the first time around, I’m counting on Nick Chubb (1,098 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns) to bounce back. He and the rest of the motivated Bulldogs will be out to prove that their loss to Auburn was mostly a fluke. They’ll complicate the Playoff Committee’s decision by knocking off the #2 team in the nation.
#7 Miami (+9.5) over #1 Clemson
It’s natural to write off Miami after its surprising loss to a 5-7 Pittsburgh team. But let’s not forget that a) the Hurricanes have blown out the likes of Virginia Tech and Notre Dame and b) they still lead the nation in takeaways per game (2.7). I don’t think Miami will win because Clemson is too good defensively, but I’ll hesitantly back the 10-1 ‘Canes with the spread because I don’t think the Tigers’ offense is much better.
#4 Wisconsin (+6.5) over #8 Ohio State
I was originally planning to take Ohio State. After all, this Wisconsin team “hasn’t played anybody.” Well, I think this Wisconsin team has played a couple of good opponents. The Badgers soundly beat an Iowa team that destroyed Ohio State 55-24, for instance.
But I’ve changed my pick to Wisconsin for two other reasons. First, J.T. Barrett’s health is in question. I know Ohio State has made due with backup quarterbacks in the past (it was only three years ago that third-stringer Cardale Jones won his first start against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game), but Barrett, who had minor knee surgery this week, is too important to this Ohio State team to not have me at least a little hesitant to back Ohio State.
However, even if he is healthy, the book on Barrett is that he struggles against great defenses. Think back to last season’s College Football Playoff semifinal when Clemson shut out Ohio State 31-0, or look what happened this year when Ohio State ran into an underrated Iowa defense and got walloped (Barrett also threw multiple interceptions in each of those games). Wisconsin’s D is the best Ohio State has faced this season: the Badgers lead the nation in scoring defense, run-defense, and pass-defense — they literally do everything extremely well!
Combined with their outstanding running game, I love Wisconsin’s value with the spread and I’m taking them to pull the upset upright.
So here is my projected final four. Sorry Nick, it looks like your Crimson Tide won’t end up making it!