Conference championship week has arrived in College Football with bowl bids and College Football playoff spots up for grabs. Our experts take you through all the action.
PAC-12 Championship: #17 Utah vs #11 Washington (Friday at 8:00 in Santa Clara, CA)
Line: Washington by 5.5
John: If you’re a defensive purist, this year’s Pac-12 Title Game is for you. Washington and Utah come into Friday’s game ranked 1-2 in the conference respectively in total defense. For the Huskies, that side of the ball helped them completely neutralize Gardner Minshew in the Apple Cup as they held Washington State to a mere 15 points last week.
These two sides faced off earlier in the season, with Washington prevailing 21-7 in Salt Lake City. Since then, Utah is quietly one of the hotter teams in college football. They won seven of their final eight games to get in position to win their first conference title since joining the Pac-12. But ultimately, U-Dub’s defensive prowess prevails and gets them into the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000. Washington 27, Utah 20
Yesh: Utah has improved since losing to Washington, but the Huskies are the better and better-coached team overall. Expect for Washington to wash away a disappointing season with a Rose Bowl bid. Washington 31, Utah 17
Lukas: Winner of this game goes to the Rose Bowl. Washington just had a statement win over Washington State. I like the Huskies to prevail over Utah. Washington 27, Utah 21
Mike: Washington is one of the disappointments of the season. A ton of talent on both offense and defense and one of the nation’s best coaches. It just didn’t click for the Huskies this season, but a conference championship would go a long way to easing that disappointment. A Rose Bowl is certainly something to hang your hat on. Utah has been steady all season, but seems to struggle more later in the season. Friday Night Lights, San Francisco style for all the marbles in the Pac-12 (which might not be a lot). Washington 35, Utah 24
Steen: Utah struggled to generate points and yards in a 21-7 loss to Washington earlier in the season. The Huskies, despite three losses, have a shot to return to an elite bowl game once again and continue their control of the PAC-12 in recent years. I don’t see Jake Browning and co. passing up that chance. Washington 24, Utah 14
BIG 12 Championship: #14 Texas vs #5 Oklahoma (Saturday at 12:00 in Arlington, TX) Line: Oklahoma by 7.5
John: For the first time since 2010, the Big XII is staging a conference championship game. And it’s back in a big way with a rematch of the annual Red River Rivalry on tap. Oklahoma is seeking revenge for its lone blemish of 2018, a 48-45 loss to Texas on October 6. Meanwhile, the Longhorns have a chance to truly prove to the college football world that the program is relevant once again.
Both quarterbacks, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Texas’ Sam Ehlinger, will be crucial to their team’s chances. The latter doesn’t make very many mistakes. Among FBS quarterbacks who’ve thrown for at least 20 touchdowns, only Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Fresno State’s Marcus McMaryion have fewer interceptions than Ehlinger. Murray is a dual-threat dynamo who leads all Big XII quarterbacks in rushing yards. If the Sooners can just display some semblance of defensive ability, they’ll book their spot in the CFP assuming Georgia falls to Alabama. Oklahoma 45, Texas 41
Yesh: The Oklahoma Sooners can likely lock up a Playoff berth with a win. That offense is near-unstoppable. Unfortunately for them, Texas is the only Big 12 team with the talent and scheme to slow them down. The Longhorns have been hot and cold all year. When they’re hot, though, they’re better than Oklahoma. Expect Tom Herman to have his team fired up, motivated, and playing perfect football. Texas 41, Oklahoma 38
Lukas: This is a compelling Red River matchup. Earlier this year, Texas beat the Sooners in a fantastic contest. I say the opposite happens here. Kyler Murray is having a Heisman worthy season. He will continue to shine to give the Sooners not only the Big 12 Championship but a compelling case to make the CFP. Oklahoma 45, Texas 38
Mike: Game of the Championship Week. And it’s a hard one to call. On one hand, it’s hard to beat a team twice in one season, Texas has momentum, and a decent defense that can force Oklahoma into mistakes. On the other hand, Kyler Murray. Don’t forget that statement fourth quarter from their first game. And don’t expect him to repeat the mistakes that almost cost them the West Virginia game. Oklahoma lights it up, yet again. Oklahoma 55, Texas 45.
Steen: Oklahoma can’t stop anyone, but it may not matter as they are on the cusp of the college football playoff with a victory. Texas stunned OU earlier this season but it’s hard to do that twice and Oklahoma is the better team, Kyler Murray will add to his Heisman case with a massive afternoon. Oklahoma 58, Texas 45
AAC Championship: Memphis at #8 UCF (Saturday at 3:30 in Orlando, FL)
Line: UCF by 3
John: The betting line for this game has made a significant move in Memphis’ favor. It’s due in part to UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton suffering a gruesome knee injury in the Knights’ win over USF which ended his season. Darriel Mack, Jr., who replaced him, was reliable in relief. He might have an opportunity to shine against a Memphis defense ranked 86th nationally in pass defense.
Even if UCF got a ton of help, it’s highly unlikely that they can vault themselves into the CFP. Milton’s injury is a big reason why. That said, they can extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 25 games and wrap up a bid to a New Year’s Six bowl for the second-straight season. That’s an impressive feat for a program that’s supplanted the big three Florida schools as the top dog in the state. UCF 38, Memphis 24
Yesh: UCF will know before this game starts whether the Playoff pipe dream is still alive or not. The Knights will be angry at being behind Michigan. What can this offense do without Mackenzie Milton? It might not matter, as the improved defense will hold Memphis from doing much itself. UCF 37, Memphis 27
Lukas: UCF, even with a backup quarterback, keeps their undefeated season with a statement win. Even though it’s doubtful they make the CFP, they have been the story of College Football the last two years. UCF 35, Memphis 21
Mike: I’m a big fan of what UCF has done over the past two seasons. And certainly Memphis got off to a bad start this season. The Tigers, however, are playing much better and the loss of McKenzie Milton cannot be overstated. Yes, UCF has a great rushing game. And yes, Darriel Mack, Jr. is a good quarterback. It just feels like the clock has struck midnight on this Orlando fairy tale. Memphis 38, UCF 33
Steen: UCF is tough to read after their quarterback went out for the season with a broken leg. The undefeated Golden Knights honestly deserve a playoff spot after being snubbed last season, and if they get past Memphis they’ll have a case. The Tigers have recovered to make this game and they are a good team, but UCF should rise above adversity once again. UCF 38, Memphis 28
SEC Championship: #1 Alabama vs #4 Georgia (Saturday at 4:00 in Atlanta, GA)
Line: Alabama by 12.5
John: The last time these two SEC heavyweights faced off, they took part in one of the greatest national championship games of all-time. That game, won by Alabama in overtime, occurred at the same venue where they will renew pleasantries on Saturday. For Georgia, it’s clearly an elimination game whereas Bama could probably still make the CFP even if they fall victim to an upset.
The Bulldogs are realizing success by following the Bama blueprint from recent years. Establish physicality on both sides of the ball with a physical run game and a defense that’s hard to score on. It shows in the fact that they lead the SEC in rushing offense and rank 10th nationally in scoring defense. For the Tide, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has emerged as the Heisman front-runner and is on pace to break Baker Mayfield’s all-time pass efficiency rating mark. Look for him to continue his impressive play with his team locking up the top seed in the CFP. Alabama 34, Georgia 20
Yesh: The Alabama Crimson Tide have looked unbeatable this year. Georgia has also looked amazing, but the defense isn’t the strength of this team. The Bulldogs will manage to put some points up against Alabama, but it won’t be enough to stop this loaded receiving corps. Alabama 41, Georgia 21
Lukas: This is a rematch of last year’s National Championship. Both Alabama and Georgia are meeting once again this time for the SEC Championship. This is Bama’s toughest test thus far. But I have firm belied in Tua to outplay Bulldogs QB Jake Fromm to have an epic performance. Alabama wins a close game. Alabama 28, Georgia 25
Mike: Georgia will keep this game close well into the second half. The Bulldogs can score some points on the Alabama defense. But Alabama’s true strength isn’t an explosive offense, nor even a dominant defense. It’s in their ability to just wear an opponent down. They’re a strong and deep team. Alabama 38, Georgia 24
Steen: Last year Georgia almost beat Alabama and they’ll get another crack at them in this game. These two teams have dominated the SEC lately and this is a fitting championship game. Alabama has been a machine this year though and they play their best in big games. It’s Tua Time for the Crimson Tide as they will cement their spot in another College Football Playoff. Alabama 42, Georgia 28
BIG 10 Championship: #21 Northwestern vs #6 Ohio State (Saturday at 8:00 in Indianapolis, IN) Line: Ohio State by 14.5
John: Pat Fitzgerald is one of the most underrated head coaches in all of college football. Year in and year out, his Northwestern teams are consistently competitive and among the toughest to beat in the Big Ten. During his tenure, the Wildcats won a bowl game for the first time since 1948. And since 2012, they’ve engineered 10-win seasons on three different occasions.
They face an Ohio State team coming off an emphatic win over archrival Michigan in which they put up 62 points, the most they’ve ever scored against the Wolverines. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins absolutely went off, throwing for six touchdowns which put his season total at 42. That eclipses the previous Big Ten record held by future NFL Hall of Famer Drew Brees. Haskins seems like he’s on a mission to get himself into Heisman Trophy consideration, something he’ll continue to do Saturday in Indy. Ohio State 41, Northwestern 21
Yesh: When motivated, the Buckeyes are one of the most talented teams in the country. I don’t think Ohio State will come out firing in this game like against Michigan. The Northwestern defense bends but doesn’t break. The Northwestern offense runs the ball well, which will be a problem for a poor Ohio State linebacker group. Expect the Wildcats to cover, if not pull off the outright upset. Ohio State 31, Northwestern 30
Lukas: Ohio State got to this game after a dominant performance against Michigan. In their way of a Big Ten Championship is Northwestern, who isn’t a team to be overlooked. It will be close for a bit but the Buckeyes will prevail. Ohio State 42, Northwestern 14
Mike: Do you ever feel like sometimes Vegas is just goading you into betting your life savings on a sure fire winner? This would be it. A really low line for a potential CFP team against an 8-4 team with no real marquee statement on their resume. Ohio State, as always, seems to hit their stride at championship time. Ohio State 42, Northwestern 20.
Steen: Ohio State has been an up and down team this year and Northwestern have underdog spirit but this game is still a mismatch. The Buckeyes will cement their playoff case with a routine win here. Ohio State 38, Northwestern 21
MAC Championship: Northern Illinois vs Buffalo (Friday at 7:00 in Detroit, MI) Line: Buffalo by 4
Yesh: Buffalo has done an incredible job under Lance Leipold, but the NIU defense will win this game. NIU 17, Buffalo 13
Mike: Only concern here is the travel for Buffalo. They’re better than the distance plus four. Buffalo 35, Northern Illinois 27.
Steen: NIU had a brutal schedule but Buffalo is the better team by record and talent. They will grind out a win. Buffalo 17, NIU 14
Sun Belt Championship: Louisiana Lafayette at Appalachian State (Saturday at 12:00 in Boone, NC) Line: Appalachian State by 17.5
Yesh: Appalachian State won a loaded division, while ULL got lucky that Arkansas State is down this year. Appalachian State 41, ULL 7
Mike: In what might be Scott Satterfield’s last game for the Mountaineers, they send him out in style. Appalachian State 41, ULL 23
Steen: Appalachian State is one of the best G6 schools, ULL is solid but not great. I don’t see this game being close. Appalachian State 42, ULL 21
C-USA Championship: UAB at Middle Tennessee State (Saturday at 1:30 in Mufreesboro, TN) Line: MTSU by 2.5
Yesh: Middle Tennessee has been tremendous of late. UAB is good, but there’s no reason to expect this to be different than last week. MTSU 31, UAB 17
Mike: After breaking into the Top 25, the Blazers are on a three game losing streak. They get off the snide in Murfreesboro. UAB 31, MTSU 28.
Steen: Both teams have just one conference loss and UAB was crushed by the Blue Raiders last week. I can’t go against that trendline. MTSU 24, UAB 14
MWC Championship:#25 Fresno State at #22 Boise State (Saturday at 7:45 in Boise, ID) Line: Boise State by 1.5
Yesh: I haven’t trusted Boise State the last two weeks, but I’ve learned from that mistake. The Broncos are for real. Boise State 34, Fresno State 21
Mike: The Broncos are back to their championship ways after a statement win against Utah State. Boise State 35, Fresno State 21.
Steen: Boise State is hitting their stride at the right time, Fresno has rebuilt themselves into a winner but the Broncos will win their conference on the blue turf. Boise State 38, Fresno State 17
ACC Championship: #2 Clemson vs Pittsburgh (Saturday at 8:00 in Charlotte, NC) Line: Clemson by 23.5
Yesh: Clemson should win this game easily, but Pitt will put up enough of a fight to beat the spread late. Clemson 42, Pitt 21
Mike: Even with resting players and taking it easy, Clemson covers a ridiculous championship line. Clemson 42, Pitt 17
Steen: This game is a straight up mismatch, Clemson will avenge their loss last season against Pitt and cement their place in the playoff by lifting another ACC title. Clemson 45, Pitt 10