Tailgate Pick ‘Em Conference Championship Week Predictions Including LSU vs Georgia

Conference Championship

It’s conference championship week in college football. The SEC, PAC-12, and BIG 12 championship games all have playoff implications for the 4th and final spot, while the Sun Belt, Mountain West, and American Conference championships have New Year’s Six implications. Our panel of Steen Kirby, John Bava, and Yesh Ginsburg offer their predictions for every conference title game including LSU vs Georgia.

PAC-12 Conference Championship: #5 Utah vs #13 Oregon
(Friday in Santa Clara, CA) Line: Utah by 6

John: Conference championship weekend begins with the Pac-12 title game on Friday. Expect a low-scoring, closely fought affair between the league’s top two defenses. But ultimately, the Utes prevail to solidify their case for the CFP. Utah 24, Oregon 20

Steen: Oregon can get a Rose Bowl berth and play spoiler with a win here, while Utah is looking to play their way into the playoff. Oregon has lost two one-score games and easily could have been a playoff team, but I’ll back the Utah defense to stifle the Ducks and secure the win. Utah 17, Oregon 10

Yesh: Oregon has limped its way into the Pac 12 Championship Game these past few weeks, while Utah has been as solid as always. Whittingham and the Utes make a Playoff statement, but will it be enough. Utah 41, Oregon 17

Big 12 Conference Championship: #6 Oklahoma vs #7 Baylor (Saturday in Arlington, TX) Line: Oklahoma by 9

John: Last time these two teams met, Baylor pulled an Atlanta Falcons by blowing a 28-3 lead. Ultimately, the experience factor gives Oklahoma the edge here. And Sooner quarterback Jalen Hurts still has plenty of motivation to turn in a performance that will merit him an invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony at the very least. Oklahoma 41, Baylor 24

Steen: A chance at revenge and the playoff for Baylor, while Oklahoma has to win, and potentially win big to claim their playoff spot. The Oklahoma defense has hurt the Sooners this season, their only loss came after giving up 48 against Kansas State, and they fell behind Baylor early before having to mount a late comeback to win the first matchup between these teams. Baylor’s challenge will be keeping their foot on the gas. They have already shown they can beat Oklahoma and I think they’ll show the second half collapse was a bit of a fluke. The Bears get their revenge as Oklahoma’s defense lets them down again. Baylor 42, Oklahoma 35

Yesh: I don’t understand this line at all. Baylor has a strong defense and keeps everything close. Also, the Bears have found another gear since losing to Oklahoma. I don’t know if Baylor wins, but this is a tight game. Oklahoma 34, Baylor 31

Sun Belt Conference Championship: Louisiana at #21 Appalachian State (Saturday in Boone, NC) Line: Appalachian State by 6

John: Both these teams run the ball extremely well. But Appalachian State does a better job defending the run. For that reason, expect the Mountaineers to prevail here to become the first Sun Belt team to win 12 games in a single season. And they still have hope to be the Group of Five representative in a New Year’s Six bowl but will need a great deal of help. Appalachian State 38, Louisiana 26

Steen: App State is criminally underrated if you ask me, and I would pick them as my top power 5 conference team right now. They are champions of Carolina having beat a number of Carolina based schools this year including flagships South and North Carolina. Louisiana has gone on a tear since losing to App State earlier in the season, but the App State defense should prove too much. Appalachian State 31, Louisiana 17

Yesh: App State is a really good team, but Louisiana is underrated and it’s hard to beat the same team twice in a season. Louisiana 24, Appalachian State 21

MAC Championship: Central Michigan vs Miami of Ohio (Saturday in Detroit, MI) Line: Central Michigan by 7

John: It’s been a while since either of these teams have played for a MAC championship. Miami (OH)’s last appearance in the title game came in 2010, while for Central Michigan, it came a year earlier. The Chippewas are just a tad more stout defensively and that’s what sees them through to their first conference crown in a decade. Central Michigan 34, Miami of Ohio 24

Steen: Both teams have middling records but were good in conference play, former Florida coach Jim McElwain has quickly rebuilt the Central Michigan program, while Miami of Ohio has their best team in years. I’ll take Central Michigan on a hot streak with their offense at present. Central Michigan 42, Miami of Ohio 24

Yesh: Miami of Ohio did an incredible job to win the MAC East, but this team has not played well, at all, since clinching the division. Don’t be surprised if this is a blowout. Central Michigan 45, Miami 17 of Ohio

C-USA Championship: UAB at Florida Atlantic (Saturday in Boca, Raton, FL) Line: Florida Atlantic by 7.5

John: The Lane Train has certainly buzzed at full-speed since Lane Kiffin arrived at FAU. And it’s fueled speculation about him returning to a bigger program in a head coaching capacity. He’s already been linked to the Arkansas opening in recent days. Those kinds of distractions have a tendency to negatively impact a team’s focus. And for that reason, I’m picking an upset in this matchup. UAB 30, Florida Atlantic 27

Steen: FAU started 0-2 but recovered well to make their title game, while UAB continues to impress under Bill Clark. These teams really aren’t separated by a lot, but UAB isn’t dealing with the distraction of their coach likely being on the movie. Home field advantage won’t be enough for FAU. UAB 27, Florida Atlantic 21

Yesh: FAU is the better team and is on a roll. There might be some distractions with rumors about Lane Kiffin leaving, but we’ll go with the team that has shown far more on the field so far. Florida Atlantic 38, UAB 21

American Athletic Championship Game: #20 Cincinnati at #17 Memphis (Saturday in Memphis, TN) Line: Memphis by 9

John: One week after these two sides faced off in the Liberty Bowl, they renew hostilities there once again. Memphis has an opportunity to solidify a New Year’s Six bowl berth with a win. And even though head coach Mike Norvell is rumored to be a candidate for quite a few openings at higher-profile schools, his team should be well-motivated to make it two straight at home against the Bearcats. Memphis 31, Cincinnati 20

Steen: In a strange bit of fate, these two teams will play for the second week in a row at the same stadium, this time with a championship on the line. Memphis offense is better and at home they look like clear favorites despite Cincy having a great season as well. Memphis 28, Cincinnati 21

Yesh: Cincinnati started slow and finished well last week. I expect another close one, with advantage to the home team. Memphis 28, Cincinnati 27

SEC Championship Game: #2 LSU vs #4 Georgia (Saturday in Atlanta, GA) Line: LSU by 7

John: This matchup is strength against strength with LSU leading the SEC in total offense while Georgia is tops in total defense. Ultimately, the former prevails with Joe Burrow solidifying his Heisman candidacy with another standout performance. After all, the Tigers are coming off of three straight games where they scored at least 50 points. It’s a result that will certainly open the door for either Utah or Oklahoma to sneak into the CFP as the four-seed. LSU 40, Georgia 27

Steen: A Georgia loss locks them out of the playoff, while an LSU loss (likely) does the same, making this a virtual play in game for a shot at the title. It’s been a memorable season for LSU as they got over the hump in the SEC West, led by certain Heisman winner Joe Burrow at QB and a ton of talent on offense to go with an acceptable defense. Georgia has been good under the radar, the offense isn’t memorable, but the defense is elite and the Dogs can hang in this game. I worry about the LSU defense, but Joe Burrow is special and will elevate the Tigers in this one. LSU 35, Georgia 30

Yesh: Georgia doesn’t have the offense to keep pace with LSU. LSU’s defense is vulnerable on the ground, but to speed on the edge, not Georgia’s power. LSU 41, Georgia 23

Mountain West Championship Game: Hawai’i at #19 Boise State (Saturday in Boise, ID) Line: Boise State by 14

John: Hawai’i is enjoying its best season under fourth-year head coach Nick Rolovich and has a chance to win 10 games for the first time since 2010. But they find themselves stiff underdogs against a Boise State team that is still entertaining hopes of making a New Year’s Six bowl. That’s contingent on Memphis falling to Cincinnati in the AAC title game which will likely ensure the Broncos are the highest-ranked Group of Five team. They already beat the Rainbow Warriors fairly convincingly earlier in the season. Expect more of the same on the blue turf. Boise State 45, Hawai’i 20

Steen: Hawai’i started the year with two PAC-12 wins and it’s been a good season ever since then. They did lose to Boise in a high scoring shootout though and barring something drastic I don’t think their defense can stop the Broncos. Boise has just one loss by a field goal against BYU and will look to run up the score to make their case for a great bowl bid. Boise State 52, Hawai’i 28

Yesh: Boise State is the better team, is playing at home, and wants to make a statement to get in to the Cotton Bowl. Give me Boise, big. Boise State 52, Hawaii 17

ACC Championship Game:#3 Clemson vs #23 Virginia (Saturday in Charlotte, NC) Line: Clemson by 28.5

John: Virginia comes into this game riding quite a bit of momentum. They beat in-state rival Virginia Tech for the first time since 2003. As a result, they’ll be playing in their first-ever ACC title game. But the upcoming challenge is immense against the defending national champions, hence the fact they’re hefty underdogs. Dabo Swinney is probably going to continue to play to the narrative that Clemson’s number three ranking in the CFP is proof they’re being disrespected. That’s why I think they can cover here. Clemson 51, Virginia 17

Steen: Clemson will look to make a statement for the #1 seed this weekend, while Virginia is a good team with nothing to lose in this matchup given it’s expected to be entirely lopsided. The Tigers have only had one tough game this year while Virginia has finished strong after a mid-season swoon. Virginia is good, but Clemson is elite, the difference in talent is too much here. Clemson 42, Virginia 10

Yesh: Clemson is a great team. Virginia is a good team, with a strong defense and great quarterback. Clemson wins, but this line is too high. Clemson 38, Virginia 21

BIG 10 Championship Game: #1 Ohio State vs #8 Wisconsin (Saturday in Indianapolis, IN) Line: Ohio State by 16.5

John: Fresh off another pounding of Michigan, Ohio State comes into the Big Ten title game riding a ton of momentum. Wisconsin has a bit of their own as well after reclaiming Paul Bunyan’s Axe with a dominant win over Minnesota. But it’s hard to argue against the notion that the Buckeyes are the most complete team in college football. They boast the most dominant edge defender in the nation in Chase Young as well as a slew of talented skill position players on offense. This game is the Scarlet and Gray’s coronation ceremony en route to the top seed in the CFP. Ohio State 38, Wisconsin 20

Steen: Ohio State will make their case to retain the #1 seed for the college football playoff on Saturday, taking on a Wisconsin team with a solid defense and a running game, that otherwise doesn’t matchup against the Buckeyes, who a complete team. Ohio State is without a loss and hasn’t been forced into a one possession game all season. The Badgers started, and have finished strong, but they were rolled by Ohio State in a matchup earlier this season and it’s not likely to change in this game. Ohio State 35, Wisconsin 14

Yesh: The Buckeyes won the first meeting between these teams by 31 points. I cannot see Wisconsin cutting that margin in half, as Ohio State has only improved since then. Ohio State 42, Wisconsin 17


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