Spread Options: College football picks against the spread for conference championship week

·6-min read

The season has flown by, but we’ve somehow reached conference championship week.

It’s already been a wild week in the sport with the coaching carousel as crazy as it has ever been, but now it’s time to turn our attention to these games. There’s so much on the line.

This column has been a labor of love this season. I’ve had a few disastrous weeks that have tanked my record, but I’m on a streak of four consecutive winning weeks. That includes a 6-4 mark last week. Over that four-week span, I've put up a 21-14-1 record. That’s 60%.

I’ll take that and hope those winning ways carry into December.

Last week: 6-4

Overall: 47-49-2

(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)

No. 17 Utah vs. No. 10 Oregon

Time: 8 p.m. (Friday) | Line: Utah -2.5 | Total: 58.5

Utah absolutely embarrassed Oregon, 38-7, last month in Salt Lake City. It was a loss that knocked the Ducks out of CFP contention, and now they get the chance for revenge in the Pac-12 title game — a game that has a Rose Bowl berth on the line.

Utah dominated that game along the lines of scrimmage and things got out of hand when Britain Covey returned a punt for a touchdown right before halftime. With that Utah crowd going nuts, Oregon had no chance to come back.

This time, though, it’s a neutral-site game in Las Vegas and I think Oregon is going to be mighty motivated to match Utah’s physicality. Both of these teams want to run the ball and this total just feels like it’s too high.

Pick: Under 58.5

Utah running back Tavion Thomas (9) runs into the end zone during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Oregon Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)
Utah running back Tavion Thomas (9) runs into the end zone during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Oregon Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)

Kent State vs. Northern Illinois

Time: Noon | Line: Kent State -3.5 | Total: 73.5

After going winless in 2020, Northern Illinois is 8-4 this year. Seven of those wins have come by just one possession and the Huskies have actually been outscored in MAC play. Kent State plays at a really fast tempo and I think the Golden Flashes have more talent on the whole than the Huskies. Playing indoors on the turf at Ford Field will help that offense kick into high gear.

I’d be shocked if this wasn’t a high-scoring game. Neither of these defenses are very good and they consistently give up too many big plays. Northern Illinois is allowing 6.86 yards per play during MAC play. Kent State hasn’t been much better, allowing 6.12 yards per play.

Kent State is 5-1 against the spread as a favorite this year. I think that continues on Saturday and the program wins its first MAC title since 1972. 

Pick: Kent State -3.5

No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 3 Alabama

Time: 4 p.m. | Line: Georgia -6.5 | Total: 49.5

Everything about the way Alabama has been playing recently is telling me to take Georgia, but I can’t get myself to lay 6.5 points against a Nick Saban-coached team.

But I will play the under here. Georgia’s defense is going to give the Alabama offensive line a lot of trouble and I still have some doubts in the back of my mind about the UGA offense.

I know Stetson Bennett has been good this year, but he hasn’t been put in those high-leverage situations where he really needs to step up and make big-time throws. Alabama’s Will Anderson has been a monster this season and could cause some issues for the Bulldogs.

Pick: Under 49.5

Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) celebrates a defensive stop against LSU during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) celebrates a defensive stop against LSU during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

No. 21 Houston at No. 4 Cincinnati

Time: 4 p.m. | Line: Cincinnati -10.5 | Total: 53.5

I think Cincinnati is going to win this game and deservedly make it into the College Football Playoff. But Houston won’t make it easy.

UH opened the year with a bad loss to Texas Tech but has since rattled off 11 straight wins. Dana Holgorsen is known as an offensive coach, but this Cougars team quietly has a really excellent defense. Both of these teams rank in the top 10 nationally in yards per play allowed. Cincinnati’s defense gives up just 4.29 yards per play. Houston is at 4.66.

Additionally, Houston is a team that can really get after the quarterback with an AAC-leading 41 sacks (tied with Georgia and Clemson). If there’s one position group for Cincinnati that is weaker than its 2020 team, I’d point to the offensive line. I think UH will be able to get some pressure on Desmond Ridder and could potentially force a turnover or two. That will help keep this game at a single-digit margin.

Pick: Houston +10.5

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Iowa

Time: 8 p.m. | Line: Michigan -10.5 | Total: 43.5

This pick is more about Iowa than it is about Michigan.

For Michigan, there is going to be some sort of emotional hangover from that Ohio State win last week. There has to be. But the way Michigan operates, I have a hard time envisioning a way Iowa keeps this close.

Iowa needs to force turnovers to win. The Hawkeyes just don’t have a good enough offense. They average 3.27 yards per rush and 6.4 yards per pass attempt. Michigan has turned it over only nine times this whole season. Jim Harbaugh is more than content to just run it down your throat for four quarters and mix in the play-action pass when he sees an edge.

This is Michigan’s time. I trust the Wolverines to get the job done.

Pick: Michigan -10.5

Michigan running back Hassan Haskins (25) celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Ohio State in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Michigan won 42-27. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
Michigan running back Hassan Haskins (25) celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Ohio State in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Michigan won 42-27. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

No. 15 Pittsburgh vs. No. 16 Wake Forest

Time: 8 p.m. | Line: Pitt -3 | Total: 71

This should be a really fun game and it’s one I’m not going to allow myself to overthink.

Both of these offenses excel in the passing game and consistently allow a ton of yards on defense. Kenny Pickett and Sam Hartman are two of the best quarterbacks in the country and have enough experience to perform really well on this big stage.

Wake Forest has allowed at least 34 points in six of its last eight games, including 56 to Army, 55 to North Carolina and 48 to Clemson. Pitt has one of the ACC’s worst passing defenses and ranks No. 112 nationally in pass yards allowed per game. Hartman should have a big game.

Pick: Over 71

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