By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
It’s Championship Saturday, with six conference title games on tap with tons of College Football Playoff implications, which at the end of the night should have a much clearer picture than it does now. The Big 12, ACC, Big Ten and SEC title games are all must-watch, as the winner of each could make the final tournament, while even the AAC championship has its own drama, as UCF attempts to finish off an undefeated season heading into the bowl season.
No doubt it’s going to a be a great Saturday for college football fans.
Our college football experts preview and pick against the point spread those six huge conference title games below. Make sure to check out our Pac-12 championship game preview and picks here. As always, follow us on Twitter.
No. 16 Memphis vs. No. 12 UCF at Orlando, 12, ABC
Spread: UCF -7
Matt’s Breakdown: UCF, mostly through no fault of its own, won’t get into the CFP, even if it wins Saturday by a million points. Sure, the Golden Knights played a decent at best schedule, but remember, it’s incredibly hard for teams like UCF to get big games. If you’re Alabama, why would you ever play UCF? If you win, no one cares, you beat UCF. If you lose, the story is your loss, not UCF’s win. We’ll never know how good UCF is or if they could have played with the big boys, but we do know they’re better than Memphis. By the way, a win Saturday gives UCF two wins over a Top-25 team, not that anyone will care. My quick fix for this is to make the playoff eight teams, with the Group of Five getting an auto bid only if they finish in the top 15 in the rankings. And no, this won’t hurt the regular season, it will actually help it. You make each Power 5 conference winner automatically in, which makes races for the “other” division in the conferences matter more. You would bring teams like USC and TCU back into the mix, and make the games Ohio State played matter to both teams more. The whole year becomes a race for positioning, not just a few games among the five top teams. Anyway, UCF rolls, then “gets” to play in a lesser bowl.
Brad’s Final: UCF 42, Memphis 31 (UCF)
Craig’s Final: UCF 38, Memphis 28 (UCF)
Glenn’s Final: UCF 58, Memphis 42 (UCF)
Matt’s Final: UCF 45, Memphis 28 (UCF)
Big 12 Championship
No. 10 TCU vs. No. 2 Oklahoma at Arlington, 12:30, FOX
Spread: Oklahoma -7.5
Matt’s Breakdown: The Sooners need to win this one to get into the College Football Playoff. Depending on results around the country this week, they might need an impressive showing. They appear on good footing being in the top four in the last rankings announcement, but we’ve seen those change before, and Oklahoma won’t want to take any chances. To make its statement, the Sooners need to beat up a solid defense which has held its own against offense-only teams in the Big 12, whose games often more closely resemble things that happen on my Playstation 4 than real football. Give me the motivated team here, as the Sooners show they belong by scoring on the TCU defense at will.
Brad’s Final: Oklahoma 31, TCU 21 (Oklahoma)
Craig’s Final: Oklahoma 34, TCU 30 (TCU)
Glenn’s Final: Oklahoma 38, TCU 35 (TCU)
Matt’s Final: Oklahoma 42, TCU 30 (Oklahoma)
No. 6 Georgia at No. 4 Auburn at Atlanta, 4, CBS
Spread: Auburn -2.5
Matt’s Breakdown: Your pick here comes down to how you look at football. If you’re someone who crunches numbers, you look at the previous result between these teams and love Auburn. If you’re a fan of the eye test, however, you are more willing to look past a game or two and rely more on what your gut tells you. My gut tells me Georgia is the best team I’ve seen play this year. Auburn is on fire, and might have the best resume in the country right now. The Tigers also hammered the Bulldogs, who I believe weren’t ready for their new-found spotlight. Now they’ve had some time to rebuild their confidence, and the still have a great running game and defense. A year’s worth of eye tests outweigh a hot streak and a couple of numbers. Besides, we know there’s going to be some sort of chaos-causing score this week.
Brad’s Final: Auburn 33, Georgia 28 (Auburn)
Craig’s Final: Auburn 24, Georgia 21 (Auburn)
Glenn’s Final: Georgia 24, Auburn 21 (Georgia)
Matt’s Final: Georgia 28, Auburn 24 (Georgia)
Mountain West Championship
No. 25 Fresno State at Boise State, 7:45, ESPN
Spread: Boise State -8.5
Matt’s Breakdown: Be careful, this isn’t the Boise State team you remember. These Broncos wouldn’t stay anywhere near Oklahoma in 2017, and, if you believe the rankings, they weren’t even the best team in the MWC this season. Fresno State did beat Boise State last week in a bizarre game in which the teams knew they’d be playing for the title the following week. Boise also have the home field advantage this week. Fresno State’s turnaround is impressive, and there are several numeric indicators which might lead one to pick the upset here. Recent history and experience in big games favor the Broncos, however. Even if they aren’t what they once were, they’ll win a conference title.
Brad’s Final: Boise State 35, Fresno State 31 (Fresno State)
Craig’s Final: Boise State 31, Fresno State 27 (Fresno State)
Glenn’s Final: Fresno State 31, Boise State 30 (Fresno State)
Matt’s Final: Boise State 34, Fresno State 17 (Boise State)
No. 7 Miami vs. No. 1 Clemson at Charlotte, 8, ABC
Spread: Clemson -9.5
Matt’s Breakdown: It’s easy to get caught up in a single game from last week and write off Miami. It’s even easier to look at the whole season and write off Miami. The Hurricanes have struggled to put away even inferior teams all season, and finally failed to complete a comeback last week. The Tigers, meanwhile, might be the most overlooked team in the country. The defending champs have one loss, which came when their quarterback was hurt. They might not be as good as they were a year ago, but they’re certainly better than Miami. The Hurricanes might come out fired up knowing they have a chance to get back in the title picture, but the Tigers have too much talent not to overcome the early storm and pull away late.
Brad’s Final: Clemson 35, Miami 28 (Miami)
Craig’s Final: Miami 27, Clemson 24 (Miami)
Glenn’s Final: Clemson 38, Miami 24 (Clemson)
Matt’s Final: Clemson 34, Miami 20 (Clemson)
Big Ten Championship
No. 8 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Wisconsin at Indianapolis, 8, FOX
Spread: Ohio State -6.5
Matt’s Breakdown: The selection committee would have a hard time leaving the Badgers out of the playoff if they win the Big 10 as an undefeated team, even though their resume would still fall short in comparison to non-champions like Alabama. Fortunately for the committee, it won’t have to make such a decision. J.T. Barrett is overrated and banged up, but he’s good enough to expose Wisconsin’s defense, which hasn’t seen much competition like this in 2017. The Buckeyes want to exert their dominance in the league again, one they haven’t won in years, and this would be a good step. Even if it doesn’t get them into the title discussion, a win gives the Buckeyes a great start toward next year and a potential lock on the league again.
Brad’s Final: Wisconsin 28, Ohio State 27 (Wisconsin)
Craig’s Final: Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 20 (Wisconsin)
Glenn’s Final: Ohio State 42, Wisconsin 24 (Ohio State)
Matt’s Final: Ohio State 35, Wisconsin 17 (Ohio State)