College Football Week 14 Predictions: Picking Top 25 Games Against the Spread
Championship week has finally arrived. The results will shape the College Football Playoff and Bleacher Report's overall success picking the top games against the spread.
While the on-field product brought several thrilling games, our picks finished at the 6-9-2 mark to drop the season record to 112-114-5. For the predictions this week, bowl eligibility is at stake.
The order is based on kickoff time, while higher-ranked teams are listed first in the same time slot. Rankings reflect the AP Top 25.
Please remember the picks are for entertainment purposes only.
MAC Championship Game
Who: No. 13 Western Michigan vs. Ohio
When: Friday, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The Line: Western Michigan (-19)
Western Michigan left no doubt that it was the superior team against Toledo, which could've stunned the Broncos and headed to Detroit for the MAC title game. Up next is an Ohio team that's limping a bit into the title.
The Bobcats overcame a handful of one-possession differences over a 6-2 run through the conference, but both losses came to directional Michigan schools. They're going to complete the trifecta.
However, Ohio's penchant for playing close games—even giving Tennessee a fight on the road—will test Western Michigan before P.J. Fleck's team seals the win and celebrate an undefeated season.
The Pick: Ohio (+19)
Pac-12 Championship Game
Who: No. 9 Colorado vs. No. 4 Washington
When: Friday, 9 p.m. ET (Fox)
The Line: Washington (-7)
An intriguing sidebar to the Pac-12 title game is whether Jake Browning can close the gap on Lamar Jackson, who closed the season with three shaky performances.
What matters most to Browning, though, is getting the win.
"It would be an honor and all that," he said, according to Adam Jude of the Seattle Times. "But that's not my main goal. I hope everyone on this team gets a personal award or whatever it is. But I hope we win the next game more."
Colorado's balanced offense must find some explosive plays, but finishing drives is imperative. Although the Buffs will keep it close, one clutch defensive stand from Washington will be the difference.
The Pick: Colorado (+7)
AAC Championship Game
Who: Temple vs. No. 20 Navy
When: Saturday, noon ET (ABC)
The Line: Navy (-3)
During November, Navy punted twice and Temple's defense ceded just 23 points. The AAC championship pits one of the nation's most efficient offenses against a dominant defense.
In other words, don't sleep on this matchup.
Will Worth captains the Midshipmen's triple-option attack, which has surged since the upset of Houston early in October. Navy has topped 40 points in each of the last seven outings. The other was 28 in a win over Notre Dame when the offense had just six true possessions.
Temple is a quality team, but the Mids will control the ball, run out the clock late and secure a one-touchdown victory.
The Pick: Navy (-3)
No. 11 Oklahoma State vs. No. 7 Oklahoma
When: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
The Line: Oklahoma (-12)
Bedlam doubles as a de facto conference championship. The winner of this rivalry clash will claim the Big 12 title.
Enjoy it, because when the league adds a title game, a showdown like this won't actually matter. In future years, these programs would be preparing for a rematch the following week (though the regular-season meeting would be one week sooner).
Anyway, back to 2016.
Oklahoma State's defense will struggle to contain Baker Mayfield and the explosive Sooners offense, so the question is whether Mason Rudolph can keep up. The Pokes will beat the spread, but Samaje Perine and Dede Westbrook will carry OU.
The Pick: Oklahoma State (+12)
Baylor vs. No. 14 West Virginia
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1)
The Line: West Virginia (-16)
After six games, Baylor was a factor in the College Football Playoff race. Since then, the Bears have dropped five straight.
West Virginia's exit from the discussion arrived a few weeks later, but the Mountaineers bounced back with a 49-19 win over Iowa State.
Baylor lost to Texas Tech last week, and the defense couldn't have played much worse. Skyler Howard is capable of shredding the Bears, but he hasn't put together two straight overwhelming performances all season. Last week, he threw five touchdowns.
Although the Mountaineers will record a comfortable win, a couple of turnovers will allow Baylor to hang around.
The Pick: Baylor (+16)
SEC Championship Game
Who: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 15 Florida
When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET (CBS)
The Line: Alabama (-24)
It's remarkable how a repeat power-conference division champion can appear so underwhelming, yet Florida looked helpless during a 31-13 loss to rival Florida State. The one bright side for the Gators is they have experience in this situation.
"All of the things that surround the SEC Championship Game, they become old hat," head coach Jim McElwain said, according to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee. Last season, FSU destroyed Florida 27-2 before the Gators faced Alabama in Atlanta.
A respectable defensive effort helped Florida avoid a blowout in 2015, and the same will happen Saturday as long as the Gators force red-zone field goals. Otherwise, it could get ugly.
The Pick: Florida (+24)
ACC Championship Game
Who: No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 19 Virginia Tech
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)
The Line: Clemson (-9.5)
Which Clemson team shows up? There's the version with an unstoppable offense and a stingy defense, and then there's a turnover-prone offense that needs a permeable defense to save the team.
If the second one appears, Virginia Tech should be ready for an upset.
The Hokies were stumbling to the finish before shaking the slump and waxing rival Virginia. Plus, they boast a problematic target in Bucky Hodges. Tight ends Cole Hikutini, Jaylen Samuels and Scott Orndoff each picked apart Clemson, and Hodges is a better talent.
Dabo Swinney's crew will need to hold off a late charge, but the Tigers will snatch the ACC title and return to the playoff.
The Pick: Virginia Tech (+9.5)
Big Ten Championship Game
Who: No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Penn State
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (Fox)
The Line: Wisconsin (-2.5)
Penn State's turnaround is one of the biggest stories in 2016. A resurgent offense and lockdown run defense highlighted the torrid finish, but the former is of the utmost importance in Indianapolis.
Wisconsin constantly puts pressure on the quarterback, and the Nittany Lions' average offensive line—especially if Brendan Mahon is out again—might not be able to contain T.J. Watt, Vince Biegel and the rest of the Badgers' pass rush.
A shootout favors the Nittany Lions. However, Wisconsin's defense has surrendered more than 20 points once all season.
If Penn State gets a clutch defensive or special teams play, it could finish off an unexpected Big Ten championship. But the Badgers will ride a menacing front seven to a low-scoring victory.
The Pick: Wisconsin (-2.5)