College Football Picks: Week 14 Predictions for Every Game
With College Football Playoff spots on the line across the nation, championship week looms large.
If the USC Trojans can avenge their only loss in a rematch against Utah, coach Lincoln Riley's team will complete an improbable turnaround that would almost certainly land it in the final four. TCU needs to beat Kansas State for the second time this year to continue its undefeated run.
Michigan and Georgia may be in good enough shape to get in the playoff even with a loss, but does either one really want to tempt that?
Teams on the outside looking in, such as Ohio State, Alabama and Tennessee are sitting at home, simply waiting for the carnage to unfold to see if they have a chance. The latter two teams have a pair of losses but aren't totally out of the picture.
Then there is a New Year's Day Bowl berth on the line in the AAC Championship Game, which is a rematch of Nov. 12's great contest between Tulane and UCF.
So who's going to take care of business, you ask? We've got the answers right here.
* All games are on Saturday unless otherwise noted.
Group of 5 Championship Games
Conference USA championship: North Texas (7-5) at UTSA (10-2), 7:30 p.m. ET (Friday)
When quarterback Frank Harris and his high-flying circus act of star wide receivers completed the largest comeback in school history to take down UTEP last weekend, the Roadrunners pulled off another perfect Conference USA regular season (8-0).
Now, they'll put their C-USA undefeated status on the line again against North Texas. While the Mean Green are just 7-5, they took UTSA to the brink on October 22, losing 31-27.
North Texas QB Austin Aune (3,115 passing yards and 31 touchdowns) will put up numbers, but this is Harris' swan song. Even without receiver De'Corian Clark, who is sidelined with a knee injury, coach Jeff Traylor's team has too many weapons, such as wideouts Zakhari Franklin and Joshua Cephus. UTSA will win again in a shootout, sending Harris out of the Alamodome a winner.
Prediction: UTSA 41, North Texas 31
MAC championship: Toledo (7-5) vs. Ohio (9-3), Noon ET
Toledo scraped and clawed its way out of a MAC West division that beat up on itself all year, but don't let the 7-5 record fool you; the Rockets can play.
That won't be lost on Ohio, which has the better record but knows anything can happen in the maddening MAC. Expect it to on the conference's biggest stage at Ford Field in Detroit.
These two teams haven't played all season, and the Rockets are the slight favorite to escape with a win thanks to the MAC's top defense, led by Dallas Gant, Jamal Hines and Quinyon Mitchell. With Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke out for the year, the Bobcats will turn to backup CJ Harris. He is still good enough to get the job done.
Prediction: Ohio 30, Toledo 27
Sun Belt championship: Coastal Carolina (9-2) at Troy (10-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
With so little to play for a week ago, Coastal Carolina laid a big, fat egg against James Madison in a season-closing beatdown at the hands of the Dukes.
While it's easy to read way too much into that, the Chanticleers aren't the same without star quarterback Grayson McCall, whose status remains in question for the championship tilt with Troy.
Simply put, if McCall returns from his foot injury, the Chants have a chance. If not, Jon Sumrall's magical first season as Troy's head coach will continue. We're rolling as though McCall will be out, but the Trojans will win either way—just a close(r) one if he plays.
Prediction: Troy 31, Coastal Carolina 21
AAC championship: UCF (9-3) at Tulane (10-2), 4 p.m. ET
On November 12, John Rhys Plumlee and his UCF Knights rolled into Yulman Stadium and spoiled Tulane's perfect AAC season with a 38-31 win in which Plumlee threw for 132 yards and ran for 176 more.
Don't expect it to happen again.
Running back Tyjae Spears and quarterback Michael Pratt appear on a mission, and after UCF's dicey win over South Florida last weekend, I don't expect anything to change in the Green Wave's wild run. They're New Year's Six-bound.
Prediction: Tulane 38, UCF 27
Mountain West championship: Fresno State (8-4) at Boise State (9-3), 4 p.m. ET
The last time these two teams met in a conference championship game was in the Albertsons Stadium snow in 2018. The Bulldogs enjoyed a resurgent season under Jeff Tedford and won 19-16 on a walk-off, overtime touchdown run.
This year, it's going to be a lot more high-scoring than that.
These two teams have rebuilt themselves during the season. The Bulldogs are a much different team with a healthy Jake Haener under center, and when Boise found QB Taylen Green, their fortunes changed too. Now, this one's a toss-up. I'll roll with the veteran Haener.
Prediction: Fresno State 33, Boise State 27
Power 5 Championship Games
Pac-12 championship: Utah (9-3) vs. USC (11-1), 8 p.m. ET (Friday)
It's not a lot of fun to go status quo with picks, but every time a challenge has been thrown in front of the USC Trojans this year, they've answered—other than once.
That came when the Utes honored late players Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe on October 15 in an emotional 43-42 Utah win. It was a special game, but that was a different Utes team and this is a different Trojans team that will play at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Caleb Williams is the Heisman front-runner, and Lincoln Riley will have a date with destiny and the College Football Playoff if he wins. The Pac-12 needs this, and it's going to happen.
Prediction: USC 40, Utah 34
Big 12 championship: Kansas State (9-3) vs. TCU (12-0), Noon ET
If there are any doubters left who believe the TCU Horned Frogs don't belong, well, coach Sonny Dykes, quarterback Max Duggan and Co. are laughing all the way to the Big 12 title game.
But the team that awaits them at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is no pushover. The Wildcats led TCU 28-10 in late October before the Frogs stormed back and won 38-28 in what would soon characterize their season of cardiac moments.
Along the way, TCU started playing much better defense, and a championship run awaited. But coach Chris Klieman's Wildcats will play spoiler and leave it in the hands of the committee whether a one-loss TCU team belongs in the playoff.
Prediction: Kansas State 37, TCU 34
SEC championship: LSU (9-3) vs. Georgia (12-0), 4 p.m. ET
What a topsy-turvy season it's been for the LSU Tigers in Brian Kelly's first year.
They lost to Florida State to open the season and were blown out of the water by Tennessee. But a second-half surge that included a win over Alabama sent them into the College Football Playoff conversation, only to see them lay an egg against Texas A&M in the regular-season finale.
Defending national champion Georgia, meanwhile, has been the undefeated picture of consistency. While LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels could cause issues for the Bulldogs, the defense is just too good, and the Bayou Bengals can't hang with them, especially in what's going to be like a UGA home game in Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Prediction: Georgia 34, LSU 17
Big Ten championship: Purdue (8-4) vs. Michigan (12-0), 8 p.m. ET
The wild, wild Big Ten West saw so much tumult this year that it took Iowa losing to lowly Nebraska for the Purdue Boilermakers to get back into the title game opposite Michigan.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the Boilermakers actually play a little offense, so they were always the division's best chance to upset a team from the East in Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium.
Still, you simply can't bet against Michigan. The Wolverines are good all over the place with Donovan Edwards and Blake Corum (if his knee is healthy) running the ball behind arguably the nation's top offensive line. They also feature a stout defense and young, budding star quarterback J.J. McCarthy.
Purdue will keep it close for a while, but it won't win.
Prediction: Michigan 36, Purdue 21
ACC championship: Clemson (10-2) vs. North Carolina (9-3), 8 p.m. ET
Closing out the weekend's slate: the "Nobody Wanted It" title game. The ACC was a colossal disappointment this year, and that's evidenced by the two teams playing for the championship at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Clemson Tigers never found their offense, and while they had a strong record, they butchered their shot at the playoff with a loss to rival South Carolina to close the season.
After a strong start, North Carolina suffered embarrassing losses to Georgia Tech and a depleted N.C. State to end the year. Now, we have to watch them "battle" it out? Yuck. Neither of these teams looks like a championship contender.
Prediction: Clemson 37, North Carolina 31
The Outlier: Akron at Buffalo
Buffalo and Akron were set to play in Buffalo a couple of weeks ago until a massive storm dumped 6 feet of snow on upstate New York.
It moved the Buffalo Bills game to Detroit, and the MAC's Buffalo Bulls had to postpone their contest against Akron. With neither team in the conference's playoff picture, they moved it to championship weekend.
So, in a quirky scheduling deal, the Zips will play in Buffalo on Friday at 1 p.m. While it's not a consequential game for 2-9 Akron, the Bulls stand at 5-6 and have a bowl berth on the line.
The do-or-die scenario is only happening because Buffalo let Kent State come from behind and win 30-27 this past weekend. Now, the Bulls will have to handle Akron to go bowling.
But that shouldn't be a big deal considering the Zips have just one MAC win.
Look for QB Cole Snyder and the Buffalo running-back-by-committee (Matt Myers is the latest in a revolving cast, gaining 109 yards and scoring three touchdowns against the Golden Flashes) to muster enough offense to make it to the postseason.
Prediction: Buffalo 27, Akron 16