No matter how many years we do this, the end of the college football season doesn’t get any easier. It comes quickly, and you can never quite brace for it.
Although we still have much work to do before we hit the dreaded offseason, conference championship weekend is upon us.
When it comes to Locks of the Week, our weekly CFB picks against the spread, the task of picking winners becomes more daunting. We have fewer options, although make no mistake about it: We will make the most out of what we have.
Last weekend, we delivered another winning week. A solid 6-3 showing brought us to 69-49-4 for the season. We have momentum again, and it’s coming at the opportune time. (Oh, and you better believe we’ll be making picks throughout the entire bowl season and the College Football Playoff.)
Before we get to this week’s picks, we must first explore what went right and wrong about last week.
The Good: Oregon State (+3) vs. Oregon: It didn’t look good deep in the third quarter. The Beavers were down 31-10, and the game felt like it was slipping away. Then, Oregon State mounted a massive comeback and ultimately won the game outright. Wonderful game and win.
The Bad: LSU (-10) vs. Texas A&M: Well, I can only blame myself. The point spread felt too good to be true, and it ultimately was. I took the obvious play, and I paid the price dearly for it. LSU delivered a dreadful performance, and this pick was dead from the jump.
With that, here are the conference championship weekend picks.
Odds courtesy of DraftKings and accurate as of Wednesday.
TCU vs. Kansas State (Over 61.5)
Against Iowa State last week, the Horned Frogs scored 62 points by themselves. That is not to say they'll do so again in the Big 12 Championship Game, although points will be plentiful.
When these two teams met during the regular season, they totaled 66 points. They did so even though Kansas State scored zero points in the final 30 minutes of that game.
That likely won’t be the case this week, as both teams enter this one blazing hot. TCU has yet to lose a game this season. With a win here, the Horned Frogs will be playoff bound. (Heck, the same could be true even with a close loss.)
Meanwhile, Kansas State has covered the spread in each of its last three games. More notably, the Wildcats have hit the over in four of their past six.
This feels like a game that will be competitive until the very end. There will be lots of touchdowns, and Kansas State will likely push for the upset.
Regardless of where they come from, bring on the touchdowns.
Georgia (-17.5) vs. LSU
The Bulldogs don’t need to win this game. Let’s begin there.
No matter the outcome, Georgia should be in the College Football Playoff. If that situation sounds familiar, it should. The Bulldogs were in this exact situation last year against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, and they promptly lost to Bryce Young. (They also proceeded to win a national championship.)
We can question Georgia’s motivation in this game if we want. It’s fair and reasonable to do so. But it’s also unfair to compare this LSU team to Alabama last year. For starters, it doesn’t have Young, who was magical.
Simply put, Georgia is better in so many places. And as we assess LSU’s loss to Texas A&M last week, we must also come to terms with the reality that we (and the committee) might have overrated the Tigers throughout the year.
LSU is solid, and Brian Kelly has done a wonderful job. But Georgia, motivated or not, will show it’s that much better than the Tigers.
Clemson (-7.5) vs. North Carolina
Although the winner of this matchup will be the ACC champion, the game itself has lost some juice. No playoff team will emerge from the ACC Championship Game, regardless of the result. Still, Clemson is in a solid position to recover.
The Tigers are coming off a 31-30 loss to South Carolina, a game in which they were favored by 14.5 points to win. North Carolina, meanwhile, has lost two consecutive games. They were favored by a combined 28 points in those games.
Sure, UNC quarterback Drake Maye should find success against a Clemson secondary that has struggled. On the flip side, Tigers quarterback DJ Uiagalelei is coming off an ugly performance.
But the talent on the Clemson sideline is in a position to overwhelm North Carolina in so many positions. That should ultimately be the difference.
It won’t be pretty, and it probably won’t be easy on the eyes. But it will be effective.
Michigan vs. Purdue (Under 52)
Like the SEC Championship Game, it’s reasonable to question just how motivated Michigan will be in the Big Ten title game coming off its emphatic win over rival Ohio State.
Like Georgia, Michigan should be in the playoff regardless. Even a loss to Purdue won’t change that. Rather than tackle motivation, however, I am tackling intent. Well, and maybe a smidge of motivation.
After last week, Michigan is ready for the playoff. As such, I don’t expect we will see an elaborate passing attack, which there were glimpses of last week. I also don’t expect to see wideouts (or running backs) running freely through the open field like we saw on Saturday.
Seriously, Ohio State. Woof.
Instead, we’ll see ball control from Michigan. We’ll also see the Wolverines’ defense, which played a superb game last week, deliver a worthy encore.
This isn’t a huge number. It feels about right. Michigan will win by double digits and flirt with a cover, although the total will be safe.
Michigan 31, Purdue 17.
Tulane (-3.5) vs. UCF
Do not sleep on this glorious football game.
The American Athletic Conference Championship Game will deliver us one team that will play in a marquee bowl. That team will ultimately be Tulane.
These two teams met earlier this year, and Central Florida won as a small underdog. Since then, UCF has looked a bit wobbly. The Golden Knights lost to Navy as a big favorite and then flirted with a loss against South Florida as an even bigger favorite.
While they did win at Tulane—and they’ll be playing on the road again—this does not look and feel like the same team. Tulane, meanwhile, has won and covered the spread in both of its games since that point.
The Green Wave enter with a sparkling 10-2 mark against the spread this fall. While it won’t be easy, Tulane will add to that total with a conference championship victory.
Other Games On the Card
Fresno State (+3) vs. Boise State
The Bulldogs are one of the hottest teams in college football, and that hot streak will continue through the Mountain West Championship. Quarterback Jake Haener is healthy, playing well and ready to lead Fresno State to a mild upset.
UTSA (-9) vs. North Texas
On the topic of hot teams, enter UTSA. The Roadrunners have won nine consecutive games, and they have the offense to push North Texas in the Conference USA Championship Game. The point spread is robust, although that’s for good reason.
Gambling problem? Call (877-8-HOPENY) or text HOPENY (467369).
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL/IN/MI/NJ/PA/WV/WY), 1-800-NEXT STEP (AZ), 1-800-522-4700 (CO/NH), 888-789-7777/visiting ccpg.org/chat (CT), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), 1-877-770-STOP (7867) (LA), visiting OPGR.org (OR), or calling/texting TN REDLINE 1-800-889-9789 (TN) or 1-888-532-3500 (VA).
Odds and lines subject to change. 21+ (18+ NH/WY). AZ/CO/CT/IL/IN/IA/LA/MI/NH/NJ/NY/OR/PA/TN/VA/WV/WY only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.