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This is the most exciting time of the college football season, but yet, also a bittersweet one as we will not have 12-hour marathons of college football on Saturdays for another nine months. At this point of the season, we know each team pretty well. We know their strengths. We know their weaknesses. Unfortunately, the books do as well. That means you need to dig a little deeper to find an edge on the market. Here are some motivational and situational spots that I focus on as we enter Championship Week and Bowl Season to gain an advantage on the books:
- College Football Playoff Motivation
- College Football Playoff Spoiler
- NFL Draft prospects opting not to play
- Teams not normally participating in bowl season, playing a bigger conference team who aren't thrilled to be in their bowl game.
- Interim coaches trying to impress
- Coaches on their way out that have lost their team's focus and respect
We will continue to give you everything you need for this upcoming bowl season to gain the edge and beat your books! In the meantime, here are my top four plays for Championship Week!
The Pac-12 championship will be a rematch of a thriller we saw earlier this year in Utah. The USC Trojans will take on the Utah Utes in Las Vegas. These two teams do matchup pretty well on paper as both offenses can move the ball at a good pace. USC had Utah on the ropes in their first matchup, but blew a lead late to lose their only game of the year to this point. USC, on the road, was favored by -3.5. Now the books have this rematch lined one full point less at a neutral site with USC playing much better football at this point in the season. I believe this line is off. USC has too much motivation to let this opportunity slip away. Caleb Williams is playing at an all time level, and with the Heisman trophy in his sight and a bid for the playoffs at stake, I don’t believe he allows his team to lose this game. Utah is a different team when they are away from home as they are 2-4 ATS on the road this season. It’s tough to beat a team twice in a season, especially a good offensive team like USC with everything to lose. I see Caleb Williams having a big day and the USC Trojans punching their ticket to the College Football Playoff. Give me USC -2.5.
KANSAS STATE +2.5
The Big 12 championship will be another great rematch from earlier in the season. I've had this game circled for weeks as I knew this was bound to be the matchup we would see here. This matchup has the same feel as the matchup above. Kansas State had TCU on the ropes trailing with an 18 point lead until their QB, Will Howard, went down with an injury. The offense stalled out and could no longer move the football on offense. TCU eventually won that game by ten points. These two teams matchup well as they both have very good offenses and their defenses have a lot to be desired. Kansas State, however, has the better defense in this one. One big discrepancy in this matchup is the defensive points per opportunity stat where TCU ranks 101st compared to KSU’s offensive points per opportunity ranking 35th. Also, KSU has a defensive points per opportunity ranking of 23rd. This tells you that KSU has good success inside the 40 yard line as they can get the ball in the endzone and they can also get stops on defense when needed. With teams this close in talent, stops are going to be the difference, and I believe Kansas State’s defense makes more of them. Kansas State still has a bad taste in their mouth from their early season loss to TCU. What better way for revenge than to knock a rival out of the College Football Playoff while also winning a Big 12 title in the process. I will take the points but I don’t think we’ll even need them here. Give me Kansas State +2.5 and I will have a play on the moneyline as well.
We move on to the Big Ten title game that will be played in Indianapolis on Saturday. Michigan is coming off a second straight thrashing of Ohio State to take on the Purdue Boilermakers. Michigan owns every category in this game and it’s not particularly close. Michigan’s number one strength is running the football and Purdue ranks 98th (CFD) in defensive stuff rate and 97th (PFF) in run defense. Motivation is the key in this game because Michigan is the clear better team in this matchup. It will be very hard for Purdue to score as Michigan can shutdown both parts of their game with their 6th ranked run defense and 5th ranked coverage. If we learned anything last week, it is that if a teams goes all out to stop this Michigan's run game, then J.J. McCarthy can beat one on one coverage through the air. Even I have to admit that I had my doubts about McCarthy as late as last week, but he proved that he is more than capable of making throws when necessary. He had no problem torching Ohio State’s secondary for several explosive plays last week. If Purdue is going to hang around in this game then they will have to get creative. If they get down early, I don’t see them being able to have enough success to come back through the air. There is one lingering motivational angle that is out there this week for Purdue. Purdue’s quarterback Aidan O’Connell had a tragic loss of his brother this week and this could be extra motivation for his team to rally around him if he decides to play. On the other side, Jim Harbaugh certainly does not want to see Georgia in the first round of the College Football Playoff, so he should have his team extra motivated to secure at least the number two seed with a dominating win. I see Michigan wearing down this Purdue defense and pulling away late as they cruise to an easy victory, similar to last year against Iowa after their big win against Ohio State the week before. Give me Michigan -16.5.
The SEC championship usually has a couple undefeated teams (Bama and Georgia) deciding who will have the higher seed in the College Football Playoff. This year it’s much different as Georgia is still looking to secure the top spot, but they have the luxury of facing a three loss LSU team in essentially a home game in Atlanta. Georgia is the clear cut best team in the country. LSU had a nice season after struggling early in the year but, bounce back spot or not after an embarrassing loss at Texas A&M, I just don’t see LSU putting up enough of a fight. It still is the SEC Championship so I believe that Brian Kelly should be able to get his guys motivated, but I don’t believe it will matter, especially with their QB possibly banged up for the game. Georgia’s defense in their last big test showed up huge against Tennessee, a much better offense so I don’t see them having too much trouble with LSU. LSU had their chance to make this game a meaningfully one but they absolutely laid an egg at Texas A&M. I think this game could get ugly as Georgia makes a statement to the rest of the College Football Playoff hopefuls that the title runs through them once again. Give me Georgia -17.
By Brandon Kenyon
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