Even though regular-season college football is virtually over, we have Conference Championship week to look forward to. All ten FBS conferences will be crowning their conference champions this weekend on Friday and Saturday.
Last week was nuts for college football as Ohio State and Oklahoma lost, and Alabama barely hung on in overtime as a 21-point favorite against Auburn. As a result, there is a reasonable chance for more mishigas this weekend.
Below, I discuss four games that I am betting on.
All odds and lines are current as of Monday, November 29, at 8:00 p.m. ET.
CFB Conference Championship Predictions
Conference USA Championship
Western Kentucky (8-4) @ UTSA (11-1) Prediction & Best Bets
College Football records can be misleading, and the Conference USA championship between Western Kentucky and UTSA is a good example of that. WKU has an 8-4 record, while Texas at San Antonio has an 11-1 record. So you would think, based on records, that UTSA is much better than Western Kentucky, but that is not the case.
The Hilltoppers started the season with a new head coach, radically new offense, and a tough schedule. As a result, they started the season with a 1-4 record but only narrowly lost to Indiana and Army.
In that stretch, they lost to UTSA by less than a touchdown. What should be noted is that the loss to the Road Runners was the Hilltoppers’ only conference loss this season.
Since the 52-46 loss to UTSA, the Hilltoppers have won seven games in a row and have been a money-making machine. Not only has WKU won their last seven games, but they have covered in six out of seven of those games, including a 53-21 win against Marshall last week in a game that was a pick’em.
The biggest reason why the Hilltoppers have been unstoppable is their air-raid offense led by quarterback Bailey Zappe. Western Kentucky averages 41.8 points per game, which is the 4th most in the FBS, and 417.7 passing yards per game, which is the most in the country.
Zappe leads the country with 52 passing touchdowns and leads the nation with 4,968 passing yards.
Last week against Marshall, Western Kentucky scored 53 points despite Marshall having the best passing defense in the conference. If the Hilltoppers replicate that performance against a strong UTSA team, they will win by a large margin this weekend.
Conference USA Championship Prediction: Western Kentucky 52, UTSA 45
Best Bet: Western Kentucky Moneyline (-117) at BetRivers
Wager: 1 Unit
I understand that UTSA was undefeated until last week, but Western Kentucky has clearly been a better team this year. The Road Runners only narrowly beat Illinois, Memphis, UNLV, Western Kentucky, and UAB.
Western Kentucky got their act together after a tough non-conference schedule, a new coach, and a new offensive system. Once the Hilltoppers put all the pieces together, they clearly became the best C-USA team.
With UTSA unlikely to tame WKU’s offense, I believe WKU will win, and I would bet them up to 3.5 points.
Best Bet: Western Kentucky -6.5 if +175 or better
Wager: 1 Unit
As of the publication of this article (Monday, November 29th), there are no alternative lines listed for Saturday’s game. Once those lines are published, I will bet Western Kentucky -6.5 if I can get them at +175 or better odds.
The Hilltoppers have an explosive offense, and the point total is in the 70’s. Generally, games involving high- scoring teams tend to be lopsided either for or against the team, more so than close defensive games, as the distribution of potential scores is wider. If WKU wins, it will likely be by at least a touchdown.
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Sun Belt Conference Championship
Appalachian State (10-2) @ No. 20 Louisiana-Lafayette (11-1) Prediction & Best Bets
Three Sun Belt Conference teams have consistently been much better than the rest of the conference over the last two years - Appalachian State, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Coastal Carolina. That is why it should be completely unsurprisingly that this year’s conference championship is between App State and Louisiana.
Before the season started, Appalachian State was an afterthought for the conference championship as both Louisiana and Coastal Carolina finished the 2020 season ranked.
App State has outperformed pre-season expectations after a 10-2 record that includes victories against Marshall and Coastal Carolina and losses against strong Miami (FL) and Louisiana teams.
Since the Mountaineers upset against Coastal Carolina, they have won each of their last five games by an average of 30.2 points. Even though Louisiana beat App State by 28 points in October, App State is clearly a better team since then.
Appalachian State allows only 19.7 points per game, which is the 16th best in the FBS, and the second-best in the Sun Belt. The question is how they will do against a Ragin’ Cajun offense that averages 40.1 rushes per game and a 57.5 percent rushing play percentage.
The Mountaineers allowed only 117.5 rushing yards per game this season and allowed only 3.4 yards per carry. This is despite allowing 246 rushing yards, 5.6 yards per carry, and five rushing touchdowns against Louisiana earlier this season.
Even though Louisiana-Lafayette was successful earlier against App State, I believe that App State will have learned from its mistakes. Based on Appalachian State’s strong rushing defense, they should beat Louisiana this weekend.
Sun Belt Championship Prediction: Appalachian State 31, Louisiana 21
Best Bet: Appalachian State -3 (-110) at Caesars (would bet up to -4)
Wager: 1 Unit
Louisiana Head Coach Billy Napier is leaving for the Florida head coaching job. Some people believe that this will affect this week’s game, but Louisiana will still bring their best effort.
Despite the Ragin’ Cajuns putting forward their best foot against the Mountaineers, the Mountaineers should win. It is worth backing App State to cover at three points as they present matchup problems for Louisiana’s dynamic offense.
No. 1 Georgia (12-0) @ No. 4 Alabama (11-1)
Both Georgia and Alabama play in the SEC, which is the strongest FBS conference. Georgia is undefeated with a 12-0 record, while Alabama has an 11-1 record. Both teams are ranked in the top four nationally, but UGA appears to be the best team.
What makes this game interesting is that appearances can be misleading. Depending on which strength of schedule rankings you look at, both Bama and UGA appear to have equally strong schedules. When looking more closely, I believe that Alabama played a tougher schedule.
Alabama had a non-conference slate of cupcakes and SEC West division opponents. Every single conference opponent of the Crimson Tide is bowl eligible, and six of their eight conference opponents were ranked in the top 25 at one time or another.
Bama’s only loss was against a Texas A&M team that underperformed all season, despite having top ten talent.
If you look at Georgia’s schedule, all the teams they played are teams that Alabama would be heavily favored against. Even though the Bulldogs’ wins against Kentucky and Clemson were impressive, they also had easy conference opponents in Florida, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Missouri, and Tennessee.
If UGA played Alabama’s schedule, I believe that they would have at least one loss.
Georgia’s strength as a team is in their defense, allowing only 6.9 points per game, the fewest in the country. Clemson, who allows the second-fewest points per game in the country, allows more than nine more points per game than Georgia, which shows how dominant the Bulldogs have been.
The problem for UGA is that Alabama averages 42.2 points per game, which is the third-most in the FBS, and the most in the SEC.
Outside of Tennessee, Georgia’s defense was spared any other strong offensive teams. It will be a close one-possession game, but I believe that Alabama pulls off the upset.
SEC Championship Prediction: Alabama 34, Georgia 28
Best Bet: Alabama Moneyline (+205) at DraftKings (would bet up to +160)
Wager: 1 Unit
Last week before Alabama’s disastrous performance against Auburn, Alabama was a +160 underdog to win the SEC Championship. After the Crimson Tide almost lost as 21-point underdogs, they were moved to +210 underdogs.
Bama’s chances of winning the conference certainly should be downgraded after their performance against Auburn. The problem is that Georgia should never have been set as heavy favorites to win the conference before last week.
Alabama has a strong track record, and they are the defending national champions. Georgia has played well this season, but Alabama will be their toughest opponent yet.
UGA should win, but by no means are they a lock. At +210, this will be the best price that you will be able to get on Alabama over the next few years, and it is too lucrative for me to pass up.
Best Bet: Alabama +6.5 (-106) at BetRivers (would bet up to +6)
Wager: 1 Unit
Last week Georgia was a 4-point favorite against Alabama, now they are favored by a touchdown. If Georgia were to win, it would probably be a low-scoring game decided by a touchdown.
The last time that Alabama lost by more than a touchdown was in the 2018 National Championship game against Clemson. With a total of only 50 points, for Georgia to win, they need to shut down Alabama’s offense.
I believe that even if Georgia wins, that is unlikely, and that is why I like Bama’s spread in addition to their moneyline.
Big Ten Championship
No. 2 Michigan (11-1) vs. No. 15 Iowa (10-2) Prediction & Best Bets
Last weekend there was a tectonic shift in the Big Ten. Michigan beat Ohio State and clinched the Big Ten East in a shocking upset. Iowa barely hung on against Nebraska, Minnesota beat Wisconsin in a stunning upset, and Iowa clinched the Big Ten West.
Last week before the turkey was stuffed and the games were played, Iowa was at +4000 on FoxBet to win the Big Ten, and two weeks ago, Michigan was at +600 to win the conference at BetRivers. So now that the dust has settled from last weekend’s craziness, Michigan unsurprisingly is a heavy favorite.
Stylistically, both the Hawkeyes and the Wolverines couldn’t be farther apart. Michigan has an average scoring margin of +20.2, meaning they win each game by almost three touchdowns, which is the 5th best in the FBS.
Iowa has an average margin of +8.4, which is almost two touchdowns less than Michigan. UM likes to win games by large margins, while Iowa prefers to give their fans a heart attack.
One reason why there is a radical difference in margins of victories for both teams is related to offense. Michigan and Iowa allow the 9th and 10th fewest points per game in the country. The big difference is that the Wolverines average 37.3 points per game, while Iowa averages only 25.7.
For Iowa to win, they must contain Michigan’s offense. The Wolverines’ biggest strength is their running game, which is averaging 224.9 rushing yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry, which are both among the best in the country.
The problem for UM is that Iowa allows only 105.8 rushing yards per game and three yards per carry, which both are in the top 10 in the country.
I expect a close, low-scoring game where whoever wins will win by less than a touchdown.
Big 10 Championship Prediction: Iowa 21, Michigan 17
Best Bet: Iowa +10.5 (+100) at DraftKings (would bet up to +7.5)
Wager: 1.5 Units
I stand to win money regardless of who wins on Saturday because I hold Iowa and Michigan futures. Regardless, I am placing an additional Iowa spread bet down since it is unlikely that this team will lose by two scores if they lose.
Both the Hawkeyes and Wolverines have played well this year, and in a neutral site Big Ten Championship game, I have a hard time seeing how Michigan can roll over a tough Iowa defense.
Best Bet: Iowa Moneyline (+350) at Caesars (would bet up to +275)
Wager: .75 Units
While not as good as grabbing 10.5 points on the spread, there is immense value in Iowa’s moneyline. The Hawkeyes have impressive upsets against Indiana and Iowa State this season. Even though Michigan is the better team, they should not be the biggest favorites this weekend, as Cincinnati should be against Houston.
At +350, Iowa is worth taking a flier on, and I would bet them up to +275 odds.