It's Wednesday and you know what that means - it's time to make some Championship Week college football picks!
I really cannot believe we're here, yet it is Championship Week and by Sunday morning we will know who the four teams in the playoff, all the major bowl games, on and on. And that's on top of all the craziness of the college football coaching carousel.
Speaking of the carousel, if you haven't been listening to the Aaron Torres Pod, this is a hell of a week to start. We've had full reaction to all the big moves, including the latest episode which dropped this morning. You can listen here.
Still, for all the excitement of the carousel, it is still Championship Week, and with that, let's get to the picks.
Now, let's get to the picks:
Pac-12 Championship Game: No. 10 Oregon vs. No. 17 Utah (-2.5 and UNDER 59.5) - Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET (Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas)
The good news is that this is the first Pac-12 Championship Game at the new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, which will hopefully give this game a big-time feel going forward (having actual playoff contenders would help that process as well).
So that's exciting.
But the bad news is, these two teams just played a few weeks ago and I don't see this game going significantly different.
Sure, that game was probably a bit closer than the final score indicated - Oregon missed two first half field goals, and also had a punt returned for a touchdown on the final play of the first half. A 28-0 halftime score easily could've been 21-6. So because of that, I expect this one to be a bit closer.
At the same time, the blueprint that Utah used to steamroll Oregon two weeks probably won't change, nor should it. First, I fully expect them to run the ball right at the Ducks, mainly because that's exactly what they have done to just about every opponent they've faced in recent weeks with success. In the last five games, Utah has at least 200 yards rushing in four of those games, and the one they didn't was Arizona, the worst team in the Pac-12 in an easy win.
Two, I just don't believe this Oregon team has been the same since running back CJ Verdell went down with an injury. The Ducks have been up and down, looking good some weeks and bad the others, throwing the ball effectively some games but not others as well.
You can get away with that against some of the inferior teams in the Pac-12, but not this Utah squad.
I expect this one to be a bit closer than the first, but still see this as something like a 28-20 Utah win.
Big 12 Championship Game: No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State (UNDER 46.5) - Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC (Cowboys Stadium, Arlington)
So, Aaron Torres Online is a trust tree, right? So, I'll be honest with you: This is the one game I have no great feel for. So be wary of what I say ahead.
But you guys want picks, and if I had to give a lean, it'd be to take the UNDER.
One, when these two teams last played the final score was 24-14, which is a good sign. Two, Baylor unquestionably prefers to run the ball, which will be running the ball right into the teeth of a Top 10 rush defense. Also, even in their Bedlam win last week against Oklahoma, it's not like Oklahoma State blew the doors off the building, finishing with 354 yards and 3 of 11 on third down.
Add in the fact that with a playoff berth on the line the Pokes will probably come out at least a little tight, and each of these teams like to control time of possession (each ranks in the Top 35 nationally in that category) I just see this one being close and low-scoring.
The UNDER is the way to go.
SEC Championship Game: No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 1 Georgia (-6.5 and UNDER 49.5) - Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, CBS (Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta)
This line opened at 6.5 and has held steady since - and in a lot of ways, I think it makes sense. This will be the best defensive front that Georgia has seen since all the way back in the Clemson game in Week 1, and we all remember how that one ended. With a 10-3 Dawgs win, that resulted in zero offensive touchdowns for the Dawgs.
So, I can see this one being close and low scoring.
But I just don't see Bama winning. Maybe I'm doubting Saban too much and trusting Kirby too much. Maybe I look stupid by Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. ET.
But again, I don't see it.
Instead, I expect a Georgia win and cover, in a somewhat low scoring game. Let me explain why.
First, when it comes to Bama, I just don't see how they move the ball. I really don't. Remember, this is the same team that had a total of six rushing yards against LSU a few weeks ago, and had more leaks than the Titanic in the front against Auburn, especially early. They made adjustments and were better in the second half, but against the best defensive front they've seen all year, I just don't see how they are able to move the ball on the ground. Especially with Brian Robinson at less than 100 percent in this one (assuming he plays at all). Even as superhuman as Bryce Young was late in the game, there wasn't all that much he could do early when he had no time to throw the ball.
Still, I don't think this is a Georgia blowout either. The main reason why: Stetson Bennett.
Look, I love the kid and he is a great story. From walk-on to the starting quarterback on a national title favorite. But let's remember, he was a starter last year too and eventually got benched, because he simply couldn't make enough plays, when his team had to go score-for-score with Alabama and Florida.
In the end, I think Alabama makes Bennett beat them, and while I'm not sure he can alone, I do think eventually Georgia simply overpowers the Tide late.
This is a gutty, tough Alabama team, but not one of the best we've seen in recent years.
I'll say, a 24-7 Georgia win, and a trip to the College Football Playoff as the No. 1 seed.
AAC Championship: No. 21 Houston (+10.5) vs. No. 4 Cincinnati: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, ABC (Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati)
One, it's worth noting that this is the only marquee title game being played on a home field - with the Bearcats hosting Houston on their true home field, with a likely playoff berth on the line.
Two, is there a more underappreciated team than Houston?
I say not!
For those who have forgotten, Houston is coached by Dana Holgorsen - man, is it going to be great having that guy back in our lives this week - and they are 11-1. Their one loss came in the opening game of the season against Texas Tech, in a game where they were up at halftime, before a late collapse. Since then, they've won 11 straight, with each win coming by a touchdown or more (admittedly, against SMU, they broke a tie with a kick-off return touchdown with just seconds left to pick up the win, but still).
What's most impressive though about the Cougars, is that while we think of Holgorsen as just the dude with the weird hair and potent offenses, Houston has been really good on the other side of the ball this year. Believe it or not, they actually rank sixth nationally in total defense - allowing less than 300 yards per game. That's best in the conference, slightly ahead of Luke Fickell's Bearcats.
So, when you factor in that the Cougars are a complete football team, with nothing to lose, while Cincinnati has everything to play for, I think this one is close. Especially against a Bearcat squad which hasn't exactly blown the doors off people in the last month. Even last Friday against East Carolina, they won 35-13, but trailed after a quarter.
I'm not totally ready to call for an outright upset, but Holgorsen's boys keep things close and cover.
ACC Championship Game: No. 16 Wake Forest vs. No. 15 Pitt (OVER 72.5): Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC (Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte)
I'll try to keep this one brief, because I'm not even sure that Pitt and Wake Forest fans really care all that much about heavy analysis here.
On the one hand, Wake Forest can't stop anyone. Don't let the final score of last week's game against Boston College fool you, Wake had given up 40+ points in the previous three games before last week. On the other hand, they've scored 35+ in every ACC game this year except Clemson.
Then there's Pitt, which can stop the run, but also gave up 38 points against Virginia's elite pass attack last week.
Expect all sorts of points in this one, and for the winning team to close in on close to 50.
Big Ten Championship Game: No. 13 Iowa vs. No. 2 Michigan (-10.5): Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET, FOX (Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis)
It's amazing how narratives can get stuck in your head and you just can't shake them. Like Michigan. It makes me sick to take them here and I really feel like I'm jinxing them by doing it.
But I have to go with what my head and the numbers tell me, and I think this is a good matchup for them.
If you listen to the College Football Betting Podcast, I've been telling you for weeks: Iowa does one thing exceptionally well, and that's force turnovers. They've forced the second most in the sport, and their entire game-plan is basically "Take the air out of the ball, run the clock and wait for you to make a mistake."
That's not just my opinion, but a pretty much indisputable fact.
Just for fun I looked it up, and in Iowa's 12 games, they either won the turnover battle or it was even in nine of them. The three games they lost the turnover battle were against Minnesota, where they won by five (Minnesota won the turnover battle by one in that one). And in the only games where Iowa's opponent had a +2 turnover advantage or better on them, they lost both (Purdue and Wisconsin).
Point being, if you just take care of the football you have a great shot against Iowa. They are insanely limited and one dimensional on offense (they rank 123rd nationally in passing and 118th in total offense). And the one thing you can't be against this Michigan defense is one-dimensional, or they'll eat you alive.
I'm not totally sure I trust them to, because, well, Michigan.
But I'm still riding with the Wolverines.
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