Conference Championship Weekend College Football Picks
It’s Thursday and you know what that means: It’s time to make some college football picks, people!
It’s hard to believe that the season really is coming to a close, and that by Sunday morning we will know who the Final Four College Football Playoff will be (hate to brag, but if you were following the Aaron Torres Pod Instagram page, you’d have known in August that Utah was a legit playoff contender).
That also means that we have one more week to go perfect, and in this case, 5-0 on Championship Weekend!
As always, the picks are presented by our good friends at MyBookie.AG. And remember, if you’re gambling this weekend (even if you’re simply fading my picks) go ahead and go to MyBookie and use promo code “TORRES” at checkout. Do that and MyBookie will give you a free 100 percent sign-up bonus – basically for every dollar you spend, they’ll match it.
Alright no more waiting, here are my thoughts on this weekend’s biggest games.
No. 13 Oregon vs. No. 5 Utah (-6 ½): Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC (Santa Clara, CA)
I’ll readily admit that while I feel really good about some of these games (specifically the SEC title game) the Pac-12 is the one that I have the least feel for. So if you fade any one of my picks, this is probably the one.
Which obviously means that it will hit.
Me too a little bit honestly.
Anyway, there are two reasons I like Utah here.
First off, let’s be honest, ever since Utah was slotted in at No. 5 in the most recent playoff poll, the media narrative has been working in overdrive to discredit the Utes. Paul Finebaum was the leader of that brigade, but what I can definitively tell you is this: By Friday, I think this team will be done being nervous about this game, and will be more concerned with proving the doubters wrong and proving they belong.
Secondly, to bet on Oregon you would have to trust Justin Herbert in a big game. Now I’m not telling you what to do with your money, but I feel like there are smarter investments to make. Like purchasing beach front property in Arizona, magic bean stalk beans or Enron stock.
Look, there’s a reason I call the guy “The College Kirk Cousins.” Go ahead and list me Herbert’s best game as a college quarterback, or biggest moment. There isn’t one. Not only did he gag away the biggest game of his career two weeks ago against Arizona State, but even if you look at that near-win against Auburn to open the season, it’s not as though he played well. He threw a touchdown on the first series of the game, and from there, never again found the end zone.
In the end, I trust Utah to eek out a touchdown victory against a good Oregon defense, more than I do for Herbert to have a great game against the best defense he’s played all year.
The Utes win the game and make their statement to the College Football Playoff committee.
No. 7 Baylor (+8, now + 8 ½ ) vs. No. 6 Oklahoma: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC (in Dallas, Texas)
You know how I just said that Utah is going to use the Pac-12 title game to make a statement to the committee? Well Oklahoma has spent the last month making a statement to the committee in another way: That they really don’t belong in the playoff. In addition to losing to Kansas State, this is the same team that fell down 28-3 before rallying to beat Baylor, gave up 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to hold on for dear life against Iowa State and needed some gift refereeing to seal the win against TCU.
Put simply, this team just hasn’t been all that good the last six weeks.
And you know who else hasn’t been good? Jalen Hurts.
Look, I know Hurts was a good story early in the season and we all wanted a third straight Heisman winner from Oklahoma. But the bottom-line is that the last few weeks this guy simply hasn’t been good. He’s thrown three picks in the last four games, and even worse, in a truly wild stat, he has fumbled the ball seven times this year, and lost five of them.
As for Baylor, say what you want about the Bears, but they play real defense. Outside of the Oklahoma game (where they held the Sooners to 10 points below their season average), here is how many points the Bears defense has given up in its last four games in regulation: 14, 9, 10 and 6.
Baylor was and is the best defense Oklahoma has played all year and will come into this game knowing that they were good enough to beat the Sooners the first time they played. They won’t let the opportunity pass a second time.
I like the Bears and the points and wouldn’t be shocked by an outright upset.
No. 4 Georgia vs. No. 2 LSU (-7 ½): Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, CBS (Atlanta, Georgia)
Of all the games to prognosticate, this one is actually the easiest for me and it’s not even close. We’ve all watched a ton of Georgia and LSU all season long, so we all know what we’re going to get. LSU has thrown the ball all over the yard all season long, and that ain’t gonna change Saturday. Georgia has played smashmouth defense and tried to win every game 14-10.
So which style will have success on Saturday? To me, it’s LSU’s and it actually feels pretty obvious.
That’s because, we already know Georgia’s offense stinks. Therefore, if LSU can just score 17 or even 21 points in this game, it’s going to be hard for Georgia to match it. Considering that LSU has scored at least 23 points in every game this season, that seems likely.
But then there’s this: Are we positive that Georgia’s defense is as good as we think?
I know that sounds blasphemous, but hear me out. I had my buddy Jacob Hester from Sirius XM radio on my podcast this week and he brought up a fascinating point: The best offense Georgia faced all year was… gulp… Arkansas State, which ranked 44th nationally.
To take it a step further, and this stat still blows me away: Georgia has faced a second, third or fourth string quarterback in five of their eight SEC games this season. Yes, that’s right, they faced backups against Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky (the fourth-string), Florida and Missouri.
And now that defense is going to be ready for Joe Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and that LSU passing attack?
LSU has proven throughout this season that they are the best team in the SEC, and will prove it once again with a resounding win over Georgia in the Georgia Dome.
The Tigers will roll into the College Football Playoff.
No. 23 Virginia vs. No. 3 Clemson (UNDER 55 ½): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC (Charlotte, NC)
Shout out to the Clemson Tigers, who have been the single most profitable team for me this college football season. Early on, when their offense was struggling, I pounded all their UNDERS. And then, when they got hot, I just took them to cover, which they have the last several weeks.
So again, thank you to Dabo Swinney and Clemson. Santa Torres is giving out some great Christmas gifts this year thanks to you guys.
And I’m going to cash once more on the under here. And the reason is pretty straight forward: This will be the best defense each team has seen all season.
Virginia is pretty self-explanatory, so let’s instead go to Clemson. Want an insane stat which exemplifies just how bad their competition has been this season? It’s this: Of the top six defenses in the ACC, Clemson hasn’t faced a single one. They themselves were No. 1, but then also didn’t play No. 2 (Pitt), No. 3 (Miami), No. 4 (Virginia), No. 5 (Virginia Tech) and No. 6 (Duke). No. 7 was North Carolina, which held the Tigers to just 21 points. The other solid defense that Clemson faced, Texas A&M, held them to 24.
Point being, I think Clemson might legit shut out Virginia and I think the Cavaliers will give the Tigers more trouble than they’ve had in several weeks.
The Tigers roll, by a score of something like 38-7 or 45-6, with the UNDER hitting with ease.
No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 1 Ohio State (-16 ½, now -16): Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC (Indianapolis)
Once this matchup became official, I went back and looked closely at the box score from the first time these two teams played, and this game was actually a bit more competitive than I realized.
For those who’ve forgotten, Wisconsin actually forced Ohio State to punt on its first three possessions and four of its first six.
That is by far the best job anyone has done slowing down this Ohio State offense all season.
Therefore, the problem here isn’t really so much about defense for Wisconsin, as it is their offense. Eventually, it doesn’t matter how well the defense plays, when your offense can’t move the ball it wears down your defense, which is exactly what happened in the first meeting between these two teams. While Ohio State punted on its first three possessions, it scored touchdowns on its final four.
Because of it, there’s no real reason to overanalyze here.
I truly believe this one will play out a lot like the first matchup between these two teams.
One where Wisconsin kept things close early, but simply got overwhelmed on both sides of the ball late.
It will be the same on Saturday night in Indianapolis.
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