It’s conference championship weekend! The Oklahoma Sooners are slated for a rematch against the Texas Longhorns for a chance to win the Big 12 Championship and a potential berth in the College Football Playoff. However, that’s not the only in-season rematch that will play out this weekend. It’ll also be Round 2 in the Pac-12, the AAC and the Mountain West championship games.
Gambling picks are below, along with each game’s respective kickoff time and TV info.
Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma (-7.5) vs. Texas - The time has finally come. Of all the rematches that could have come to fruition under the current format of the Big 12, this is the one with all the juicy headlines. Oklahoma has been here before, and with that experience, plus an eagerness to right the wrongs from two months ago, I fully expect the Sooners to come out firing on all cylinders. Even the defense will be highly-energized. Sam Ehlinger’s health is the X-factor here, and he definitely wasn’t 100% last week. Gambling pick: With so much that’s been said about the defense, I think they finally say ‘enough is enough’. Oklahoma covers to send a message to the Longhorns and the playoff committee, and Kyler Murray makes an emphatic final statement to all the Heisman voters tuning in. Over 78. Kicks off at 11:00 a.m. CT on ABC.
Pac-12 Championship: Washington (-6) vs. Utah - This is another rematch from a game played earlier in the season, and in that first meeting, the Huskies dominated the Utes on their home field. Last time out, UW’s defense played lights out in inclement weather against a high-powered Washington State offense, while Utah hasn’t been as efficient down the stretch. Gambling pick: Without home field advantage this time around, I think Utah’s hopes of winning decrease even more than the previous meeting. I’ve got Washington winning and covering this one going away to claim the Pac-12 Championship. Under 44.5. Kicks off at 7:00 p.m. CT (Friday night) on FOX.
Stanford (-3) at California - This one isn’t for the conference crown, but it’s a heated rivalry that goes back decades. It’s also notable that this game was postponed for two weeks due to the poor air quality from the surrounding wildfires. Now that the conditions are more favorable, who will claim the Stanford Axe? The Cardinal owns the all-time series record, and has won eight straight dating back to 2010. Gambling pick: As much as I want to see a little more parity in this rivalry, I don’t see Cal being able to keep up with Stanford this year. David Shaw’s team is much more battle-tested this season, and has looked more competitive in their big games. Plus, the number of mismatches on the outside will create real problems for the Bears. Over 46. Kicks off at 2:00 p.m. CT on Pac-12 Network.
AAC Championship: Memphis at UCF (-3) - Losing McKenzie Milton for the season severely hurts the Knights’ chances to make a statement in a NY6 Bowl, but first they must defeat Memphis for a second time for the AAC title. Last time these two played was in a downpour in Memphis, and UCF escaped with a one point victory. Can backup QB Darriel Mack Jr. do the same in a championship setting? Gambling pick: Josh Heupel’s offense gets most of the credit for the team’s incredible run, and rightfully so, especially after the defense gave up program-highs to Temple. That said, the Knights’ defense has had some outstanding performances as well, which is why I’m picking UCF to cover for the AAC Championship. Over 64. Kicks off at 2:30 p.m. CT on ABC.
SEC Championship: Alabama (-13.5) vs. Georgia - The Bulldogs are peaking at the right time, while the Crimson Tide has been playing at the highest of levels virtually all season long. In a rematch of last season’s national championship, can a more seasoned Jake Fromm lead UGA to another SEC Championship? He’ll have to outduel Tua Tagovailoa. Gambling pick: I almost went with Georgia to cover, but I just don’t believe they boast enough firepower to stay within two scores of Alabama. Still, both defenses will keep this one low scoring long enough to make it a game in the fourth, but eventually ‘Bama’s offensive depth will wear on the younger Georgia D. Under 63.5. Kicks off at 3:00 p.m. CT on CBS.
Mountain West Championship: Fresno State at Boise State (-3) - These two teams played each other less than a month ago on the same field, so both squads might be experiencing a little déjà vu come Saturday. In that first meeting, Boise got off to a hot start before having to hold on at the end for the seven-point win. Fresno State’s defense has carried them to this championship game appearance, but can it get them over the hump? Gambling pick: I see this being more of a competitive game through the first half and in the early stages of the second, but the underrated home field advantage for the Broncos will prove to be too much for the Bulldogs to overcome. I’ve got Boise State covering late to seal the deal. Over 53. Kicks off at 6:45 p.m. CT on ESPN.
ACC Championship: Clemson (-28) vs. Pitt - This game represents the largest point-spread of any championship game this weekend, and wouldn’t you know it that’s perfectly fine with Pitt. The Panthers have relished in opportunities when the chips were stacked against them. Meanwhile, Clemson has been running over everybody in its wake for the better part of the season. Gambling pick: The Tiger gave up a ton of yards and points to South Carolina last week, and while part of me believes that was just an anomaly that happens in rivalry games, another part of me is concerned for Clemson. Also, 28 points is a lot to cover in any conference championship game, so for those reasons I’m going with Pitt to keep it closer than that. Still, I see Clemson pulling out the win to remain undefeated, effectively punching their CFP ticket. Over 52.5. Kicks off at 7:00 p.m. CT on ABC.
Big Ten Championship: Ohio State (-14.5) vs. Northwestern - If the Buckeyes had been playing the way they did against Michigan all season, they’d be undefeated right now. Of course, they haven’t been, so they aren’t. Meanwhile, Northwestern’s season couldn’t have gotten of to a worse start, losing all three non-conference games. Yet somehow, the Wildcats bounced back in conference play and have reached the Big Ten title match. Gambling pick: As of now, last week’s game against the Wolverines is the outlier. Until I see the Buckeyes consistently play to their own level instead of to their opponent’s, I can’t confidently pick them to show up in that same capacity. I’ve got Northwestern keeping it within the two score spread, but coming up short in the end as OSU wins the conference. Under 61. Kicks off at 7:00 p.m. CT on FOX.
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