It's conference championship week, and while there will be plenty of talk about the lack of College Football Playoff drama in these games, ignore it. The CFP doesn't matter this weekend. It drives me insane how the coverage of this sport en masse suddenly reached the faulty conclusion that teams don't care about winning their conference.
They do. A lot. While it may not be the ultimate goal for some teams, it's still a significant accomplishment for everybody. Georgia wants to win the SEC as much as it does the national title. The same is true of Michigan, TCU, USC and every other school playing this weekend.
If you're around a friend this weekend who suggests that these games are meaningless, kindly smack them upside the back of the head, or watch the game somewhere you won't be surrounded by such ignorance. All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
Games of the Week
No. 11 Utah vs. No. 4 USC (Friday): USC enters this game with one loss -- against Utah on Oct. 15. That night in Salt Lake City, Utah drove 75 yards in 15 plays down 42-35 in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Cam Rising scored from 1 yard out with 48 seconds left, and the Utes decided to end the game right then and there. Rising scored from 2 yards out on the conversion, the crowd went wild and both teams moved on.
Things have changed in that month and a half, however. Utah has won four of five since, but it struggled with Washington State and lost to Oregon. It had comfortable wins against Arizona, Stanford and Colorado, but those three combined to go 5-21 in the Pac-12 this season. Meanwhile, USC has played some of its best football recently, and quarterback Caleb Williams seems to be on the verge of winning the Heisman. Teams change as the season goes on, and I think late-November USC is better than mid-October USC, particularly on defense; I don't think the Utes have improved. The Trojans will get their revenge. USC 37, Utah 27 | USC -2.5
No. 10 Kansas State vs. No. 3 TCU: The first game between these two was fantastic. TCU escaped with a 38-28 win, coming back from a 28-10 deficit, but it wasn't as clear-cut as that. First, Kansas State QB Adrian Martinez left the game with an injury, and then back up Will Howard left, too. Howard would return eventually, but a lot of TCU's comeback occurred while third-stringer Jake Rubley was in the game. Does TCU come back if those injuries don't happen? Given how the Frogs' season has gone, I can't rule it out, but I don't think they would've.
So how about the rematch? The Wildcats have gone 4-1 since then, with the lone loss coming to Texas; they've run roughshod over everybody else they've faced. Meanwhile, TCU's offense had stalled out a bit before putting up 62 against Iowa State last week. I expect the Wildcats to lean on the ground to keep TCU's offense off the field, and I expect TCU to go a little heavier on the run game as well since Kansas State's defense is better against the pass. I truly have no idea who wins this game, but I don't want to bet against TCU, considering everything it's done. Instead, I'll bet the under. TCU 30, Kansas State 27 | Under 62
Lock of the Week
Toledo vs. Ohio: Every good college football bettor falls in love with one team each season because that team rewards them every week. Ohio is that team for me. Ohio is a wagon. The Bobcats got off to an awful start to the season, but after losing their MAC opener to Kent State, they've run wild through the rest of the conference. Not only have the Bobcats won seven straight, but they've covered eight straight. And there haven't been many sweats! The eight straight covers have come by an average of 14.2 points per game!
How can you not fall in love with a team that easily covers every week? Ohio has been too good to me for me to turn my back on it now, and I'm not only taking the Bobcats to cover but to win against the Rockets, which are only 3-5 ATS in the MAC this season and 4-7 as a favorite. They're a team that underachieves, facing the biggest group of overachievers you'll ever meet. Ohio 27, Toledo 23 | Ohio +1.5
Dawg of the Week
No. 14 LSU vs. No. 1 Georgia: The 2022 version of Georgia is not as dominant as the team we saw win a national title last season. That Georgia team had one of the greatest defenses ever assembled, whereas the 2022 version will have to make do with having one of the best defenses in the country. But don't get it twisted: This team may not be as good as last year's Georgia, but it is still the best team in the country right now, and it can still beat anybody.
A lot has been made of Georgia's "struggles" against teams like Kent State, Missouri, and Kentucky, but those games don't concern me in the slightest. Instead, look at how Georgia has played in the big games -- the games against top competition and rivals. It smoked Oregon by 46, beat Auburn by 32, took Florida down by 22 and smothered Tennessee with a pillow. This team plays its best in the biggest moments, and the SEC Championship in Atlanta is one of those moments. Remember how well LSU played against Alabama to get that win? If LSU wants to beat Georgia, it has to play even better than it did then. Take the Dawgs. Georgia 31, LSU 10 | Georgia -17.5
New Year's Six Bowl Berth of the Week
No. 22 UCF at No. 18 Tulane: We saw this game a few weeks ago, and I took UCF to win outright in The Six Pack. It was the correct pick, and I think it's the correct pick again for the same reasons it was then. While Tulane has been one of the best defenses in the American Athletic Conference this season, its weakness is against the run. The Wave rank 87th nationally in EPA per rush and 91st in defensive success rate against the run.
UCF exploited that in the first meeting, rushing for 336 yards at over six yards per carry. UCF QB John Rhys Plumlee ran for 176 yards. Now, Tulane moved the ball pretty well themselves that day, and I suspect they'll have success again in the rematch. Because of that, I'm wary of taking UCF straight up again, but I will instead take the points. UCF 28, Tulane 27 | UCF +4
Viewerless Point Festival of the Week
No. 23 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Clemson: If they were offering odds on the least-viewed conference championship game among the Power Five leagues this weekend, this is where I'd be putting my money. However, they don't, so I'll bet on the game. It'll give me a reason to watch, if nothing else, right?
North Carolina's defense has been one of the worst in the country this season, and I don't see it getting many stops against Clemson here. Honestly, what do you think Clemson might do if an NC State team down to its fourth-string QB can put up 30 points on the Heels? On the other side, this Clemson defense isn't as good as we're used to seeing, either. This could prove to be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. Clemson 41, North Carolina 31 | Over 63.5
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Games of the Week
Lock of the Week