College Football Conference Championship Best Bets: Expert Picks & Predictions

Get college football best bets for the weekend slate. This article features an analysis of Oregon vs. Washington, Oklahoma State vs. Texas, Georgia vs. Alabama, SMU vs. Tulane, and Louisville vs. Florida State.

College Football Conference Championship Best Bets

The college football regular season has come and gone, and we’re onto conference championship week where everything is at stake. In this article, our staff has you covered with our favorite bets of conference championship weekend. Check out the Lineups YouTube page where we break down every college football conference championship game in detail. Let’s get to work.

Jacob Wayne’s Record: 24-27-1 (-3.8 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 16-14 (+0.6 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 25-9-1 (+15.3 units)

Georgia Bulldogs at Alabama Crimson Tide

This year’s SEC Championship carries monumental implications for the College Football Playoff. Alabama needs a win here to secure a spot in the CFP, while Georgia is in all likelihood out if they lose, which is a harsh reality for a team with a staggering 29-game win streak dating back to the 2021 SEC title game against Alabama.

While Carson Beck’s ascension and Jalen Milroe’s redemption have been worthy storylines, I’m focusing on the defenses in this game, specifically in the first half. Georgia and Alabama rank top 20 in yards per play allowed and EPA per play allowed against the pass. We shouldn’t expect anything less than that from Nick Saban and Kirby Smart’s teams.

Georgia enters this game with significant injuries on the offensive side of the ball that add some uncertainty to their offensive approach. Tight end Brock Bowers missed last week’s game after returning from midseason tightrope ankle surgery. Wide receivers Ladd McConkey and Rara Thomas were on the shelf as well, and it’s fair to question how healthy this pass-catching group is entering this game.

I expect that to result in an even more conservative approach from a team ranked 124th in pace of play. Even a healthy Georgia offense would have some issues against Alabama’s top-ranked coverage unit featuring Terrion Arnold, Kool-Aid McKinstry, and Caleb Downs. The Tide also have two dominant pass rushers in Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell, who have combined for 99 pressures and 22 sacks per PFF.

Meanwhile, Georgia should have a strong game plan for Alabama’s Jalen Milroe, who is a dynamic runner and electric deep ball thrower but still has inconsistency issues. Milroe ranks 103rd in on-target pass rate and will be facing a Georgia secondary that will force him to make tight-window throws, as they rank 7th in PFF’s coverage grades.

Alabama features former Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton at wide receiver, who’s coming off back-to-back 100+ yard game, and Isaiah Bond, who caught the miracle touchdown against Auburn last week. However, Georgia has the defensive backs to match with Malaki Starks, Kamari Lassiter, and Tykee Smith all projected early picks in the upcoming NFL draft.

The Crimson Tide rank 14th in rush play rate and will look to attack a Georgia defense ranked 106th in rushing EPA/play allowed. That run-heavy approach will help keep the clock moving, as will Georgia’s slow pace of play and conservative approach with multiple pass-catchers injured. I believe this sets up for a first-half under play as these offenses start slow before heating up in the second half.

Best Bet: First Half Under 27.5 Points (play to 27 points)

SMU Mustangs at Tulane Green Wave

SMU will unfortunately enter the AAC Championship without starting quarterback Preston Stone, who had an excellent season with nearly 3,200 passing yards and 28 touchdowns to six interceptions. Stone broke his fibula against Navy last week, and SMU will turn to redshirt freshman Kevin Jennings, who has appeared in five games this year but has attempted just 24 passes.

While Jennings is inexperienced, the SMU staff has expressed confidence in him. The change under center could also work in SMU’s favor in some ways – Tulane doesn’t have much game film to work off for Jennings, and I expect the Mustangs to throw different looks at the Green Wave to keep their defense off balance.

Tulane’s pass defense has been vulnerable this season as they rank outside the top 70 in passing EPA allowed. They’re also just 104th in tackling rate as they’ve struggled to control yards after the catch by opponents. Meanwhile, SMU’s offense, orchestrated by Casey Woods, has top ten ranks in available yards and points per drive.

SMU’s defense has also been elite, as the Mustangs rank fifth in success rate. They’ll face one of the best Group of Five quarterbacks in the country in Tulane’s Michael Pratt, but Pratt’s completion percentage takes a steep drop from 71.4% when kept clean to 49.1% when under pressure per PFF, and SMU ranks top 20 in pressure rate.

Tulane dearly misses running back Tyjae Spears, who is making heads turn with the Tennessee Titans. Their run game has cratered as they rank just 118th in rushing EPA, putting a ton of pressure on Pratt in a brutal matchup. Pratt could also be without two of the team’s top three leading receivers, Lawrence Keys III and Jha’Quan Jackson, both of whom missed the game against UTSA last week.

The Green Wave has been a cash cow at home under Willie Fritz with a 27-8 ATS mark (77.1%) heading into this season, but it hasn’t been the same this year as they’re just 2-5 ATS (28.5%) at home. While Tulane’s home-field advantage is strong, it appears to have become overrated by the sportsbooks. I don’t mind taking SMU as a road dog as a result.

The market initially overreacted, with Tulane opening as high as a 6-point favorite, but buyback hit SMU and drove it down to the current line of 3.5 or 4 points. I see the Mustangs as the better team in this game, and while the absence of Stone hurts, I like Rhett Lashlee to lead his team to a win. Take the points with SMU.

Best Bet: SMU +4 (play to +3.5)

Oregon Ducks at Washington Huskies

It’s the highly anticipated rematch between the Oregon Ducks and Washington Huskies after putting together one of the games of the year earlier this season. Their earlier contest resulted in a three point Washington victory off the backs of a game winning drive and failed fourth down Oregon conversion, now battling once again for the Pac 12 championship.

Even though Washington pulled it out in their first matchup, oddsmakers have seen enough since then to peg this as Oregon’s game to lose by opening them as a -7.5 point favorite. Bettors are in the same belief after a few dominant performances, betting Oregon up to as high as -9.5 in some shops.

A massive difference from theri first contest against each other as Oregon closed as a +3 underdog, yet potentially well warranted for how different these units have looked since then. Washington has toyed the line since then, severely underwhelming against inferior competition.

That is in large part of Arizona State laying out the blueprint for how to slow down this Washington offense, a game that conveniently took place the week after the Oregon game. In order to slow down Michael Penix Jr and the Washington pass attack, defenses have started to anchor their linebackers in coverage and dare them to beat them on the ground.

That plays right into Oregon’s favor as they already excel at defending against the short throw by ranking 14th in Def Pass Success Rate. By rushing just four and anchoring their linebackers in place, they now get the benefit of being able to crash their linebackers down on the run while their secondary maintains their already elite coverage marks.

That spells potential disaster against a Washington offense who has struggled against this very same concept. Countering this by stretching the field may come at a cost as well since Oregon excels at defending against the deep ball by ranking 29th in Def Pass Explosiveness.

Better yet, Oregon’s offense should have no issue with dominating the time of possession with their massive advantage in the ground game. Washington’s front seven is as bad as it gets when trying to stuff the run, ranking a lowly 129th in Def Rush Success Rate and 128th in Def Rush PPA. Bucky Irving is in a position to run wild, churning out chunks of yards at a time and routinely moving the sticks down the field.

With Oregon’s ability to prolong their offensive drives while being able to drastically slow down Washington’s offense, points may come at a premium for the Huskies. That plays directly into their team total under, making it even more enticing that there are a few 28.5’s out in the market which is a key number. Play this at no lower than 28.

Best Bet: Washington Team Total Under 28.5

Oklahoma State Cowboys at Texas Longhorns

Texas may not be in the best position to get into the playoff, but they sure hit the jackpot in terms of scheduling for the conference championship slate. With their chances heavily correlated to the outcome of Louisville needing to beat Florida State, Texas gets the benefit of playing at noon while the latter plays at night.

That eliminates any potential deflating narrative of Florida State winning and flattening the Longhorns chances of making the playoff, now reverting the Texas mindset to putting on a dominant display in an attempt to impress the committee one last time. In order to do so, Texas will need to score as many points as possibly while their defensive front seven takes care of business.

They are in a position to do just that as Oklahoma State mightily struggles at keeping opposing offenses out of the endzone. The Cowboys currently rank 99th in Def Points per Opportunity as a whole, 84th in Def Rush PPA and 111th in Def Pass PPA.

When in scoring position, the Longhorns should have no issue with overcoming their scoring woes by taking advantage of a weak Cowboys red zone defense. Especially with getting the benefit of doing it on the ground, negating potential turnover worthy plays through the air which would be back breaking for a team total over after a clock draining drive.

On the other end of the field, it should be business as usual for the Texas defense as this unit has been dominant as of late. Especially from their front seven, an NFL level unit that has wreaked Havoc to opposing offenses.

Oklahoma State’s offense isn’t exactly a world beater, ranking 59th in Success Rate, 59th in Explosiveness, and 77th in Points per Opportunity. THey now need to find a way to move the ball down the field against a disruptive front seven who will be collapsing the pocket at a routine rate.

That will lead to more stalled out drives and early outs, giving the ball back to the Texas offense. WIth extra offensive possessions comes a higher chance of clearing their team total over. There are a few 34.5’s out there, making it vital you get the key number of under 35.

Best Bet: Texas Team Total Over 34.5

Louisville Cardinals vs. Florida State Seminoles

After Louisville lost its regular season finale against Kentucky and Florida State lost quarterback Jordan Travis for the year, this matchup has lost some of its luster, but it’s still an interesting clash between two solid teams, and definitely still offers plenty of value on the lines. One major inefficiency in the opening odds was the fact that Louisville was listed as an underdog. It’s worth noting that this number has come all the way down from +150, so the money movement definitely indicates that this is the right side, but I’d be looking to move before it hits minus-odds.

With Travis out, it’s genuinely hard to understand how Florida State is supposed to move the ball against this Louisville defense. They can’t really lean on the run, as Louisville’s ground defense is 5th in the country by EPA per play, and the alternative is leaning on Tate Rodemaker against a pass defense that isn’t quite as elite, but is still very good, and will know that the run is off the table.

We don’t yet have much data on Rodemaker against pressure, but we can expect it to be a problem for him as he adjusts to running the FSU offense, as is the case for so many new passers. Louisville’s pass rush unit ranks 14th in PFF’s grading system, headlined by Ashton Gillotte and his 11 sacks, and will definitely be able to attack FSU’s offensive line if they’re able to pin their ears back and rush hard in obvious passing scenarios after unproductive rushes.

The matchup is favorable for the Louisville offense as well, as FSU’s resurgent defense deals with the pass much more effectively than the run. Jeff Brohm will have no issue with that; his offense works best when it goes through Jawhar Jordan anyways. He’s picking up 6.4 yards per rush this season, and has scored 13 touchdowns. He’s definitely been more consistent than quarterback Jake Plummer, so if the Cardinals are given the opportunity to lean on Jordan for 60 minutes, you can expect them to take it and run all game long, as they’re one of the 40 most run-heavy teams in the nation.

Overall, Louisville is 13th in the country in EPA, just a notch behind FSU at ninth, and that’s a stat mostly built on data accumulated with Travis at the helm. These teams were already extremely close- Louisville was never not going to be my pick here- and now, FSU has lost a huge piece of what made them so good to begin with.

As long as they’re anywhere above even money, this is a phenomenal value play. The spread was worth a look when it was hovering around a field goal, but at this point, just hit the moneyline; the Cardinals will be pulling off the outright upset, if you can even call it that.

Best Bet: Louisville ML (+120)

Oregon Ducks vs. Washington Huskies

If you know me, you know how much I love the Pac-12, so it should come as absolutely no surprise that I’ll be covering the conference’s last-ever game as part of this piece. It also helps that the odds are completely inappropriate; the shift in perception towards Oregon in recent weeks is very valid, but this is an overcorrection to say the least. In order to cover, the Ducks would need to win by double digits against a team that hasn’t lost yet or sustained any major injuries in recent weeks.

If you’re afraid of the half-point hook on the key number of 10, that’s understandable; definitely shop around for a flat 10 if you can find it, but don’t hold your breath. And if you can’t locate one- I wasn’t able to- the 9.5 is perfectly fine value, as long as you’re over the key number of seven this is a solid play with two teams that should play a very close one, just as they did earlier this year when Washington won by a field goal in an instant-classic.

By far the biggest mismatch in this game is the Oregon rushing offense, which is second in the nation by EPA per play, against Washington’s ground defense, which ranks 122nd by the same metric. Obviously, that’s great for the Ducks, but staying on the ground isn’t exactly how you pull away from a team like Washington, an offense that’s equipped with a Heisman candidate at quarterback and three NFL prospects at wideout. The Huskies aren’t ever going to be as consistent as the Ducks, but they can jump right back into the game on a moment’s notice; it’s borderline impossible to truly bury them.

Yes, this is probably the best defense Washington has faced thus far, but they’ve had some good performances against tough units already. Most notably, they hung 35 points and 457 yards of offense on a Utah defense that is consistently the class of the Pac-12. The Huskies won’t be scoring at will against the Ducks, but they’re more than capable of at least scoring at a pace that can keep them in this one.

It’s been a shaky month or so for Kalen DeBoer’s squad, but they haven’t lost. They’re able to step up when necessary, and motivation will of course be extremely high with both the last-ever Pac-12 title and a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line. The Huskies haven’t played up to their potential for awhile, which has caused viewers to forget just how good they can be. They’ll get closer to that ceiling against Oregon on the biggest stage yet, even if they might be doomed to ironically come up short for the first time even if they turn in their best performance.

Best Bet: Washington +9.5

I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

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