Bama vs. Gators, and the Rest of the Conference Championship Picks
Now that Good Ol' Charlie Weis got the axe, we can finally again focus on teams and games that matter. Conference championship week is upon us, meaning that good football and even better betting opportunities are here. Since we are dealing with the top teams from their respective conferences, betting lines are naturally tight. Coming out on top this weekend could come down more to a gut-feeling than a strategic approach. Choose wisely, my friends. Here are your Week 14 picks. (Home team in caps.)
Cincinnati (-1.5) over PITTSBURGH If momentum is any indicator, the Bearcats will reign supreme. They remain unbeaten and have a healthy and lethal Tony Pike back under center. Right now it appears that the only thing that can stop them is themselves. If the offense sputters, which it shouldn't, the Panthers could have a shot. But the Bearcats simply have too much to lose in the grand scheme of things with a slip-up here and will take care of business.
West Virginia (+1.5) over RUTGERS Consider this: The Mountaineers have won 14 straight in this series and outscored their opponent by 372 points in that span. This year, with Jarrett Brown and Noel Devine, the Mountaineers are again the superior squad. Speaking of Devine, when he rushes for over 100 yards, his team is 12-2. Look for him to cross the century mark.
Houston (-2.5) over EAST CAROLINA The Cougars have been flat-out unstoppable when throwing the football. That's never been the problem. The issue is their defense, which is allowing 218.2 rushing ypg. If the Cougars figure out a way to make a couple big defensive stands, the Conference USA crown is theirs. If they can't, don't be shocked to see the Pirates repeat as champs.
SOUTHERN CAL (-7) over Arizona In a game that has little significance other than seeding for bowl games, the Trojans will attempt to avoid a possible fifth place finish in conference with a loss. The Trojans don't lose very often at home under Pete Carroll, but this hasn't been an ordinary season. The Wildcats could put a scare into SC, which has looked borderline uninterested at times, but probably don't have the juice to be victorious.
ALABAMA (+5.5) over Florida For all intents and purposes, this may end up being the best football game of the year, bowl games included. We all know Florida has Tim Tebow, who is hard to bet against given his knack for looming large in big moments. Alabama has a defense that is just good enough to keep him guessing. Mark Ingram, however, will need to bounce back to his Heisman form and carry the offensive load. The Tide will keep things within reach, if not win outright.
WASHINGTON (+7) over California The Huskies are fresh off their first shutout in over 12 years, albeit against a lousy Washington St. team. On the other side, Cal suddenly looks like the team everyone thought they would be following wins over Arizona and Stanford. Given the progress they've made in one season, coupled with the fact that they are playing a cold, home game in December, I still like the Huskies' chances.
Georgia Tech (-1) over CLEMSON The Yellow Jackets won the early-season battle with the Tigers by a narrow 30-27 margin. Can they do it again? C.J. Spiller could have other ideas in his final regular-season game at Clemson. Both teams are going to rush the ball like crazy. Whichever team can stop the ground attack will be the winner. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt — the key to the triple option — should be fully healthy, making Georgia Tech the pick.
Texas (-14) over NEBRASKA The Longhorns have cruised to the Big 12 title much like everyone expected them to. And those same people expect them to roll right past Nebraska for a showdown with the Alabama-Florida winner. While that appears to be a probable scenario, the Huskers will try to be a bump in the road that derails those plans. A stout defensive front, led by Ndamukong Suh, will be intent on causing chaos. Offensively, however, the Huskers don't have the big-play ability to keep up with Colt McCoy and his crew.