HomeSportsCollege football picks, schedule: Predictions against the spread, conference championship weekend odds

College football picks, schedule: Predictions against the spread, conference championship weekend odds

This weekend’s conference championship games are all that stand between some of the best teams in the country and either the College Football Playoff or the New Year’s Six Bowl games. Opportunities are limited on Friday and Saturday for teams to jockey for position, but the odds are nevertheless there in five specific league title matches played over the weekend.

The weekend off started unexpectedly with No. 11 Utah soars past No. 4 USC to capture his second consecutive Pac-12 crown and a Rose Bowl appearance – while effectively thwarting the Trojans’ College Football Playoff hopes.

Should USC drop out of the top four, a door suddenly opens for No. 5 Ohio State to join the four-team field as it sits at home after falling in The Game last week. That’s not to say the Trojans would necessarily be eliminated if defeated, but with two losses to the Utes, it would likely be difficult for the CFP selection committee to place USC in the narrow field. Should USC go down and Ohio State take its place, the Big Ten would become just the second conference to get two teams to the playoffs in the same season (SEC).

Elsewhere, Saturday’s showdowns are mostly about seeding. CBS Sports Bowls pundit Jerry Palm argues that current No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 TCU are all likely to be in the playoffs, win or lose. The Wolverines have the easiest path to the top seed as a favorite by more than two touchdowns over the unranked Purdue. The Bulldogs have a firm hold on the top spot, but must face No. 14 LSU, who appeared to be a legitimate challenger before being upset by Texas A&M last week. And then there’s the Horned Frogs, who have the toughest test of the bunch as they battle No. 10 Kansas State, who barely beat it on the road earlier this season.

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Be sure to stick with CBS Sports all weekend for coverage of college football from the first few championship games on Friday through Selection Sunday. Let’s take a look at our expert picks for the best games during Championship Weekend.

Big 12: No. 3 TCU vs. No. 10 Kansas State

Recommended game | TCU Horned Frogs vs. Kansas State Wildcats

afternoon | ABC, fuboTV (Try for free) — Kansas State beat TCU through most of its first game in Fort Worth, Texas before quarterback injuries set in, but the Horned Frogs have made huge improvements over the past month. TCU posted 62 points with ease despite missing key plays against Iowa State, and it certainly kept the earlier game against K-State ahead. In a rematch, take the better team to come out on top — that’s TCU. Forecast: TCU -2.5 — Shehan Jeyarajah

SEC: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 14 LSU

Recommended game | Georgia Bulldogs vs LSU Tigers

4pm | CBS, CBSSports.com, CBS Sports AppGeorgia will stifle an LSU team in need of demoralization after last week’s stunning loss at Texas A&M. Jayden Daniels absolutely needs to establish himself as the center of the Tigers ground game or it won’t click. That’s easier said than done against this Georgia defense that will force Daniels to win this game with his arm. That will not happen. However, Georgia knows it needs to end this game as soon as possible. The Bulldogs will build an early lead and take their foot off the accelerator to allow the Tigers to cover. However, the game will never be in doubt. Forecast: LSU (+17.5) — Barrett Sallee

American: No. 18 Tulane vs. No. 22 UCF

Recommended game | Tulane Green Wave v UCF Knights

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4pm | ABC, fuboTV (Try for free) — The Green Wave is well underway while the Knights are struggling. Tulane topped two-time champion Cincinnati and crushed fourth-place SMU by 35 points. UCF lost to Navy 17-14 and needed a late push to escape a horrible South Florida team. Willie Fritz’ team does not pass up this opportunity and earns a conference championship for the first time since 1998. Forecast: Tulane -4 — Shehan Jeyarajah

ACC: No. 9 Clemson vs. No. 23 North Carolina

Recommended game | North Carolina Tar Heels v Clemson Tigers

8pm | ABC, fuboTV (Try for free) — Clemson is the better team, but the door is open for an upset in a way we haven’t seen in a long time when it comes to these conference championship clashes against the ACC Coastal. North Carolina has some injury concerns and has been far from a consistent team this season, but it has a head start in the quarterback market and should play with significantly less pressure given preseason expectations. Forecast: North Carolina +7.5 — Chip Patterson

Big Ten: No. 2 Michigan vs. Purdue

Recommended game | Michigan Wolverines vs. Purdue Boilermakers

8pm | Fox, fuboTV (Try for free) — I don’t give Purdue much chance of winning this game, but I don’t think the Boilermakers are scammers. This is a team that could give the Wolverines some trouble offensively, but the concern is how many stops will the Purdue defense get? It’s a solid unit, but not one that goes well with the Wolverines. Considering that, in addition to the fact that this game will be played indoors and on artificial turf, I see more points being scored than expected. That’s why I love it more than anything. Prediction: above 52 –Tom Fornelli

Pac-12: No. 4 USC vs. No. 11 Utah (Friday)

Recommended game | USC Trojans vs Utah Utes

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8pm | Fox, fuboTV (Try for free) — USC needed a 38-27 victory over Notre Dame last week, while Utah cruised to an easy victory in Colorado. On a short week and in a match between two evenly matched teams, wear and tear can be a factor. Utah won the first meeting by a point on October 15 and the Utes have experience on this podium as the reigning Pac-12 champions. While it can be difficult to beat the same team twice in a season, Utah did it against Oregon last season. The Utes could do it again when they take on a USC team that remains shaky defensively and overly reliant on an uncanny ability to force turnover. Prediction: Utah +3 –David Cobb

What college football picks can you make with confidence during Championship Week, and which big favorites will frighten? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a time-tested computer model that has made nearly $2,500 in profits over the past six seasons — and find out.

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