During the college football season, the Stadium staff will provide weekly betting picks and advice in this roundtable. Here are our thoughts on conference championship weekend.
Note: Ben and Nate will discuss all of their college football and NFL bets on the Sharp Lessons podcast. Subscribe on Spotify and Apple for episodes and follow Stadium Bets on Twitter for more sports betting content.
1. What is your favorite pick against the spread?
Alex Symonds, Stadium Senior Producer: Appalachian State (-2.5) over Louisiana.
These two teams are meeting for the third time in the Sun Belt Championship Game. The Mountaineers prevailed in 2018 and ’19, and I’m backing App State to win by a field goal or more this weekend.
Ragin’ Cajuns QB Levi Lewis is among the best quarterbacks in the Group of 5, but App State leads the Sun Belt by allowing just 6.8 yards per pass attempt and has given Lewis fits in the past (51.5 completion percentage in seven career games vs. the Mountaineers). In addition, Louisiana coach Billy Napier is headed to his new job in Gainesville when this game concludes and surely is trying to put together a staff and a recruiting class at Florida while also game planning for App State. Give me the Mountaineers in a rout.
Ben Wittenstein, Stadium Social Media Producer: Iowa (+11) over Michigan.
Last week was a great time to buy Michigan low, and this week is a great time to sell high. Let’s think, how did Iowa get to the Big Ten Championship? Mostly because of its defense. The Hawkeyes have one of the best rush defenses in the country. What’s Michigan’s strength? The run game. The Wolverines were able to overwhelm Ohio State with their physicality — that shouldn’t be an issue for Iowa.
The Hawkeyes are built to play physically. I don’t think Michigan will have such an easy time up front as they did in “The Game.” The biggest question mark is Iowa’s offense, which admittedly is a disaster. Yet, the low total indicates that this will be a low-scoring game, and in that instance, I will happily take the Hawkeyes as a double-digit underdog on a neutral field.
Kate Constable, Stadium Host & Digital Producer: Oregon (+3) over Utah.
These two teams just saw each other on Nov. 20 and Utah smacked Oregon 38-7. So why isn’t this spread more in favor of Utah? Well, for starters, Oregon played its worst offensive game all season, only rushing for 63 yards. Meanwhile, Utah’s offense dominated, converting on 11 of 14 third downs. Everything that went wrong for the Ducks, went right for the Utes, but I expect things to even themselves out in Las Vegas. Utah has played extremely well at home this season but not so much away from Rice-Eccles Stadium, going 3-3 SU and 2-4 ATS.
Nate Jacobson, Stadium Sports Betting Analyst: Alabama (+6.5) over Georgia.
I don’t love this bet after Alabama needed a miraculous finish to defeat Auburn as 20.5-point favorites. But it’s the side out of the 10 conference title games that I like the most and at this point, I’m waiting to catch a +7 with the Crimson Tide.
Nick Saban’s team is an underdog for the first time since 2015 and I would guess he’s letting them know that. Alabama also has a motivation edge because Georgia would still be in the playoff even if they lost this game. And if teams like Oklahoma State, Cincinnati and Michigan lose on Saturday, then Alabama could make the playoff with a close loss to Georgia. I still believe Georgia will get up for this game and try to eliminate Alabama from playoff contention, but I don’t trust their offense to cover this number in what I expect to be a low-scoring game.
2. What is another bet you like?
AS: Oregon (+3) over Utah.
Oregon was embarrassed by Utah just two weeks ago, and despite Utah’s utter domination in that matchup, the Utes did benefit from a special teams touchdown and two failed Oregon field goal attempts — so maybe it wasn’t as bad as it looked?
This game features the Pac-12’s best rushing offenses and rushing defenses, so the margins are very thin for each team, and I’m going to take the points. It’s not going to be easy given what happened at Rice-Eccles Stadium a few weeks ago but I’m holding my nose and backing the Ducks.
BW: First-half under 29 in Oregon-Utah.
This is the second matchup between these two teams in the last three weeks. I think the familiarity will breed punts and longer drives. We saw 28 points in the first half of their last game against each other, with seven of those coming off a punt return right at the end of the half. Before that, six of the 10 drives in the first half were over three minutes long. I think we’ll see a more cautious and conservative game due to everything that’s on the line and the familiarity of the teams.
KC: Iowa (+11) over Michigan.
My Iowa fandom aside, I think Michigan wins this game, but giving 11 points in a conference championship game is just too much. Very rarely does Iowa make a ton of costly mistakes and both of these teams play a disciplined style of football. Where Iowa gets its points from does concern me a bit, but the Hawkeyes’ defense will keep them in this game. They have the 14th-best rushing defense and will be able to combat a strong Michigan run game.
NJ: Under 46.5 in Baylor-Oklahoma State.
I want to make a case for Baylor at +5.5 as a fade of Oklahoma State after the Cowboys’ storm-the-field win over bitter rival Oklahoma on Saturday. But I’d rather just fade both offenses in a matchup between two teams that have gotten to this point because of their defense. I was impressed at how Oklahoma State’s defense made halftime adjustments and held the Oklahoma offense out of the end zone in the second half on Saturday.
Baylor has a defensive-minded head coach in Dave Aranda and their starting QB Gerry Bohanon is nursing a hamstring injury. Bohanon relies on his legs, so that would limit Baylor’s offense — and if he doesn’t go, then redshirt freshman Blake Shapen will get the start for the second-straight week. I will also be betting the first-half under 23 in case the game loosens up in the second half and No. 5 Oklahoma State wants to put some style points on the board to help their playoff case.
3. What is one bet you are tempted to make this week, but know you probably shouldn’t?
AS: Alabama (+6.5) over Georgia.
Alabama has been a ‘dog just nine times during Nick Saban’s tenure, so I have a natural instinct to take the points with the Tide when I can.
Bryce Young has been slinging it and is the current Heisman betting favorite, but he hasn’t seen a defense anywhere close to the caliber of Georgia’s in his short college career. UGA’s defense is historic, allowing just 0.36 points per drive against FBS opponents this season, which is 0.15 points better than Alabama’s 2011 juggernaut. If this gets to +7.5 I may have to take the Tide on principle, but I’m going to do my best to avoid stepping in front of Kirby Smart’s runaway train.
BW: Alabama (+6.5) over Georgia.
Something about this line just seems fishy. But you have to remember WHY the Crimson Tide are such a (relatively) heavy underdog in the SEC Championship Game. They just aren’t the Alabama of old this season. They’ve struggled defensively and haven’t been great at covering spreads.
On the other hand, Georgia looks like what we’re used to seeing from Bama. I think Alabama might even have an overvalued number here simply because they’re Alabama. So I’m going to be staying away from betting them in a game Georgia should most likely dominate.
KC: Alabama (+195 ML) over Georgia.
I have no doubt that Nick Saban had his eye on this game all season long, knowing that his team would likely be going up against Georgia for the conference title. That makes me think Alabama’s preparation for this game didn’t start after their win over Auburn last week. Plus, Saban has dominated against his former assistants, which includes Kirby Smart, winning 24 of the last 25 meetings.
However, this is the first time Alabama has been listed as an underdog in more than six years — and for good reason. They’ve had close wins over mediocre teams, beating LSU by six, Arkansas by a touchdown and just barely getting past Auburn in 4OT last weekend (not to mention their loss to Texas A&M). As much as I’ve learned not to bet against Saban in big games, I’m not confident the Tide can pull this one off.
NJ: Iowa (+11) over Michigan.
Another team I want to fade off a program-defining victory is Michigan after they finally took down Ohio State and played a nearly perfect game in doing so. There’s no way the Wolverines will play to that level again, but they don’t need their best performance against Iowa. If the Big Ten West representative in this game was Wisconsin, then I would’ve likely bet against Michigan. I don’t trust Iowa’s offense enough to cover a number if they fall behind early, even though the idea of betting a double-digit underdog in a game with a total of 43.5 is enticing.