Conference Championship Saturday is here and there’s one more opportunity to make some money before bowl season starts. Here are five pieces of advice to keep in mind before making bets for Saturday’s games.
Stay away from the Big 12 Championship
There is a case to be made for both Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship on Saturday. Oklahoma is currently a 7.5-point favorite.
Texas Head Coach Tom Herman is one of the best underdog coaches in the country. He is 13-1 against the spread during his time at Houston and Texas, and his teams have won 10 of those games outright.
It’s tough to trust the Oklahoma defense to cover a number of over a touchdown with the way their defense has been trending. The Sooners are 4-0 in the last four weeks, but have given up 40 points or more in each of those games. Their worst outing was when they gave up 8.2 yards per play to Kansas at home.
The case for Oklahoma is their explosive offense playing on the fast track at AT&T Stadium. Quarterback Kyler Murray has bailed out a poor defense each week and will likely finish second in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Oklahoma also has the revenge angle on their side. Their lone loss this season was to Texas in a 48-45 shootout. Oklahoma lost on the scoreboard, but they outgained Texas by 2.5 yards per play.
I would also stay away from the total in this game, which opened at 78 and has gone down to 76.5. It’s usually a winning proposition to bet the over in Big 12 games with at least one prolific offense. However, I wouldn’t take the over in this game because of the overreaction to Oklahoma’s poor defensive showings. The total closed at 60.5 when these two teams met two months ago and a 16-point adjustment isn’t justified.
This could be an extremely entertaining game to watch with Oklahoma’s College Football Playoff hopes on the line, but stay away from betting this one.
Bet Alabama team total over 38.5 points
Georgia and Alabama return to the scene where they had a classic National Championship game 11 months ago. Alabama is a 13.5-point favorite and the total is 63.5. Those are two very different numbers from last January when the Crimson Tide closed as 3.5-point favorites and the total was at 45.
The main reason for the big adjustments in the odds is Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Jalen Hurts started the title game last year and his game-managing style meant Alabama played lower-scoring games when the stakes were high.
Tagovailoa relieved Hurts at halftime of the game against Georgia and turned a 13-0 deficit into a 26-23 win in overtime. Tagovailoa has been great all season and has turned the Crimson Tide from a run-heavy team to a vertical passing team that can put up huge numbers.
The way to bet Saturday’s SEC Championship Game is Alabama over their team total, which is currently at 38.5.
Georgia’s defense isn’t as good as last season’s unit and they only have 20 sacks on the season. That is tied for 101st in the nation.
If Georgia can’t get a pass rush on Tagovailoa, he’ll be able to rip off big plays and quick scoring drives. I expect Alabama to score well over 40 points in Atlanta.
Bet Fresno State +2.5 in the Mountain West Championship Game
The most competitive evening game on Saturday will likely be on the blue turf in Boise where Fresno State faces Boise State. This is a quick rematch from a game played on November 9, as Boise State rallied to beat Fresno State 24-17 in the same stadium.
The line for Saturday’s game is sitting at Boise State -2.5, but it was Fresno State that ended up being a 2.5-point favorite when the two teams played earlier this season. Fresno State was leading 17-3 in the third quarter before Boise State scored three straight touchdowns to complete the comeback.
The line value is on Fresno State if you believe the odds were correct in their first meeting.
The other intangibles favor Fresno State, in my opinion. Boise State played a game down to the wire against Utah State to win their division last week and earn a spot in this game. Meanwhile, Fresno State got an easy win against San Jose State in their regular season finale.
There’s also revenge here, and I expect Fresno State to be very motivated. They were leading by double-digits in the second half against the same team so they won’t be intimated by playing against Boise on the blue turf. Fresno State will win this game, but take the +2.5 just to be safe.
Look for creative ways to bet against Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh deserves a lot of credit for making it to this point, but now they are 27.5-point underdogs against Clemson in the ACC Championship game on Saturday.
Oddsmakers and bettors aren’t expecting the Panthers to get many points in this game with the total set at 52.5. Pittsburgh struggles to throw the ball and has been carried by the solid rush offense all season.
The problem in this spot is that Clemson has four NFL-caliber defensive linemen and thrive at stopping the run. Pittsburgh played a run defense that can be compared to Clemson in Miami last week, and the Panthers gained 69 yards on 38 attempts.
Taking Clemson giving almost four touchdowns could be dangerous because the Tigers just need to win and they’ll be in the College Football Playoff. They have no incentive to get “style points” or run up the score.
There are two ways I’m looking to bet this game. The first is under the Pittsburgh team total at 12.5 points. The only way I see the Panthers going over that number is if they score late touchdowns when the game was already out of reach.
The other way I’ll look at is Clemson -17 in the first half. Clemson should start off strong after giving up 35 points to South Carolina last week. The Clemson defense will be stingier and the offense, led by quarterback Trevor Lawrence, should be able to put up points. I trust the Tigers to give a maximum effort for 30 minutes and cover the first half spread.
Wait until after the SEC Championship to bet the Big Ten Championship
The importance of the Big Ten Championship Game will depend on what happens in the Big 12 and SEC title games. Ohio State is currently 14.5-point favorite against Northwestern, but I would be cautious about betting this game early.
Ohio State is No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings and will be hoping that No. 5 Oklahoma loses in the early game and No. 4 Georgia loses in the afternoon game. Ohio State should know the results of both games before they kick off in Indianapolis.
If Oklahoma wins a close game and Georgia loses, then I would look to bet Ohio State against the spread. The Buckeyes would know that they would have a chance at jumping both teams if they have a dominating performance that resonates with the committee. Something like the 59-0 win they had over Wisconsin in 2014, which was convincing enough for Ohio State get into the top four before they went on to win a national championship.
If Oklahoma wins big or Georgia wins at all, then Ohio State will have a slim chance of making the Playoff. I would look towards betting Northwestern in that case.
If Oklahoma and Georgia both lose, then Ohio State will know they just need to win to get in. So they won’t be required to win by a large margin and their chances of covering the spread decreases.
It’s a complicated scenario, but make sure to be patient before putting your money on the Big Ten title.