SabreBetrics: CFB Championship Week Betting Guide

We have reached the end of one of the most chaotic college football seasons in recent history. Entering championship weekend, Alabama and Ohio State are on the outside looking in with the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, Michigan and TCU have surprised everyone by reaching the end of the regular season with perfect records. Typically, conference championships provide a final opportunity for turmoil that can help non-traditional powerhouses sneak into the playoffs. However, if upsets occur this weekend with TCU or USC, it could directly benefit the bluest of the blue-blood programs. It figures to be a fascinating final weekend of football with plenty of intriguing betting opportunities.

Review of Season Bets

Overall, I had a very strong performance with preseason bets. Hope you took advantage!

  • Overs record: 4-1-1. Teams from the Sunflower State dramatically overperformed preseason expectations. Louisville and Bowling Green took care of business as well. Fresno State fell a half-game short of its win total, struggling in the early part of the season with an injury to Jake Haener. SMU managed to push in the season’s final week with a nail-biting victory over Memphis.
  • Unders record: 3-3. Unders were a split decision with Oklahoma, Arkansas and Hawaii providing wins, and UNC, USC, and Georgia Tech costing us money by beating expectations.
  • Conference bets: Four of my six preseason conference bets have an opportunity to cash out this weekend:
    • Utah to win the Pac-12 (+240)
    • Fresno State to win the MWC (+240)
    • Toledo to win the MAC (+380)
    • Kansas State to win the Big 12 (+1200)

If you are a risk-averse bettor, you can “hedge” any of these wagers by picking the other side in the game. This ensures that you win money regardless of the result. As you will see in the next section, I do not qualify as a “risk-averse bettor.”

Week 14 Best Selections

  • Season record: 29-29-2. Entering the last week of the season, I am squarely at the .500 mark. With a winning season on the line, it is time to empty the tank and make courageous decisions.

Utah +3 vs. USC: The Trojans have played inspired football since losing to the Utes in mid-October, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Since that defeat, USC has averaged 45.4 points in five victories. However, defense has continued to be a significant weakness. USC has conceded 35 points to California, 37 points to Arizona, and 45 points to UCLA, and has allowed nearly six yards per play on the season. Losing star running back Travis Dye to a season-ending knee injury is a serious, but not fatal, blow to the Trojans’ potent offense. Given the 43-42 result in the prior meeting, I wouldn’t expect there to be a lot of defensive stops. Still, I trust Utah’s defense more than USC’s this season. Kyle Whittingham will have his program ready to pull off the upset.
Kansas State +2.5 vs. TCU: Regardless of the result of this game, I believe that the Horned Frogs deserve a spot in the College Football Playoff. TCU ranks first in “strength of record” with five wins over FBS teams with better than .500 records. With that said, Sonny Dykes’ program has faced its share of close calls this year – five games required second-half comebacks, including a double-overtime game against Oklahoma State and a frantic last-second field goal at Baylor. I think the streak of luck comes to an end this week against a dynamic Kansas State team that has dominated over the past three weeks. This line is suspiciously low considering TCU’s 10-point victory over the Wildcats earlier this season. Once again, I will run to the smelly line.

Tulane -3 vs. UCF: Speaking of Kansas State, Tulane is one of only two teams this year to beat the Wildcats in Manhattan. Willie Fritz has done a remarkable job turning around a Green Wave program that was 2-10 a season ago. The consistent play of quarterback Michael Pratt is a significant reason for the improvement. Pratt has completed 65% of his passes with only four interceptions. Even though UCF beat Tulane by a touchdown earlier this month, the Knights have played inconsistently in the following weeks (with a loss to Navy and a mediocre defensive performance against USF). This figures to be another close game, but I give the edge to Tulane playing at home.

UTSA -8.5 vs. North Texas: The Roadrunners were rewarded for a perfect 8-0 record against Conference USA opponents by getting to host a game in the Alamodome. UTSA’s offense has been electric all season, averaging 36.6 points and 472.4 yards per game. Quarterback Frank Harris has been one of the most effective dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, combining for 4,063 total yards and 35 touchdowns. The Mean Green have struggled defensively this season, allowing 451 yards per game (117th nationally) and a conversion rate of 46.3% on third downs. UTSA has not lost at home since a triple-overtime defeat in Week 1. The dome will be rocking for this one.

Michigan -16.5 vs. Purdue: I don’t usually like to lay this many points, particularly in a letdown situation. However, Michigan really is the superior team. The Wolverines have the nation’s No. 5 scoring offense, the No. 2 scoring defense, and average only 0.5 turnovers per game. Purdue relies heavily on the passing game to generate offense. Unfortunately, Boilermakers starting quarterback Aidan O’Connell is away from the team this week mourning the loss of his brother. He is still expected to start on Saturday, but it is obviously a difficult and emotional spot for him to be in. Michigan has everything to play for, while Purdue should consider itself lucky to receive an invite.

Parlay/Teaser of the Week

  • Season record: 5-7

I am finishing the season on a hot streak with my parlays. Let’s try and make it a fourth consecutive win on money-line parlays.

Troy over Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers’ 47-7 loss to JMU last week highlighted the importance of quarterback Grayson McCall. His back-up, Jarrett Guest, has completed only 44.2 percent of his passes with one touchdown and four interceptions. Troy’s only two losses of the season have come against Mississippi and off an improbable Hail Mary against Appalachian State. Playing at home should give the Trojans an added boost in the Sun Belt Championship.

Spain over Japan: I am still recovering from a day of rooting for the U.S. Men’s National Team and watching UVA basketball survive in Ann Arbor. The “beautiful game” sure can be stressful. Spain will be incentivized to get the victory to ensure its position at the top of Group E. “La Furia Roja” have lost only once since October 2021.

Random Facts to Impress Your Fellow Tailgaters

I like to use this space to periodically remind you that bookies are really good at setting lines. ESPN’s David Purdum aggregated the following statistics on how FBS teams have fared against the spread this season:

  • Underdogs are 429-399-13 ATS (52.5%)
  • For point totals, there have been 410 overs, 414 unders, and 14 pushes

I guess I shouldn’t feel so bad about my 50% hit rate! Whatever information you think you have, Vegas knows it as well.

SabreBetrics is a Virginia graduate and long-time fan of The Sabre. The opinions expressed in this article are not directly associated with The Sabre and are intended for recreational use only. Sports betting should be a fun activity, not a stressful one. Please do not bet more than you can reasonably afford to lose.

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