Where did the season go? It felt like a few weeks ago I was writing the first Six Pack of the season, but now the entire regular season has flown by and it's conference championship weekend. Conference titles are on the line, and in some cases, College Football Playoff spots.
It's exciting and sad at the same time. After this weekend, we'll still have the bowl games and the playoff, but while I love this time of year, there's nothing quite like a college football Saturday. It's the last one of the season, and it's a much smaller version than the one we're used to, so we better make it count. All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
Games of the Week
No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 3 Alabama: Teams are like people. They'll tell you who they are if you listen to them and see what they do. Alabama has been telling you what it is all season long, but a lot of people don't want to hear it. Alabama is an excellent team. It's one of the best teams in the country, capable of beating anybody. But it's not a dominant Alabama team. It's not up to the same standard as many Alabama teams we've seen win national titles. That's why Nick Saban was so frustrated with fans before the Iron Bowl, and it's why he was so happy and relieved when the Tide squeaked by with a win.
I can't recall a Crimson Tide team in this dynasty era that's been less physically dominant on the offensive line. It showed up early in the season in a close win over Florida and was exposed in the loss to Texas A&M. It made more appearances in close calls against LSU, Arkansas and Auburn. Now, that offensive line is going against the best defense and front seven in the country, and I don't like its chances of holding up. Nor do I think the Alabama defense, which has not been great, is capable of slowing down the Georgia offense enough to stay as close as they need.
Like Alabama, Georgia told us who it is all season. It's the best team in the country. It's a dominant force and we'll all finally see the difference on Saturday in Atlanta. Georgia 28, Alabama 17 | Georgia -6.5
No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 9 Baylor: When these two met in the regular season, it wasn't pretty. Oklahoma State won the game 24-10 and Baylor was held to only 280 yards of offense. If not for Oklahoma State's three turnovers, it would've been a blowout. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as saying, "Oklahoma State should've won by more so let's lay the points with the Cowboys." They're both different now -- they're both better. Oklahoma State's offense has improved all season long, as has Baylor on both sides of the ball.
Now they meet in a neutral site, with Oklahoma State coming off a huge win over Oklahoma in Bedlam. I can't help but wonder if there might be something of an emotional letdown for the Cowboys that causes them to get out of the gates slowly. There's also the Dave Aranda factor. He's one of the better defensive minds in the sport, and when he gets a second crack at you and knows what you want to do, I trust he can put together a game plan to slow down the Cowboys. This game will be low-scoring and physical, but the total is a little too low for me to take the under. Instead, I'll take the Bears and the points. Neither one of these defenses is going to let the other pull far away. Oklahoma State 24, Baylor 20 | Baylor +5.5
Lock of the Week
Western Kentucky at UTSA (Friday): I hate that I'm making this pick. I really do. Before the season began, I took out a future on UTSA to win Conference USA at +425, so I have a vested interest in the Roadrunners winning this game. The problem is I don't think they're going to! While I've enjoyed watching UTSA, it's a team limping to the finish line. Through the first eight games of the season, the UTSA defense had a success rate of 64.3% and allowed 1.42 points per possession. Over the last four games, its success rate has dropped to 61.7% and the points per possession have jumped to 2.37. That's not a great sign ahead of a game against one of the most explosive offenses in the country.
Western Kentucky ranks 17th nationally in offensive success rate and seventh in points per drive at 3.23. It has won seven straight, and its last loss was to UTSA. But what stands out about that 52-46 UTSA win is that Western Kentucky had 670 yards of offense in and a chance to win in the final seconds when quarterback Bailey Zappe threw an interception in the red zone. There's a solid argument to be made that the Hilltoppers were the better team that day, they just didn't get the win. I think they'll be the better team again on Friday night, but they'll get the dub this time. Western Kentucky 38, UTSA 34 | Western Kentucky -3
Big Ten Championship of the Week
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Iowa: OK, Michigan. I'm convinced. I mean, how could I not be? I spent all season watching you and believing you were a very good football team, but I wasn't going to commit to it until I saw how you performed against Ohio State. I'd say you did pretty well! So well that I'm not even worried about an emotional letdown a week later. This Wolverines team is too solid in every area with too much left to play for to think they won't show up for this game ready to roll.
Meanwhile, I'm not going to knock Iowa for getting this far because it deserves to be here. Its defense is phenomenal and its special teams are outstanding. Those two areas have helped it overcome an anemic offense, but this is a terrible matchup for the Hawkeyes. Everything Iowa excels at, Michigan does too, except the Wolverines are better and have more talent. Oh, and the Wolverines offense can score points. Iowa's can't. It's extremely difficult to hang with elite teams when you don't have an offense, and make no mistake about it Michigan is elite. Michigan 27, Iowa 14 | Michigan -11
Under of the Week
Utah State at No. 19 San Diego State: Sometimes, you want to stick with something reliable. San Diego State is like your first car, the one that got you through school and the early part of adulthood. Even if it wasn't the coolest car and the air conditioning stopped working four years before the engine did, it got you where you needed to be. That's how I feel about taking the under in a San Diego State game. The Aztecs are going to get you to your destination.
This elite defense ranks third nationally in success rate, sixth in defensive EPA and sixth in points allowed per drive. The Utah State offense is inefficient, struggles to finish drives in the red zone and largely depends on explosive plays -- explosive plays that San Diego State hasn't allowed all season. Look for the Aztecs to control the ball on offense and smother the Aggies when on defense. San Diego State 24, Utah State 17 | Under 50
Up-Tempo Team of the Week
Kent State vs. Northern Illinois: While I'm happy for Northern Illinois for surpassing expectations, the underlying metrics suggest the Huskies aren't quite as good as their 8-4 record suggests. In fact, while the Huskies were 6-2 in conference play, they allowed more points than they scored. They were just excellent in one-score games, but it's hard to make a living playing that way, and now they'll be facing an explosive Kent State offense indoors and on turf.
The Golden Flashes started the season slowly, but got going in conference play. They also beat Northern Illinois 52-47 earlier this season and I see the rematch playing out similarly. The Flashes had 682 yards of offense in the game and averaged 8.0 yards per carry on the ground. NIU's rushing attack -- which it leans heavily on -- was held to only 3.4 yards per carry, and the Huskies got by with an uncharacteristic performance through the air. I don't trust the Huskies to do that again if Kent State can limit them on the ground. Kent State 38, Northern Illinois 31 | Kent State -3.5
SportsLine Pick of the Week
No. 21 Houston at No. 4 Cincinnati: Whoops! I've run out of room in The Six Pack this weekend, but there's still one other play I like. Cincinnati is looking to become the first Group of Five team to reach the College Football Playoff, but the biggest question is not whether the Bearcats will win. It's will they cover? Head to my SportsLine page to find out.
Games of the Week
Lock of the Week
Which college football picks can you make with confidence during Championship Week, and which two underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,700 in profit over the past five-plus seasons -- and find out.