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Ducking the Odds: Conference Championship Week

Only a few games on the slate this week but they are great. We have the SEC, Big Ten, Big12, and ACC conference championship games. Sean and Rusty do their picks against the spread.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week

Sean: 7-6

Rusty: 6-7

This Season

Sean: 69-54-2

Rusty: 61-61-2

S:  USC at Stanford (-4)

Gotta take the hot hand here. Stanford beat USC by 10 on the road early early on (Week 3) when everyone thought USC was awesome and Stanford was garbage. I would say that Stanford has gotten better since then, and USC has gotten worse. I know this is a championship game, and not a lot of home-field advantage for the Cardinal, but I think Stanford is at least a TD better as long as the defense can keep USC's receivers in front of them.

R:  USC at Stanford (-4)

USC has been above average with Helton as head coach, who was just rushed named to being the head coach.  As Sean pointed out, Stanford beat USC by 10 in week 3 and the teams have gone in very different directions.  Stanford is going to make USC one-dimensional.  When USC is one-dimensional they can't get anything going on offense and are extremely susceptible to sacks.  Exhibit A is the first half against Oregon.  Stanford is going to shorten the game, get a good lead, and USC is going to make mistakes trying to get back into it.

S:  Florida at Alabama (-12)

I hate - pure, straight, hate - betting on Alabama. I wanted to think Florida had a chance of winning this one. But after a stinker of an offensive effort (ZERO POINTS) against their arch-rival Florida State, I have zero faith in the Gators to put up more than 10 points. The Florida defense, which I thought was the best unit (offense or defense) in the country a few weeks back, has shown some cracks. I think this is still a boring game, but one that Alabama wins 24-10.

R:  Florida at Alabama (-12)

This is the type of game that Alabama will dominate.  Florida has absolutely no chance of winning and it is extremely unlikely they will cover.  Especially with Florida's QB struggling so badly to get anything going on the passing attack the most dominant unit in the country, the Alabama front seven, is going to eat these people alive.  Expect Derrick Henry to wear down the Gator defense who is going to be on the field a lot.  Alabama is going to grind out a 20+ point win.

S:  North Carolina at Clemson (-6)

I watched North Carolina play two games this year: their opener loss to South Carolina and their win over North Carolina State last weekend, where they scored 35 points in the first half. Wasn't that impressed either time. Carolina is talented, but I think Clemson's defense is just much better. If this line were 7 or more, I might be tempted to take the points, but it's worth laying 6 on an undefeated Clemson team.

R:  North Carolina at Clemson (-6)

North Carolina can keep this one close.  It's a strength on strength matchup.  The Tigers stumbled against South Carolina but they have beaten Notre Dame and Florida State while basically getting Al Golden fired at Miami.  North Carolina lost to South Carolina at the beginning of the season and were written off the rest of the year.  Since then they've had wins against Pitt and Duke, who are no slouches.  They've played great football.

However, Clemson knows how important this game is.  I think they'll rise to the occasion and win by ten points or more.  DeShaun Watson will ball out and make a few bigger plays than North Carolina will and get a touchdown win.

S:  Michigan State (-3) at Iowa

Sparty is on a freaking roll. Just put up 55 points against a good Penn State defense where a lot of people - me included - expected them to have a let-down game after their 17-14 shocker road win over the Buckeyes. Iowa is undefeated for a reason. They play an old-school defense/ball control style that creates wins. But they haven't played anyone as good as Michigan State. Sparty by 10.

R:  Michigan State (-3) at Iowa

I AM WAY TOO EMOTIONALLY INVESTED IN THE HAWKEYES.  Michigan State has always played down to its competition and the Hawkeyes actually have had some solid wins.  They played their game and got wins with some breathing room.

But.  Dantionio has been maybe the best coach this year.  They beat Ohio State without a quarterback, beat Oregon, and beat Michigan.  Eight of Iowa's wins have been against the worst teams in the country.  I hope Iowa wins but Michigan State has played better opponents and performed better throughout this season.

S:  Temple at Houston (-6.5)

Houston is a very talented and very well-coached team. Temple has been a nice story at 10-2, but I think Houston's talent is far better than the Owls'. I'd lay a touchdown here.

R: Temple (+6.5) at Houston

Temple's losses are to Notre Dame and USF.  Houston's loss is to UConn.  These teams are very similar in a lot of different ways so I'll take the points when anyone could win this game.

S:  Air Force at San Diego State (-6.5)

After a 1-3 start, the Aztecs have won (and covered the spread in) 8 straight games. I expect that trend to continue against an Air Force team that is plucky, but just not quite as well-rounded as SDSU.

R:  Air Force at San Diego State (-6.5)


The Aztecs might be playing some of the hottest football in the country.  Their record is misleading because they have been fire since the midway point, blowing everybody out.  I like the Aztec defense to keep the Air Force option in check.