An Early Look at the Major Conference Championships by Kelso Sturgeon

PAC 12 CHAMPIONSHIP
Stanford (+3) definitely has the talent to win this game outright against USC. Though, this is an underdog that lacks depth and is coming off a run where they just upset Washington, beat Cal in a rivalry game, and upset Notre Dame. Tough to go to the well for another great effort without a rest break. Though, USC is turnover prone, which could set up some easy points for the Cardinal. Stanford didn’t play well in their first meeting several weeks ago. It’s just not a great personnel matchup for Stanford, particularly when fatigue might be an issue.

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP
Georgia (+2.5) has revenge from a recent loss, AND also catches Auburn in a potential letdown spot off the huge win over Alabama. This is really a great spot for the Bulldogs. The fact that the game is in Atlanta doesn’t hurt. The obvious concern is that Georgia couldn’t move the ball on Auburn in the first meeting, and doesn’t have a quarterback who can play well from behind. Georgia must hope Auburn comes out a little flat. Then they’ll be in control of their own destiny. You can tell the smart money likes Georgia early, because any time the public pushes the pointspread to Auburn -3, the sharps come in on the Bulldogs.

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP
Miami (+9) has been getting no respect from early bettors. Maybe that will motivate them to bounce back strong after the loss at Pittsburgh. What if the line goes all the way to +10?! Players will take that as an insult. The Hurricanes responded very well to feeling dis-respected by pointspreads in the Virginia Tech and Notre Dame games. Yes, Clemson is a talented, fresh team that has a shut down defense. If the Tigers get overconfident, they can lose this game outright. I’ll definitely be thinking about Miami later this week if the line stays this far over a touchdown.

BIG 10 CHAMPIONSHIP
Wisconsin (+5.5) isn’t battle-tested at all going into this war with Ohio State. That makes them an unknown quantity vs. such a talented opponent. We’ve seen that the “roadmap” for beating Ohio State is to pass the ball well, then run through holes that open up after the defense is spread out. Wisconsin isn’t really built for that…but they’re better than Iowa who made that approach work. I’ll have to study this one hard before making a call. Wisconsin will have an “us against the world” mentality, which I always love on my side. Do they have the horses? Can they play catch up if they fall behind? The key factor will be what I hear from my sources about the knee of Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.

BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP
TCU (+7) is another dog in a great situational spot. They have revenge and nothing to lose. They’re already playing with house money because everyone assumed it would be OU/Oklahoma State before the season started. If Bob Stoops were still the head coach, Oklahoma would be a DEFINITE go-against here. The Sooners have performed better under Lincoln Riley in terms of staying focused. But, you’re still seeing too much arrogance from Baker Mayfield and the Sooners offense. Who would taunt a non-entity like Kansas?! I’ll be thinking about TCU later this week too…but I’ll spend extra time studying the game stats from the first meeting (an easy OU win) before making a final decision.

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