CFB conference championship best bets: No gimmes for Michigan, Cincinnati

Cincinnati has its eyes on a CFP berth, but Houston is no pushover. Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports

Intro by Doug Kezirian

The college football postseason has arrived, and with the stakes increasing for this weekend, handicappers approach these games with all betting angles on the table.

"I am a contrarian. When there's big money involved like that, that makes me very suspicious," professional bettor Ron Boyles told ESPN, addressing the millions of dollars at stake for a conference to reach the College Football Playoff. "I don't truly believe (in any funny business), but it's in the back of my mind."

"There have been times where teams have lost when all they had to do is win, and they get beat. So that goes against the conspiracy theory."

No. 4 Cincinnati is a prime example this Saturday in the American Conference Championship Game. The Bearcats (-10.5) face No. 21 Houston and will likely become the first Group of Five school ever to reach the CFP, if they remain undefeated.

"I think they're going to be tight. They know they have to win," Boyles said. "Houston can play free and easy and would love to knock them off. It would be a big feather in their cap. I think this is the best defense Houston has had in years. I like Houston a lot."

Every Wednesday during the season, betting analysts Doug Kezirian (28-25 overall, 1-1 last week), Bill Connelly (35-29-1, 2-3), Tyler Fulghum (13-9, 0-0), Joe Fortenbaugh (25-24-1, 2-2) and David M. Hale (17-19-1, 0-3) will provide their top plays across the college football landscape. (Records through Week 13.)

Here are their best bets for conference championship weekend games.

Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook as of Wednesday (unless otherwise indicated).

Saturday's best bets

No. 9 Baylor Bears vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys (-5.5, 46.5)

Big 12 Championship, Noon ET on ABC (AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas)

Fulghum: The Cowboys are one of a handful of teams playing this week with a legitimate shot at making the CFB Playoff. They're in this spot because of a fantastic defense that would be garnering more attention if not for the group in Athens, Georgia. This season, Mike Gundy's team is 9-2-1 ATS (81.8%), which is second-best behind only Michigan in all of FBS.

Pick: Oklahoma State -5.5