With only the final College Football Playoff rankings set to be released Sunday, this weekend's slate of conference championship games carries plenty of national championship implications. The undefeated (12-0) No. 3 Washington Huskies enter Friday night's Pac-12 championship game as 9.5-point underdogs to the No. 5 Oregon Ducks. The Ducks, led by Heisman Trophy odds-on favorite Bo Nix, will be looking to make a closing statement to the playoff committee that they deserve the final spot as a one-loss team by dethroning the Huskies.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta the two-time defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs look to make their case for the top seed with a win over the Alabama Crimson Tide. On Saturday night, the Florida State Seminoles will hope to become the first team to make the CFP after losing its starting quarterback since Ohio State in 2014. Tate Rodemaker and the Seminoles' offense hope to remain undefeated, while Jeff Brohm's Louisville Cardinals have an opportunity to play spoiler and create chaos in the postseason picture. The Texas Longhorns also are in the mix and face an Oklahoma State Cowboys team that has caused problems for conference opponents all year in the Big-12 championship game.
All of these games offer plenty of opportunities for bettors to take advantage on what could be the most exciting week of the college football season.
We're checking in with Jorge Sedano, Matt Miller and Kevin Pulsifer on their betting favorites for the notable conference championship games of the weekend.
A spot in the College Football Playoff could be on the line Friday night when the No. 5 Oregon Ducks (-9.5, 66.5) face the No. 3 Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 championship game. Will we see a repeat of the mid-October thriller, or will Oregon run away with this one?
Jorge Sedano: Everything points to Oregon. The Ducks outgained the Huskies in their previous matchup by over 100 yards. Rome Odunze's late-game TD was the difference. Since Oregon lost in Seattle, the team has outscored opponents 252-96. Meanwhile, Washington has had to survive a few scares. I think 9.5 is too big a number. Especially, when you consider the Huskies penchant for late-game theatrics.
Matt Miller: As talented as Washington is offensively, Oregon is the favorite for a reason. The Huskies' defense does not match up well against Bo Nix, Bucky Irving and the Ducks offense. I think that's why we see the 9.5-point spread here even if that is a really, really big number for a conference title game in which the underdog won the previous matchup.
Kevin Pulsifer: Look beyond the final score from the first matchup and you'll find an Oregon team that dominated the Washington defense and had three drives end on a failed fourth-down conversion (including two within the 10-yard line and another that could have put the game away. Perhaps it was the hostile road environment, maybe it was random chance, but the Ducks are in prime position to avenge their lone loss of the season and grab a CFP spot.
No. 8 Alabama travels to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face the No. 1 Georgia in the SEC championship game for the second time in three years. The Bulldogs are currently 6-point favorites over the Crimson Tide while Alabama is +200 to make the CFP at ESPN BET. Will Georgia take care of business and secure its spot in the CFP or can Alabama pull off an upset in Atlanta, keeping its title hopes alive?
Jorge Sedano: Can Bama pull off the upset? Sure. Will they? That's a completely different conversation. Alabama has been impressive on explosive plays. That is a recipe for pulling off the upset. However, Georgia's defense is in the top 20 in limiting explosive plays. Plus, it is more methodical in its approach on offense, which should limit opportunities for the Tide's offense. That leads me to believe this is a win for the two-time defending champions.
Matt Miller: I keep coming back to the fact that Georgia does not have a signature win this season, unless you count a nine-point win over Missouri as a key win. Alabama is much more tested and has answered the call consistently since a Week 2 loss to Texas. That said, I think Georgia is the better all-around team and the more consistent performer. Could Alabama win? Absolutely, but I'm picking Georgia to get it done.
Kevin Pulsifer: Nick Saban is 6-5 outright and 6-4-1 ATS as an underdog with Alabama, which says two things: the Crimson Tide are capable of competing even when overmatched and that they also don't lose close games and cover. The peak of this team's talents can pull off the upset, but I'm worried we haven't seen them put it all together consistently enough for me to pick them. Give me Georgia -6 here, but I'd advise anyone wagering on Alabama to go for the gusto and take the moneyline rather than the spread.
To cap the weekend, the No. 4 Florida State Seminoles (-2.5, 48.5) meets the No 14 Louisville Cardinals in Charlotte for the ACC championship game. Do you believe in the Seminoles to reach the College Football Playoff with Tate Rodemaker at quarterback? Can Jeff Brohm's Cardinals pull off the upset and cause chaos in the CFP picture?
Jorge Sedano: Injuries or not, this is a big moment for Jeff Brohm and the Cardinals. They haven't beaten a top-5 team on the road since September 2016. The opponent that day? Florida State. Although, FSU has history on its side too. Before last week's home loss to Kentucky Wildcats, the last time Louisville lost at home was to Florida State last season. In that game Jordan Travis left with an injury and Tate Rodemaker led the Noles to two scores to seal the 35-31 win. This game is going to come down to the running game and defense. As well as Isaac Guerendo has played for Louisville, I can't see them beating FSU with Jawhar Jordan not at 100 percent. Jordan is the home run threat that the Cardinals will need to pull off the upset. Trey Benson & Co. will be too much to handle on offense and Florida State has the better defense.
Matt Miller: It's wild that this game will have a huge impact on the College Football Playoff given Louisville's weak schedule and FSU's quarterback situation, but here we are. I do think Louisville can do enough to beat Florida State without Jordan Travis based on what we saw last week against Florida. Louisville is a much more disciplined and better-coached team than the Gators and that alone would have been the difference. This sucks for FSU because with Travis it's a legitimate top-four team, but without him I don't see them winning this one.
Kevin Pulsifer: It's important to not overreact to a one-game sample, especially when recency bias and rivalries come into play. The public seems to be backing FSU after a win against Florida, while fading Louisville after a loss against Kentucky. I imagine the line shifted more in FSU's favor than it might have originally, and it's still only at 2.5 points. We saw Cardale Jones and Ohio State win by 40 in this situation back in 2014, but I still need to see it before I believe it. I wish I was getting the full field goal here with the Cardinals, but I'll roll with Louisville and the points.
What is your favorite bet for Championship Week?
Matt Miller: Washington +9.5 feels right to me. I did pick Oregon to win the game, but this was a 3-point contest when the team faced off earlier. The Ducks should win, but I can't see it being a double-digit win based on how explosive the Washington offense is.
Kevin Pulsifer: SMU is ranked behind Tulane in the committee's list, and getting 3.5 points in the AAC title game, but ESPN Analytics has the Mustangs favored by over 8 points. I'm not going to question it after seeing this team scoring at will all year while the Green Wave struggle to close.