I’m looking forward to a college-football weekend starting Friday night and continuing all day Saturday. I love the showdowns in the conference championship games. I love college football, period. I don’t write about it much here on “Scoops,” but will try to do more typing on CFB next season. I’ve always wanted to, but frankly, I don’t know how much interest there is in college football in these part. But I’ll remain enthusiastic. 


Oregon (+2.5) vs. Utah: The No. 17 Utes smashed Oregon 38-7 two weeks ago, all but eliminating the Ducks from College Football Playoff consideration. Oregon slipped to No. 10 in the rankings since that loss. But the Utah wipeout win was played in Salt Lake City. This Pac 12 Championship will be staged Friday night in the Raiders’ place in Las Vegas. And that’s a big deal – for Oregon. Utah has been in the conference title game for three consecutive years, and lost every time. And this season Utah is 1–4 against the spread when facing teams that have won at least 70 percent of their games. OREGON 27, UTAH 23. But the best play here is go with the under (fewer than 57.5 points total in the game.)

Western Kentucky (-3.5) at UTSA for the Conference USA title, Friday night: UTSA beat WKY in a close one during the regular season, and UTSA is 11-1 on the season. But Western Kentucky has been playing much better, having won seven straight since losing to UTSA. Meanwhile the UTSA defense has been sliding – which isn’t a positive development when facing a WKY offense that ranks 17th in the nation in offensive success rate. When the teams met during the regular season, WKY had 670 yards of offense and a chance to win at the end. WESTERN KENTUCKY 41, UTSA 37. 

No. 9 Baylor (+5.5) vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State, 11 a.m. STL time Saturday in Arlington TX:  Oklahoma State (11-1) has a lot on the line in this Big 12 Championship –  if the Cowboys defeat 10-2 Baylor, the Cowboys will march into the four-team playoff if Alabama loses to Georgia. Or if Michigan is upset by Iowa, or if Cincinnati is shoved out of the top for by a dangerous Houston team. It’s even possible for OSU to make it to the last four over Cincinnati, even if the Bearcats win Saturday. During the regular season Oklahoma State took care of Baylor 24-10 and limited the Bears to 280 yards offense. The Oklahoma State offense has gradually improved over the course of the season, and the Cowboys defense is No. 2 nationally in fewest points allowed per drive. Baylor – much scarier since losing at Oklahoma State on Oct. 2 – is certainly a threat to take this one. Much depends on the health of Baylor QB Gerry Bohanan, who didn’t play in last weekend’s 10-point win over Texas Tech. These numbers caught my attention: OSU is 6-1-1 against the spread overall; 3-0-1 ATS when listed as the favorite in a road/neutral game; 2-0 ATS vs. teams that have won 70% of their games; 4-0 ATS when playing with fewer than eight days off. OKLAHOMA STATE 27, BAYLOR 16. 

Houston (+10.5) at Cincinnati, AAC Championship, 3 pm Saturday STL time: The No. 21 Cougars have won 11 in a row with a 22-point margin of victory, and quarterback Clayton Tune is rolling. The underdogs can ruin No. 4 Cincinnati’s season if the Bearcats lapse and struggle as they did against Navy, Tulane and Tulsa this season. Houston is 2-0 ATS when listed as an underdog by 8.5 to 12.5 points, but Cincinnati is 4-1 ATS at home. I think the UC will have to work for this, but they’ll win it – especially if their defense has a strong game. Defensively Cincinnati’s is No. 2 nationally in yards per play allowed. But will the Bearcats cover? That’s a good question. CINCINNATI 36, HOUSTON 24. 

Georgia (-6.5) vs. Alabama, SEC Championship in Atlanta, 3 p.m. Saturday STL time: The No. 1 Dawgs are eager to outmuscle No. 3 Bama to give coach Kirby Smart his first win over Nick Saban and deaden the sting of three excruciating losses to the best coach in CFB. Until now, Alabama has been favored to win in 92 straight games. Not only is Smart 0-3 vs. Saban, but Georgia blew second-half leads in all three games, failing to score after the third quarter each time. In 180 minutes of regulation-time  competition against Saban, Smart and Georgia held the lead for just under 99 minutes – yet couldn’t put the Crimson Tide away, getting outscored 31-0 in the fourth quarter. Is any of this relevant? 

Undefeated Georgia is the best team in CFB this season. The Dawgs are allowing only 6.9 points per game and have held each of their 12 opponents to 17 points or fewer – the last team to do that was Oklahoma in 1986. 

The Dawgs rank No. 1 nationally in yards per play allowed, and surprisingly are No. 2 in yards per play on offense. Alabama’s offensive line has gotten run over too many times this season, especially at right tackle. And Bama’s secondary often plays confused and blows coverage assignments. Georgia tight end Brock Bowers averages 17.6 yards per catch and has 10 touchdowns this season. Offensively, he will be Alabama’s biggest headache. 

The Tide will go into this game with only one completely healthy running back. Look for Alabama QB Bryce Young to run a lot more in this game; I have a hunch Saban has been saving designed runs for his quarterback for this very game. If Bama’s porous offensive line gives Young time to throw on enough dropbacks, he can exploit a vulnerable Georgia secondary with big-burn completions to John Metchie and St. Louisan Jameson Williams.

Alabama has played in several close games this season. Georgia, however, has won its games by an average score of 40-6. Does Alabama have more of a chance in this one simply because of their comfort level in handling in-game adversity? Interesting question; GA hasn’t played in a high-pressure game since the opener against Clemson. And at the beginning of the season Clemson wasn’t nearly as good as the CFB Nation assumed. 

Even with a loss, Georgia will make the CFP tournament. If Alabama wins Saturday, both SEC teams will get in. Alabama has the mystique, but Georgia has a ferocious and forceful defense and an underrated offense. QB Stetson Bennett has elevated his performance but he can’t afford to give Alabama any gift interceptions. This should be a dandy. GEORGIA 24, ALABAMA 20. 

Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest (+3) in Charlotte for the ACC Championship, Saturday at 7 pm STL time: Pitt is ranked 15th, one spot ahead of No. 16 Wake. This should be a highly entertaining game featuring quarterbacks that have combined for 74 touchdown passes this season – Sam Hartman of Wake and Pitt’s Kenny Pickett. And both offenses average 43 points per game. There is one difference: defense. Not that Pittsburgh is elite on that side of the football, but the Panthers are pretty durn good – ranking No. 37 defensively in points allowed per drive Wake Forest is 78th in the same category. And if form holds, Pitt will be swarming Hartman; the Panthers’ 46 sacks are second-most in FBS. PITTSBURGH 44, WAKE FOREST 38. 

Michigan vs. Iowa (+10.5) in the Big Ten Championship at Indianapolis, 7 pm STL time Saturday: Jim Harbaugh’s second-ranked Wolverines are one step from securing a spot in the playoff. Takeaways will be No. 13 Iowa’s best shot at winning this game, and we’ve seen the Hawkeyes do that to opponents for much of the season. Michigan has a much better offense than Iowa – which ranks 95th nationally in points per drive – but Harbaugh’s men can’t be careless with the football. Michigan is 10-2 against the spread compared to Iowa’s 7-5 mark ATS. But there is some danger here; Iowa is 2-0 ATS against opponents that have won 70% plus of their games. Michigan is 1-2 ATS against teams that allow 25 points or fewer, and also 1-2 against opponents that have won 70+ percent of its games. MICHIGAN 28, IOWA 17. 

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com  — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

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