NCAA Football Recap – Championship Week Edition
This week was Conference Championship week, where all the power conferences played their title games to crown their champions. The weekend lived up to the hype as we saw several games come down to the wire, including an epic game between Central Florida and Memphis, a nail-biter between Stanford and USC out west and a Big 10 title game that came down to the last drive.
Here we will recap all the betting action and take a look at the teams that made the cut for the playoffs to compete for the National Title. Let’s get started!
USC Takes the Pac 12 Crown
The University of Southern California Trojans had enough talent to compete for a National Title this season, they just didn’t have the consistent effort. The Trojans are led by projected first-round pick QB Sam Darnold and have talent all over the field on both sides of the ball, but when push came to shove they just couldn’t get the job done on the road this season. The most damaging of which was a 49-14 beat down in South Bend at the hands of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
This weekend, USC matched up with the surprise winner of the Pac 12 North, Stanford, in a rematch of a week two game that saw the Trojans dominate the Cardinal.
The game was much closer this time around as Stanford got within just three points late in the fourth quarter but couldn’t quite muster enough to come back and steal the victory.
The late score did, however, win the game for most bettors that backed Stanford as the closing line was USC -3.5 points. A nasty little backdoor cover and another disappointing performance from the Trojans, at least from a betting perspective.
The lackluster performance against a three-loss Stanford team wasn’t enough to garner much attention from the playoff selection committee, and the Pac 12 finds itself on the outside looking in for the playoffs this year.
USC may not have been able to do anything to impress the selection committee enough when looking after the fact, as they finished a distant 8th place in the final rankings.
Its back to the drawing board next year in what could be a rebuilding year as Sam Darnold will be playing on Sunday’s next season. The Trojans will finish up the season playing against Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. No numbers are out for the Bowl games just yet, but I am leaning towards backing the boys from Troy in a great matchup of two teams that won their conference titles and didn’t make the playoffs.
UCF Deserves a Playoff Spot
I know I know I know, I am going to get flamed for this opinion, but I absolutely believe that the Central Florida Knights deserve a shot at playing for the National Title this year. This isn’t a Houston or Boise State or Hawaii of year’s past that played nobody all year long and wanted a big BCS game. This UCF team plays in a solid conference, the American Athletic Conference (AAC), and played several good teams this year, and more importantly, beat them all. In a year where there really was no team that wasn’t flawed for that fourth and final spot, I think it was time to let one of the little guys in.
UCF has wins over South Florida, and Memphis twice, both very solid teams and at 12-0 is the only undefeated team in the country, they should be in. They have a juicy matchup against an Auburn team that has wins over Georgia and Alabama this year, both teams that made the playoff, and if the Knights beat them we are going to be left to wonder, what if? And if for no other reason to put them in, this UCF team is a lot of fun to watch.
The game featured almost a thousand yards through the air and ended up in double overtime. The bettors pushed on this one as the consensus line was UCF -7. UCF finally just cracked the top ten of the playoff rankings with this performance, finishing behind a three-loss Auburn team, a two-loss Ohio State team, and a two-loss Penn State team.
As long as the power five conferences are paying all the bills it’s going to basically be impossible to have a smaller conference school get invited to the big dance. And that is a shame.
Maybe Auburn will beat the breaks off UCF in the Peach Bowl, and all this talk will look like nonsense, but maybe they will drop 50 on the Tigers and show them that the SEC doesn’t hold the patent on good football. I would guess that Auburn is going to be a double-digit favorite in the Peach Bowl and you can bet that I will be backing the Knights and hoping that they shock the world.
Ohio State Wins But Gets Left Out
The Ohio State Buckeyes seem to always be in the middle of the controversy when it comes to the college football playoffs. Last year they managed to sneak in even though they did not win their conference title. All the Buckeye faithful were the first to tell you that winning a conference title didn’t really mean anything and that the best four teams should get in regardless of how they faired in conference.
This season the script was flipped, as it was the Buckeyes that won their conference title and were campaigning on the fact that Alabama did not, and thus should be removed from consideration for the fourth playoff spot. Well, Buckeyes fans you can’t have your cake and eat it too, and this season the Buckeyes were left out of the playoffs, and rightfully so.
I am actually happy that Ohio State was able to beat Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game. Why, you ask? Because I am certain that Wisconsin isn’t one of the four best teams in the country, but if they had beaten Ohio State on Saturday, there would have been no choice other than to put them through to the playoffs. There was just no scenario where an undefeated Big 10 champion in Wisconsin, was going to get left out and they just aren’t as good as the other top teams this year.
They feasted on a soft schedule all season long, and don’t get me wrong, they are a solid team, maybe even a very good team, but they aren’t elite. The Big 10 had several good teams this year, you can even argue they were the second-best conference this year behind the SEC, top to bottom, and it feels weird not to see them represented in the playoff, but the committee got this one right.
The easy pick would have been to put the Buckeyes through, nobody could have faulted them for putting the champion of one of the best conferences in the land into the playoff. But on a neutral field who would you back Alabama or Ohio State? I know my money would be on the Crimson Tide, and they would very likely have been a heavy betting favorite, for that reason I am glad that it worked out as it did, the best four teams got in.
The Badgers will finish up what was a very successful campaign against Miami in the Orange Bowl. It seems that some of that Miami magic has left the team over the last two weeks, but playing at the Orange Bowl in their own backyard, they are going to be tough to beat. I am going to play wait and see where this number lands but something inside of me likes the Hurricanes playing at home.
Georgia Gets Revenge
In the most shocking result of the weekend, Georgia absolutely dominated Auburn in the SEC Championship game, taking it 28-7. The game wasn’t as close as the scoreboard might show, as after falling behind 7-0 early, the Dawgs reeled off 28 straight points and completely shut down the Auburn offensive attack.
Georgia was only three weeks removed from getting spanked by the Tigers 40-17, so this game caught many off guard. Lots of people liked their chances to win on a “neutral field,” not many thought they would dominate.
The Georgia win sets them up to face Oklahoma in the playoffs. That game could really go either way. I am excited to see what the number looks like, but this game is a great one that should be a tight finish.
Who will be able to dictate the pace of the game? Will Georgia’s high-powered defense be able to slow down Baker Mayfield and that high-flying Sooner offense? Or will Mayfield continue his march to the Heisman Trophy and dominate yet another team? If I was forced to make a pick right this minute, a month out? I would back the Sooners, but there is a good chance that opinion may change.
For Auburn, it was a bad finish to what was a great season. The Tigers hold the two biggest wins of the season over Georgia and Alabama and absolutely overachieved this season. The Tigers will look to end UCF’s undefeated run in the Peach Bowl and add another big win to their already very impressive resume.
They didn’t have quite enough gas left in the tank to make the playoffs, but that is nothing to sniff at.
Boomer Sooner Dominates…. Again
The Oklahoma Sooners will enter the playoffs as hot as any team in the country. The Sooners stomped a good TCU team this week 41-17. Baker Mayfield cemented his status as the best player in college football, and Oklahoma won its 8th straight game.
This game played out very similar to the regular season matchup between the Big 12 juggernauts. Their playoff matchup with Georgia could very well be the best game of the Bowl season, and the winner of that game could easily be a favorite to win the National Title. Can Mayfield keep his head on his shoulders for two more games without blowing up? I can’t wait to find out!
For TCU is was a sad, yet somewhat predictable ending, to a successful season. The Horned Frogs have adapted well to Big 12 ball and should be a force to be reckoned with again next season. The Horned Frogs have a tough matchup, featuring two of the best 3 loss teams in the country, with Stanford in the Alamo Bowl. Bryce Love is the man, and Stanford has turned around their season in a huge way after starting out 1-2, but I like the Frogs playing in their home state of Texas.
Clemson Looks Like the Best Team in the Country
The Clemson Tigers are the defending National Champions. They have played in the National Championship game two years in a row and will face a very familiar opponent in Nick Saban’s Alabama team in the first round of the playoffs.
The Tigers had a lot of doubters this season after losing star quarterback Deshaun Watson to the NFL and dropping a mid-season game to a bad Syracuse team. In that loss, they were without starting QB Kelly Bryant and since he has been back and healthy, the Tigers have won 6 straight games.
The Tigers enter the playoffs ranked the same as they finished last season, number one. Their resume is the best in the country, as they have wins over a who’s who of talent including, Auburn, Virginia Tech, N.C. State, South Carolina, and most recently Miami.
In this week’s game against Miami, it didn’t look the Hurricanes even deserved to be on the same field as the Tigers. They forced ‘Canes QB Malik Rosier into two picks and sacked him four times. The 38-3 beating was a bit of a surprise to the casual fan, but was right in line with what a lot of the betting sharps knew all along, Clemson is really, really good, and right now are the favorites to repeat as National Champs.
It is really hard to pick against Alabama late in the season, but it was hard last year too when the Tigers beat Alabama for the title. I expect the public will back Bama, and if they do, I will be on the other side yet again and back the Tigers.
This season came to a rough end for the Miami Hurricanes, but make no mistake it was a hugely successful year for the ‘Canes. The U was able to put themselves back on the National radar and reminded the world how fun college football can be when Miami is good.
Miami was probably never as good as their undefeated record, as it took several miracles to keep it alive, but they got lots of attention, and it was great to see them relevant once again. And you can’t count them out in the Orange Bowl in front of what should be a very Hurricane friendly crowd. Here’s to the U staying back on top for years to come!
Championship week was a great one and now all the debates and arguments are over. We have our college football playoff teams selected and all that is left is to play the games. Be on the lookout for my college football bowl betting guide to be released soon, where I will break down all the matchups and let you know what side you want to be on. Its been a fun season, thanks for reading I hope you had as much fun as I did along the way!