by Mike Ivcic
After taking a week off to indulge in a long post-Thanksgiving nap, we’re back for a well-rested, refreshed look at the biggest games of the year – the conference championship games. We’ll just roll though the picks, along with a couple select Big 12 games, and get you set for the final weekend of college football’s “regular season.” Just remember to check my record at the bottom before reading my picks, so that you’ll know exactly which way to go with your own picks – whichever way I don’t.
19) Louisville @ Cincinnati
Thursday, 7:30pm, ESPN
Line: Louisville by 3.5
In a totally inept scheduling snafu, the 10-team American conference elected to go with an 8-game schedule, meaning every team would miss one of the other nine teams this year. Who rotated off of Cincinnati’s schedule? Central Florida, which means a Bearcats win and a loss by the Knights to SMU would create a tie without a head-to-head tiebreaker, almost unheard of in the current climate of college football. But I think Louisville and UCF both win, helping American to avoid a major embarrassment in year one.
Pick: Louisville 33, Cincinnati 28
Bowling Green vs. 14) Northern Illinois (Detroit, MI)
Friday, 8:00pm, ESPN2
Line: Northern Illinois by 3.5
Every time I’ve picked an NIU game, I’ve taken them to cover, and they have. They’re the one team with which I’ve been extremely consistent all year. One more time, the Huskies will win and cover – and earn a second consecutive BCS berth in the process.
Pick: Northern Illinois 34, Bowling Green 16
17) Oklahoma @ 6) Oklahoma State
Saturday, 12:00pm, ABC
Line: Oklahoma State by 9.5
With a win, the Cowboys will lock up a Big 12 title and a BCS berth, though they’ll have to technically “share” the title with either Baylor or Texas. Add to that the bonus opportunity of beating in-state rival Oklahoma to do it, and I think this will turn into a major party in Stillwater.
Pick: Oklahoma State 41, Oklahoma 21
16) Central Florida @ SMU
Saturday, 12:00pm, ESPN
There’s no line on this game yet, but I just can’t see Central Florida playing this well for this long only to potentially give up a championship and BCS bowl bid at the last second, so whenever this line comes out, take UCF.
Pick: Central Florida 35, SMU 21
Marshall @ Rice
Saturday, 12:00pm, ESPN2
Line: Marshall by 4.5
Please try to contain your excitement over the Conference USA championship game…
Pick: Rice 34, Marshall 31
25) Texas @ 9) Baylor
Saturday, 3:30pm, FOX
Line: Baylor by 15.5
I finally picked Baylor to cover a spread two weeks ago, and they not only didn’t cover, they lost in horrific fashion to Oklahoma State. I won’t make the same mistake twice.
Pick: Baylor 38, Texas 31
5) Missouri vs. 3) Auburn (Atlanta, GA)
Saturday, 4:00pm, CBS
Line: Auburn by 2
It’s the luckiest team in America (Auburn) against the most underrated BCS team in America (Missouri). Maybe Michigan State will argue that second point, but either way this will be a great game simply because it won’t include Alabama. And bear with me, but I’m going out on a limb here and picking the Tigers to win…
Pick: Auburn 30, Missouri 24
7) Stanford @ 11) Arizona State
Saturday, 7:45pm, ESPN
Line: Arizona State by 3
Stanford already beat Arizona State by 14 in Palo Alto, and I just don’t see the Sun Devils making up 15 points by switching venues.
Pick: Stanford 31, Arizona State 27
20) Duke vs. 1) Florida State (Charlotte, NC)
Saturday, 8:00pm, ABC
Line: Florida State by 29.5
Duke will probably have a partisan crowd in their favor – and that will probably be the only thing that goes in their favor. Kudos to the Dookies, though, for winning their division and making football relevant in Durham.
Pick: Florida State 51, Duke 17
2) Ohio State vs. 10) Michigan State (Indianapolis, IN)
(Big Ten Championship)
Saturday, 8:17pm, FOX
Line: Ohio State by 5.5
If this game was outside, I would love Michigan State’s defense to slow down OSU’s offense in cold, wintery conditions. Inside on a fast track, though, I think the Buckeyes speed will rule the day.
Pick: Ohio State 34, Michigan State 24
Utah State @ 23) Fresno State
Saturday, 10:00pm CBS
Line: Fresno State by 3.5
With the Bulldogs loss last week to San Jose State, the most interesting aspect of this game is now the fact that CBS – yes, that’s the over-the-air CBS, not the cable sports network – will be televising the game with a 10pm start. Huh?
Pick: Fresno State 34, Utah State 20
Season: 58-37 straight up, 36-58-1 against spread
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