CFB betting cheat sheet: Conference championships and more

  • ESPN Sports Betting Analyst
  • Host of Daily Wager
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The point spread is the great equalizer that represents the game within the game. So while No. 3 TCU (-1.5) has a giant spotlight for its conference championship tilt against No. 10 Kansas State that carries College Football Playoff implications, two other title games with significant point spreads just might actually offer more betting intrigue.

No. 1 Georgia (-17.5) faces No. 14 LSU for the SEC title and No. 2 Michigan (-16.5) takes on Purdue for the Big Ten championship. It is widely considered the nation’s top two undefeateds will still reach the CFP with a loss this weekend.

Games are not played in a vacuum, and handicapping involves understanding each situation’s nuances. College football adds another layer with the athletes being so young and relatively inexperienced. Thus, all this adds up to a giant pile of uncertainty and intrigue.

“These are not conservative brown-suit, brown-shoes games for the underdogs. It’s a daredevil opportunity so the coaches can be Evil Knievel,” longtime Las Vegas handicapper and bettor Matt Youmans told ESPN. “I expect Brian Kelly and Jeff Brohm, a pair of creative play-callers, to be aggressive and empty the playbook for veteran quarterbacks who can play loose and let it fly.”

Youmans is backing both underdogs, and so am I. In addition to the “house money” vibe of a huge underdog, there’s also a comfort level that relaxes a big favorite. Plus, I do see weaknesses with each.

Georgia has been relatively inconsistent, struggling with Kent State, Kentucky and Missouri. Michigan is missing star running back Blake Corum, and let’s not forget how the Wolverines nearly lost two weeks ago at home to Illinois.

Favorite Plays

No. 10 Kansas State Wildcats at No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs (-1.5, 61.5)

TCU can silence the critics one more time and punch its ticket to the CFP with a victory. They’ve also been punching doubters at the betting window with a 9-2-1 ATS record. I have actually supported their candidacy and backed the Horned Frogs a couple times, but I am taking Kansas State. I just think the Wildcats are really good. They rank in the top 15 in defensive efficiency and top 25 in offensive efficiency. In the regular season meeting, the Purple Cats led 28-10 in the second quarter before losing their starting and backup quarterback to injuries. Kansas State never scored again. Give TCU credit for rallying to win, but I just think Kansas State is the better team at full strength.

Pick: Kansas State +1.5

Toledo Rockets (-3, 54.5) at Ohio Bobcats

This is a tricky game due to the quarterback position. Toledo’s DeQuan Finn is expected to start, despite recently battling some injuries. He’s a playmaker, but backup QB Tucker Gleason has played well enough in relief. Finn is just so dynamic and was named second team All-MAC for good reason.

Ohio’s Kurtis Rourke is perhaps the conference’s best player, but he is out for the season. His backup is CJ Harris, who has shined as a dual-threat weapon. But the situations were favorable, and now Toledo has game film to prepare accordingly. Harris is a redshirt sophomore with a big upside, but his passing skills are somewhat limited. I see that as the difference.

Pick: Toledo -3

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