College Football Picks and Predictions Week 14: Championship Fever Strikes

It's time for Andrew Caley's final Triple Option column of the year. Breaking from his usual format, he's making a pick in all 10 conference championship games, including a look at TCU's shot at an undefeated season.

Last Updated: Dec 3, 2022 7:45 AM ET Read Time: 4 min
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Can you believe it? December — and Conference Championship Week — is already here.

That also means it’s my final Triple Option of 2022. So, with the college football season winding down and the holiday season just around the corner, what could be a better gift than a play on each and every one of this weekend’s 10 conference championship games?

From first-half totals to player props and every bet in between, I’ve got you covered starting with the C-USA title game on Friday night all the way to the Big Ten conclusion on Saturday. 

Here are my best college football picks for Conference Championship Week: 

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College football picks and predictions for Week 14

North Texas-UTSA Under 34.5 first-half total (-110)

The UTSA Roadrunners went 8-0 in conference play and will attempt to defend their C-USA title when they take on the North Texas Mean Green on Friday night. 

North Texas went 6-2 thanks to its strong running game that averaged 5.5 yards per attempt this season. Unfortunately for the Mean Green, two of their top backs are banged up. Oscar Adaway and Ayo Adeyi are both questionable. But that doesn’t mean UNT will abandon the run.

The overall defensive numbers suggest a high-scoring game. But both UNT and UTSA have been better on that side of the ball down the stretch. And they played to a 6-3 halftime score back on Oct. 22. 

The halftime total of 34.5 is too high for what should be a tightly contested matchup where both teams will attempt to establish the run.

Cam Rising Over 265.5 passing yards (-114)

The USC Trojans are set up to make it to the College Football Playoff for the first time in program history. All they have to do is win the Pac-12 title game against the reigning conference champion Utah Utes. AKA, the only team to beat the Trojans this season.

All the talk in this one will be about Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams. But the worst unit on the field in this game is the USC defense. The Trojans rank 99th in opponent yards per attempt and 107th in opponent completion percentage.

Utah QB Cam Rising picked USC apart in that Oct. 15 meeting, throwing for 415 yards while completing 68.2% of his passes. Not much has changed since then with the only Pac-12 team going for fewer than 300 yards passing vs. USC being Colorado. Rising is set up for another big performance so I like the Over on his passing yards prop.

TCU -2.5 (-107)

Can the TCU Horned Frogs’ magic continue for just one more game when they take on Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship in what is an interesting rematch from the regular season? 

TCU won the Oct. 22 meeting 38-28 but it is a matchup the Horned Frogs probably should have lost. They were down 28-17 at the half. Then KSU QB Adrian Martinez got hurt and the Wildcats offense stalled.

This time around, Will Howard gets the start for K-State, who has the better arm but isn’t as mobile as Martinez. So, it may be a little easier for Sonny Dykes' underrated defense to plan for.

For TCU it sounds like the trio of Quentin Johnston, Kendre Miller, and Derius Davis are good to go, and QB Max Duggan continues to impress. TCU has defied the odds all year. Literally. The Frogs are 9-3-1 ATS. At less than a field goal, I’ll bet the magic continues.

Toledo -1.5 (-110)

The MAC Championship between the Toledo Rockets and the Ohio Bobcats has lost some of its shine with Bobcats QB Kurtis Rourke now out for the season with a knee injury.

Rourke’s injury is a huge blow to the Ohio offense that ranked 14th in the country in passing yards per game. Backup CJ Harris will have a much tougher time against a Toledo defense that ranks 23rd in opponent yards per play when facing FBS opponents this season.

Meanwhile, Rockets QB Dequan Finn should have a field day against a Bobcats defense that ranks dead last in the nation in passing yards allowed per game, giving up 305.3 yards per contest. 

I’m betting Finn leads Toledo to its first MAC title since 2017, covering the short chalk in the process.

Troy -8 (-114)

The Troy Trojans won six Sun Belt titles between 2006 and 2017 and will try to return to the pinnacle of the conference with a win over the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. 

Troy finished the season winning nine straight games thanks to an elite defense that ranks sixth in the country in opponent yards per play. The Trojans will be a huge problem for a Coastal Carolina offense that looked like a mess without starting QB Grayson McCall.

The Chanticleers scored just seven points on 183 yards of total offense in a 40-point loss last week against James Madison. And the case can be made that the Trojans defense is just as good, if not better than the Dukes’. I’m laying the points with Troy in this one.

Tulane -3.5 (-115)

The AAC Championship is yet another rematch where the Tulane Green Wave will have revenge on their mind after falling to the UCF Knights 38-31 back on Nov. 12. 

Since that loss, Tulane has responded with big wins over SMU and Cincinnati and has been one of the best bets in college football this season, going 10-2 ATS. Meanwhile, UCF has stumbled, losing to Navy and needing a last-minute touchdown to beat a USF team without an FBS win this season. 

In the original meeting between these Knights QB John Rhys Plumlee dominated the Green Wave on the ground, but he is dealing with a hamstring injury.

Tulane also got a huge boost when head coach Willie Fritz confirmed he would be returning next season. Expect him to have a game plan to shut down Plumlee in this one as the Green Wave ride the momentum in front of their home crowd to their first conference title since 1998.

Jake Haener Over 294.5 passing yards (-114)

The Mountain West Championship is a classic offense vs. defense battle as Jake Haener and the high-octane Fresno State Bulldogs take on the Boise State Broncos and their elite defense.

Haener went down with a midseason injury and Fresno State looked lost. But boy, has he looked good since he’s been back. In fact, the Bulldogs haven’t lost, putting up at least 32 points in each game since his return.

He’s also thrown for at least 313 yards six times in the seven full games he has played. And while Boise State has a great defense, in its matchups against decent passing teams — Oregon State, BYU, and Utah State — all went for at least 292 yards through the air.

I don’t know if Fresno State pulls off the upset, or even covers. But Haener should be impressive.

LSU Team Total Under 16.5 (-105)

It seems weird, but there isn’t a whole lot of importance tied to the SEC Championship this season. Georgia is a huge 17.5-point favorite and is likely still in the College Football Playoff even with a loss.

LSU is coming in off a stunning loss to Texas A&M last week. The loss is the Tigers' third of the season and even an SEC Championship probably won't get them into the CFP.

The biggest problem for LSU in this one is the health of QB Jayden Daniels. He's had huge performances against Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, but he’s been seen in a walking boot and mobility is such a huge part of his game. 

If he can’t move effectively, he could be in trouble against a Georgia defensive front that has been a force. Georgia has stepped up in its biggest games this season. I don’t expect that to change here.

North Carolina Team Total Over 26.5 (-115)

Talk about a matchup that has lost some of its luster. Both the Clemson Tigers and the North Carolina Tar Heels enter the ACC Championship playing some poor football. Clemson is coming off a loss to rival South Carolina while UNC has dropped consecutive games against Georgia Tech and North Carolina State.

But the Tar Heels and phenom freshman QB Drake Maye could be in a nice spot to bounce back. Maye has been outstanding most of the season and the best way to attack this Clemson defense is with the deep ball. Passing teams like South Carolina and Wake Forest have been able to move the ball through the air against the Tigers. Clemson is also dealing with injuries in its secondary.

Then there is motivation. Does Clemson care that much about another ACC title? While a victory for UNC would mean its first ACC championship in 42 years.

Michigan Team Total Over 34.5 (-105)

The Michigan Wolverines meet the Purdue Boilermakers in the Big Ten title game. It’s simple for the Wolverines, win and you’re in the College Football Playoff.

Who was that JJ McCarthy? If the Michigan QB plays like he did vs. Ohio State, Purdue doesn’t stand much of a chance. The Boilermakers boast a solid defense, but they tend to get killed with deep shots far too often, considering they haven’t played a ton of good passing teams.

The other problem for the Boilermakers here is the Michigan offensive line. Arguably the best in college football. The Wolverines manhandled a good Ohio State defensive front in the trenches and even without Blake Corum, should create massive holes in the run game.

It may not be the same shit kicking the Wolverines gave Iowa in the title game last year, but I like Michigan Over its team total in this one. 

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