The College Football Playoff picture looks a bit clearer than usual from this vantage point:
ACC champion: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 7 Miami winner
SEC champion: No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 6 Georgia winner
Oklahoma: If the No. 3 Sooners beat No. 11 TCU in the Big 12 title game.
Wisconsin: If the No. 4 Badgers beat No. 8 Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.
If Wisconsin or Oklahoma lose, it opens up a spot for No. 5 Alabama. Ohio State would have an argument, but the Crimson Tide’s 11-1 record beats the Buckeyes’ 11-2, especially with OSU’s embarrassing 55-24 loss to unranked Iowa.
If the Badgers AND Sooners lose, then Alabama and Ohio State each probably slip in, much to the chagrin of TCU and perhaps No. 10 USC, if it beats Stanford in the Pac-12 title game.
Defending national champ Clemson might grumble if the Tigers lose a thriller to the Hurricanes, but the ACC runner-up is not making the playoff.
Part II: Seven of the nine conference championship games are rematches of regular-season contests. Only the ACC’s Clemson-Miami and the Big Ten’s Ohio State-Wisconsin are originals.
We’ve always heard how hard it is to beat a good team twice, but the history of conference title games shows the opposite. Winners of the first game own a 19-11 record in the rematch.
It’s different in bowl games when teams have a month to prepare. In those, regular-season losers carry a 15-7 record.
SEC, SEC: If you can only watch one game, Auburn-Georgia is probably the headliner. For starters, there’s the novelty of Alabama not playing in the SEC title game. The Bulldogs, a 2½-point underdog, will be playing in Atlanta, not at Jordan-Hare, where they were dismantled 40-17. But Auburn has a big edge at quarterback with Baylor transfer Jared Stidham over Georgia’s Jake Fromm.
A few handicapping stats: Georgia is 9-3 straight up and 8-4 against the spread in its last dozen meetings with Auburn. The Dawgs also have won their last four games against teams that beat them in the previous matchup. Yet the Tigers are on quite a roll, 4-1 vs. the line in their last five since losing to LSU.
Bucking gives a lean to Auburn but probably best to keep your cash away from this one.
BUCKING THE LINE
I’ve been given an imaginary $1,000 bankroll for the college football season. Will I turn a profit — or need a loan by bowl season?
Update: So much for the good times. A hapless final week of the regular season — 4-7 against the point spread and a season-high loss of $108 — drops the season record into coin-flip territory at 36-37-3 and dips the kitty into the red.
New bankroll: $919
Stanford (+4) over Southern Cal: One of the seven rematches in conference title games. The Trojans romped 42-24 in early September, but RB Bryce Love and the Cardinal appear to be the stronger team now. USC was a disappointing 3-8-1 vs. the line. $44
Miami (+9½) over Clemson: The Hurricanes were the story of the year in the ACC, and we’re not scared off by their stumble at Pitt. They can keep the Tigers on their toes, at the very least. $44
Wisconsin (+6½) over Ohio State: Let’s call everyone’s bluff and go with the Badgers, who are continually underrated by fans, pundits and handicappers. FYI: Wisky was 8-4 vs. the line; the Buckeyes were 5-7. $33
Fresno State (+9) over Boise State: We’re not buying the Bulldogs being nearly a double-digit underdog to a team that beat by 11 points just last week. Even on the road. $44
Arkansas State (-1) over Troy: The winner claims at least a Sun Belt title share, and the Red Wolves, the league’s top team against the spread (7-3), should parlay the home field into a win. $33
New Mexico State (-9) over South Alabama: The Aggies could snap the nation’s longest bowl drought — 57 years — with a win. $33