College Football Championship Week Preview: All Eyes on Alabama, Cincinnati, Michigan & Oklahoma State

Eddie Griffin

One of the best–and most–important weeks of the college football season is here: Championship Week.

Across 28 hours or so on Friday and Saturday, the ten FBS conferences will crown their champions. And amidst all of the action, the College Football Playoff picture will be sorted out.

Coming into this week, there is much left undecided about the composition of the College Football Playoff. Whether or not they defeat Alabama for the SEC title, Georgia is undoubtedly in. Will their dominant run over their first 12 games keep them at #1 regardless of the outcome in Atlanta? That remains to be seen, but they have certainly made a compelling argument to be the top seed no matter what.

Georgia backers who haven’t made their bets yet or are looking to increase their current stake might need to hope that the top-ranked Dawgs lose on Saturday, as it might lengthen their odds a bit.

College Football National Championship Odds

  • Georgia -250
  • Alabama +800
  • Michigan +900
  • Oklahoma State +1400
  • Cincinnati +1600
  • Notre Dame +3000

College football national championship odds are via FanDuel Sportsbook as of Wednesday, December 2, 2021 at 8:55 a.m. ET.

As for the other three spots? The Crimson Tide, who were shaky in close November wins over LSU, Arkansas, and Auburn, will be in with a win. Michigan, who took over the #2 spot this week after their long-awaited win over Ohio State, will also be in with a win.

If those two teams take care of business, that leaves one more spot. Will an undefeated season and a win over Houston in the AAC title game be enough to get Cincinnati in? The Bearcats hold the coveted fourth spot this week. But would a Big 12 title game win over Baylor push one-loss Oklahoma State over 13-0 Cincinnati?

If any of Alabama, Michigan, Cincinnati, and Oklahoma State fall on Saturday, that will open the door for Notre Dame, who’s now in the market for a new coach after Brian Kelly stunningly left for LSU.

Would the Fighting Irish jump Cincinnati, who beat them in South Bend? Or any of the other teams above them? Given the hole in Notre Dame’s resume and their head-to-head loss to the Bearcats, one would hope that would not be the case. We don’t need to be reminded of how Notre Dame has performed the last two times they were in the mix for a national title, but there is nothing from their play this season that indicates that this time would be any different. So, if the committee does nothing else right in their deliberations, at least spare us all that outcome.

Championship Week Preview Menu

College Football Championship Week Schedule

Friday, December 3

Conference USA: Western Kentucky (8-4, 7-1 C-USA) vs UTSA (11-1, 7-1 C-USA), CBS Sports Network, 7:00 p.m. ET

Pac-12: #10 Oregon (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12) vs #17 Utah (9-3, 7-1 Pac-12), ABC, 8:00 p.m. ET

Saturday, December 4

Big 12: #9 Baylor (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) vs #5 Oklahoma State (11-1, 8-1 Big 12), ABC, 12:00 p.m. ET

Mid-American: Kent State (7-5, 6-2 MAC) vs Northern Illinois (8-4, 6-2 MAC), ESPN, 12:00 p.m. ET

Mountain West: Utah State (9-3, 6-2 Mountain West) vs #19 San Diego State (11-1, 7-1 Mountain West), FOX, 3:00 p.m. ET

Sun Belt: Appalachian State (10-2, 7-1 Sun Belt) vs #24 Louisiana (11-1, 8-0 Sun Belt), ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET

SEC: #1 Georgia (12-0, 8-0 SEC) vs #3 Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC), CBS, 4:00 p.m. ET

American: #21 Houston (11-1, 8-0 American) vs #4 Cincinnati (12-0, 8-0 American), ABC, 4:00 p.m. ET

Big Ten: #2 Michigan (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) vs #13 Iowa (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten), FOX, 8:00 p.m. ET

ACC: #15 Pittsburgh (10-2, 7-1 ACC) vs #16 Wake Forest (10-2, 7-1 ACC), ABC, 8:00 p.m. ET

College Football Championship Week Betting Odds & Previews

Look out for previews and best bets for all ten games over the next couple of days, starting today. And check out our Twitter (@BN_Content) for regular insights and updates about this week’s big games.

All college football betting odds listed below are via FanDuel Sportsbook as of Thursday, December 2, 2021 at 8:55 a.m. ET.

C-USA: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs UTSA Roadrunners

  • Spread: Western Kentucky -2.5 (-120), UTSA +2.5 (-102)
  • Total: OVER 72.5 (-112), UNDER 72.5 (-108)
  • Moneyline: Western Kentucky -150, UTSA +122

After putting their feet close to the fire in a win over Southern Miss and even closer in a win over UAB, UTSA finally got burned at North Texas last Saturday to lose their perfect season.

Now they a rematch with Bailey Zappe and the top passing offense in college football. Western Kentucky has won seven straight games since a wild shootout loss to UTSA. A late penalty and an interception saved the Roadrunners in that game. Will they be able to make enough stops or keep pace with the high-scoring Hilltoppers this time around?

Western Kentucky vs UTSA Conference USA Championship Game Betting Preview, Odds & Best Bets

Pac-12: Oregon Ducks vs Utah Utes

  • Spread: Oregon +2.5 (-106), Utah -2.5 (-114)
  • Total: OVER 57.5 (-114), UNDER 57.5 (-106)
  • Moneyline: Oregon +116, Utah -142

Like UTSA, Utah will be looking to score a second victory of the season over their conference title game opponent. We should get a bit of a different game at a neutral venue than we did when the Utes destroyed the Ducks in Salt Lake City two weeks ago, but the Utes are still favored for a reason.

That isn’t necessarily a good thing, however. Oregon is hunting a third straight Pac-12 title, and barring a major line shift, this will be the third straight time that they will go into the game as a dog.

In 2019, Utah went in ranked fifth in the CFP rankings but had their playoff hopes dashed by CJ Verdell (18 carries, 208 yards, 3 TD) in a 37-15 Oregon win. Last year, the Ducks replaced COVID-stricken Washington to face USC and downed the Trojans to make it back-to-back titles.

Will Oregon’s third straight Pac-12 title game appearance bring a third straight title? Or will Utah finally have their championship breakthrough in their third appearance (all in the last four seasons)?

Big 12: Baylor Bears vs Oklahoma State Cowboys

  • Spread: Baylor +4.5 (-110), Oklahoma State -4.5 (-112)
  • Total: OVER 46.5 (-110), UNDER 46.5 (-110)
  • Moneyline: Baylor +180, Oklahoma State -225

Oklahoma State has had few weekends better than last weekend. First, they ended Oklahoma’s reign atop the Big 12–and over the Cowboys–in a Bedlam thriller in Stillwater. And for the cherry on top, said thriller proved to be Lincoln Riley’s last game as head coach of the Sooners before he hopped on a plane to sunny SoCal and the chance to return USC to prominence.

As good as all of that was, this weekend could top if they can beat Baylor for a second time and win the program’s first Big 12 title since 2011. That season, the Cowboys were unfortunate to miss out on a berth in the BCS title game, with a blown lead and a close loss at Iowa State making all the difference. History could repeat itself this season, as a blown lead and a close loss at Iowa State could ultimately keep them out even if they win the Big 12 title.

Could this be where everything falls into place for little brother for once? Baylor QB Gerry Bohanon suffered a hamstring injury against Kansas State a couple of weeks ago and missed last week’s win over Texas Tech, and his status for the title tilt is up in the air.

Freshman fill-in Blake Shapen has done well in his place to help the Bears lock down their spot in the title game, and the ground is where the Bears do most of their damage. But OSU shut down that ground game earlier this season, and putting Shapen or a rusty Bohanon in a position of having to throw to win plays right into the hands of the most sack-happy defense in college football.

MAC: Kent State Golden Flashes vs Northern Illinois Huskies

  • Spread: Kent State -3.5 (-104), Northern Illinois +3.5 (-118)
  • Total: OVER 74.5 (-110), UNDER 74.5 (-110)
  • Moneyline: Kent State -164, Northern Illinois +134

When Kent State faced Northern Illinois last month, they outlasted the Huskies 52-47 in one of the wildest games of a wild few weeks of November MACtion. It will take some work to combine for 99 points and 1,345 yards again but expect plenty of fireworks at Ford Field. Goodness knows that Ford Field could use some, given what the winless Lions have done–or have not done, rather–this NFL season.

Northern Illinois have had nine games decided by a score, and the previous matchup with Kent State is one of only two losses they have suffered in such games. So, they can never be counted out, even if they fall behind. For what it’s worth, Kent State is 4-0 this season in such games, including their win over the Huskies.

Mountain West: Utah State Aggies vs San Diego State Aztecs

  • Spread: Utah State +6.5 (-114), San Diego State -6.5 (-106)
  • Total: OVER 49.5 (-114), UNDER 49.5 (-106)
  • Moneyline: Utah State +198, San Diego State -250

San Diego State’s defense is one of the best in college football and is why they are poised for their first Mountain West title since 2016. Their offense has been more of a question mark, and it nearly cost them in last Friday’s decisive matchup with Boise State. But behind reserve quarterback Jordon Brookshire, scored 24 unanswered points to overcome Boise State last Friday. Brookshire will likely start against the Aggies. Can he repeat his magic?

Utah State slid into the title game thanks to the Aztecs’ comeback against the Broncos, beating out Air Force due to an epic comeback win in Colorado Springs in September. The Aggies were in the catbird seat a couple of weeks ago before an inexplicable home loss to Wyoming, so they owe Brookshire a gift basket or a nice card.

The big question for Utah State, as it has been for San Diego State’s opponents throughout the year, is whether or not they can overcome that suffocating, playmaking defense. Fresno State did, and their offense is the only one in the Mountain West that is statistically superior to Utah State’s.

Sun Belt: Appalachian State Mountaineers vs Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

  • Spread: Appalachian State -2.5 (-114), Louisiana +2.5 (-106)
  • Total: OVER 52.5 (-110), UNDER 52.5 (-110)
  • Moneyline: Appalachian State -142, Louisiana +116

Louisiana’s 41-13 win over Appalachian State on October 12 was a key part of the Ragin’ Cajuns perfect run through the Sun Belt and their current 11-game win streak. Unfortunately, all of that success has come at a cost, as Billy Napier’s patience in waiting on the right Power 5 opportunity landed him the Florida job.

It was also a significant result for Appalachian State, who was favored to win in Lafayette but gave up three first-quarter touchdowns. The Mountaineers have won six in a row since, starting with a come-from-behind upset of Coastal Carolina. In the five wins since, they have outscored opponents 210-59, winning by margins of 31, 34, 24, 38, and 24.

That dominance is why the Mountaineers have the edge with oddsmakers. The Ragin’ Cajuns have six wins by eight or fewer points, five of whom were in Sun Belt action. All five are teams that Appalachian State beat by at least 24 points. And it doesn’t include Troy, who lost by 38 to the Mountaineers a week after hanging with the Ragin’ Cajuns in a 35-21 loss.

SEC: Georgia Bulldogs vs Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Spread: Georgia -6.5 (-106), Alabama +6.5 (-114)
  • Total: OVER 49.5 (-106), UNDER 49.5 (-114)
  • Moneyline: Georgia -250, Alabama +198

There isn’t a lot that you’ll see here that anyone else has not said about Georgia and Alabama and the significance of the SEC title game.

Georgia will be one of the last four standing no matter what, and the committee is unlikely to pit them against Alabama or Michigan (if the Wolverines beat Iowa) in a semifinal if they lose unless absolutely forced to. So, from that perspective, this game doesn’t really matter as far as trying to ensure a better CFP matchup. But don’t look for them to do Alabama any favors. If the Tide take the title, they will have earned it and then some.

Might the Tide still end up in the CFP even if they lose? I’m sure there are a few Bama fans out there with Kanye West “I guess we’ll never know” memes already queued up. But if that outcome doesn’t come to pass and unfavorable results happen elsewhere, the Tide will be left to hope that all of their good fortune was not exhausted on their trio of underwhelming wins over SEC West rivals.

American: Houston Cougars vs Cincinnati Bearcats

  • Spread: Houston +10.5 (-110), Cincinnati -10.5 (-110)
  • Total: OVER 52.5 (-110), UNDER 52.5 (-110)
  • Moneyline: Houston +330, Cincinnati -450

Unlike their other fellow College Football Playoff hopefuls who will be battling it out for conference titles at neutral venues, Cincinnati gets the advantage of contesting the AAC title on their home field. And by the time the Bearcats take the field at Nippert Stadium on Saturday afternoon, they will know a lot about what they have to do to make CFP history. If Oklahoma State beats Baylor convincingly, it will certainly plant the seed of potential for the Cowboys to leap over Cincinnati.

Whether or not that is fair is a debate for another time and place, but the Bearcats have at least a little control of their destiny here. If they beat the Cougars and beat them handily, the committee won’t have a great argument for jumping Oklahoma State above them when they put them above the Cowboys this week. Sure, Cincinnati did not look great in wins over Navy, Tulsa, and Tulane. But they were more dominant to close out the season, and their win in South Bend is one of the best wins of any of the CFP contenders.

That said, handily dispatching the Cougars won’t come easy. The Cougars have won 11 straight since a season-opening loss to Texas Tech, and they are 10th in the FBS in scoring (38.8 points per game).

Big Ten: Michigan Wolverines vs Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Spread: Michigan -10.5 (-110), Iowa +10.5 (-110)
  • Total: OVER 43.5 (-112), UNDER 43.5 (-108)
  • Moneyline: Michigan -520, Iowa +370

Going into last week’s college football slate, we appeared set for an Ohio State-Wisconsin matchup for the Big Ten title. But the Buckeyes couldn’t slow down Michigan’s Hassan Haskins in Ann Arbor, and Iowa’s comeback win at Nebraska opened the door for them to benefit when Wisconsin’s offense sputtered at Minnesota.

There are a lot of things that can be said about Iowa and the Big Ten’s West Division, and they would all be true and justified. But there is little point in moaning about a team that’s ranked ahead of only Indiana (2-10), Temple (3-9), Navy (3-8), Southern Miss (3-9), UConn (1-11), Colorado (4-8), and New Mexico (3-9) in total offense.

Kicking and screaming as many may be, here we are, and the Hawkeyes have a good enough defense to keep them in this game, as has been the case throughout this season. Michigan would be unwise to have their heads too far in the clouds after finally conquering a big Buckeye-sized hurdle to put themselves on the cusp of properly reclaiming their place among the best of the best in college football.

ACC: Pittsburgh Panthers vs Wake Forest Demon Deacons

  • Spread: Pittsburgh -3.5 (+100), Wake Forest +3.5 (-122)
  • Total: OVER 71.5 (-110), UNDER 71.5 (-110)
  • Moneyline: Pittsburgh -158, Wake Forest +130

The ACC title game doesn’t have CFP implications, but for those who were tired of seeing Florida State (2012-14) and Clemson (2011, 2015-20) take the last ten titles, this is a refreshing–and even–matchup.

It also stands to be one of the most entertaining conference championship games, as it features two of the highest-scoring teams in college football. Wake Forest is third in the FBS in scoring (42.9 points per game), while Pittsburgh is fourth (42.8 points per game).

Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett and Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman have lit up many a defense this year and make this matchup must-see TV. But which defense will rise to the occasion? Pitt has a better statistical profile in that area, and Hartman has also not been his sharpest down the stretch.

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