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The best conference championship game to bet on tonight, plus six other picks for the weekend

Congratulations on surviving until Friday afternoon. I don’t know how this week has gone for you, but it’s been one of the busiest weeks for me that I can remember in a long time, and my life is only going to get busier this weekend. Now, I don’t mean that as a complaint. I’m enjoying the college football chaos this week, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens this weekend and what the College Football Playoff opts to do.

Will the teams make it easy on them, or will there be enough chaos to lead to difficult decisions? I’m rooting for the latter.

I’m also rooting for all my picks in this Football Friday edition of the newsletter to be winners because we can really use them. I’ve had a rough week with my picks here, and if not for a couple of our parlays hitting, it would’ve been a real mess. So let’s finish the week strong and enjoy all the football coming our way. And let’s enjoy these stories too.

Now here are nearly 2,000 words telling you what to bet this weekend.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook


🔥 The Hot Ticket

🏈 Western Kentucky at UTSA, 7 p.m. | TV: CBS Sports Network

Latest Odds:

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
-3.5

The Pick: Western Kentucky -3.5 (-110): This is one of two conference championship games being played Friday night. While the Pac-12 Championship between No. 10 Oregon and No. 17 Utah is the “bigger” game, there’s absolutely no betting value to be found on it. Seriously, I looked because I wanted to include both of tonight’s games here. Fortunately, while I can’t find any there, I love the line in the Conference USA Championship Game.

This is a rematch, and in the first meeting, Western Kentucky was a 3.5-point favorite at home against UTSA. That week, having received an up-close-and-personal view of the Roadrunners beating my beloved Illini, I made UTSA my Lock of the Week in my weekly college football betting column, The Six Pack. UTSA would win the game 52-46, but the final score was misleading. Western Kentucky had 670 yards of offense in the game and had a first-and-goal in the final moments before an interception ended it.

That was the last time Western Kentucky lost. It’s won seven straight since, thanks to one of the most explosive offenses in the country and quarterback Bailey Zappe. The Hilltoppers score 43.3 points per game (only Ohio State averages more) and Zappe has thrown 52 touchdowns — 12 more than any other player in the country. Then there’s UTSA, a team I fell in love with, but a team that is limping to the finish line.

Through the first eight games of the season, the UTSA defense had a success rate of 64.3% and allowed 1.42 points per possession. Over the last four games, its success rate has dropped to 61.7% and the points per possession have jumped to 2.37. That’s not a great sign ahead of a game against this Western Kentucky offense, and even though the game will be in San Antonio, this is a case of one team peaking at the right time against one that looks to have peaked too early.

Key Trend: WKU is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 road games.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: If you’d rather trust a machine, the SportsLine Projection Model has done its deep-dive on this game too. Find out what it thinks over at SportsLine.


💰 The Picks

🏈 College Football

No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 3 Alabama, Saturday, 4 p.m. | TV: CBS

Latest Odds:

Georgia Bulldogs
-6.5

The Pick: Georgia -6.5 (-110) — Teams are like people: they’ll tell you who they are if you listen to them and see what they do. Alabama has been telling you what it is all season long. Alabama is an excellent team. It’s one of the best teams in the country, capable of beating anybody. But it’s not a dominant Alabama team. It’s not up to the same standard as many Alabama teams we’ve seen win national titles.

That’s why Nick Saban was so frustrated with fans before the Iron Bowl, and it’s why he was so happy and relieved when the Tide squeaked by with a win.

I can’t recall a Crimson Tide team in this dynasty era that’s been less physically dominant on the offensive line. It showed up early in the season in a close win over Florida and was exposed in the loss to Texas A&M. It made more appearances in close calls against LSU, Arkansas and Auburn. Now, that offensive line is going against the best defense and front seven in the country, and I don’t like its chances of holding up. Nor do I think the Alabama defense, which has not been great, is capable of slowing down the Georgia offense enough to stay as close as they need.

Like Alabama, Georgia told us who it is all season. It’s the best team in the country. It’s a dominant force and we’ll all finally see the difference on Saturday in Atlanta.

Key Trend: Georgia is 11-4 ATS in its last 15 neutral site games.

No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 9 Baylor, Saturday, 12 p.m. | TV: ABC

Latest Odds:

Baylor Bears
+5.5

The Pick: Baylor +5.5 (-110) — When these two met in the regular season, it wasn’t pretty. Oklahoma State won the game 24-10 and Baylor was held to only 280 yards of offense. If not for Oklahoma State’s three turnovers, it would’ve been a blowout. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as saying, “Oklahoma State should’ve won by more so let’s lay the points with the Cowboys.

They’re both different now — they’re both better. Oklahoma State’s offense has improved all season long, as has Baylor on both sides of the ball.

Now they meet in a neutral site, with Oklahoma State coming off a huge win over Oklahoma in Bedlam. I can’t help but wonder if there might be something of an emotional letdown for the Cowboys that causes them to get out of the gate slowly. There’s also the Dave Aranda factor. He’s one of the better defensive minds in the sport and when he gets a second crack at you and knows what you want to do, I trust he can put together a game plan to slow down the Cowboys. This game will be low-scoring and physical, but the total is a little too low for me to take the under. Instead, I’ll take the Bears and the points. Neither one of these defenses is going to let the other pull far away.

Key Trend: Baylor is 13-4-1 ATS in its last 18 games as an underdog.

If you’d like to see all my college football picks for this weekend, find them in The Six Pack.

🏈 NFL

Buccaneers at Falcons, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: FOX

Latest Odds:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
-10.5

The Pick: Buccaneers -11 (-105) — When it comes to betting NFL games, there isn’t much I enjoy doing less than betting on double-digit favorites, but this spread isn’t big enough. The Falcons are 5-6 and IN THE HUNT, but they aren’t a good team. Their five wins have come against the Giants, Jets, Dolphins, Saints and Jaguars, who are a combined 19-37 this season. Their six losses have come by an average of 20.7 points each, including a 25-point loss to these same Buccaneers. Any time the Falcons have played a Super Bowl contender this season, they’ve been blasted, and I don’t see the situation changing this weekend.

The Bucs got a bit lucky in a comeback win against Indianapolis last week, but they’re also in a position where they cannot take anyone lightly. The biggest bonus of the new playoff format — and the one I think actually leads to more meaningful games — is that there’s only one bye per conference and Tampa’s locked in a battle with four other teams for that spot.

Key Trend: Atlanta is 1-4 ATS in its last five home games.

Chargers at Bengals, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: CBS

Latest Odds:

Los Angeles Chargers
+3

The Pick: Chargers +3 (-105) — Trying to figure out the Chargers from week to week isn’t the easiest task, but we’re catching them in an interesting spot here. My numbers tell me the Bengals are slightly overvalued here, which is understandable considering they dismantled Pittsburgh 41-10 last week and beat the Raiders 32-13 a week before. Still, while I think this Bengals team is good, it isn’t likely to continue performing at that level for much longer. Very few teams are capable of that in the NFL.

While the Chargers lost on the road to Denver last week, it was a Broncos team coming off a bye. If you give Vic Fangio an extra week to prepare for you, he’s more than capable of putting together a defensive game plan to make your life miserable, which is what he and the Broncos did. The Chargers should find more success against the Bengals’ defense this week and keep this game close at a minimum.

Key Trend: The Bengals are only 3-8 ATS following their last 11 wins.

⚽ Soccer

Roma vs. Inter Milan, Saturday, 12 p.m. | TV: CBS Sports Network
The Pick: Inter Milan (-104) — 
My heart and my wallet are in conflict here. As a Napoli fan, I’m thrilled that the Partenopei are atop the Serie A table this deep into the season, but I can’t help but believe Inter is making an inevitable climb toward the top. Napoli is dealing with a few significant injuries while Inter is rounding into form. This is terrible for my heart but good for my wallet since I took Inter to win the league before the season started. Inter is on an absolute tear right now. They’ve lost only one of their last 16 matches across all competitions, with 11 wins and four draws. And they’ve done it with an unrelenting attack.

Inter has scored 35 goals in those 16 matches, with an expected goals (xG) of 37.4, so it hasn’t been a fluke. They’re an absolute terror, and they’re facing a Roma team that’s been good but hasn’t maintained a hot start to the season. Roma hasn’t beaten a team in the top half of Serie A since its season-opening win over Fiorentina. Other than that, the best it’s managed is a scoreless draw against Napoli. They’ve lost their other five opportunities. I’m not going to give Roma the Bumslayer label just yet, but it’s not far off, either.

Key Trend: Inter have only one loss in their last 16 matches.

Sampdoria vs. Lazio, Sunday, 12 p.m. | TV: Paramount+
The Pick: Over 2.5 (-130) — 
This might be the start of a relationship between us and the over in Lazio matches. Lazio is a club that is supposed to compete for a Champions League spot in Serie A but currently finds itself in ninth place because its defense has been horrific. Lazio has allowed 29 goals in 15 matches, with only Spezia and Salernitana — two clubs who will be lucky to avoid relegation — allowing more in Italy. Now, they’ve done it on 22.1 xG allowed, so maybe there’s some bad luck to it, or maybe goalkeeper Pepe Reina is 39 years old and continuing the downward trend in his skills.

Whatever the case, Lazio matches have been goal festivals because they score just as many as they allow. There was the 4-4 draw with Udinese Thursday, but Lazio allowed Napoli to put four past it a few days before that. Across all competitions, Lazio’s 20 matches have featured an average of 3.4 goals each, with 13 of them seeing at least three goals scored. Lazio might be this column’s new Leeds United.

Key Trend: Lazio matches have averaged 3.4 goals this season.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Want some college basketball action for your Friday night? Well, the SportsLine Projection Model cannot believe the value its found on one side of the spread in tonight’s game between San Jose State and North Dakota.


🏀 Tonight’s Parlay

I feel a little bad about not having any basketball in the letter today, so here’s a three-leg NBA parlay paying +124.

  • Nets (-320)
  • Mavs (-320)
  • Jazz (-330)

https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/the-best-conference-championship-game-to-bet-on-tonight-plus-six-other-picks-for-the-weekend/ The best conference championship game to bet on tonight, plus six other picks for the weekend

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