American Athletic Conference Championship
(at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando Florida)
Memphis +7 vs Central Florida
Both of these teams had completely different weeks prior to the American Athletic Conference Championship game. The Memphis Tigers were on the winning side of a 70-13 blowout against the lowly Pirates of Eastern Carolina, while the UCF Knights had to sweat out a 49-42 shootout win over the Bulls of South Florida. Statistically the Knights look pretty good against the pass (opposing completion percentage of 53% and 17 interceptions) but against a quarterback like South Florida’s Quintin Flowers, they gave up 503 yards through the air and four touchdown passes (the dynamic Flowers also ran for 100 yards and rushed for a touchdown). Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson may not be the dual threat that Flowers is (very few in college football are) but his season resume includes 3500 passing yards, a 62% completion percentage and 32 passing touchdowns. The one loss, blemish or glitch on this years schedule for Riley and the Tigers was their 40-13 loss at the hands of UCF. In that game Riley threw three interceptions. On paper it looks like it’s all Riley’s fault, but the UCF defense just schemed perfectly against the Tigers and the Memphis wide-outs struggled to get separation. Expect Memphis to not let this game get out of control early like they did in the first meeting – expect the Tigers to balance the offense more and rely on running back Darrell Henderson, who is averaging 9 yards a carry this season and although he was held to less than 50 yards last time he played the Knights, one would have to consider how the running game had to be abandoned in their last meeting. This game has the same feel as the SMU game where UCF squeaked out a 24-17 victory. The public money will be heavy on a UCF team with Scott Frost trying to lead a team to an undefeated season. Some books have the early line at 7.5 already. Expect this line to keep swinging in the favor of UCF, wait it out and take Memphis with the points (wouldn’t hurt to by a half either. . .).
The Pick: Memphis +7
ACC Conference Championship
(at Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina)
Miami +8.5 vs Clemson
Okay, here’s the skinny on Miami: If you take away their blow-out win against Notre Dame, their schedule shows a bunch of close wins against average to below average teams in the ACC. Look at Clemson’s schedule and you see a loss to a Syracuse team that caught them off-guard and then a bunch of double digit victories (the only teams they beat by a single digit was against a good N.C. State team (7) and a very good Auburn team (8)). I put that out there because looking at the numbers, one would say ‘the stats have this as a dead even match-up’ but there is a reason why Vegas has Clemson as almost a 10 point favorite. Truth is, in that game against Pitt, the real Mark Richt showed up on the sidelines for Miami. He got nervous when things weren’t going well and benched his quarterback Malik Rosier – the guy who got them where they were. Chris Hummer of 247Sports said it best: “Rosier wasn’t playing well up that point. Far from it, completing 12-of-30 passes for just 129 yards. But to insert a player who’d thrown five passes all season into a critical junction of a 17-7 game is baffling. No matter how poorly Rosier was playing, you have to ride with the guy who’s led the Hurricanes through countless rocky stretches this season. In fact, Rosier’s navigated Miami through six one-possession fourth quarter games this year.” This is “Not-So-Big-Game-Richt” folks – we’ve seen this before. For all the hype Miami’s “turnover chain” gets, the Clemson Tigers – statistically have a better defense. Better coach. And still, the better players. The line is 8.5 for the Joe Schmoes who will take “the U” in hopes of bringing back those glory days. Not gonna happen. Clemson wins – and by double digits.
The Pick: Clemson -8.5
MAC Conference Championship
(at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan)
Akron +21 vs Toledo
The MAC Conference is one of the favorites of the sports-gambler. Why? Because late in the season this is the conference that tries to give games everyday in the week. Here we have a seven-win Akron team going up against a Toledo team that is 10-2. Toledo’s two losses came in blowout fashion 52-30 at Miami and 38-10 at Ohio. This is one of the more balanced and efficient offenses in college football. . . in conferences that are not part of the “Big 5.” Logan Woodside is finishing up his senior year with some attention grabbing numbers: 65% completion percentage, 24 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and averaging 10 yards per pass. As if those numbers weren’t enough – Woodside is helped out by a ground attack averaging 5.2 yards a carry. This doesn’t bode well for an Akron rush defense that allows 4.9 yards a carry – giving Toledo a smash-average-advantage of 5.05 – virtually meaning this run attack will not be bothered one bit. Akron leads the MAC conference in the interceptions category with seventeen, but that could be due to teams taking there chances against a defense that lets opponents complete 61% of their passes. Toledo’s defense is pretty average – and average in the MAC conference is usually good enough to secure some W’s. The one real weakness for Toledo is their rush defense, but there isn’t much to worry about considering Akron averages 3.3 yards a carry – worse in the MAC.
The Pick: Toledo -21
Good Luck and Wager Wisely!