NCAA Conference Championship Games Preview, Predictions & Picks

Saquon BarkleyIf you are a college football fan, Saturday might as well be your Christmas and birthday all rolled into one. That’s because Saturday is the day when the conference championships are played, when bowl assignments and playoff positioning are determined. Really, it’s a day of great action, great football, competitive rivalries and so much more.

Here we give our previews on a selection of these NCAA games, including the best of the match ups, with betting predictions and picks.

American Athletic Conference (AAC): Temple (9-3, 7-1) vs No. 19 Navy (9-2, 7-1)

Navy is the third best team in the NCAA per offensive efficiency and are 25th in strength of record (12pm ET Saturday). They will be matched up against a Temple team that ranked no less than 45th in any category and that includes offensive and defensive efficiency, strength of record and game control.

With a win, Temple will have recorded back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. It will also mark their first conference championship since 1967. This is possible because the team has won its last six in a row, allowing 10 points combined in its past three.

Navy too, is looking for their first conference championship after spending its first 134 years as an independent team. They have won their last 15 home games, where they will be on Saturday, which is tied for the longest active streak in the FBS.

One of the key names to watch in this one is Temple’s QB Phillip Walker, who holds school records for pass attempts, completions, touchdowns, passing yards and victories. Among active FBS players, he is ranked seventh in total offense, accounting for 10,901 yards in his career.

On the other side of the ball, Averee Robinson is going to be crucial in stopping Navy’s incredibly fast and potent triple-option offense. QB Will Worth has 33 touchdowns, 25 of which have come via the ground game. That’s Navy’s bread and butter and if Temple hopes to win, they’ll need Robinson to win the matchup with Navy venter Maurice Morris.

  • This Preview’s Betting Predictions & Picks: Navy are three point home favorites with the best of the American friendly sportsbooks. This seems like a safe margin to bet on. Expect this game to be close, within one score but that score won’t be a field goal. Take Navy -3pts @ +100 betting odds with BetOnline Sportsbook to cover the spread. It is -3.5pts @ -105 with Bovada. Also bet on the total points scored in the game to surpass the 61 allotted for the over/under @ -110 with BetOnline. It is the same spread but -115 with Bovada.

Big 12 Battle of Bedlam: No. 9 Oklahoma (9-2, 8-0) vs No. 10 OK State (9-2, 7-1)

While not a conference championship officially, the head-to-head between in-state rivals Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will serve as one because the winner will finish the year as the Big 12 league champion (12.30pm ET Saturday).

Both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have played well this year and have certainly kept hopes alive for a New Year’s Six Bowl, which is what the winner will likely receive. Oklahoma is actually first in the league in offensive efficiency and is top 10 in both strength of record and game control. Oklahoma State is top 25 in those categories as well.

For Oklahoma State, a win would mark the second straight against Oklahoma and their third in the past six meetings. It would also put the Cowboys back in the Sugar Bowl for the second straight year with a chance to avenge their 2015 loss to Ole Miss. The same Sugar Bowl fate with a very outside shot at making the NCAA playoff awaits the Sooners as well. A win over Oklahoma State would mark Oklahoma’s second Big 12 title in as many years.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma’s QB, is the man to watch in this one. He finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting last year and very well could be in consideration for the award again this time around. He ranks among the top two in his position in completion percentage, yards per pass attempts and Total QBR. Not since Russell Wilson in 2011 has a player finished the season top-three in all of those categories.

Mayfield’s stats have been padded thanks to Dede Westbrook, who has caught just about everything thrown his way over the last two months. In that span he leads all FBS receivers in receptions, touchdowns, receiving yards, yards after catch and more.

  • Our Preview’s Betting Picks & Predictions: Don’t expect much of an upset in this one. Oklahoma is way too talented this year to let it slip away. At 11 point favorites however, take Oklahoma State +11pts @ -110 with BetOnline to best that spread. It is -115 with Bovada. The over/under is massive at 77 and while these teams are scoring powerhouses, take the under on that 77-point total for the points scored @ -115 with Bovada Sportsbook. It is under 76pts @ -110 with BetOnline.

Big Ten: No. 6 Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2) vs No. 7 Penn State (10-2, 8-1)

All eyes, especially those of the NCAA Playoff Selection Committee, will be on this game because the winner, depending on what happens Friday night with No. 4 Washington’s PAC 12 championship game, could be headed to the playoff alongside fellow Big Ten powerhouse, Ohio State (8pm ET Saturday).

The Big Ten has been the conference this year and the fact that Ohio State, ranked second in the country behind only undefeated Alabama, isn’t even playing in this conference championship game because of a loss to Penn State, should show just how deep the Big Ten is.

Wisconsin is a strong defensive unit, ranked fourth in the NCAA in defensive efficiency, ninth in game control and fourth in strength of record. Penn State meanwhile ranks seventh in strength of record and has a great resume of recent wins which have them in this position.

A win for the Badgers would mark the school’s first Big Ten title win since 2012. Additionally, it would put Wisconsin back in the Rose Bowl and possibly into the playoff for the first time. The same accolade awaits Penn State with a win as it would be their first conference championship since 1994 and their first Rose Bowl since 2008. It would also make it really tough for the selection committee to justify Ohio State in the playoff over Penn State.

The big name in this one is RB Saquon Barkley (pictured), who has rushed for 1,219 yards and 15 touchdowns on the year. He left the game against Michigan State last week and is a little banged up, but he’s expected to go and if he does, Penn State has its most prolific scoring and its best shot at defeating the Badgers. Barkley’s offensive line has also been banged up lately and this is where Wisconsin’s defense could look to take advantage. TJ Watt has been great all year leading the team with 13 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. If the name sounds familiar it should because TJ is the younger brother of Houston Texans star, JJ Watt. Clearly, his brother taught him well.

  • This Game Preview’s Betting Predictions & Picks: Wisconsin is three point favorites in this one but the way Penn State has been playing lately, it’s hard to pick against them. Since defeating Ohio State in a huge upset, the Nittany Lions have been fantastic. Wisconsin is a touch matchup but it’s nothing Penn State isn’t prepared for. Therefore take Penn State +3pts @ -110 odds with either Bovada or BetOnline sportsbooks. Also take the over 47pts for the total points scored in the game @ -105 with BetOnline. It is -110 with Bovada.
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