Inside early line movement for conference championship weekend

Inside early line movement for conference championship weekend article feature image

For more on college football’s conference championship weekend, check out Collin Wilson’s Sunday Morning Coffee column.

There has already been significant early action on conference championship lines. The Action Network examines the moves.


Clemson opened -6.5 in most shops in advance of the ACC Championship against Miami. The Hurricanes’ loss to Pitt is fresh on the minds of bettors with steam to Clemson -9.5. Pitt was able to stick to a formula that will beat Miami every time: Protect the ball (-1 in net turnovers) and control the clock (36 minutes to Miami’s 24). Clemson’s defense will be the key to this game, and they bring a ranking of sixth in efficiency and 14th in limiting explosiveness. Clemson’s offense is not explosive (120th) but extremely efficient (10th). Look for ball control, ball protection and limiting the Hurricanes’ chunk plays in the ACC Championship Game.

Big 12

Oklahoma opened -6.5 in the Big 12 Championship against TCU. The number has not moved, with the bulk of the action coming in on the Sooners. TCU has issues defending explosiveness, ranking 112th in that category. If TCU wants a different outcome in Arlington, they must step up their big plays, as OU ranks 121st in defending passing IsoPPP (explosiveness). Kenny Hill had a 27 percent passing success rating in the teams’ Nov. 11 matchup. That must improve for TCU to have a shot at winning the Big 12 crown.

Big Ten

Ohio State was listed as -6.5 point favorites all last week in early Big Ten Championship Game betting. After the Buckeyes failed to cover against Michigan and Wisconsin blew out Minnesota, the spread now sits at the Buckeyes -5.5. There may be value in this line, as Wisconsin’s toughest opponents all year are S&P ranked Florida Atlantic (16th) and Michigan (17th). The Badgers posted terrible grades in their game against Michigan, including 35 percent rushing success rate and 23 percent passing success rate. Key turnovers played a role in the cover against the Wolverines. Wisconsin can be beat in a few areas according to the advanced stats. The Badgers’ defense is 75th in power success rate, giving up short yardage rush plays for first downs, and the Wisconsin offensive line ranks 88th in adjusted sack rate. Those stats don’t bode well against an Ohio State rushing attack that is eighth in power success rate and 33rd in adjusted sack rate. Look for J.T. Barrett and/or Dwayne Haskins to lead the charge against Wisconsin.


Auburn and Georgia opened -1.5 to -3 in favor of War Eagle at several books. Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson is currently as probable, but he will be monitored all week. The Auburn blowout of Georgia in Jordan-Hare on Nov. 11 is fresh on the betting public’s mind, with most of the tickets coming in on Auburn. The Georgia offensive game plan may be different in the SEC Championship game, as Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for only 20 carries last time around. Jacob Fromm was rattled as Georgia consistently found itself in third-and-long situations. Look for Georgia to rely more on the advanced stats that got them the SEC East title. The Bulldogs rank 10th in rushing S&P+ and sixth in rushing explosiveness. With more carries for Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, Georgia will keep Jacob Fromm out of third and long while the Bulldogs’ defense won’t be gassed against an Auburn offensive line that ranks 93rd in adjusted sack rate. Auburn’s defense ranks No. 1 in passing S&P+, and if Georgia wants to win they must limit the passing situations for Jacob Fromm.


Friday night kicks off championship weekend action with Stanford and USC meeting in the Pac-12 title game. USC opened -1 before getting plenty of action to the current number of -3. These two teams are very familiar with each other, meeting as recently on Sept. 9 in an 18-point Trojan victory. This is a tale of two different teams in the advanced stats, with USC being more efficient (12th offensively, 39th defensively) and Stanford being more explosive (seventh offensively, 21st defensively). Ronald Jones III has been the key to USC’s season when limiting explosiveness by the opponent.  The workhorse RB for the Trojans had 23 carries in the first game against Stanford and 27 against Arizona (limiting Khalil Tate).  Expect another big day by the USC running back.

Group of Five

  • Florida Atlantic will host the Conference USA Championship in Boca Raton. The point spread opened -9 at most books with early Owl money moving the number to -10.5 against North Texas. The Mean Green had no issues handling the loss of star RB Jeffery Wilson against Rice. Backup RB Nic Smith went for 178 rushing yards and continues to make North Texas one of the most efficient offenses in the nation.
  • Memphis visits Central Florida in the AAC Championship Game. The point spread opened 7.5 with three out of every four tickets coming in on Memphis. As the side settles at UCF -7, the total also opened at two offshore books at 81. That total has moved up to 83, and there should be a tremendous amount of over tickets written this week.
  • The MAC Championship opened above 17 in favor of Toledo and has floated in the dead zone from 17.5 to 19.5 since open. Toledo out-ranks Akron in efficiency on both sides of the ball.

Photo Credit: © Jeff Blake, USA Today Sports Images

Be part of the Action

Download the Sports Action app at the App Store or Google Play