College Football Betting Picks: Our Experts’ 7 Best Bets for 2019 Conference Championship Weekend

College Football Betting Picks: Our Experts’ 7 Best Bets for 2019 Conference Championship Weekend article feature image

Joshua S. Kelly, USA Today Sports.

  • Our experts give their favorite college football betting picks for Saturday's nine conference championship games.
  • We're siding with a few big favorites, a welcome departure from the ugly dogs we normally like to bet on.

What the betting slate on college football’s championship weekend lacks in size, it should make up for in quality. At least in a betting sense.

None of the nine games on Saturday have lines under six points, which makes for some compelling betting — backdoors, juicy moneylines and opportunities to fade public underdogs are all in play.

Our staff has been hard at work breaking down the card and came up with their favorite plays for Saturday’s games, starting with Oklahoma vs. Baylor and ending with Clemson vs. Virginia.

Let’s get to it.

Our Staff’s Favorite College Football Betting Picks on Championship Weekend

Odds as of Friday afternoon and via DraftKings, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $200 and a deposit bonus of up to $500.

Collin Wilson: Oklahoma -9

  • Spread: Oklahoma -9 vs. Baylor
  • Over/Under: 65.5
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV: ABC

If you want to back Baylor in this game, you can point to the first half dominance of Oklahoma in their meeting in mid-November. If you want to back Oklahoma, you point to the second half.

But let’s talk about that first four possessions for Oklahoma.

After an 8-play drive resulting in a field goal, the Sooners went on to punt, fumble and throw an interception in their next three drives leading to a 25-point deficit. In that time frame, Baylor ran just 8 offensive plays and scored three touchdowns. The Bears started at their own 46, the Oklahoma 27 and the Oklahoma 9-yard line.

Turnovers are somewhat unpredictable, so other than that quick spurt by Baylor that didn’t require much sustained offensive efficiency, the Sooners dominated this game.

And despite the turnovers and Oklahoma’s 525 to 307 total yard edge from the first meeting, this point spread moved in Baylor’s favor by almost four points.

The Sooners will also have wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, one of the most dangerous offensive targets in college football, after he missed the first meeting.

Look for Oklahoma to show improved ball protection as displayed in the Oklahoma State game. Baylor will need a similar turnover sequence and better efficiency in the second half to beat the Sooners.

Both are highly unlikely as Oklahoma uses this game to springboard into the playoff.

Pick: Oklahoma -9 [In NJ, Pennsylvania, Indiana or West Virginia? Bet now at DraftKings]

Collin Wilson is 482-404-23 (54.4%) overall betting on college football. You can follow him in our free app.

Danny Donahue: Oklahoma -9

Historically speaking, the blueprint for betting conference championship games from a market perspective has been pretty simple: Fade the public.

Since 2005, teams getting less than 50% of bets in these games have gone 50-36-3 against the spread … but there’s a little more that I like about Oklahoma than just its 37% backing.

Unfortunately, the sample size diminishes pretty significantly when breaking down the specific spot that the Sooners are in, and while I’m not going to pretend that’s helpful for predictiveness, I will say that the rarity of this spot gives me confidence in the strength of the edge here … because it’s rare for the right reasons.

For example, cutting the above sample down to teams seeing less than 40% of bets raises the ROI from 13.1% to 20.6% — though it removes 43 games.

Similarly, taking only favorites from the sample — which have a general tendency to be more profitable than underdogs when faded — leaves an ROI of 22.8% (though it removes 69 games).

And while we’ve never seen a favorite of more than 3.5 points so unpopular in a conference championship, combining the two strategies as best we can — favorites or teams less than field-goal underdogs getting less than 40% of bets — returns a 51.3% ROI on a nine-game sample.

Again, nine games is nothing. But since all we’re doing is taking a profitable long-term strategy to the extreme — because the rare spot allows us to — I’m happy to ride the trend in this one.

Pick: Oklahoma -9 [In NJ, Pennsylvania, Indiana or West Virginia? Bet now at DraftKings]

Stuckey: ULL +6

  • Spread: Appalachian State -6 vs. ULL
  • Over/Under: 56
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

I have these two teams rated pretty close, with a slight edge to App State. With this game in Boone, I think this line should be closer to -3 or -4 than -6, based on my numbers.

And, yes App State did win the first meeting by 10 but ULL was right there the entire way. The Ragin’ Cajuns were stopped on a fourth-and-goal, dealt with a few questionable calls and made a few questionable coaching decisions late in the game.

I’ve been higher on ULL than the market the past two seasons (and even during the preseason when I took a shot on the Cajuns to win the Belt at 13-1) and the market seemingly hasn’t caught up to head coach Billy Napier, who’s a cool 18-7 ATS (72%) in his young career, covering by almost a touchdown per game.

ULL quarterback Levi Lewis can take a lot from last week against UL-Monroe, which was the best passing game of his career. He’s clearly improved as the season has progressed, and a few deep balls to keep the defense honest should open things up for a dynamic ground attack that was somehow stifled against App State in October.

App State has owned this series, but this is too many points to give to a rock solid ULL team that continues to be a covering machine. And don’t forget about special teams, where the Ragin’ Cajuns should hold the edge. — Stuckey

Pick: I played some ULL +6.5 and bought some to +7, and would still play it down to +6. [In NJ, Pennsylvania, Indiana or West Virginia? Bet now at DraftKings]

Stuckey is 519-478-29 (52.1%) overall betting on college football. You can follow him in our free app.

Kyle Miller: UAB-FAU Under

  • Spread: FAU -8 vs. UAB
  • Over/Under: 49.5
  • Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS Sports Network
  • Location: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla.

UAB’s defense was excellent last season and it’s taken a step forward again in 2019.

Lane Kiffin typically has a high-scoring team, but this year’s version of the Owls’ offense hasn’t produced the kind of results you’d expect. While they’re 42nd in points per play, they’re just 68th in yards per play so they’ve been fortunate.

FAU is about average in terms of passing success rate, but they rank 102nd in rushing success rate so it’ll be very difficult to efficiently move the ball against UAB. The Owls are highly explosive, but UAB does a great job of limiting chunk plays for opposing offenses.

UAB runs the ball almost exclusively yet the Blazers rank 122nd in rushing success rate. That’s not a recipe for success and their futility has come to fruition with 117th ranked offense overall by SP+. FAU is No. 8 in defending rushing success rate so UAB will have to get long running plays to score. I don’t see that happening it all.

To top it all off, both teams rank in the top-15 in defensive line score and they’re going up against two of the worst offensive lines in the nation. I’m expecting the defensive lines to be in the backfield all day.

Pick: Under 49.5 or better [In NJ, Pennsylvania, Indiana or West Virginia? Bet now at DraftKings]

Kyle Miller is 231-198-12 (53.8%) overall betting on college football. You can follow him in our free app.

Steve Petrella: Memphis -9

  • Spread: Memphis -9
  • Over/Under: 57.5
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ABC

Maybe I’m the one missing here. But I just don’t understand how Memphis is a single-digit favorite here.

The Tigers closed -14 last week against Cincinnati and were the much better team, outgaining the Bearcats by more than 1.5 yards per play.

If the nearly 5-point adjustment on this line is because Cincy quarterback Desmond Ridder is back, that’s a mistake on the market’s part.

Ridder dealt with a nagging shoulder injury and has been downright bad throwing the ball in the second half of the season.

The Cincinnati defense is solid, particularly in the red zone, but the Bearcats are in big trouble if they have to play catchup at any point.

Finally, Cincinnati has been quite fortunate this season. It has:

  • Four wins in which it was outgained (most in FBS)
  • Three wins with a worse success rate (most in FBS)
  • 1.7 second order wins (fifth most in FBS)

The clock is ticking on this Cincy team, and I think it comes to a head this weekend as Memphis coasts to a two-touchdown victory.

Pick: Memphis -9 [In NJ, Pennsylvania, Indiana or West Virginia? Bet now at DraftKings]

John Ewing: Memphis -9

Bettors expect Cincy to bounce back after last week’s loss as 57% of spread tickets are taking the points with the Bearcats.

But history says Memphis is the right side. Since 2005, it has been profitable to bet against ranked teams after a loss, like Cincinnati.

Bettors fading Top 25 teams following a loss have gone 315-259-17 (55%) ATS for +38.6 units.

We also know it has historically been profitable to fade the public in conference championship games. Teams getting less than 50% of bets in title games have gone 50-37-3 (58%) ATS since 2005.

It is not just history that points to value on Memphis. The Action Network power ratings make the Tigers 10-point favorites and SP+ has Memphis winning by 15.4 points on average.

The public likes Cincy but I’m laying the points with Memphis against a team it just beat.

Pick: Memphis -9 [In NJ, Pennsylvania, Indiana or West Virginia? Bet now at DraftKings]

John Ewing is 389-343-10 (53.1%) overall betting college football. You can follow him in our free app.

Sean Zerillo: Clemson -28

  • Spread: Clemson -28 vs. Virginia
  • Over/Under: 55
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ABC

This is the largest spread in a game between ranked teams since Florida State defeated Duke 45-7, as a 30-point favorite in the 2013 ACC Championship Game.

Dating back to 2005-06, in conference games with a spread of -28 or higher, favorites are 171-158-5 (52%) ATS.

This Clemson team has throttled its two previous opponents in the ACC Championship games — defeating Miami 38-3 in 2017 as a 12.5 point favorite, and Pittsburgh 42-10 last year as a 28 point favorite.

After barely beating UNC on the road by a point in late September, Clemson has won their games by 31, 35, 52, 45, 49, and 35 points — an average margin of 41 points per game.

The Action Network Power Ratings only views Virginia as one half of a point better than Clemson’s previous opponent, South Carolina, and sets the line for this game at -30.

I would lay the four touchdowns with the Tigers, but wouldn’t play this above -28.

Pick: Clemson -28 or better [In NJ, Pennsylvania, Indiana or West Virginia? Bet now at DraftKings]

Sean Zerillo is 178-193-8 (48.0%) overall betting on college football. You can follow him in our free app.

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