College Football Picks, Early Bets: Conference Championship Bets for SMU vs. Tulane & Miami (OH) vs. Toledo (Dec. 2)

College Football Picks, Early Bets: Conference Championship Bets for SMU vs. Tulane & Miami (OH) vs. Toledo (Dec. 2) article feature image
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Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Head coach Rhett Lashlee and the SMU Mustangs.

We have reached the business end of the college football season: conference championship weekend. There's still a lot that needs to be sorted out in terms of the College Football Playoff, so we'll have a ton of drama ahead of us this weekend.

The market clearly moves a lot over the course of the week. Money pours in from the time lines open on Sunday until kickoff on Saturday. Like any other sport, it's paramount to get the best price possible when betting on college football.

For example, a -6.5 favorite could move to -7.5 on Saturday morning, and then you run the risk of that team winning by one of the most likely outcomes — a seven-point victory — and you just lost your bet. It happens every week.

But that mess could have been avoided if the bet was locked in at -6.5 on Sunday afternoon.

I'm here to help you navigate the market by providing a few lines I'm buying right now — or other lines that I'm waiting to buy later in the week.

The hope for this piece is to beat the market, get the best price possible, and in the long run, save you some money with closing line value. To do that, we'll utilize our Action Network PRO projections, ESPN's SP+ and my own projections to create a consensus.

You hear all the time, "Process over results." The best way to know if the process is working is by closing line value (CLV), meaning how many points did you beat the closing line by? Well, I'm here to help you hopefully get the most CLV possible early on in the week so you're sitting in a great position by the time we reach Saturday.


MAC Championship: Miami (OH) vs. Toledo

Saturday, Dec. 2
12 p.m. ET
ESPN
Miami (OH) Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
+8.5
-112
46
-110o / -110u
+270
Toledo Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
-8.5
-108
46
-110o / -110u
-340
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

Miami (OH) vs. Toledo Projections

Action NetworkCunninghamSP+
Toledo -5.5Toledo -5.3Toledo -6.5

When the MAC Championship takes place at Ford Field, Miami (OH) will have a chance to exact revenge for the 21-17 loss Toledo handed it on Oct. 21.

Miami closed out a 10-2 season by beating Ball State, 17-15, which marked its 10th win in 11 games. The RedHawks lost Brett Gabbert for the season in that loss to Toledo, but Aveon Smith has come in and made them a good rushing team.

Rashad Amos is having a fantastic season for the RedHawks as the lead back, averaging 5.1 yards per carry with 23 runs over 10 yards.

Miami (OH) will need to run the ball effectively because that's how teams beat this Toledo defense. The Rockets are outside the top 70 in both Rushing Success Rate, EPA/Rush Allowed and Defensive Line Yards. Amos ran the ball for 5.5 yards per carry in the previous meeting, so if he can do that again, the RedHawks have a chance in this game.

There's no doubt Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn has been awesome this season. He's an incredible dual-threat quarterback. However, there's a pretty drastic difference between his performances at the Glass Bowl, as opposed to those away from it.

LocationYards per AttemptCompletion %
Away6.659.0%
Home10.973.6%
Data via Sports Info Solutions.

He's someone who has also put up big numbers against bad teams. In the first meeting with Miami (OH), he actually struggled a bit. He went 16-for-28 for 160 yards with a 64.3 PFF grade and no big-time throws.

The reason for that is that Miami (OH) has an outstanding secondary that's top-30 in both Passing Success Rate Allowed and PFF coverage grade.

This unit has also done a fantastic job at stopping the run. The RedHawks are allowing just 3.7 yards per carry and are top-30 in EPA/Rush Allowed. They did a good job of shutting down Toledo's rushing attack in that Oct. 21 meeting, allowing only 3.4 yards per carry even though Toledo ran the ball almost 50 times.

Another great aspect about this Miami (OH) defense is it simply doesn't allow big plays. The RedHawks are fifth in the nation in explosiveness allowed, which is big when facing an offense that lives on explosive plays like Toledo.

Given how close the first meeting was between these two and how good Miami's defense is, I think Toledo is a tad inflated. All three projection models agree, so I like the value on Miami (OH) at +8.5.

Pick: Miami (OH) +8.5

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AAC Championship: SMU vs. Tulane

Saturday, Dec. 2
4 p.m. ET
ABC
SMU Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
+4.5
-115
50.5
-110o / -110u
+146
Tulane Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
-4.5
-105
50.5
-110o / -110u
-178
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

SMU vs. Tulane Projections

Action NetworkCunninghamSP+
Tulane -0.6SMU -1.1SMU -1.4

SMU is an absolute freight train right now.

The Mustangs went a perfect 8-0 in conference play and finished off the regular season by hammering Navy, 59-14.

What makes this SMU team so good is how stout it's been defensively. SMU ranks fourth in the nation in Success Rate Allowed, and most importantly for this game, it's been elite in the secondary. The Mustangs are allowing just 6.0 yards per attempt and rank inside the top five in both Passing Success Rate and EPA/Pass Allowed.

One of the reasons why they're so good is not only because they have great players in the secondary, but they have an elite pass rush. SMU ranks top-20 in the nation in pressure rate, Havoc and sack percentage.

This matchup is perfect for the Mustangs because Tulane relies heavily on Michael Pratt and the passing game.

Pratt has been outstanding this season, averaging 8.8 yards per attempt with 21 touchdowns and only four interceptions. But as you can see below, he's been up and down all season long with his last game against UTSA being one of his worst.

Image via PFF.

There's also a pretty drastic difference between Pratt when he has a clean pocket versus when he's under pressure. His offensive line hasn't really done a great job of protecting him, as he's under pressure on 31% of his dropbacks.

Pressured?Yards per AttemptCompletion%
Yes5.844.8%
No9.974.4%
Data via Sports Info Solutions.

This is the best pass rush that Pratt has seen this season, so I highly doubt he's going to have a clean pocket to throw all day.

There's also the issue of Pratt being without a few of his main weapons. Lawrence Keys III and Jha'Quan Jackson both missed the game against UTSA and are questionable to play in this game. They are second and third on the team in both catches and receiving yards, respectively, so that would be a big blow going up against a top-five secondary.

Tulane has also struggled to run the ball this season, ranking outside the top 100 in both Rushing Success Rate and EPA/Rush.

So, if Pratt isn't comfortable in the pocket, doesn't have his top two targets and Tulane can't run the ball, it's going to be a long day for the Green Wave.

On the other side, SMU's Preston Stone had been one of the more underrated quarterbacks in college football this season, but now, he's out for the season with a broken bone in his leg that he suffered after a tremendous first half against Navy.

Image via PFF.

Backup Kevin Jennings has filled in admirably at times this season, completing 18 of his 24 passes for 330 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. However, he's still inexperienced.

Jennings will have a good matchup against a Tulane secondary that ranks outside the top 70 in both Passing Success Rate and EPA/Pass Allowed.

The SMU offense is also incredibly efficient once it crosses over into its opponent's territory, ranking 14th in Finishing Drives while Tulane sits at 57th in Finishing Drives Allowed.

All three projection models have this around a pick'em so I would grab the +4.5 on SMU available at FanDuel while the rest of the market is at +3.5.

Pick: SMU +4.5

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