The Loaf: Week 14 College Football Picks

Staff Writer: Michael Brown

Welcome back to The Loaf! We’re back at it again for Conference Championship Week. Listen, there’s no hiding it. We had another bad week. We went 2-5. But here’s the thing – we’re still 16-11 on the season, which is pretty good at +5. I took an over in the 80s last week with Oklahoma-West Virginia (Over 82) and an under in the 30s with Rutgers-Michigan State (Under 37.5) and both of those cashed easily, which was beautiful. Unfortunately, we had no chance with LSU-Texas A&M (Under 47.5), Auburn-Alabama (Under 52), or Michigan-Ohio State (Under 57.5). I also lost on Notre Dame (-10.5) and Florida-Florida State (Under 53) because USC and Florida decided to score meaningless touchdowns at the end of their respective games. The Trojans and Gators didn’t want that TOA$$$$T. It is what it is, I guess. Conference Championship Week is where the elite shine, and that’s what The Loaf is going to do this week.

As always, I’ve got 7 plays this week. 5 of them are in conference title games, so I’m going to start off with my two non-conference title game picks, one of which is Stanford at Cal (UNDER 48.5) in a make-up from two weeks ago when this game was postponed due to poor air quality. Really, I think Cal is probably the better team in this game, but I think, for the most part, both teams are fairly evenly matched, and it should be a great game. Cal’s defense is stacked and stingy, and will have a challenge on its hands with JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Stanford is always somewhat nasty on defense, and Cal is no prize on the offensive side of the ball.

JJ arcega whiteside

JJ Arcega-Whiteside (19) has been a beast for Stanford this season; Cal should be well prepared for him, though *PHOTO CREDIT* Getty Images

It’s unfortunate that it’s only available on the PAC-12 Network, because nobody is going to be able to watch it. It’d be a great option during commercials and halftime of Alabama-Georgia. It’s going to be a defensive slugfest with not a whole lot of points. It’s funny, too, because I had the under in this game ready to go for Week 12’s The Loaf before the game got cancelled, and now we’re still back on it. Stanford isn’t going to score much on this Cal defense, especially on the road in a rivalry game like this. Cal’s offense, like I said earlier, is really kind of mediocre; the Golden Bears win games with their defense. This game won’t be a game of checkers, either. I expect a slow, methodical game of chess between David Shaw and Justin Wilcox. So, you’ve got two solid defenses and two “meh” offenses in a rivalry game. And for what it’s worth, the under is 8-3 in Cal games this year, a very reliable principle. I think Cal’s defense carries them to a win, and carries us to an under. Cal 24, Stanford 17

My other non-conference title game pick comes to you live from Blacksburg with Virginia Tech (-3.5) vs Marshall as the Hokies try to extend a bowl streak that is nearly 3 decades long. Now, I respect Marshall. Marshall has been pretty dang good this year, and I’m sure Virginia Tech isn’t thinking of The Herd as a pushover. It shouldn’t be, anyway. With that said, you can’t tell me Virginia Tech isn’t going to come out guns blazing knowing they have to win to keep their streak alive and get to a bowl game. You saw it last week; Virginia was the better team before the game started and after the game ended. But you just knew Virginia Tech was going to win the game. If there was a fear, it would be the Hokies’ defense. It hasn’t been good. Overall even, Virginia Tech has been fraudulent this season, no doubt about it, but there’s just something about Lane Stadium. Virginia Tech is going to give Marshall everything it has, and when a team does that, and has superior talent all over the field just about, said team is going to win by more than 3.5 points. Give me the Hokies. Virginia Tech 31, Marshall 17

Alright boys, from here on out it’s conference championship games. We’re gonna head up to the smurf turf for our next play, where I like #25 Fresno State at #22 Boise State (UNDER 53) in the Mountain West Championship. This number is pretty high. In terms of the actual game, I have no idea who is going to win. Fresno is likely the better team, but it’s already fallen victim to the smurf turf once this season, so I just don’t know, man. Speaking of which, yes, these teams have already played this season, 3 weeks ago. Fresno led 17-3 at halftime and took its foot off the gas. Boise won 24-17, which, at 41, was two touchdowns under the total when the game kicked. That’s something to think about too. Not that you want to base everything off the previous game these teams played, because same-season rematches in college football are always wild, but still. These defenses are really good, especially Fresno’s. Fresno’s defense dominated the first half of the game 3 weeks ago before the game fell off the rails, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they get back to that dominance this weekend against an offense they’ve now seen once this season. The under is 8-2-1 in Fresno State games this season!! That’s impressive. A suffocating defense and an average offense will do that for you. Fresno doesn’t really score at will on anyone, it just scores a lot more than its defense tends to give up. With that said, an average offense going up to Boise for a conference title game does not sound like an offense that’s going to score a lot of points. Boise is pretty good on defense, too. They’re no Fresno, but they’re good. This one is going to be real low-scoring, and I’ll be excited to watch it once Clemson-Pitt and Ohio State-Northwestern are quickly out of hand. Boise State 27, Fresno State 20

Speaking of Ohio State-Northwestern, that’s where we’ll go next. I like #6 Ohio State (-13) vs #21 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship. I think Ohio State is going to run it up in this one. First things first, Northwestern isn’t good. They are very underwhelming trying to move the ball, and

 

jk dobbins

Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins (2) is just 39 yards of rushing away from 1000 on the season, and he will almost assuredly get it Saturday against Northwestern *PHOTO CREDIT* Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

they definitely aren’t going to stop Ohio State from going up and down the field in a closed-roof stadium on artificial turf. Meanwhile, Ohio State, like in 2014, and assuming Oklahoma beats Texas, knows it needs to run it up on the Wildcats. Somehow, they’ll need to jump Oklahoma for that 4th spot (this all hinges on Georgia losing to Alabama, obviously) and to even have a shot at that, they can’t mess around with Northwestern. Being that Ohio State knows they need to put on a show of sorts, they should be 100 percent up for this game, and if they are, there’s no reason they don’t run Northwestern off the field. There’s too big of a talent gap present for a fully motivated Ohio State team to not win by 17 or more. Can their defense step up to the plate and finally have a good performance? I think they might. Regardless of how the defense performs, expect Dwayne Haskins to have a big night, and for the Buckeyes to cruise. Ohio State 41, Northwestern 17

I do, however, think the SEC Championship will be a closer contest than the Big Ten Championship. I like #4 Georgia (+13.5) vs #1 Alabama. Trust me, I’m nervous about this one. Going against Alabama isn’t a smart thing to do, and I deserve everything that’s coming to me when Alabama inevitably wins this game handily. However, I think Georgia is being undervalued here. Yes, Alabama has won each of its games this season by 20 or more, but Georgia is very, very good.

 

d'andre swift

Georgia running back D’Andre Swfit (7) had a big day in the SEC Championship last year; he’ll have to have another one if Georgia wants to beat Alabama and keep its Playoff hopes alive *PHOTO CREDIT* USA TODAY Sports

Georgia is solid on offense, maybe slightly better than last season when these teams played, and Alabama, while still certainly among the elite in college football, isn’t as great on defense this season as they were in 2017. I think Georgia can score points in this game, enough to keep the game close. And, you know who you’ve got on the other side, the Heisman frontrunner, Tua Tagovailoa, who became known to the college football world last season when he came in at halftime in the National Championship game and led a comeback against these same Bulldogs to give Alabama yet another National Championship. What that also means is that Georgia came into this season as the only team that really had film of itself against Tua. Kirby Smart and Mel Tucker are both brilliant defensive minds, and I expect them to have a game-plan put together that could at least somewhat slow down Tua. I don’t think Georgia will have quite enough to win this game, but I think they definitely keep it close, and Tua plays all 60 minutes. Alabama 38, Georgia 30

Next up we have a Friday night play in the PAC-12 Championship, where I like #17 Utah vs #11 Washington (UNDER 45). This scares me just a little bit, because this number is really low. But it’s low for a good reason. Both of these teams are great on defense, first of all. That always helps for an under. Meanwhile, both offenses are just so “bleh.” Utah is missing both its starting quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss. They’ve been able to move the ball the past few weeks without those two in the backfield, but you can’t expect that to remain the case against Washington. The Huskies are just a different animal on defense. Utah will struggle on offense. Meanwhile, Jake Browning remains highly suspect throwing the ball. Myles Gaskin carried Washington to yet another Apple Cup victory, and I don’t expect him to have quite the same success against a better Utah defense, especially in non-blizzard conditions. This one, like Fresno-Boise, is a rematch from a game earlier this season, a game that was ugly and hard to watch; Washington won 21-7 in Salt Lake City. Not a lot of points were scored then, and not a lot of points will be scored here. Also noteworthy, the under is 9-3 in Washington games this season. Washington 20, Utah 17

 

myles gaskin

Washington running back Myles Gaskin (9) was sensational against Washington State last week, but don’t expect things to come as easy this week against a very stout Utah front 7 *PHOTO CREDIT* Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week we wrapped up with an Oklahoma over and cruised to an easy victory, so here we are again, I like #14 Texas vs #5 Oklahoma (OVER 77). I must say, I’m not as confident in this one as I was with the Sooners and ‘Neers last week, but it’s hard to not be somewhat confident in an Oklahoma over. Oklahoma has one of the best offense the sport has ever seen, and Lincoln Riley is the best play-caller in the game right now. You also have, at quarterback, the man I think should win the Heisman, Kyler Murray. Now imagine him throwing to guys like CeeDee Lamb and Hollywood Brown, all while Trey Sermon can take it out of the backfield and go the distance on any given play. This offense is just unreal, averaging 50.3 (!!) points a game. Oklahoma is the 8th ranked passing offense in the FBS, going up against Texas, which is the 104th ranked passing defense in the nation. Oklahoma is going to score a ton of points. That’s not to say they won’t give up a heck ton too, because they will. The Sooners’ defense is, simply put, ghastly. It’s not good, folks. Oklahoma ranks 127th out of 129 in the FBS in passing defense. One hundred twenty-seventh!! Sam Ehlinger is going to have another big day like he did when these teams played earlier in the season. Texas won that game 48-45, a total at 93. I’m not sure this one gets as high as 93, but it wouldn’t shock me either. The over is a baffling 11-1 in Oklahoma games this season, and the one loss was against Army, an option team, so that doesn’t even count really. Oklahoma has seen totals this season as high as 77, 99, 93, 79, 97, 95 (twice), and 115. They’re a safe bet to score a lot. Oklahoma 49, Texas 38

So that’s what I’ve got for the people on Conference Championship Week. Let’s try to get back on the right track and head into bowl season with some momentum! Also, shouts to Paul Johnson on an incredible career, including the last 11 years at Georgia Tech. It was quite a ride. I hope your retirement is full of happiness and prosperity!

As always, LET’S GET THIS TOA$$$$T

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