The last week of the regular season always has plenty of intrigue as the final race for conference championship spots is settled. This year, though, it seems like we have even more drama than usual thanks to the effective work of the schedule makers. We have plenty of rivalry games, and several have more on the line than usual. These games are important to identify and understand the implications of for bettors. They can draw an abnormally high amount of bettor attention, and that can have a big impact on where the value is and how we hunt for it. Here are nine games this weekend well worth keeping an eye on for bettors (odds are from BetOnline):
Navy (+1) at Houston (Friday, 12 pm ET): This is essentially an AAC semifinal game. It's simple. The winner of this game will win the West Division of the conference and will play Temple in next week's Championship Game. Two evenly-matched teams, well-coached teams with very different approaches should lead to a very exciting game. There is an interesting potential wrinkle here - Navy doesn't actually finish their regular season until Dec. 12 against Army - a week after the AAC Championship Game. That's not particularly relevant, but it's kinda fun.
Ohio State (+1.5) at Michigan (Saturday, 12 pm ET) and Penn State (+11) at Michigan State (Saturday, 3:30 pm ET): Michigan State controls their own destiny - win and they head to the conference championship game. Before that, though, two of the biggest rivals in the sport will be playing a blood match for more than pride - whoever wins that game will win the division if the Nittany Lions can upset the Spartans. There are storylines galore in both games. Will Ohio State quit after their implosion last week, or will they come out angry? The other game is all about injuries. Will MSU QB Connor Cook or PSU pass rush ace Carl Nassib be ready to go?
UCLA (+3.5) at USC (Saturday, 3:30 pm ET): The stakes between these two bitter rivals couldn't be easier to understand - the winner of this game wins the division and plays Stanford in the conference championship. Both teams have disappointed relative to expectations, but this is still a very real chance for salvation here - though both teams could very easily lose to Stanford.
Alabama (-13.5) at Auburn (Saturday, 3:30 pm ET) and Ole Miss (-1) at Mississippi State (Saturday, 7:15 pm ET): The scenario is somewhat similar to the Big Ten, but it's different because the team that controls their fate goes first. Alabama wins the division with a win. With an Auburn upset in the Iron Bowl, though, Ole Miss can win the division with a win in the Egg Bowl. Alabama's defense is in strong form, so it's tough to imagine that second game being relevant - but as we well know, anything can happen in the Iron Bowl.
Florida State (-2) at Florida (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET): This one doesn't matter for conference championships - Florida State can't make theirs, and Florida has already clinched their spot. Florida needs a win here, though, to stay alive in the playoff hunt - a win here and another against Alabama next week could make them tough to leave out. Making the playoff in the first year of a new regime after the nightmare of the past years would be a truly remarkable story for Florida. Heck, even making the championship game is stunning.
Notre Dame (+3.5) at Stanford (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET): Stanford isn't worried about the Championship Game - they already have their Pac-12 Championship Game berth clinched. They can play spoiler in a big way, though. Notre Dame wouldn't be guaranteed a playoff spot with a win, but they would be very tough to keep out. They are certainly eliminated with a loss. Given that Notre Dame seems to deal with another crippling injury every week, it's another surprising and impressive run. Many teams - like whichever one wins the Big 12 - will be watching closely, because an Irish loss is the easiest way to open up a spot in the playoff mix. Stanford, with two losses, would be in tough to make the playoffs with a Pac-12 Championship win, but beating Notre Dame would really help.
Oklahoma (-7) at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 8 pm ET): It's more than just Bedlam here. There are major Big 12 title implications here. If Oklahoma wins this game then they win the division - Baylor could tie them but they have the tiebreak advantage because the Sooners beat the Bears. If Oklahoma State wins, though, then they could be nervous for a whole week. First, Baylor has to beat TCU - a game they will already have played before this one kicks off. If the Bears win that one then they have to beat Texas next week to win the conference. If they don't then Oklahoma State wins it. The Cowboys need help because they lost to the Bears last week.
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