NCAA Football Predictions: Week 15 Opening Line Report and Picks
Here we are in December already, and it's conference championship weekend around college football, meaning it's also our last Opening Line Report story for this season. Hopefully, these were helpful and profitable for you. Doc's will of course have every bowl game covered through the National Championship Game, and we'll be back at it again next season as well (God-willing).
The final College Football Playoff rankings will be unveiled on Sunday, although I have no idea why ESPN is turning it into a four-hour show going opposite NFL football. That's stupid. Obviously, there will be another set of rankings on Tuesday this week as well, so I'm only able to go off what was released last Tuesday in this story.
Ohio State jumped LSU for the top spot, but the Tigers will get a bigger boost this coming Saturday if they beat No. 4 Georgia in the SEC title game than the Buckeyes will get in beating No. 12 Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Getting the top spot is somewhat overrated because, believe it or not, the No. 1 team in the final CFP rankings has never won it all. A No. 2 has three times and a No. 4 twice. That said, it's likely important this year because I'd sure rather face whichever school ends up at No. 4 (Utah? Oklahoma? Georgia?) than scorching-hot Clemson, which likely stays at No. 3 and obviously would face the No. 2 in the national semifinals.
Alabama is the only school to make the playoff every year but won't get there this season following that crazy Iron Bowl loss to Auburn on Saturday. Telling you right now that I will be betting huge against the Tide in whatever bowl game they are in because they aren't going to care whatsoever - sort of like the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, 2014, when Bama was routed by Oklahoma. Those schools could well meet in this season's Sugar Bowl. In fact, I expect some of Alabama's top NFL prospects to skip the bowl game.
My projection for the final rankings: 1) Ohio State, 2) LSU, 3) Clemson, 4) Utah. So, it would be a de facto Rose Bowl matchup in one semifinal and an all-Tigers affair in the other. The semifinal games are the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta and the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix. The selection committee makes sure the No. 1 seed is not at a geographic disadvantage so in my scenario, the Ohio State-Utah game would be in Atlanta because Phoenix is so close to Salt Lake City.
Here are a few Week 15 opening lines that caught my eye with rankings from the most recent CFP Top 25 and some certainly to change on Tuesday. Picks are ATS. All games Saturday but the Pac-12 matchup, which is Friday.
No. 6 Utah vs. No. 14 Oregon (+6.5, 50.5): Pac-12 title game at 8 p.m. ET Friday from Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. I do believe the Utes get to the playoff with a victory (the Alabama loss helped them), but they would be Rose Bowl-bound if not. Oregon would be headed to the Rose Bowl as the winner because it can't climb high enough to get to the playoff field. It's the second visit all-time to this game for Utah - it lost 10-3 in a snore-fest last year vs. Washington. Oregon is in it for the third time and won it in 2011 & '14. Believe it or not, a South Division school has yet to win this game. Utah hosted Oregon in the 2018 regular season and won 32-25. Current Utes starting QB Tyler Huntley missed the game injured. Ditto star Utah running back Zack Moss. Justin Herbert threw for 288 yards and three scores for Oregon. Pick: Utah.
No. 7 Oklahoma vs. 9 Baylor (+9.5, 62.5): Big 12 title game at noon ET from AT&T Stadium outside Dallas. Just don't see a realistic way for the Sooners to get into the top four. Oh sure, if Utah, Georgia and Clemson all lost then maybe - but there's no way Clemson is losing in the ACC title game to Virginia as a 28-point favorite. No chance Baylor gets to the playoff even with a blowout win - its nonconference schedule was too much of a joke. More likely, the winner here heads to the Sugar Bowl to face Alabama. That would be fun, Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts against his former team. Might this be the last Big 12 game for Sooners coach Lincoln Riley? I'm up to 70 percent sure that he's coaching the Dallas Cowboys in 2020. Pick: Baylor.
No. 4 Georgia vs. No. 2 LSU (-6.5, 57): SEC title game at 4 p.m. ET from Atlanta. Trying to figure out the best result for the SEC here. It probably is a very, very close Georgia win because then the Dawgs are locks to get a playoff spot as conference champions and LSU probably would get in as the No. 4 seed over Utah - I just don't happen to think LSU loses this game. LSU hosted Georgia last season and knocked off the No. 2 Dawgs 36-16. Joe Burrow, a lock to win this year's Heisman , wasn't great through the air in completing 15 of 30 for 200 yards with no TDs but did run for two scores. LSU had 275 yards and three TDs on the ground. Jake Fromm was just 16-for-34 for 209 yards with a TD and two picks for Georgia. Pick: LSU.
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Wisconsin (+17, 54): Big Ten title game at 8 p.m. ET from Indianapolis. Do the Buckeyes get in with an upset loss? Good question. Do the Badgers with an upset victory? I seriously doubt it. UW was trashed by Ohio State in Columbus on Oct. 26. Badgers star tailback Jonathan Taylor was held to just 52 yards on 20 carries. J.K. Dobbins, who tore up Michigan this past Saturday, had 163 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries and Justin Fields, who probably finishes second in the Heisman voting to LSU's Burrow, threw for two scores and rushed for one. Pick: Wisconsin.
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