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College football picks, schedule: Predictions against the spread, odds for conference championship weekend

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This weekend’s conference championship games are all that stand between some of the nation’s top teams and an appearance in either the college football playoffs or New Year’s Six Bowl games. Opportunities for teams to compete for positions are limited, but opportunities nonetheless exist in the five specific league title games played over the weekend.

The weekend got off to an unexpected start, as Utah’s No. 11 overtook No. 4 USC for a second consecutive Pac-12 crown and a Rose Bowl appearance—all of which effectively undermined the Trojans’ college football playoff hopes.

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If USC falls out of the top four, Ohio State’s No. 5 door will suddenly open to join a four-team field as it sits at home following last week’s loss at The Game. This doesn’t mean the Trojans will necessarily be wiped out, but with two losses to Utes, the CFP selection committee will probably have a hard time putting USC in a tight box. If Ohio State takes the field, the Big Ten will be only the second conference to lead two teams to the playoffs in the same season (SEC).

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Elsewhere, Saturday’s showdowns are mostly about sowing. CBS sports bowl expert Jerry Palm claims that the current No. 1 in Georgia, No. 2 in Michigan, and No. 3 in TCU are likely to make the playoffs regardless of whether they win or lose. The Wolverines have the easiest path to the top seed as they are the favorite with more than two touchdowns over the unranked Purdue. The Bulldogs are firmly established in first place but must contend with LSU No. 14, who looked like a legitimate contender before Texas A&M was upset last week. And then there’s the Horned Frogs, who have their toughest test of all as they take on No. 10 Kansas State, whom they narrowly beat on the road earlier this season.

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Be sure to tune in to CBS Sports over the weekend for coverage of college football, from the first two Friday league games to Sunday’s draw. Let’s take a look at our expert selection of the best games during Championship Weekend.

SEC: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 14 LSU

Featured Game | Georgia Bulldogs vs LSU Tigers

16:00 | CBS,, CBS sports appGeorgia will choke out an LSU team that should be demoralized after last week’s stunning loss at Texas A&M. Jayden Daniels absolutely needs to establish himself as the centerpiece of the Tigers’ ground game, or it won’t work. It’s easier said than done against this Georgia defense that will make Daniels win this game with his hand. It will not happen. However, Georgia knows that it is necessary to end this game as soon as possible. The Bulldogs will quickly get ahead and take their foot off the gas pedal so that the Tigers can cover themselves. The game, however, will never doubt. Prediction: LSU (+17.5) — Barret Sally

American: No. 18 Tulane vs. No. 22 UCF

Featured Game | Tulane Green Wave vs. UCF Knights

16:00 | ABC, fuboTV (Try for free) — The Green Wave is gaining momentum just as the Knights are struggling. Tulane edged out two-time champion Cincinnati to crush fourth-place SMU by 35 points. UCF lost to the Navy 17-14 and needed a late rush to avoid the terrible South Florida team. Willy Fritz’s team will not miss this opportunity and for the first time since 1998 will win the conference title. Prediction: Tulane -4 — Shehan Jeyaraja

ACC: No. 9 Clemson vs. No. 23 North Carolina

Featured Game | North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Clemson Tigers

20:00 | ABC, fuboTV (Try for free) — Clemson is the best team, but the door is open to a disappointment we haven’t seen in a long time when it comes to these conference championship bouts against ACC Coastal. North Carolina has some injury issues and has been far from consistent this season, but it has a market advantage as a quarterback and should play with significantly less pressure given preseason expectations. Prediction: North Carolina +7.5 — Chip Patterson

Big Ten: No. 2 Michigan vs. Purdue

Featured Game | Michigan Wolverines vs. Purdue Boilermakers

20:00 | Fox, fuboTV (Try for free) — I don’t give Purdue much of a chance to win this game, but I don’t think the Boilermakers are a breeze. This is a team that could give the Wolverines some offensive problems, but the question is, how many stops does Perdue’s defense get? This is a solid unit, but not one that pairs well with the Wolverines. Considering that, and the fact that this game will be played indoors and on turf, I see more points being scored than expected. Because of this, I like the over the most. Prediction: over 52 years old — Tom Fornelli

Pac-12: No. 4 USC vs. No. 11 Utah (Friday)


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