On paper, this should be the college football weekend that most excites a college football junkie like me. It's the weekend of the conference title games, and since the advent of the four team College Football Playoff in 2014, this is by far the closest this weekend has served to a de facto playoff weekend itself. All five of the Power Five conference title games have some sort of playoff ramifications, and two of them (maybe three, depending on how the early games shake out) you could argue as de facto quarterfinal games themselves, with the winner advancing to the playoff.
Indeed, on paper, it's awesome — so why am I so sad? Well, because it means we are at the stage of the college football season where we can literally count the number of games remaining. Basically, we have this weekend, the Army-Navy game, and then a few dozen bowl games. The end.
That makes me sad, mostly because we've been hitting winners at nearly a 60 percent clip! Sure, I'll miss the excitement of college football, but mostly I'll miss the money! So let's strike while the iron's hot! Here are a couple college plays and a handful of NFL plays for this weekend....
USC -4 over Stanford
USC has not been good against the spread this season (3-8-1 ATS), at one point losing six in a row ATS, a streak that culminated with a 35 point shellacking at the hands of Notre Dame. Since that loss, though, USC has steadied the ship, going 2-1-1 ATS, and they finally got a bye week over the Thanksgiving holiday. That's right, USC had not had a week off all season. Stanford, meanwhile, is coming off a four game stretch where they played the other top two teams in their division (Washington State and Washington), their annual rival in Cal, and Notre Dame last weekend. I think USC is rested, playing well, and enters the game with a tiny sliver of hope that, with a blowout, they could enter a debate for the fourth and final College Football Playoff spot. Good enough for me to lay the four points.
Clemson -8 over Miami (FL)
You can list both teams' records, straight up and against the spread, and probably cobble together a situational argument for either side, but make no mistake, this is purely a Dabo Swinney play by me. I think Dabo is the best big game coach in America right now, and that includes Nick Saban, who is a week removed from losing the Iron Bowl and 11 months removed from losing to DABO F'N SWINNEY in the national title game. And you're telling me that I get Mark Richt on the other side of this equation? Well, thank you very much, gambling gods, I'll happily the eight points and count my money later.
TITANS -7.5 over Texans
This is one of those deals where maybe I know too much, but here's what the Texans are dealing with — they lost a perfectly winnable game on Monday night on the road, thanks to three soul crushing turnovers by their quarterback. That loss basically eliminated them from the AFC playoff hunt. They got home at 6 a.m. Tuesday because of plane trouble, and now must go back on the road on a short week to face a revenge-minded team on whom they scored 57 points a couple months ago. This just doesn't line up as a "circle the wagons" moment for our team, so we may as well make some money on it, right?
JETS +4.5 over Chiefs
It's almost like the oddsmakers keep expecting the "look like they're tanking the season" version of the Jets to show up. After all, that's what we all expected coming into the season. However, here they are, 5-1 ATS at home this season, and the Jets fight their ass off every week. I'm not exaggerating when I say that, even at 4-7, I think Todd Bowles deserves some Coach of the Year consideration, especially if the Jets finish, say, 7-9 or 8-8. The Chiefs meanwhile have gone from 5-0 (SU and ATS!) to start the season to a 1-5 punching bag the last six games. And they're favored here on the road? No thanks. J-E-T-S... JETS! JETS! JETS!
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CHARGERS -13 over Browns
I'm not sure if this is the biggest spread by which a sub-.500 team has been favored this late in the season, but it's got to be close. Here's the thing about the Chargers — they are the anti-Chiefs! They started the season 0-4, but it was a competitive 0-4, and now they're 5-2 SU in their last seven games. I fully think the Chargers are winning the AFC West, and they might be the second best team in the AFC. Meanwhile, the Browns can't even cover HUGE spreads. They're 2-9 ATS this season, and since 2015, they're 3-8 ATS as double digit underdogs. The Chargers have virtually no home field advantage, playing in a half empty soccer stadium in front of indifferent Angelenos, but who cares? The Browns suck.
RAIDERS -8.5 over Giants
The Raiders, despite being a massive disappointment this season, are in the thick of the AFC wild card race. The Giants just benched the most popular QB in franchise history for one of the least popular QB's among fans and his own teammates (what up, I.K. Enempkali?!). This will be a massacre.
LAST WEEK: 3-3
SEASON RECORD: 45-31-2 (59.2 percent)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.