FOX sports betting analyst
College Football Championship Weekend is finally here! I’m counting down the days as this is one of my favorite weekends of the season.
Of course, some teams got here because of favorable schedules and because they dominated weaker competition on their side of the conference. But there are also teams like Georgia, which defeated several top-ranked teams, and Michigan, which beat Ohio State last weekend.
So before you dive into this awesome slate of games, check out my top college football Week 14 bets (all odds via FOX Bet).
number 11 Utah vs. no. 4 USC (8 p.m. ET Friday, FOX and FOX Sports app)
USC faces Utah in the Pac-12 title game. This is a repeat of earlier this season, when Utah pulled off a thrilling win in Salt Lake City. In that game, the Trojans jumped out to a quick 21-7 lead, and then the Utes slowly climbed back. Utah scored a late touchdown plus a two-point conversion with 48 seconds left to win.
The final score was Utah 43, USC 42. An instant classic with 59 first downs and 1,118 combined yards. I expect another close game in Las Vegas.
These teams approach football very differently. USC’s offense is potent and led by its incredibly talented quarterback, Caleb Williams. Without him, SC would not be in this game. The Trojans stretched the opposing defenses to find favorable matchups before attacking with their elite weapons. Receivers Jordan Addison, Tahj Washington and Mario Williams are averaging 15 yards per catch or more. Running backs Austin Jones and Raleek Brown are able to complement the passing attack, where they take advantage of defenders more focused on aerial vision.
Utah’s offense ranks ninth in points per drive. The Utes focus on running the ball, finding their tight ends and not making mistakes. Their rushing success rate ranks fifth in the nation and they excel when running in critical situations. Quarterback Cam Rising has the ability to find his targets with poise while also utilizing his legs.
However, their passing attack lacks the elite weapons that USC has. Utah’s top target is tight end Dalton Kincaid, a future Day 2 NFL Draft pick. Kincaid leads the team in targets with 90. Devaughn Vele, the Utes’ only reliable wide receiver, is next with 81 targets. After that, it’s down to 38 targets for Micah Bernard, his third back. Essentially, Utah’s passing game is Kincaid and Vele.
What sets these teams apart is their defenses. USC’s defense finished the regular season ranked 107th in points per unit. while forcing 26 turnovers in 12 games.
Utah’s defense finished 28th in points per drive. However, the Utes were prone to allowing points against the best offenses they have faced this season. UCLA and USC each scored 42 points in back-to-back weeks against Utah’s defense.
The Trojans’ defense is led by standout players like Tuli Tuipulotu, a stud who leads the country with 12.5 sacks. The Utes defense, on the other hand, is a collective effort. They just play well together.
On paper, you’d take the most complete team with championship game experience in the Utes. However, USC has an “it” factor in Williams. Caleb cancels out any other problems the team might have. He’s almost never sacked, and if he has to run, he’s faster than the defender chasing him. There is currently no answer to stop this offense.
USC is a ridiculous plus-23 turnover margin. That’s eight turnovers better than No. 2 (Duke University). Even more impressive is that USC has more than 11 turnovers in its four games against ranked opponents. SC has lost just one fumble this season and Williams has been excellent at avoiding interceptions. The Trojans seem to have the mojo, and as much as we think their turnover luck has run out, it clearly hasn’t. Nothing I’ve seen leads me to believe this is the game where everything goes sideways.
Utah needed a Dalton Kincaid rushing game, some questionable penalties and a two-point conversion to win at home. While I think the Utes defense will have more answers than the first meeting, I’m taking the Trojans to win and cover. This is their season.
TO PICK UP: USC (-3 on FOX Bet) to win by more than 3 points
number 14 LSU vs. no. 1 Georgia (4 p.m. ET Saturday, CBS)
This one seems pretty simple to me. When Georgia wants to play like Georgia, not a single team in the country can beat the Dawgs.
UGA has played four ranked teams. Oregon in Week 1, South Carolina in Week 3, and then conference teams in Tennessee and Mississippi in the latter part of the regular season. The Bulldogs dominated all four opponents, making the games almost non-competitive in the second half. They’re about to do the same to LSU, a team that just got blown out by the Texas A&M Aggies.
The Tigers’ guide to keeping the game close? Make sure the things they fight don’t appear at the same time in this game. They don’t generate explosive plays well enough to stress the Dawgs’ first defense. Their offensive line ranks 104th in pressures, which isn’t ideal against Georgia’s ferocious defensive line. LSU’s defense isn’t good against the run or on third down, and this team will need all of those things to improve in this game to keep it close. I’m betting on that happening.
I will bring Georgia to cover this game.
TO PICK UP: Georgia (-18.5 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 18.5 points
Has Michigan officially passed Ohio State’s football program?
Colin Cowherd explains why Michigan is the “toughest program.”
Purdue vs. no. 2 Michigan (8 p.m. ET Saturday, FOX)
Last season, Michigan beat Ohio State in “The Game.” The Wolverines then made the short trip to Indianapolis, where they defeated Iowa en route to their first playoff appearance. This season, they beat Ohio State and head to Indianapolis to defeat Purdue before making a second straight playoff appearance.
We know exactly what Michigan is. Big Blue ranks eighth in points per game on offense. His rush attack wears down his opponents. The passing game can hit explosive plays, but Michigan prefers its running game to lead its offense. Purdue’s defense is decent against the run, ranking 39th in rushing percentage. However, the Boilermakers struggle to stop explosive plays, both on the run and the pass. That won’t be helpful when facing Michigan’s offensive style.
Michigan’s defense is third in points per drive; Purdue’s offense is 70th. As time goes on, I would expect Purdue’s offense to set up Michigan’s offense with short fields and easy scoring opportunities, which will help the Wolverines score at least three touchdowns.
I’ll bring Michigan to cover.
TO PICK UP: Michigan (16.5 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 16.5 points
No. 9 Clemson vs. no. 23 North Carolina (8 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC)
Let’s go for points in the ACC Championship game.
Clemson’s offense can sputter and look disjointed at times, but it scores points. Clemson ranks 28th in points per drive and has scored 30 or more points in 10 of 12 games.
This Tigers offense is up against a Tar Heel defense that is atrocious. UNC ranks 111th in points per unit. When Clemson has faced a defense ranked worse than 53rd overall, the Tigers have scored between 31 and 51 points. Clemson will score non-stop on Saturday in Charlotte against the Tar Heels.
North Carolina is in this game because of its offense but, more specifically, its quarterback. Drake Maye has thrown for 3,847 yards with 35 passing touchdowns. He also leads the team in rushing, with 629 yards and six touchdowns.
Clemson’s defense is outstanding, but against the three offenses that ranked in the top 34, Clemson allowed 31, 28 and 45 points.
North Carolina can score. Tar Heels need to score to keep it close. I like the Over in this contest.
TO PICK UP: Over 63.5 points scored by both teams combined at FOX Bet
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his freshman year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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