As the 2015 college football season winds down, this weekend’s major conference title games will provide the final word on upcoming bowl games and College Football Playoff. But bettors may find making their selections quite difficult, with only two of this weekend’s participants from the Pac-12, SEC, ACC, AAC, and Big Ten particularly strong against the spread this season, according to VegasInsider.com.
Only the No. 10 North Carolina Tar Heels and No. 20 Temple Owls have covered the betting line eight or more times this season, while the No. 1 ranked and undefeated Clemson Tigers own a 5-7 mark ATS.
Neutral sites could also complicate things for bettors. However, three schools, two of which are favorites, aren’t playing too far from home.
Below are picks against the spread for the five major college conference title games on Saturday, with updated betting odds at Las Vegas casinos.
No. 20 Temple Owls vs. (-5.5) No. 17 Houston Cougars
The Owls are the best among the field with a 9-3 mark ATS, largely thanks to their No. 16 nationally ranked defense allowing 18.8 ppg. Temple specifically wore down then-No. 21 Memphis and its No. 7 scoring offense to a season-low 12 points. Houston very likely pulls off the victory considering its playing at home, but the Owls were 5-1 on the road this season and will keep things close. Expect the Cougars to win by a field goal or less.
Prediction ATS: Temple
No. 18 Florida Gators vs. (-17.5) No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide
A matchup that will undoubtedly come down to who can actually run the ball. Alabama owned the best rushing defense in the country and in the SEC and has arguably the top running back in Derrick Henry. The Gators are No. 7 overall against the run and second only to the Crimson Tide in conference, and while Kelvin Taylor’s played well of late he’s really Florida’s only tool on offense. The Tide should run away with this.
Prediction ATS: Alabama
No. 24 USC Trojans vs. (-4.5) No. 7 Stanford Cardinal
The last time these two squads met the Cardinals finished each half strong, scoring a combined 27 points in the second and fourth quarters for a 41-31 victory. That began a 1-3 slide for USC, but they’ve since recovered with excellent wins over ranked Utah and UCLA. This is perhaps the most difficult game to pick this week, but Stanford’s gone 8-4 ATS compared to USC’s 6-6 mark, and Cardinal running back Christian McCaffery should blow the game wide open late against a Trojans defense that’s let up 178.8 rushing yards in their four losses this season. Stanford's stellar offensive line should help them win by at least a touchdown in what basically amounts to a home game in Santa Clara.
Prediction ATS: Stanford
No. 5 Michigan State Spartans (-3.5) vs. No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes
The undefeated Hawkeyes defense is only 8.2 rushing yards per game better than the Spartans, while Michigan State has the personnel to stop Iowa’s rush centric attack and two excellent backs in L.J. Scott and Gerald Holmes to wear them down. However, this game should be decided by the quarterbacks, Iowa’s C.J. Beathard and Michigan State’s Connor Cook, with the latter having a slightly easier task against a Hawkeyes secondary that was only No. 8 in the Big Ten this season. The Spartans have the tools to turn this game into a blowout win.
Prediction ATS: Michigan State
No. 10 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (-5) No. 1 Clemson Tigers
Clemson’s been dreadful against the spread this season (5-7), but that’s in large part due to their unexpected run to the ACC title game. The Tigers have a ton of offensive power and matchup well with North Carolina in all facets, not to mention the pressure will be on Dabo Swinney’s crew to not only win but win big to satisfy CFP committee members. The Tar Heels should have enough to keep this game interesting.
Prediction ATS: North Carolina