College Football National Championship Prediction

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Welcome to the hub for your 2018 College Football Weekly Picks! This page will be updated as each new week comes with my predictions for every game that week. Any against the spread best bets (which hit almost 60% last year!) will also be listed here. Another fun feature that I like to incorporate is my tiered games. Many times I’ve heard somebody ask me what the “big games” are this week, and consider this your one-stop shop for that. I divide every FBS game each week into four tiers: the must-watch games, the maybe watch games, all other FBS vs FBS games, and the FBS vs FCS games.

Note: This is the average result of thousands of simulations for each game, so the scores will look a little wonky.

Year To Date Straight Up Record: 603-170 (78%)
Straight Up Bowl Record: 22-16 (58%)
Year To Date ATS Best Bets Record: 68-50-2 (17 games in the black!)
ATS Bowl Best Bets Record: 2-1

National Championship Prediction

Clemson (14-0) vs Alabama (14-0) in Santa Clara, CA – 8 PM ET on 1/7, ESPN – CFP National Championship

If you asked me at any point this season who I thought would win this one assuming we were getting a rematch in the national championship, I would have said Alabama without a doubt in my mind. That is, until now. Clemson looked about as good as they possibly could against a team of Notre Dame’s caliber, dominating them from start to finish and winning 30-3. Alabama was a lot less dominant, Oklahoma hung with the Tide for three quarters, they just happened to be the last three quarters rather than the first three quarters, but it was very un Nick Saban like for the Crimson Tide to not keep their foot on the gas after jumping out to an early 28-0 lead. Oklahoma rallied to make the final score 45-34, and Alabama was not playing their backups.

It is cliche to say, but this game will be won and lost in the trenches. Jonah Williams, Mitch Hyatt, Ross Perschbacher, Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, Isaiah Buggs, Christian Miller, and Quinnen Williams are all NFL Draft prospects for 2019, and that is just the two lines, not to mention Clemson will be without Dexter Lawrence who was suspended for failing a drug test. There is so much talent on both sides in this game, but at the end of the day, I can’t second guess myself, and I have to stick with Alabama, although in a game much closer than I would have predicted a few weeks ago. Tua and company have been on this stage before, and while I’m not going to say the cliche “true freshman quarterback in a big game” thing -I think Trevor Lawrence will play tremendously- I just have a little more confidence in Tua, especially since he’ll be throwing against a Clemson secondary that has been exposed a few times this year, and is probably the weakest unit on the field for either team. Clemson’s offensive line has not faced a pass rush like Alabama’s, and by the slimmest of margins, I think the Tide should be the favorites to walk out of Santa Clara with the CFP trophy for the third time in four years.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Clemson 33

New Year’s Day Predictions

Tier One Games (Must Watch)

Mississippi State (8-4) vs Iowa (8-4) in Tampa, FL – 12 PM ET, ESPN2 – Outback Bowl

When it came between this one and Kentucky-Penn State for the #2 game of the early slate, I ended up choosing this one because these are two of the most underrated teams in college football this year, ranking 8th (MSU) and 15th (Iowa) respectively in the model, about ten spots higher than their AP rankings. If you are coming for points though, this might not be your bowl. Both of these teams have defenses that rank about 35 spots higher than their offenses, and I’ve said many times that the Bulldog defense is so good that if they just had a serviceable quarterback they’d be a playoff contender. If Iowa is going to win this game, they are going to need to force Nick Fitzgerald to try and throw the ball downfield. Joe Moorhead has been very disciplined in that field though, and as long as the MSU defense can hold up early, which I think they will, MSU can settle into the formula of feeding Nick Fitzgerald, Kylin Hill, and Aeris Williams that has gotten them to this point. I don’t see Iowa’s offense getting off the ground against the stout Mississippi State defense, and the SEC will win their sixth Outback Bowl over the Big Ten in the past seven years.

Prediction: Mississippi State 28, Iowa 21

LSU (9-3) vs UCF (12-0) in Glendale, AZ – 1 PM ET, ESPN – Fiesta Bowl

Were McKenzie Milton playing, this would probably be the bowl game I’d be the most excited about (outside of the National Championship Game) due to the poor matchups in the semifinals, but even though UCF’s star QB is injured, this should still be fun. The Knights haven’t lost a game in 745 days, and their winning streak includes a victory over a different SEC foe, Auburn, in a different New Year’s Six bowl, the Peach Bowl last season. A UCF win here would be monumental for the sport, and while I pretty much never cheer for one side, I’ll be pulling for UCF here. A UCF win (their 26th straight) would be the longest winning streak for an FBS team since the Jameis Winston Florida State teams won 29, and it would be the third-longest winning streak of the century. It would also shine a spotlight on the stupidity of the current playoff system, even more than the two blowouts I expect in the semifinals. People argue that expanding the playoff to eight would “devalue” the regular season, but UCF proves that for half of FBS college football, not a single game matters now. The Knights have done everything right and still receive no respect from the committee. While UCF is the story here, let me also point out the climb that LSU had to make to earn their way into a New Year’s Six game, facing one of the toughest schedules in the nation and coming out 9-3, with their only losses coming against Florida, Alabama, and Texas A&M (the final being in seven overtimes). People will always make the argument that Auburn “didn’t care” about the UCF game last year, and while I don’t think that is true, it’s fair to say that a lot of players on that Auburn team took UCF lightly. I guarantee that won’t happen here. It may have been a different story if McKenzie Milton were playing and I thought the UCF offense could keep up, but the LSU run game is just too powerful for a UCF defense that is a far cry from the awesome group they had last year with Shaq Griffin and Jaire Alexander. The G5 has been 4-1  against the P5 in the past five NY6/BCS bowls, so don’t be surprised if the Knights pull the upset again, but talent in the trenches and the injury to Milton makes me lean slightly towards LSU.

Prediction: LSU 35, UCF 30

Washington (10-3) vs Ohio State (12-1) in Pasadena, CA – 5 PM ET, ESPN – Rose Bowl

When the bowls were announced, this was the one that I was most excited for. The playoff semifinals don’t intrigue me at the level of the two awesome matchups we got last year, both projected to be two-touchdown games according to Vegas, and this game jumped to the top of my list. Ohio State comes into it ranked 4th in the model, Washington 7th. Both a little higher than you may have expected, but the model ranks the best teams in the country right now, and these two teams have been on the rise in recent weeks, both beating their higher-ranked (in the CFP top 25) rivals and then winning their respective conference title games by comfortable margins. This will be Urban Meyer’s first ever Rose Bowl, but potentially his last ever game as he announced his retirement for the second time earlier this year. Meyer has been one of the best bowl coaches ever, winning a remarkable 79% of his bowl games. He isn’t the only top level coach in this game though, it is time to start talking about Chris Petersen as perhaps the new #2 coach in America behind Nick Saban. He will be first among active coaches in win % after this game, and he has met the double-digit win mark in  10 of his 13 years as a head coach, finishing in the Coaches Poll top 15 in eight of his 13 years as a head coach. A win here would also likely give Petersen his sixth top ten finish (he might even with a loss). I just don’t think Urban will go out facing the proverbial lights. The Ohio State defense (4th) will throw right at Washington’s superb defensive side (3rd), and perhaps the best draft-eligible quarterback will be throwing at the best secondary in the nation. This will be a fun bacl and forth showcase, and it will be Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin’s final games as Huskies as they both go out with all-time great careers for the program, I just think the talent and speed of the Buckeyes wins out in the end. Give me Ohio State in a tight one.

Prediction: Ohio State 32, Washington 29

Texas (9-4) vs Georgia (11-2) in New Orleans, LA – 8:45 PM ET, ESPN – Sugar Bowl

This is one of those “helmet matchups” where the idea of the two storied programs playing ends up being better than the actual game itself. Georgia is the clear #3 team in college football this year. Texas is, while very good and slightly better than I expected, still just a top 20 or so level team that probably wouldn’t have made a New Year’s Six bowl had it not been for Oklahoma passing on the Big 12’s auto bid for a trip to the playoff. These are two programs on the rise, but Georgia is already at the national contender level while Texas is still on the way there. Jake Fromm proved himself this year, holding off the top quarterback in last year’s recruiting class, Justin Fields, to retain his starting job. Fromm averages 9.3 YPA, boasts a 175.8 passer rating and a superb 27-5 touchdown to interception ratio, plus, the Bulldog defense isn’t too shabby either. I see Georgia controlling this one from start to finish en route to a dominant double-digit victory.

Prediction: Georgia 40, Texas 25

Tier Two Games (Maybe Watch)

Kentucky (9-3) vs Penn State (9-3) in Orlando, FL – 1 PM ET, ABC – Citrus Bowl

Prediction: Penn State 30, Kentucky 22

Bowl Season Week 3 Predictions

ATS Best Bets

Iowa State (+3) vs Washington State – 9 PM ET on 12/28

Tier One Games (Must Watch)

Miami (7-5) vs Wisconsin (7-5) in New York, NY – 5:15 PM ET on 12/27, ESPN – Pinstripe Bowl

A game between two very disappointing teams will kick off the home stretch of bowl season in a rematch of last year’s Orange Bowl. Both of these teams are better than their records indicate, Wisconsin is the model’s second biggest miss this season, dropping from preseason #8 to a fringe top 25 squad, the only miss worse than that being Louisville. Miami, I truly believe, would be a CFP contender if they just had a serviceable quarterback. Even so, three of their losses were by one possession, so this easily could be a team fighting for or already at the double-digit win mark. Head Coach Mark Richt has made some questionable decisions this year, switching back and forth from N’Kosi Perry to Malik Rosier on a seemingly weekly basis, and it has frustrated Miami fans to no end (at least according to my one Miami fan friend). This is a low-key anxiety bowl for two high profile teams, as neither one wants a 7-6 mark going into the offseason raising pressure for 2019. Miami’s defense is one of the best in the nation, and has carried the ‘Canes and their awful offense to maintain a top 20 ranking in the CSD Computer Model all year. The fact that Wisconsin will be playing with their backup quarterback makes me even more confident that the ‘Canes will pull this one out in a close one on the backs of their defense, but it might not be pretty to watch.

Prediction: Miami 28, Wisconsin 25

Iowa State (8-4) vs Washington State (10-2) in San Antonio, TX – 9 PM ET on 12/28, ESPN – Alamo Bowl

Iowa State had a really under the radar great year, rebounding from a 1-3 start to beat Oklahoma State and West Virginia in back to back weeks, kicking off a brilliant end to the year, with the only loss being on the road against a Texas team fighting for a spot in the Big 12 title game. While Washington State’s record may jump off the page at you, the Cougars played one of the easiest schedules in the power five given the Pac 12’s down year, and I don’t really trust Mike Leach in bowl games. I’m picking Iowa State to upset the Cougars in a close one here, and the reason is that while the Cyclones will get the stigma as a “Big 12 defense” they’ve actually been excellent on the defensive side of the ball this year when you adjust for opponent strength (#31 nationally, #2 in the Big 12) and that has been on the backs of their pass rush. Washington State QB Gardner Minshew has had one of the most productive years in NCAA history, and his offensive line has given up sacks at an NCAA lowest mark of 1.7% of plays, but they haven’t ran into a pass rush like Iowa State yet this year (The Cyclones boast a great 7.9% sack rate). Iowa State is used to playing the air raid style teams in the Big 12, something many of Washington State’s opponents aren’t used to. and I expect them to hold Gardner Minshew to one of his worst games of the year, and Mike Leach’s awful streak of one bowl game victory in the past 11 years will continue.

Prediction: Iowa State 28, Washington State 26 <- UPSET ALERT & BEST BET ALERT (Iowa State +3)

Florida (9-3) vs Michigan (10-2) in Atlanta, GA – 12 PM ET on 12/29, ESPN – Peach Bowl

This is the one New Year’s Six bowl game that feels quite “meh.” It is a New Year’s Six bowl none the less, and while we literally saw these two teams play last year, I will never turn down a matchup between two teams of this caliber, as much as I would rather see Florida vs UCF. Michigan was really awesome this year from start to finish, and the Wolverines hung around the top four in the model for most of the back half of the year until the loss to Ohio State during rivalry weekend. Florida, on the other hand, bounced back from last year’s 4-7 disaster under Jim McElwain and while I think it is pretty safe to say that Michigan will be massive favorites in this one, the fact the Gators made a NY6 bowl in the first year under Dan Mullen is obviously a positive sign. Michigan’s defense has let up more than 24 points just once this year (Ohio State) and this Florida offense won’t be the team to make that number two. With a month off after being embarrassed by their arch-rivals, I think the Michigan defense comes out strong and leads the Wolverines to a convincing win.

Prediction: Michigan 33, Florida 23

Notre Dame (12-0) vs Clemson (13-0) in Arlington, TX – 4 PM ET on 12/29, ESPN – Cotton Bowl (CFP Semifinal)

It’s quite sad that all three New Year’s Six bowls on Saturday are projected to be double-digit blowouts, but if any one were to be a shocking upset, I think I’d pick this one. Both of these teams have been essentially untested this year, Clemson’s toughest game was all the way back in week two against Texas A&M, and Notre Dame’s was in week one (Michigan). With a freshman quarterback at the helm for the Tigers and multiple players, including star IDL Dexter Lawrence suspended, this game is clearly the bigger upset risk of the two semifinals, but you are naive if you don’t believe that the Tigers have outplayed ND all year. While the Clemson D-Line will not be at full strength in this one because of the suspensions, this line was widely considered to be one of the best groups in the past decade in the preseason, and Notre Dame hasn’t run into a pass rush like the Tigers yet this year. Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne have been unstoppable for Dabo on the offensive side of the ball (Clemson ranks 3rd in the nation at 7.2 yards per play), and they will continue their dominance, hanging 40 on the Notre Dame defense en route to a convincing victory.

Prediction: Clemson 40, Notre Dame 28

Oklahoma (12-1) vs Alabama (13-0) in Miami, FL – 8 PM ET on 12/29, ESPN – Orange Bowl (CFP Semifinal)

Tua vs Kyler. This is going to be fun. It won’t necessarily be close, but it will certainly be fun. Oklahoma is quite lucky to even be here, four of the Sooner’s 12 wins were by less than a touchdown, including one overtime win and another win off a two-point conversion attempt in the final minutes. Oklahoma may have one of the four best resumes, but they are certainly not one of the four best teams, and 2018 Alabama is one of the best teams I’ve ever seen. The Oklahoma secondary is… not good, having allowed nearly 4,000 yards through the air so far this year, and Tua Tagovailoa may be the best quarterback they’ve faced yet. Even if you would give that edge to Will Grier, the Alabama offense as a whole has been the best in the nation this year, bar maybe only Oklahoma themselves. This will be a high scoring, fun to watch shootout, but don’t expect any last minute theatrics. I think Nick Saban and the Tide roll into town and take care of business.

Prediction: Alabama 52, Oklahoma 35

Michigan State (7-5) vs Oregon (8-4) – 3 PM ET on 12/31, FOX – RedBox Bowl

Two big name schools will clash in a little-known bowl to highlight a New Year’s Eve slate that is certainly a step back from what we’ve gotten in years past (ratings have been down on NYErecently). Oregon has been one of the most interesting teams to watch develop this year, even as they shift away from the high-speed prolific offenses of the Chip Kelly era. Don’t get that statement twisted, this is still a very good offense, and while they certainly won’t put up as many points because of the slowed-down tempo, it is still a top 25 offense in America, they just happen to run into a top-five defense in the Michigan State Spartans. I think that MSU is able to stifle the Oregon offense for the most part, it’s just that their offense is flat out bad with Brian Lewerke at the helm (114th in offensive S&P+). The Spartans have scored 26 points combined in their last three games, and one of those was against 1-11 Rutgers. Oregon feels like a team on the rise, and Michigan State feels like a team lacking motivation down the stretch. The Spartan defense will keep it close, but I’m picking Justin Herbert and the Ducks.

Prediction: Oregon 24, Michigan State 23

Tier Two Games (Maybe Watch)

Boston College (7-5) vs Boise State (10-3) in Dallas, TX – 1:30 PM ET on 12/26, ESPN – First Responder Bowl

Prediction: Boise State 29, Boston College 24

Minnesota (6-6) vs Georgia Tech (7-5) in Detroit, MI – 5:15 PM ET on 12/26, ESPN – Quick Lane Bowl

Prediction: Georgia Tech 32, Minnesota 26

California (7-5) vs TCU (6-6) in Phoenix, AZ – 9 PM ET on 12/26, ESPN – Cheez-It Bowl

Prediction: TCU 21, California 20 <- UPSET ALERT

Temple (8-4) vs Duke (7-5) in Shreveport, LA – 1:30 PM ET on 12/27, ESPN – Independence Bowl

Prediction: Temple 32, Duke 27

Baylor (6-6) vs Vanderbilt (6-6) in Houston, TX – 9 PM ET on 12/27, ESPN – Texas Bowl

Prediction: Vanderbilt 33, Baylor 27

Purdue (6-6) vs Auburn (7-5) in Nashville, TN – 1:30 PM ET on 12/28, ESPN – Music City Bowl

Prediction: Auburn 31, Purdue 26

West Virginia (8-3) vs Syracuse (9-3) in Orlando, FL – 5:15 PM ET on 12/28, ESPN – Camping World Bowl

Prediction: West Virginia 39, Syracuse 37 <- UPSET ALERT

South Carolina (7-5) vs Virginia (7-5) in Charlotte, NC – 12 PM ET on 12/29, ABC – Belk Bowl

Prediction: South Carolina 31, Virginia 27

Arkansas State (8-4) vs Nevada (7-5) in Tucson, AZ – 1:15 PM ET on 12/29, CBSSN – Arizona Bowl

Prediction: Arkansas State 32, Nevada 31

Cincinnati (10-2) vs Virginia Tech (6-6) in Annapolis, MD – 12 PM ET on 12/31, ESPN – Military Bowl

Prediction: Cincinnati 31, Virginia Tech 23

Stanford (8-4) vs Pittsburgh (7-6) in El Paso, TX – 2 PM ET on 12/31, CBS – Sun Bowl

Prediction: Stanford 34, Pittsburgh 26

Missouri (8-4) vs Oklahoma State (6-6) in Memphis, TN – 3:45 PM ET on 12/31, ESPN – Liberty Bowl

Prediction: Missouri 37, Oklahoma State 28

Northwestern (8-5) vs Utah (9-4) in San Diego, CA – 7 PM ET on 12/31, FS1 – Holiday Bowl

Prediction: Utah 29, Northwestern 19

NC State (9-3) vs Texas A&M (8-4) in Jacksonville, FL – 7:30 PM ET on 12/31, ESPN – Gator Bowl

Prediction: Texas A&M 32, NC State 29

Bowl Season Week 2 Predictions

ATS Best Bets

Ohio (-3) vs San Diego State – 8 PM ET on 12/19
Western Michigan (+12) vs BYU – 4 PM ET on 12/21

Tier One Games (Must-Watch)

None this week

Tier Two Games (Maybe-Watch)

UAB (10-3) vs Northern Illinois (8-5) in Boca Raton, FL – 7 PM ET on 12/18, ESPN – Boca Raton Bowl

Prediction: UAB 26, Northern Illinois 24

San Diego State (7-5) vs Ohio (8-4) in Frisco, TX – 8 PM ET on 12/19, ESPN – Frisco Bowl

Prediction: Ohio 33, San Diego State 25 <- BEST BET ALERT (Ohio -3)

Marshall (8-4) @ South Florida (7-5) – 8 PM ET on 12/20, ESPN – Gasparilla Bowl

Prediction: Marshall 29, South Florida 24

Florida International (8-4) vs Toledo (7-5) in Nassau, Bahamas – 12:30 PM ET on 12/21, ESPN – Bahamas Bowl

Prediction: Toledo 33, Florida International 30

Western Michigan (7-5) vs BYU (6-6) in Boise, ID – 4 PM ET on 12/21, ESPN – Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Prediction: BYU 32, Western Michigan 25 <- BEST BET ALERT (Western Michigan +12)

Memphis (8-5) vs Wake Forest (6-6) in Birmingham, AL – 12 PM ET on 12/22, ESPN – Birmingham Bowl

Prediction: Memphis 40, Wake Forest 37

Houston (8-4) vs Army (10-2) in Fort Worth, TX – 3:30 PM ET on 12/22, ESPN – Armed Forces Bowl

Prediction: Army 34, Houston 33

Buffalo (10-3) vs Troy (9-3) in Mobile, AL – 7 PM ET ET on 12/22, ESPN – Dollar General Bowl

Prediction: Buffalo 30, Troy 27

Tier Three Games (FBS vs FBS)

Louisiana Tech (7-5) @ Hawai’i (8-5) – 10:30 PM ET on 12/22, ESPN – Hawai’i Bowl

Prediction: Louisiana Tech 25, Hawai’i 24

Bowl Season Week 1 Predictions

Tier One Games (Must-Watch)

Arizona State (7-5) vs Fresno State (11-2) in Las Vegas, NV – 3:30 PM ET on 12/15, ABC – Las Vegas Bowl

Fresno State has been absolutely tremendous this year, my computer model is normally not too friendly to G5 schools, but Fresno State ended the regular season ranked in the top 25, the only G5 school to do so other than UCF, and the Bulldogs finished just one spot behind the defending national champions. In fact, had Memphis held on against UCF in the AAC Championship last week, Fresno would be off to a NY6 bowl, but instead, they take on Arizona State in the always awesome Las Vegas Bowl. This will be one of the very few high-level P5 vs G5 games this year, and there are reports that the Bowl wants to end its agreement with the Mountain West at the end of the current contract, which would be awful. This bowl game has produced some great matchups the past few years like Utah-BYU and Boise State-Oregon and it would be a real shame to see the top game of bowl season week one to move away from the current Pac 12 vs Mountain West showcase. As for ASU, its been a great year despite the coaching change. The Sun Devils went just 7-5 but all five losses were by seven points or fewer, meaning that they realistically could have gone either way. ASU finished the year ranked in the top 30 of the computer model, almost 30 spots ahead of their preseason ranking of 55th. As for my prediction, WR N’Keal Harry will not be playing in this one for Arizona State as he is preparing for the NFL Draft. The Fresno defense is absolutely lock down, I’d be shocked if they let up anything in the 30s. Both teams need this, Herm Edwards to prove all his haters wrong, and Fresno to carry the flag for the Mountain West in a college football landscape quickly moving towards the AAC as the top G5 conference. Fresno is 9th is defensive S&P+, and without their top playmaker, I don’t have confidence in the ASU offense to hang with the Bulldogs. Give me Fresno by a score.

Prediction: Fresno State 31, Arizona State 24

Tier Two Games (Maybe-Watch)

Tulane (6-6) vs Louisiana (7-6) in Orlando, FL – 1:30 PM ET on 12/15, CBSSN – Cure Bowl

Prediction: Tulane 29, Louisiana 25

North Texas (9-3) vs Utah State (10-2) in Albuquerque, NM – 2 PM ET on 12/15, ESPN – New Mexico Bowl

Prediction: Utah State 37, North Texas 32

Georgia Southern (9-3) vs Eastern Michigan (7-5) in Montgomery, AL – 5:30 PM ET on 12/15, ESPN – Camellia Bowl

Prediction: Georgia Southern 28, Eastern Michigan 26

Middle Tennessee (8-5) vs Appalachian State (10-2) in New Orleans, LA – 9 PM ET on 12/15, ESPN – New Orleans Bowl

Prediction: Appalachian State 32, Middle Tennessee 23

Tier Three Games (FBS vs FBS)

None this week

Army vs Navy Prediction

Navy (3-9) vs Army (9-2) in Philadelphia, PA – 3 PM ET, CBS

Prediction: Army 31, Navy 19

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