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Conference championship weekend to decide CFP field

Updated December 5, 2019 - 7:39 pm

The College Football Playoff field appears to be simple to forecast as we enter conference championship weekend.

Golden Nugget sportsbook director Aaron Kessler summed it up perfectly on Twitter:

“LSU, Ohio State, Clemson: in no matter what.

Georgia: wins and in.

If Georgia loses: Utah wins and in.

If Georgia and Utah lose: Big 12 champion is in.”

Sounds good to us, but you never know what the CFP committee will decide — especially if Louisiana State beats Georgia in the Southeastern Conference title game, in which the Tigers are consensus 7-point favorites over the Bulldogs.

If all the favorites hold serve, the biggest question will be whether No. 5 Utah or No. 6 Oklahoma makes the final four.

We spoke to four Las Vegas oddsmakers, and each said the Utes would deserve the nod over Oklahoma, which has played in three of the past four CFPs and lost in the semifinals each time.

“Similar to Alabama fatigue, there has to be Oklahoma fatigue after watching them get blasted in the playoff every year,” Circa Sports oddsmaker Matt Lindeman said.

But the oddsmakers wouldn’t be surprised if the Utes were snubbed.

“It should be Utah, but I have a feeling it’s going to be Oklahoma,” Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said.

The Sooners are fifth in the nation in scoring (averagng 44.3 points) and are led by former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Utah is third in scoring defense, an average of 11.3 points.

“Oklahoma’s definitely the sexier pick,” Kessler said.

The Sooners are 9-point favorites over Baylor in the Big 12 title game. The Utes are 6½-point favorites over Oregon in Friday’s Pac-12 title game.

Georgia (+7) over LSU

The Utah-Oklahoma debate would be made moot by a Georgia upset, and Ed Salmons, Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk, loves the Bulldogs to cover the spread in Atlanta.

“I’m blown away by that spread. If you take away the LSU-Texas A&M game last week (a 50-7 LSU win), this line’s not 7,” Salmons said. “Getting 7 points here is a good bet. If you’re going to beat LSU, you have to beat them by slowing them down and holding the ball. That’s exactly how Georgia plays.”

Georgia has the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense, allowing foes an average of 10.4 points.

No. 1 Ohio State (12-0) is a 16½-point favorite over Wisconsin in a rematch of the Buckeyes’ 38-7 win over the Badgers on Oct. 26.

Eye on the Tigers

No. 3 Clemson (12-0) is a 28½-point favorite over Virginia and has won its past seven games by an average of 41.7 points.

The Tigers are No. 1 in scoring defense (10.1 points) and the defending national champions, but they’ve been overshadowed by LSU and Ohio State.

“It’s funny how Clemson is the forgotten team,” Salmons said. “If I was betting, all the value is on Clemson. Whatever offensive problems they had the first few games, they’ve corrected those. (Quarterback Trevor) Lawrence has been playing lights out lately.

“I wouldn’t want to face Clemson in the first round. Clemson is playing with so much of a chip on their shoulder.”

RJ Challenge

Handicappers Paul Stone and Dana Lane finished tied for the lead in the Review-Journal College Football Challenge with a 38-32 ATS record. For a tiebreaker, they’ll each make five picks this week.

Here are their best bets (both on Sun Belt title game):

Appalachian State (-6) over UL Lafayette

The Mountaineers (11-1), 6-point favorites over the Ragin’ Cajuns, have won the last three meetings by double digits, including this year’s 17-7 victory. Stone expects them to continue their recent series dominance.

“Appalachian State still has an outside shot to be the Group of Five’s representative in a New Year’s Six bowl game, and I think that adds a dimension to that side,” said Stone (@PaulStoneSports). “Outside of a midseason hiccup against Georgia Southern (a 24-21 home loss as a 15-point favorite), the Mountaineers have defeated all of their other Sun Belt opponents by double digits.”

Appalachian State-UL Lafayette Over 56

The teams combined for 24 points in their first meeting this season, but they average a combined 74 points per game and Lane expects the rematch to go over the total.

“These two teams combined for almost 700 yards of total offense in the earlier meeting,” said Lane (@DanaLaneSports). “App State put up 48 points last week, and Lafayette played in a game that featured almost 1,100 yards in total offense.”

More Betting: Follow at reviewjournal.com/betting.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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