Win or lose in the SEC championship, Louisiana State will be in the four-team playoff. The Tigers earned it by winning at Alabama and running the table in the nation’s toughest conference, so Ed Orgeron is taking Nick Saban’s spot at the dinner table.
Georgia is the hungry underdog Saturday in Atlanta. With an upset, the Bulldogs will get the fourth playoff spot and freeze out the Big 12 winner.
This title matchup pits senior quarterback Joe Burrow and LSU’s wide-open offense against Georgia’s dominant defense. Burrow, the Heisman Trophy favorite, has passed for 4,366 yards and 44 touchdowns. Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart has built the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense (10.4 points per game) and 15th-ranked pass defense (186 yards per game).
Georgia is more balanced and far more conservative on offense. The numbers are modest — Jake Fromm has 21 touchdown passes and D’Andre Swift has 1,203 yards rushing. The Bulldogs scored more than 27 points only once in their last seven games, but they can score when needed and Fromm and Swift have plenty of big-game experience.
It’s the first time this season the Bulldogs have been underdogs. Smart is 3-0 against the spread as a ‘dog since 2017 and 5-0 ATS away from home this season. The betting public is siding with Burrow’s high-scoring offense, but Smart and Fromm went toe-to-toe with the Crimson Tide the past two years and should be able to stand up to LSU. I’ll take the 7-point underdog.
Two or three more plays for Saturday:
109-Baylor (plus-9) over Oklahoma:
Revenge is often an overhyped handicapping angle, but it applies to the Bears because of the gut punch they took from the Sooners, who rallied from a 28-3 deficit for a 34-31 victory on Nov. 16 in Waco. Baylor coach Matt Rhule, a master motivator, got his team to bounce back from the Oklahoma loss and beat Texas (24-10) and Kansas (61-6) the past two weeks. Rhule is the new Tom Herman — in other words, he’s the underdog king in the Big 12. In his past seven shots as a ‘dog, Rhule is 7-0 ATS with five outright wins.
Jalen Hurts has had a phenomenal season by the numbers — 3,347 passing yards, 71.9 percent completions and 31 touchdowns in addition to 1,217 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. He’s essentially a one-man gang, but the Baylor defense is tough and will be prepared. The Sooners have played with fire and survived on a few recent occasions, beating Iowa State 42-41 as 14½-point home favorites and holding off Texas Christian 28-24 as 19-point home favorites. Oklahoma is 2-6 ATS in its past eight games.
116-BOISE STATE (-14) over Hawaii:
The first meeting between these teams was a blowout in favor of the Broncos, who were laying 12½ points in a 59-37 victory in early October. The Warriors trailed by 31 points after three quarters, and their soft run defense surrendered 203 yards. The air will be colder for the Mountain West rematch so there’s no reason to believe Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald will fare much better. And here’s an incredible fact from handicapper Marc Lawrence: The Warriors are 0-22 ATS in their past 22 conference losses.
(Wisconsin will be a play only if the line goes to 17 against Ohio State.)
Last week: 3-5 against the spread