Another college football regular season has flown by, and we have arrived at championship week, with all 10 FBS conferences playing their title games on Friday or Saturday. There are a few highly influential games that fans will watch closely, with the CFP still left to be sorted out. Georgia figures to have its spot in the playoffs locked up but would love to secure the No. 1 seed with an SEC title-clinching win over LSU. Michigan also figures to be in but wants a second straight Big Ten crown to build more momentum. It gets interesting in the Big 12 and Pac 12 conferences, where TCU and USC are very small favorites looking to cement their unexpected playoff berths. It should be great days of football, and if history is any indication, anything can and will happen.
From a betting perspective, these conference championships are always big, and studying the history of each game can give bettors an edge. Unlike recent years, most of this year’s games are expected to be a lot more competitive. In 2020, there were five games that finished with double-digit point spreads; this year, there are only two. Last year, six of the 10 games played were won by underdogs against the spread, while the totals split 5/5 OVER/UNDER. How do those numbers compare to typical results in the conference championship games? Are there any other trends by conference or overall systems that bettors should be paying attention to? I will reveal answers to those questions as a I look at the betting history of each of the league’s championship games and how it might affect this year’s contests. The games are in board number order.
Friday, December 2
Conference USA Championship - (303) NORTH TEXAS at (304) TX-SAN ANTONIO (-8 / 67.5)
The Conference USA championship gets the weekend title slate started with a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff on Friday night. It’s the second straight year UTSA will be hosting the game, and it’s a rematch of an entertaining earlier season game in which UTSA outlasted North Texas 31-27. The Roadrunners were a 10-point favorite that day and are listed at -8 here. As an underdog last year, they upset WKU 49-41 in this game. There have been 17 prior CUSA title games, and this will be the second appearance for both teams. Regarding recent trends in this contest, home teams boast an impressive 12-4 SU & 11-5 ATS mark since ’06. Favorites own a 9-8 ATS edge all-time and have covered the last four when the line was a TD or higher. Three of the last four games have gone OVER the total.
PAC-12 Championship - (305) UTAH vs. (306) USC (-3 / 67)
The 12th annual Pac-12 championship matchup should sound familiar to fans as the teams squared off in mid-October, and Utah handed USC its only loss this season, 43-42. Besides the 85 points, that game featured 1,121 yards of offense. This will be the sixth straight season in which either of these teams has played in the conference title contest. The Utes are 1-2 SU and ATS during that stretch, having won the title last year 38-10 over Oregon. USC is 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS in the other two games during that span. For 2022, the Pac-12 title tilt again happens at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Interestingly, in the last seven Pac-12 title games played in neutral locations, favorites are on a 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS surge, including Utah’s blowout win last year. Six of the last nine games have gone UNDER the total.
Saturday, December 3
Big 12 Championship - (307) KANSAS ST vs. (308) TCU (-2.5 / 62)
Not to take away anything from what would be a first-ever Big 12 championship game win for TCU, but at this point, the goals have gotten a lot bigger. The Horned Frogs have their sights set on wrapping up a spot in the four-team CFP, but they’ll need to get by a very tough Kansas State club that is playing great football of late. Head coach Sonny Dykes’ team is only a 2.5-point favorite as well, illustrating just how tough the experts think this game will be. As it stands, it will be the lowest line in Big 12 title game history, although this is the shortest-tenured conference title game series of the Power 5 leagues, with just five games on record. Last year was the first upset in the series, as Baylor edged Oklahoma State 21-16 in a game that came down to a matter of inches in the final seconds. Overall, favorites are 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS in the series. All five of those prior games went UNDER the total by an average of 10.4 PPG. TCU lost the inaugural game to Oklahoma 41-17 in 2017. This will be the first appearance for Kansas State. In the regular season meeting between these teams. TCU (-3.5) won 38-28 at home, putting up 498 yards on the Wildcats. This game gets an early noon ET start from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.
MAC Championship - (309) TOLEDO (-2.5 / 56) vs. (310) OHIO U
Two teams headed in opposite directions square off in the 2022 MAC Conference Championship game, with Toledo, loser of back-to-back games, taking on Ohio, winner of its last seven. Ironically, the Rockets still get the designation of favorite from the experts, who had no regular season matchup as a guide to set the point spread. The MAC title game is the second longest series of any of the leagues, dating back to ’97, and it has been played at Ford Field in Detroit in every one since ‘04. Although Toledo and Ohio have each made plenty of appearances in this game, this will be the first time they face one another with the conference crown on the line. Toledo has been in the game six times, but this will be their second appearance since ’04. The Rockets were here most recently in ’17, beating Akron 45-28 as 20.5-point favorites. Overall, they are 3-3 SU and 3-2 ATS in this game. Ohio has appeared four times, all since the game has been played in Detroit. The Bobcats have never won this game, going 0-4 SU but 3-1 ATS. This series has become a heavy underdog trending title contest, as dogs have won ATS at a 10-2-1 clip since ’08, including the last six. They have also won four straight outright. UNDER the total is also on a 3-game winning streak, although the current number of 56 would represent the lowest posted number of the games in that span.
Sun Belt Championship - (311) COASTAL CAROLINA at (312) TROY (-9.5 / 48)
It’s a shame that James Madison wasn’t eligible for a spot in this year’s Sun Belt title game, as the Dukes were worthy of it, winning the East Division at 6-2 and culminating their season with a resounding 47-7 blowout of Coastal Carolina. Instead, by default, the Chanticleers back into the spot to take on Troy. Although this is only the fourth game in this series, it will be the first not featuring a Louisiana-Lafayette versus Appalachian State matchup. Coastal Carolina was supposed to be in this game in its magical 2020 season, but the game was canceled due to Covid. These teams did not meet in the regular season but have gone OVER the total in each of the previous five times they have squared off. Last year’s SBC title game was the first won by an underdog, although those teams were 2-1 ATS in the prior three. CCU was 9-2 in the regular season but is just 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS since losing QB Grayson McCall for the season due to injury. Troy is 10-2 and rides a 9-game winning streak into this contest, tying a program record.
American Athletic Championship - (313) UCF at (314) TULANE (-3.5 / 57)
Not only is Tulane making its first appearance in the American Athletic Conference title game, it is expected to win, with oddsmakers installing the Green Wave as 3.5-point favorites over UCF. That in itself is significant, as this title game series has seen favorites, always the hosts, win five straight games while going 3-2 ATS. It’s also big since Tulane boasts an 8-2 SU and ATS record as chalk in 2022. Unfortunately, one of those two losses came at the hands of UCF, who came away with a 38-31 win at Tulane just a few weeks ago. In that game, the hosts allowed a season-high 343 yards rushing, a feat that UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn’s team would love to duplicate on Saturday. UCF has been in this game twice before, winning back-to-back in ’17 and ’18. The scores of those games were 62-55 and 56-41, so the Knights have demonstrated a flare for being explosive in this contest. However, those two games were at home so this will be a different animal. Those two results started a current run of 4-1 OVER the total in this title series.
Mountain West Championship - (315) FRESNO ST at (316) BOISE ST (-3 / 54)
This will be the tenth annual Mountain West Conference Championship game and the fourth one that has matched Fresno State and Boise State. In the previous three, all played in Boise, the Broncos went 2-1, but the underdog Bulldogs covered the point spread in all three. The most recent head-to-head title matchup was in 2018, and Fresno State won that one 19-16. Boise State has been in the game twice since, however, winning the title in 2019. Overall, the Broncos have played in the MWC title game five times, going 3-2 SU and 1-4 ATS. For the Bulldogs, this will be a fifth appearance in the game, and they were 2-2 SU and 4-0 ATS previously. In terms of these teams’ overall head-to-head series, it has been dominated by underdogs, as Boise State’s 40-20 win in October over a Jake Haener-less FSU team snapped a string of eight straight underdog ATS wins in the rivalry. Very similarly, underdogs are on a 7-1 ATS surge in this title game series. Along those same lines, the head-to-head games between FSU and BSU have seen UNDER’s on totals in six of the last seven, while in this title game series, UNDER is 7-2 ATS all-time. Trends galore for this one.
SEC Championship - (317) LSU vs. (318) GEORGIA (-17.5 / 50.5)
The SEC Championship game is the longest-running conference title series of all, and almost always the biggest stage. Saturday’s clash between LSU and Georgia will mark the fifth time since 2003 that these programs will square off with a league title on the line. The Tigers will be looking to extend a trend that has seen them take three of four from the Bulldogs, both SU and ATS, with the average margin of victory in the games being 25 PPG. Georgia, of course, is undefeated and seemingly locked into the College Football Playoff. LSU probably blew any chance it had at the playoffs with its loss at Texas A&M last Saturday but would still love to put a conference title on the list of accomplishments this first season under Head Coach Brian Kelly. Georgia is just 3-6 SU and 5-4 ATS in nine prior SEC Championships appearances, and they have lost in their last three tries. Its most recent title was in ’17 when it beat Auburn 28-7. LSU has played in this game six times, losing only once while going 4-1-1 ATS. The Tigers’ last win was in ’19, coincidentally the last time they faced Georgia in head-to-head play, a 37-10 decision. In terms of overall trends, favorites have typically gotten the job done here, winning 16 of the last 20 SEC title games while going 10-9-1 ATS. When going by divisions, the West is currently on a 12-1 SU and 8-5 ATS run, including Alabama’s underdog win in 2021. Surprisingly, OVER the total has converted in 15 of the last 19, with the last two games producing 163 points.
ACC Championship - (321) CLEMSON (-7.5 / 63.5) vs. (322) NORTH CAROLINA
After a one-year hiatus, Clemson returns to its seemingly rightful spot in the ACC Championship contest. Last year’s game was the first since 2014 that didn’t feature HC Dabo Sweeney’s program. This title series could be named in honor of the Tigers, who won the ACC title six straight times from 2015-20 while going 5-1 ATS. The four most recent games were decided by an average of 34 PPG with none finishing closer than 24 points. That has largely contributed to a current trend that has seen favorites go 12-1 SU and 9-4 ATS over the last 13 years in this game. Sweeney’s team was a perfect 8-0 in ACC play this year but hasn’t faced North Carolina since 2019. The Tar Heels, losers of back-to-back games after winning six straight, have only been in this game one time previously, losing to Clemson 45-37 as 6.5-point dogs in the ’15 contest. Of note, Head Coach Mack Brown’s team has won outright all three times they played as underdogs this season.
Big Ten Championship - (323) PURDUE vs. (324) MICHIGAN (-16.5 / 51.5)
Michigan goes for a second straight Big Ten title and, for the second straight time, is a heavy favorite to do so. The Wolverines demolished Iowa last year 42-3 as 12-point favorites, a line that stands 4.5 points shy of this year’s lopsided point spread against Purdue. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh’s team will also be looking to extend the East Division’s winning streak in this title game series to 10 straight. Wisconsin is the only current East Division team ever to win one of these games, taking the first two in fact. The Boilermakers are making their first appearance on behalf of the West, despite struggling to a 2-4 ATS finish in their final six games. This matchup features the biggest offensive disparity of any conference title games, with Michigan outscoring Purdue by 11.2 PPG. If that weren’t enough, the Wolverines also allow 10.4 fewer PPG. In other words, the hefty line attached to this contest is warranted.
Conference Championship Game Betting Systems
In looking back at all the conference championship game logs since their inception in ’92, I was able to come up with the following four betting systems that have developed:
- Group of 5 conference title game neutral field dogs are 11-13 SU but 17-6-1 ATS (73.9%) in their last 24 tries, including 14-3-1 ATS on lines of 3-points or more.
2022 Qualifying Teams: OHIO U (+2.5) vs. Toledo
- Power 5 conference title game neutral field favorites are on a 20-3 SU and 15-8 ATS (65.2%) run.
2022 Qualifying Teams: USC (-3) vs. Utah, TCU (-2.5) vs. Kansas State, GEORGIA (-17.5) vs. LSU, CLEMSON (-7.5) vs. North Carolina, MICHIGAN (-16.5) vs. Purdue
- Conference title game totals of less than 50 have gone OVER at a 22-8 (73.3%) rate since ’03.
2022 Qualifying Games: OVER 48 in COASTAL CAROLINA-TROY
- Conference title game totals of 64 or higher have gone UNDER at a 19-9-1 (67.9%) rate since ’04.
2022 Qualifying Games: UNDER 67.5 in NORTH TEXAS-UTSA, UNDER 67 in UTAH-USC