If the college football season ended right now, all of us would agree that the final four would be Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Notre Dame.
But sports are never that simple. Chaos (hopefully) is just around the corner. So let’s put forward a team in each of the five major conferences with a chance to make a statement this weekend –- and maybe make you some money.
Big Ten: Michigan –7 at Michigan State
Wolverine fans wince at the very thought of playing their rival to the north. Sparty has covered 10 straight times against Michigan. That means “Big Game” Jim Harbaugh has yet to reward his backers in this series. The problem lies with the significance of the game to both schools. Having covered this game through the years, it usually means more to State than it does to Michigan. That’s because the Wolverines always have one eye on Ohio State, and the Spartans are coming off their best win of the season – at Penn State. But this might be the year for Team Harbaugh. His defense was simply outstanding in throttling Wisconsin. I look for the Wolverines to break this 10-game ATS losing streak and win by 10.
ACC: N.C. State plus 17½ at Clemson
The money has been pouring in on the Tigers, because this game is in Death Valley, and they are the sexier of the two teams. Believe it or not, despite featuring great talent, the Wolfpack has never finished in The AP Top 10. Even though it lost a lot of last year’s stars to the NFL, State is 5-0, and it has a chance to climb with a big, upset victory over an elite team. Simply covering the spread may help the wallet, but won’t help this team. It needs to win here, especially after it had it had its game with West Virginia canceled because of Hurricane Florence. That makes this game the Wolfpack’s first marquee matchup of the year. Ryan Finley has thrown for 1,621 yards this season after racking up 3,518 in 2017. He is a future NFL quarterback. Whether Finley and the Wolfpack can handle the Tiger defense remains a huge question, but this is a very talented team, and you’ve got to like the 17½ points.
Big 12: Oklahoma –8 at TCU
The Sooners are still smarting over their Red River Rivalry loss to the Longhorns. This game gives them an opportunity to become relevant again. The Horned Frogs lost to Ohio State 40-28 last month, and they have been very mediocre averaging only 16.7 points in their three games since. In its last 16 home games TCU is only 2-14 ATS. We’ll see what the Sooner defense comes up with after firing coordinator Mike Stoops, but you have to like Oklahoma.
SEC: LSU –6½ vs. Mississippi State
This is a perfect spot for an LSU letdown, BUT it’s a Louisiana Saturday night game in Baton Rouge. The Cajun faithful will be ready, and after upsetting Georgia last week the Tigers will have enough left in the tank to win and cover against these Bulldogs, too.
Pac-12: Oregon plus 3 at Washington State
Yes, I know. It isn’t likely that the Pac-12 will put a team in the final four this year. But let’s give the Ducks some love anyway after they took down Washington. Their only defeat was in that crazy ending against Stanford four weeks ago. But in this one I’m not going with the one-loss Ducks. The last eight years in this series Washington State is 8-0 ATS. Mike Leach will have his team ready, so I’m going with the Cougars.