College football left us breathless last week after some major losses created shakeups in the playoff race. The consensus is that there is little the top 4 teams can do to lose their spot. But, if USC goes down this week, does that open the door for Ohio State to jump back in? Where does that leave Top 10 Penn State on its quest to return to a major New Year’s Six bowl game? Will championship weekend offer any more surprises? While it seems unlikely, that is the very reason we love college football. The unlikely is usually waiting just around the corner. Meanwhile, the coaching carousel is up and running too, with major hires in the Big 10 and SEC. What impact will these coaching changes have on their respective programs and leagues going forward? We will discuss. Plus, the NFL playoff race is still wide open, and we’ve got some games this weekend that could shake things up. It’s the home stretch everybody! Let’s get to it with this week’s picks. 

Pac 12 Championship: USC vs. Utah, Friday @ 8:00pm, Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV, USC -3, O/U 67 

Did Caleb Williams lock up the Heisman Trophy against Notre Dame last week? It sure seems that way, doesn’t it? There’s only one problem. Utah. Williams and USC must play the team that dealt them their only loss of the season again on Friday night. USC is favored here and played very well against a surging Notre Dame last week. However, Utah knows exactly the spot it’s in as it enters this Pac 12 title game. It can end the playoff hopes for USC right here. It’s a physical team with a QB that is very good in his own right. Cam Rising has had his moments this season, and while Utah has also struggled at times, I feel it knows how to beat a team like the Trojans. The Trojans aren’t perfect. Far from it. I think they need some work on their lines, although both fronts played better against the Irish. But this line is a little funny to me. USC is only favored by 3 for a reason. Kyle Whittingham knows how to coach his team up in spots like this with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line. I think the Utes will be physical and Cam Rising puts on a show. This could be the surprise of the weekend, although not much of one if you’ve been paying attention. I’ll take the Utes straight up. Utah ML. 

Big 12 Championship: Kansas State vs. TCU, Saturday @ Noon, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX, TCU -2.5, O/U 62 

This could be the matchup of the weekend. It’s another rematch as TCU takes on Kansas State in Jerry World. While I love what Kansas State has done this season and I always love to take them in a spot like this, I said before I’m done picking against TCU and I’ll stand by that here. After a dominating performance last week, albeit against a lowly Iowa State team, TCU knows what the stakes are. They want to win the Big 12 and cash their ticket to the playoff without any question marks. Max Duggan could be a Heisman contender too if what I suggest will happen to USC does in fact happen. Keep an eye out here. If Duggan has another outstanding performance and if USC trips up, he could be the front runner for the Heisman by the end of the weekend. I think TCU finishes what it started here. See you in the playoff Horned Frogs. TCU -2.5. 

ACC Championship: Clemson vs. North Carolina, Saturday @ 8:00pm, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC, Clemson -7.5, O/U 63.5 

The hype for this game couldn’t be less exciting if you paid me to watch it. Two teams limping into their league championship with losses to their bitter rivals. The game takes place in a soulless NFL stadium in Charlotte too. Yawn. I can only imagine the crowd at this one. What a snooze fest! However, the only excitement will be how to pick it. This is a tough one. North Carolina actually has the better QB with Drake Maye throwing an astounding 35 touchdowns this season with only 5 interceptions! Meanwhile, the stats for D.J. Uiagalelei aren’t as impressive and certainly weren’t good last week as Clemson fell to the Gamecocks. However, North Carolina still has an issue on defense and are giving up almost 40 points per game. This is likely going to be a shootout and could come down to who has the ball last. I like Clemson to squeak out a win here, but I don’t think by much. I’ll take the points with the Tar Heels. UNC +7.5. 

Titans @ Eagles, Sunday @ 1:00pm on FOX, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA, Eagles -5, O/U 44.5 

The Eagles have shown some weaknesses recently, as teams tend to do as the NFL season wears on. But, they still have the best record in the league and are back playing at the Linc. Meanwhile, the Titans don’t seem to want to lock up their own playoff hopes with a loss at home last week to the Bengals. While the Eagles defense can struggle against the run at times, and the Titans have one of the best in the league with Derrick Henry, I think the Eagles offense is much more potent and can overcome any other issues they might face. Jalen Hurts is clearly the better QB in the game, and I’ll ride with him and the Birds again this week even though they haven’t gotten the cover for me in a while. This just feels like the right side to me and sometimes you have to stick with your gut. Eagles -5. 

Dolphins @ 49ers, Sunday @ 4:05pm, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA, 49ers -4, O/U 46.5 

This game could have big playoff implications going forward as both teams are looking for their place in the NFC race. I really like both teams and I probably like the Dolphins overall a lot more than San Francisco. However, not in this spot. I never like banking on teams that must go across the country. It often comes with out of sync body clocks and practice schedules. Plus, it’s not like the 49ers are a slouch. Their defense is only giving up 15.7 points per game. I like them at home here to get a win and keep their place atop the NFC West. The only complicating factor here is the weather. A wave moving onto the Pacific Coast could bring some rain to Levi’s Stadium Sunday afternoon. This would be another thing that might favor the 49ers and their ground attack. Miami gives up over 100 rushing yards per game compared to San Francisco’s 80. All signs point to the 49ers here for me. I’ll lay the points with the home guys. 49ers -4. 

Sun Belt Championship: Coastal Carolina vs. Troy, Saturday @ 3:30pm, Veterans Memorial Stadium, Troy, AL, Troy -8.5, O/U 48.5 

This game seemed a lot more intriguing before Coastal got blown out 47-7 last week by James Madison. That was in large part due to the absence of their starting QB, Grayson McCall. This was a big blow to the Chanticleers and his status for this game still isn’t known. Troy has a very solid defense and is 7-1 in Sun Belt play. I actually like Coastal and think this game changes if McCall plays. But we just don’t know at the time of this writing. It’s also tempting to want to play the over/under here but which side? If McCall doesn’t play and Troy’s defense continues to be stout, the under seems smart. But, I could easily see this game becoming a shootout too and sweating the over pick until the bitter end. Given McCall’s status and the way the Chanticleers looked last week, just give me Troy and the points. I don’t like it, but it’s the only play here to me. Troy -8.5. 

CUSA Championship: North Texas vs. UTSA, Friday @ 7:30pm, Alamodome, San Antonio, TX, UTSA -8.5, O/U 68.5 

I’ve mentioned before how much I like Jeff Traylor and the Roadrunners. They find themselves in the CUSA Championship game again! This time they take on the Mean Green of North Texas. Don’t sleep on their QB, Austin Aune, who has 31 touchdowns on the season! But, Frank Harris of the Roadrunners isn’t far behind with 27. UTSA came back from 21 down last week to beat UTEP and they aren’t slowing down. They have a fun offense and seem to find ways to win. These two teams already played each other and it was close. UTSA finished off the Mean Green 31-27 back on October 22nd. So can they cover the 8 points here? I think they can – but I also think it’s a trap. Smells like a shootout game to me. Give me the over here and let’s hope for a fun game. OVER 68.5. 

AAC Championship: Tulane vs. UCF, Saturday at 4:00pm, Yulman Stadium, New Orleans, LA, Tulane -3.5, O/U 56.5 

This game comes down to two words: Willie Fritz. He has been a rumored candidate for the Georgia Tech opening. That can serve as a big distraction for a team and can often lead to a loss. However, it was just announced that Tech is hiring Brent Key, its current interim coach as its permanent head guy. This is good news for the Ramblin’ Wreck and it’s even better news for Tulane. I think given this news that the Green Wave can rally here and take on Gus Malzahn’s squad. Tulane is the better team and with the head coaching distraction put to rest I like Tulane to finish the season strong and earn a birth in a New Year’s 6 bowl, potentially against Penn State. Give me the Green Wave to win and cover here. Tulane -3.5. 

Colts @ Cowboys, Sunday @ 8:20pm, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX, Cowboys -11, O/U 43.5 

The Cowboys are right in the thick of the playoff mix. Jeff Saturday is coaching the Colts and just lost his last two games to Pennsylvania teams. The Cowboys are at home on the big stage of Sunday Night Football. This has all the making of a choke job, but I don’t see it. They are the better team. They have the better QB in Dak Prescott. They have the better defense. I just don’t see a way for the Colts to leave Dallas with a victory. The Cowboys have too much at stake and want to take their next crack at the Eagles in a few weeks. Again, let’s not overthink things ok? Cowboys -11.  

Here’s a summary of my picks for the week. 

Games of the Week 

Utah ML 

TCU -2.5 

North Carolina +7.5 

Eagles -5 

49ers -4 

Under the Radar Game 

Troy -8.5 

Brett’s Best Bets 

OVER 68.5 

Tulane -3.5 

Cowboys -11 

There will be playoff drama to follow this week in all the championship games. Christmas and bowl season are just around the corner. It’s the most wonderful time of year friends. The NFL gets more intriguing with playoff scenarios by the week as well. Deck the halls, trim the tree, get your shopping done, but don’t forget about football. If you play things right, perhaps you’ll have a little extra to spend this year. Let’s see how we do this week. Enjoy the games!  

-Brett Thackara  

Pac 12 Championship: USC vs. Utah, Friday @ 8:00pm, Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV, USC -2.5, O/U 67 

USC has one loss after a monster performance against Notre Dame and a tremendous opening to Lincoln Riley’s tenure in LA. Utah is their only loss, and one would think this is the perfect time to atone for that loss and punch their ticket into the college football playoff. I do think the Utes will battle, and thus the tight line here. I am just not sure Kyle Whittingham’s group has enough firepower to keep up with this version of Caleb Williams and the Trojan offense. I’ll take USC to win, but it could come down to the final minutes. USC –2.5. 

Big 12 Championship: Kansas State vs. TCU, Saturday @ Noon, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX, TCU -2.5, O/U 61.5 

TCU has an impressive resume with a win already against Kansas State. However, the Big 12 powers have been down, so it has been hard for me to judge if this team is for real. I still do not think they are a top 4 team in the country. Kansas State can make this championship game interesting. Max Duggan and company have too much on the line, and they just put up historic offensive numbers last week. A loss will likely mean they miss out of the playoff. Give me TCU to finish the season and finish the run to the elite college football four team playoff. TCU –2.5. 

ACC Championship: Clemson vs. North Carolina, Saturday @ 8:00pm, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC, Clemson -8, O/U 61.5 

North Carolina has some unfortunate stumbles in the stretch run of their season. Perhaps the least forgivable was against an inferior Georgia Tech team. Clemson cannot figure out a consistent offense other than getting the ball to Will Shipley. Some say the lack of offense and less than inspiring defense is spelling the end of the Dabo run of excellence. The Tigers can still finish strong and win the ACC. While I don’t think that is a substantial accomplishment compared to expectations, it is a decent consolation prize. Give me Clemson to win an overall competitive game against the Tar Heels- Clemson ML. 

Titans @ Eagles, Sunday @ 1:00pm on FOX, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA, Eagles -6, O/U 44.5 

The Eagles have had their fair share of issues over the last weeks but found ways to win two games against the Colts and Packers. Their lone loss game against the Commanders. I believe other than their remaining NFC East games against the Giants and Cowboys, this game represents their toughest remaining test. Jalen Hurts is playing at an all-time level, but the defense has been gashed at times in the air and ground. Injuries along the defensive line and in the secondary I feel are mostly to blame. Derrick Henry could have a huge day for the Titans, who must have a goal of keeping the ball and winning time of possession. If the Titans follow a similar script to the Commanders they should hand the Eagles their second loss of the season. I’m picking against the home team as much as it pains me- Titans +6. 

Dolphins @ 49ers, Sunday @ 4:05pm, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA, 49ers -3.5, O/U 46.5 

On NFL Sunday coverage on multiple networks, I have heard the experts boast about the 49ers. Their offense is flashy and inventive at times, but their defense is stellar. Weather will likely bring a rare factor to this California based game- not often do we talk about rain for a 49ers game. The Dolphins, when healthy this year, have had their own flair for winning. Despite having Tua Tagovailoa and stars at wide receiver, this cross-country journey I think will prove to be a challenge for the Dolphins- especially if it is damp. I’ll take the 49ers at –3.5. 

Sun Belt Championship: Coastal Carolina vs. Troy, Saturday @ 3:30pm, Veterans Memorial Stadium, Troy, AL, Troy -10, O/U 48 

Sun Belt, Fun Belt! I have become a bigger fan of the Sun Belt over the years, and this game features two rising programs in the conference. Coastal Carolina has proven the last few years that they are a tough squad, especially when Grayson McCall is under center. Unfortunately, his status remains up in the air. Plus, James Madison really took it to this team last week. I feel like we don’t have enough information on McCall’s injury. For now I favor Troy, but the 10 point line seems high for a team in the Chanticleers. Troy ML. 

Bills @ Patriots, Thursday @ 8:15pm, Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA, Bills -4, O/U 43.5 

Jets @ Vikings, Sunday @ 1:00pm, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN, Vikings -3, O/U 45.5 

Commanders @ Giants, Sunday @ 1:00pm, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, Commanders -2.5, O/U 40.5 

Games of the Week 

USC –2.5 

TCU -2.5 

Clemson -8 

Titans +6 

49ers -3.5 

Under the Radar Game 

Troy ML 

Doppler Dandies 

Bills –4 

Jets +3 

Commanders –2.5 

-Dan Tomaso

**All odds from Caesars Sportsbook as of 11/30/22.**