College Football Playoff Picks, Schedule: Predictions vs. Spread, Conference Championship Weekend Odds

This weekend’s conference championship games are all that stands between some of the top teams in the country and either the College Football Playoff games or the New Year’s Ball Six games. Opportunities are limited during Friday and Saturday for teams to compete for spots, but opportunities nonetheless exist in five specific league title matches played over the weekend.

The weekend got off to an off-beat start with No. 11-ranked Utah rallying past No. 4 USC to claim its second straight Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl appearance — all while effectively dampening the Trojans’ College Football Playoff hopes.

Should USC fall out of the top four, the door suddenly opens for No. 5 Ohio State to join the four-team field as it sits at home after falling last week in the game. This doesn’t mean the Trojans will necessarily be eliminated if defeated, but with two losses to the Utes, it will be difficult for the CFP selection committee to put USC in the limited field. Should USC drop and Ohio State take its place, the Big Ten would become only the second conference to have two teams in the same season’s playoff (SEC) game.

Elsewhere, Shabbat encounters mostly revolve around sowing. CBS sports bowl expert Jerry Palm confirms that current #1 Georgia, #2 Michigan and #3 TCU are all likely to be in the playoff, win or lose. The Wolverines have the easiest path to a top seed as a more than two-goal favorite over unranked Purdue. The Bulldogs took a firm grip on the first spot but must contend with No. 14 LSU, who looked like a legitimate contender before being upset by Texas A&M last week. Then there are the Horned Frogs, who were given the Soldiers’ toughest test while battling No. 10 Kansas State, who barely beat the road earlier this season.

Be sure to stick with CBS Sports all weekend for coverage of college football from the first pair championship games on Friday through Selection Sunday. Let’s take a look at our expert picks for the best games of Championship Weekend.

Big 12: No. 3 TCU vs. No. 10 Kansas State

Featured game | TCU Horned Frogs vs. Kansas State Wildcats

Noun | ABC, fuboTV (Try for free) — Kansas State outplayed TCU for most of their first games in Fort Worth, Texas, before quarterback injuries, but the Horned Frogs have improved dramatically over the past month. TCU scored 62 points with ease despite missing key parts against Iowa State, and certainly kept the previous game against K-State at the forefront of their minds. In a rematch, take on the best team to come out on top – that’s what TCU is. Prediction: TCU -2.5 – Sheehan Jayaraj

SEC: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 14 LSU

Featured game | Georgia Bulldogs vs. LSU Tigers

3:30 PM | CBS, CBSSports.comAnd the CBS Sports appGeorgia will stifle a must-disappointing LSU team after last week’s stunning loss at Texas A&M. Jaden Daniels has to establish himself as the centerpiece of the Tigers ground game, or he won’t click. That’s easier said than done against a Georgia defense that will force Daniels to win this game with an arm. This will not happen. However, Georgia understands that she needs to finish this game as soon as possible. The Bulldogs would build up an early lead and take their foot off the throttle to allow the Tigers cover. But the game will never be in doubt. Prediction: LSU (+17.5) – Barrett Sally

American: No. 18 Tulane vs. No. 22 UCF

Featured game | Tulane Green Wave vs. UCF Knights

4 m | ABC, fuboTV (Try for free) — Green Wave hits the right step as the Knights struggle. Tulane topped two-time champion Cincinnati and crushed fourth-place SMU by 35 points. UCF lost 17-14 against Navy and needed a late push to escape a dreadful South Florida team. Willie Fritz’s team won’t let this opportunity pass them by and capture the conference championship for the first time since 1998. Prediction: Tulane -4 – Sheehan Jayaraj

ACC: No. 9 Clemson vs. No. 23 North Carolina

Featured game | North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Clemson Tigers

8 m | ABC, fuboTV (Try for free) — Clemson is the better team, but the door is open for upset in a way we haven’t seen in a long time when it comes to a conference championship showdown against the ACC Coastal. North Carolina has some injury concerns and hasn’t been a consistent team this season, but it has a market advantage at quarterback and should play with considerably less pressure given preseason expectations. Prediction: North Carolina +7.5 – Chip Patterson

Big Ten: No. 2 Michigan vs. Purdue

Featured game | Michigan Wolverines vs. Purdue Boilermakers

8 m | Fox fuboTV (Try for free) — I don’t give Purdue a lot of chances to win this game, but I don’t think the Boilermakers are too easy. This is a team that could give the Wolverines some trouble offensively, but the concern is how many stops will Purdue’s defense get? It’s a solid unit but not one that matches well with the Wolverines. Considering that in addition to the fact that this game will be played indoors and on grass, I can see more points being scored than expected. For this reason, I love more than anything else. Prediction: Over 52 – Tom Fornelli

Pac-12: No. 4 USC vs. No. 11 Utah (Friday)

Featured game | USC Trojans vs. Utah Utes

8 m | Fox fuboTV (Try for free) — USC had to pull off a 38-27 victory over Notre Dame last week, while Utah pulled off an easy win over Colorado. In a short week and in a match between two equal teams, wear and tear can be a factor. Utah won the first meeting by a point on Oct. 15, and has experience at this point as the Pac-12 champion. While beating the same team twice in one season can be tough, Utah did just that last season against Oregon. The Utes can do it again as they take on a USC team that remains shaky defensively and overly relies on an uncanny ability to force turnovers. Prediction: Utah +3 – David Cobb

What college football picks can you make with confidence during championship week, and what are your favorite games that will spark a scare? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the difference – all from a proven computer model that’s made nearly $2,500 in profits over the past six seasons – and find out.

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