Championship Week Preview
LAS VEGAS, NV (TheSpread) - It is Championship Week in college football and we have you covered with previews of all seven games along the current spreads and totals.
(119) MARSHALL at (120) RICE (+6.5, 61) ESPN2 12:00 E
If you reviewed the preseason magazines back in August like I did, nobody had this matchup for the Conference USA title. Marshall mauled preseason favorite East Carolina 59-28 to win the East Division and its offense is so balanced, led by Raheem Cato; they are in the Top 25 nationally in passing and running. Marshall’s three defeats have been by a grand total of 13 points, however, all have been on the road just like this contest and they are 11-25 ATS as away favorites.
Usually, if - Rice University and success - are in the same sentence, it normally means they have a very potent offensive attack. Though this year’s Owls offense certainly did its part in the team’s success, it’s been the defense which has taken them to a 9-3 campaign. Rice has allowed just 22.8 points per game, their lowest figure in 19 seasons. Rice is 11-0 ATS at home versus passing teams averaging 275 or more passing yards a game.
(121) MISSOURI vs. (122) AUBURN (-1.5, 58) CBS 4:00 E
Think about this, just over a calendar year ago, Auburn and Missouri combined to win a total of two conference games and yet here they are competing for the SEC title while still holding on to hopes of playing in the BCS championship. First year coach Gus Malzahn has brought accountability and passion back to Auburn football and one of the best rushing attacks in the country, which has been nearly impossible to stop. The defense does the job when called upon and this team has had its share of good fortune. Auburn has beat the spread nine straight times.
Since giving away a 17-point lead at Columbia to South Carolina and losing in OT, Missouri has had to perform and they closed the season with four clutch victories (all covers) to arrive in Atlanta. Both squads are 11-1 and 10-2 ATS and expect turnovers and special teams to factor into the outcome. Additionally, look for whatever quarterback, Nick Marshall or James Franklin, to be the difference-maker in what should a close affair.
(123) DUKE vs (124) FLORIDA STATE (-29.5, 62) ABC 8:00 E
A tip of the cap to coach David Cutcliffe and Duke for a historic 10-win season and winning the Coastal Division of the ACC. Unfortunately, all those smiles will turn to frowns with Duke better than a four-touchdown underdog to No.1 Florida State. In truth, the Blue Devils only chance is have the same sort of balance on offense they have fought for all year which leads to touchdowns and not field goal attempts and having a +3 or better turnover margin. Duke is 10-2 ATS and has covered seven straight.
Florida State is playing for the national championship as long as they win, because style points will not be necessary. The Seminoles are a proven stock, with a scoring margin differential of 42.7 points a game. With the cloud hanging over Jameis Winston dismissed, the program can move on and focus on football. Credit head coach Jimbo Fisher for building a different, yet at least by appearance, as domineering FSU squad in the tradition of the best Bobby Bowden years. Florida State is 18-0 and 10-6-1 ATS against Duke since 1992.
(125) STANFORD at (126) ARIZONA STATE (-3. 55.5) ESPN 7:45 E
Of the seven conference championships, this is the only one which is a rematch. Stanford held a 29-0 halftime lead over Arizona State, who was coming off emotional victory over Wisconsin at home. The Sun Devils made the final score respectable at 42-28 and have matured from that point and have reeled off seven consecutive wins (5-2 ATS). Arizona State will have the benefit of playing at home where they are 7-0 and 5-2 ATS, but they will be without leading rusher Marion Grice.
Stanford’s running game is punishing and demoralizing at the same time. Time after time the Cardinal are in third down short and they earn a first down by a foot, moving the chains which is like torture to the opposing defense. The Arizona State defense while strong, has given up more than 200 yards rushing four times, playing into Stanford’s hands. Nevertheless, the Cardinal is 3-2 and 2-3 ATS on the road and most likely will need QB Kevin Hogan to throw for at least 225 yards to emerge victorious.
(127) OHIO STATE vs. (128) MICHIGAN STATE (+5.5, 51.5) FOX 8:15 E
How about this, the Big Ten championship actually means something nationally. Ohio State is presumed to return to the BCS championship game if they stay undefeated and the battle lines could hardly be drawn any more obviously. This contest features the nation's top-ranked defense in Michigan State against the nation's No. 3 scoring offense in Ohio State. Something will have to give here and the actual outcome seems unpredictable.
What will also have great importance is the other side of the ball where Spartans offense and Buckeyes defense have playmakers, which will also have a direct impact on the outcome. While Ohio State opened as a 5.5-point favorite, it is noteworthy in common opponents; the difference between the two clubs is less than a point (0.7). The Spartans are 21-7 ATS in Big Ten away games.
(129) UTAH STATE at (130) FRESNO STATE (-3. 59.5) CBS 10:00 E
Fresno State is the host team in the Mountain West championship game, but coach Tim DeRuyter will need all his coaching acumen to refocus his football team after seeing their possible BCS berth go away with the upset at San Jose State. The Bulldogs defense has not been that good all year long and was ripped apart in surrendering 736 yards to the Spartans. Fresno State is a miserable 2-11 ATS off an upset loss as a double digit favorite.
After losing outstanding quarterback Chuckie Keeton, Utah State fans probably figured their season was over. But the Aggies players did not and when Boise State lost again, winning those last five games mattered, taking them to the championship game. Utah State does have a legitimate chance to win this, thanks to a defense giving up only 16.2 points a game. The Aggies however have lost five in a row to Fresno State and are 0-6 and 2-3-1 ATS in north central California.