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Betting B1G: High-stakes Championship Saturday for Ohio State, contenders

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Ohio State faces off against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship (Mike Carter/Jeffrey Becker/USA Today)

Ohio State Football

Betting B1G: High-stakes Championship Saturday for Ohio State, contenders

Well, folks, we’re finally here. The last week of the season and the last week to make yourself some money gambling on college football. I’m kidding, of course, as bowl season will be here before we know it and there will be games every single night we can gamble our futures away on. We can do that together. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s Championship Week here and we’re going to pick the title games from the Power 5 conferences. We’ll know the four teams in the College Football Playoff on Sunday. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Let’s get to it.

All lines via Bovada as of Thursday evening.

Pac-12 Championship: No. 11 Washington vs. No. 17 Utah

When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
Line: Washington -5.5

The Pick: I’m not sure I could be less interested in a Power 5 conference championship game than I am this one. Maybe if it was Colorado vs. Oregon State or something. At least they gave this game Friday night all to itself because there isn’t a chance I’d watch a second of this if it were Saturday. Hell, I still may not even watch it.

Washington won the first matchup between these two teams 21-7 (and it was at Utah) and I’d expect something similar this time around. The Huskies were a bit disappointing this year but they are still the better team with better players and a better coach. Washington covers here and goes to the Rose Bowl.

Big 12 Championship: No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 14 Texas

When: noon Saturday
Where: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
Line: Oklahoma -8

The Pick: When the ratings for this game come out, I’d expect a big number from Columbus, Ohio. Buckeyes fans will certainly have their eyes on this one.

I wanted to simply write “Ok, Cool. Hook Em!” here but that is simply not the route I’m going. Tom Herman has a ridiculous record as an underdog (both straight up and against the spread) and I know the Longhorns won the first matchup, but it just feels to me like Oklahoma is the much better team (OU is 4th in S&P+; Texas is 35th).

Texas has scored just 24 points each of the last two weeks. They’ll probably get more than that against an anemic Sooners defense, but I’m just not sure the Longhorns can keep pace. Oklahoma wins by two touchdowns and, unfortunately for Ohio State and its fans, probably goes to the Playoff.

SEC Championship: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Georgia

When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, Ga.)
Line: Alabama -14

The Pick: Alabama has won all 12 of its games this season by at least three touchdowns. To pick against the Tide now would be to think something that hasn’t happened all year is going to happen Saturday.

And I’m going to do just that.

Let me be clear in saying I believe Alabama will win this game. But if you’re giving me 14 points (the extra half-point is huge here in my decision) with what I feel is another legitimate top-five team on a neutral field I almost have to take it.

Alabama’s offense can be slowed — not stopped but slowed — by elite defenses. It happened against Mississippi State and LSU. Georgia’s offense is better than both of those teams and they’ll score enough to keep this within two touchdowns.

ACC Championship: No. 2 Clemson vs. Pittsburgh

When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, N.C.)
Line: Clemson -28

The Pick: This one is pretty simple to me. If Pitt can run the ball and bleed the clock, this game will be close and the Panthers will cover. If Pitt can’t run, Clemson will roll big time.

This is certainly strength on strength. Pitt is No. 9 nationally averaging 5.80 yards per carry; Clemson’s defense is No. 1 in the country allowing just 2.23 yards per rush. Clemson will score (Pitt’s defense is just 66th in S&P+), but if the Panthers can limit the Tigers’ number of possessions they’ll be able to keep this game close.

But I’m not betting against the defensive line with more NFL Draft picks on it than I can count. I’m thinking Clemson stuffs Pitt’s running game by dominating up front, and the Tigers roll in this one despite the huge spread.

Big Ten Championship: No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 21 Northwestern

When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Line: Ohio State -14.5

The Pick: I legitimately have no idea how Northwestern is here. The Wildcats didn’t win a non-conference game and yet somehow the only Big Ten team to beat them was Michigan. By three points. Northwestern went to overtime with Nebraska and beat RUTGERS by three. Outside of quarterback Clayton Thorson, I’m not kidding when I say I literally couldn’t name a player on Northwestern’s team before this week.

With that said, something about this game feels weird to me. Northwestern has found a way to muck the game up against everybody else over the last two months (including a Playoff team in Notre Dame), so part of me thinks it can do the same to Ohio State. The Wildcats limit big plays by playing zone defense, and if they can hold the Buckeyes to field goals after sustained drives instead of touchdowns, this thing could get tight.

At the same time, Northwestern just simply hasn’t seen a team with speed on both sides like Ohio State and that’s why I think the Buckeyes can win comfortably. Ohio State has struggled defensively against teams with game breakers, and the Wildcats just don’t have a ton of explosive players or plays. I’m not sure we’ll see a 59-0 performance, but I feel like the Buckeyes can get into the 40s and I don’t see Northwestern coming anywhere close to that. I’ll say 45-17 in favor of Ohio State.

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Tim Shoemaker

Tim Shoemaker is a former sports writer at the Ashland Times-Gazette and Eleven Warriors, where he covered Ohio State football since 2014. He is a current digital marketing professional in Columbus, Ohio.

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