college football week 14 picks preview

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Championship week is upon us, and there is still some intrigue to play out in regard to the College Football Playoff. Here are our previews and predictions (point spreads courtesy of DraftKings, and current at the time of publication, but subject to change) for this weekend’s league title games, a couple of other scheduled contests across the country, and next week’s always-anticipated Army-Navy game.

All times Eastern. Statistics in parentheses are from the 2022 season unless otherwise noted.

 

1 of 13

Conference USA: North Texas (7-5) at UTSA (10-2), 7:30 p.m., Friday, CBS Sports Network

Conference USA: North Texas (7-5) at UTSA (10-2), 7:30 p.m., Friday, CBS Sports Network

Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

Texas-San Antonio looks to become the fourth program among current Conference USA members to win two championships. And become the first team to claim back-to-back titles since Western Kentucky in 2015 and ’16. Since starting 1-2, UTSA has won nine in a row. Behind unheralded signal-caller Frank Harris (3,524 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 539 rushing yards, eight TDs), the Roadrunners average 32.7 points. His 10-yard touchdown pass to De’Corian Clark with 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter sent UTSA to a 31-27 win over North Texas on Oct. 22. The Mean Green’s Austin Aune (3,115 yards, 31 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) threw for 325 yards and three TDs with a pick in that contest.

Prediction: UTSA (-9)

 

2 of 13

Pac-12: No. 11 Utah (9-3) vs. No. 4 USC (11-1), at Las Vegas, 8 p.m., Friday, Fox

Pac-12: No. 11 Utah (9-3) vs. No. 4 USC (11-1), at Las Vegas, 8 p.m., Friday, Fox

Rob Gray/USA TODAY Sports

That lone blemish on USC’s 2022 resume came in a wild 43-42 loss at Utah on Oct. 15. Now, the Trojans not only get their shot at revenge for the league title but also with a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line. One would expect another barnburner in Round 2, and USC Heisman Trophy hopeful Caleb Williams, who threw for 381 yards with five touchdowns at Utah, will truly need to be at his best. That said, Utah quarterback Cameron Rising went 52-for-72 for 721 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions and rushed for 87 with four scores in the last two games against the Trojans.

Prediction: Utah (+3)

 

3 of 13

Mid-American: Toledo (7-5) vs. Ohio (9-3), at Detroit, Noon, Saturday, ESPN

Mid-American: Toledo (7-5) vs. Ohio (9-3), at Detroit, Noon, Saturday, ESPN

Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, Ohio was 3-9. Fast forward, and after their 2-3 start, the Bobcats won seven in a row to claim the MAC East Division title. However, if Ohio is to win its first MAC championship in five tries — and league crown of any kind since 1968, it must do so without star quarterback Kurtis Rourke, who threw for 3,256 yards and ran for nearly 250 but suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this month, Meanwhile, it’s uncertain if Toledo’s own quarterback Dequan Finn (1,973 passing yards; 522 rushing yards) will be available due to an ankle injury. The Rockets ranked first in the MAC, allowing a league-low 337.7 yards per game, while Ohio’s offense boasts a conference-best 437.8 total yards per contest.

Prediction: Toledo (-1 1/2)

 

4 of 13

Big 12: No. 10 Kansas State (9-3) at No. 3 TCU (12-0), at Arlington, Texas, Noon, Saturday, ABC

Big 12: No. 10 Kansas State (9-3) at No. 3 TCU (12-0), at Arlington, Texas, Noon, Saturday, ABC

Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

This wasn’t the Big 12 Championship Game matchup many were expecting when the season started. However, there will be plenty of eyes on the Horned Frogs, who look to continue their undefeated run right into the College Football Playoff. TCU is making just its second Big 12 title game appearance, while Kansas State won the crown in 2003. Let’s go back to Oct. 22, when the Wildcats led 28-10 late in the second quarter at TCU, only for the Horned Frogs to score 28 unanswered points to win 38-28. The quarterbacks get a lot of attention on both sides, but TCU’s Kendre Miller (1,260 rushing yards, 25 touchdowns) and K-State’s Deuce Vaughn (1,295 rushing yards) are two of the country’s top running backs that deserve more attention.

Prediction: TCU (-2 1/2)

 

5 of 13

Sun Belt: Coastal Carolina (9-2) at Troy (10-2), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

Sun Belt: Coastal Carolina (9-2) at Troy (10-2), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

Mickey Welsh/Advertiser/USA TODAY NETWORK

Before we start, how about some love for James Madison, which went 8-3 in its first FBS season, and 6-2 to share the Sun Belt East Division title with Coastal Carolina, which it just beat. However, the Dukes were ineligible for a title-game  appearance due to their transitional status. So, Coastal gets a shot at its first league championship. Whether star quarterback Grayson McCall (2,314 passing yards, 21 TDs, one INT), who has been out with a foot injury since early November, remains to be seen. Regardless of who is under center for the Chanticleers, they face a huge challenge against Troy, which has won nine in a row and allowed an average of 13.0 points in the last seven games. The Trojans boast two of the nation’s top defenders in Carlton Martial  (112 tackles) and T.J. Jackson (eight sacks). Coastal has won the last three meetings with Troy by a combined 12 points.

Prediction: Troy (-8 1/2)

 

6 of 13

Mountain West: Fresno State (8-4) at Boise State (9-3), 4 p.m., Saturday, Fox

Mountain West: Fresno State (8-4) at Boise State (9-3), 4 p.m., Saturday, Fox

Brian Losness/USA TODAY Sports

Boise and Fresno have combined to win five of the nine Mountain West Conference Championship games. Fresno State, which claimed two of those titles, has averaged 36.1 points during a seven-game winning streak that’s followed its 1-4 start. That run began after a 40-20 loss at Boise on Oct. 8. The Broncos’ George Holani (1,059 rushing yards, 10 TDs) and Ashton Jeanty (611 rushing yards, six TDs) combined for 266 of their team’s 316 yards on the ground in that contest. Boise is 11-2 versus Fresno at home, but the Bulldogs won the last time they met for an MWC championship there in 2018.

Prediction: Boise State (-3)

 

7 of 13

SEC: No. 14 LSU (9-3) at No. 1 Georgia (12-0), at Atlanta, 4 p.m., Saturday, CBS

SEC: No. 14 LSU (9-3) at No. 1 Georgia (12-0), at Atlanta, 4 p.m., Saturday, CBS

Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

Getting housed by lowly Texas A&M last weekend didn’t help LSU when it comes to the hype of pulling off an upset against the Bulldogs. Georgia has allowed an average of 11.8 points while winning 14 in a row since losing 41-24 to Alabama in last season’s SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs have also averaged 37.5 points since that defeat, so yeah, the Tigers, who are 5-1 in the title game, certainly have their work cut out for themselves. Georgia’s last SEC championship came in 2017.

Prediction: Georgia (-17 1/2)

 

8 of 13

American Athletic: No. 22 UCF (9-3) at No. 18 Tulane (10-2), 4 p.m., Saturday, ABC

American Athletic: No. 22 UCF (9-3) at No. 18 Tulane (10-2), 4 p.m., Saturday, ABC

Rebecca Warren/USA TODAY Sports

Even amid its best season since that 11-3 performance in 2017, Tulane still seems undervalued. Yet, the Green Wave will be playing for their first American Athletic Conference title. Winning at Cincinnati last week was a nice primer. Meanwhile, running back Tyjae Spears (1,177 rushing yards, 14 TDs) continued to shine after running for a season-high 181 yards during that 27-24 victory over the Bearcats last weekend. He ran eight times for 130 during Tulane’s 38-31 home loss to UCF on Nov. 12. The Knights’ John Rhys Plumlee (2,195 passing yards; 848 rushing yards) rushed for a season-high 176 with two scores and threw for 132 with a touchdown in that triumph. However,  it’s uncertain if Plumlee will be healthy enough to help UCF take down Tulane again and improve to 3-0 in AAC Championship games.

Prediction: Tulane (-3 1/2)

 

9 of 13

Big Ten: Purdue (8-4) at No. 2 Michigan (12-0), at Indianapolis, 8p.m., Saturday, Fox

Big Ten: Purdue (8-4) at No. 2 Michigan (12-0), at Indianapolis, 8p.m., Saturday, Fox

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY NETWORK

We know what’s on the line for the Wolverines, who are trying to secure a spot in the CFP and win a 44th Big Ten title. After smacking down Ohio State last weekend, Michigan has won 14 straight against Big Ten opponents. It’s won four in a row over Purdue, but these teams last met in 2017. The Boilermakers represent the mediocre Big Ten West with their first appearance in the league title game. Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell (career 8,853 passing yards, 65 TDs, 28 INTs) is expected to play following the death of his brother . O’Connell, receiver Charlie Jones (97 receptions, 1,199 yards, 12 TDs), and walk-on freshman running back Devin Mockobee (849 rushing yards, eight TDs) face a stiff challenge against a Wolverines’ defense that ranks third in the nation, allowing 12.7 points per game.

Prediction: Michigan (-16 1/2)

 

10 of 13

ACC: No. 9 Clemson (10-2) at No. 23 North Carolina (9-3), at Charlotte, 8 p.m., Saturday, ABC

ACC: No. 9 Clemson (10-2) at No. 23 North Carolina (9-3), at Charlotte, 8 p.m., Saturday, ABC

Anderson Independent Mail/USA TODAY Sports

The least intriguing of the five Power Five conference championship games. Clemson is 2-2 following its 8-0 start, and officially out of CFP contention after falling 31-30 to rival South Carolina — at home — last weekend. But, after failing to reach the ACC title game in 2021, extending its record with an eighth league championship would be a decent consolation prize. North Carolina, meanwhile, looks to avoid a third straight loss overall and fifth in a row to Clemson. With only one touchdown pass and two interceptions in those losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina State, the Tar Heels’ Drake Maye (3,847 yards, 35 TDs, five INTs) has looked human of late.

Prediction: Clemson (-7 1/2)

 

11 of 13

Akron (2-9, 1-6 in MAC) at Buffalo (5-6, 4-3 in MAC), 1 p.m., Friday, ESPN+

Akron (2-9, 1-6 in MAC) at Buffalo (5-6, 4-3 in MAC), 1 p.m., Friday, ESPN+

David Yeazell/USA TODAY Sports

This is a makeup contest of that Mid-American Conference matchup, which was postponed earlier this month due to the massive snowstorm in the Buffalo area. It’s been a streaky season for Buffalo, which started 3-0, then won five straight before its current three-game skid. The Bulls look to reach that coveted sixth win, while Akron tries to end a dismal season on a positive note and build on last weekend’s 44-12 rout of Northern Illinois that ended its nine-game losing streak.

Prediction: Akron (+11)

 

12 of 13

Valparaiso (5-6) at New Mexico State (5-6), 3 p.m., Saturday

Valparaiso (5-6) at New Mexico State (5-6), 3 p.m., Saturday

Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports

 

13 of 13

Navy (4-7) at Army (5-6), at Philadelphia, 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, CBS

Navy (4-7) at Army (5-6), at Philadelphia, 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, CBS

Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports

With next weekend all to itself, the 123rd installment of the beloved Army-Navy Game will be played before the madness of bowl season kicks off. Navy scored 10 unanswered points in the second half to win 17-13 last season but hasn’t posted back-to-back victories over the Cadets since its 14-game run from 2002-2015. Meanwhile, Army will try to conclude its regular season with a third straight victory after outscoring Connecticut and Massachusetts by a combined 78-24 in the last two contests.

Prediction: Army (-1 1/2) 

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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