College football best bets for championship weekend from Matt Youmans



College football best bets for Championship Weekend

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Ollie Gordon II is the leading rusher in college football, despite being mostly ignored by his coach in the season’s first three games. Gordon’s story of perseverance is a good one, and he needs to be a greater part of the storyline if Oklahoma State is going to upset Texas in the Big 12 championship on Saturday.

Of course, for betting purposes the Cowboys only need to cover a point spread surpassing two touchdowns, but that’s a different angle to the story.

Texas (11-1) is hunting for its first Big 12 title since 2009 and is alive to reach the four-team playoff. The Longhorns, who own a big-time win at Alabama in September, might need style points to impress a playoff committee that is considering Georgia and Alabama from the SEC, Michigan, Florida State, the Oregon-Washington winner from the Pac-12 and possibly Ohio State. It’s a tight situation, so style points that come in a blowout could make the difference.

Gordon is an important part of the recipe for the Cowboys sticking close to the Longhorns. Gordon has rushed for 1,580 yards and 20 touchdowns, including 138 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-24 victory over Oklahoma on Nov. 4. He got 33 carries against the Sooners — the only team to beat Texas — after getting a total of 19 carries in Oklahoma State’s first three games.

Gordon and Alan Bowman emerged to rescue the Cowboys from a 2-2 start and carry the team to 9-3 in an unlikely turnaround. Bowman, part of a three-quarterback platoon in September, passed for 334 yards against Oklahoma and will need a similar performance against Texas.

The Longhorns are massive and physical up front, boasting the nation’s fifth-ranked run defense (85 yards per game), so it will be easier said than done for Gordon, Bowman and the Cowboys.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is always a dangerous underdog, winning four in a row outright in that role, and usually finds a way to stay in these types of games. Gundy was a 7-point home ‘dog last year when the Cowboys upset the Longhorns 41-34.

Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers threw three interceptions in last year’s meeting, but that was on a windy day in Stillwater, and the conditions will be calm for this game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Still, the Cowboys have what it takes to cover an inflated line.

Pick: Oklahoma State +15

Last week’s plays in this column went 3-2 to put the season record at 42-35-3. Here are two more best bets for Saturday:

Alabama (+5) over Georgia

The improvement in Bulldogs quarterback Carson Beck has been obvious. Beck, who has completed 72.4% of his passes with 22 touchdowns, was especially sharp in late-season victories over Florida, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee. Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe also has come on strong and has similar numbers. While the Georgia and Alabama defenses are not as dominant as in recent years, the Bulldogs are a little better on both sides of the ball. Instead of wasting words to analyze the matchup, let’s just say Tide coach Nick Saban is an underdog getting more than a field goal and that’s an offer I’ll take. 

Louisville (+2) over Florida State

Not only did the Seminoles lose star quarterback Jordan Travis to a season-ending injury, they might be without No. 2 QB Tate Rodemaker in the ACC title game. Rodemaker is a game-day decision with a head injury, and freshman Brock Glenn is next in line. Glenn has attempted four passes all season. Cardinals coach Jeff Brohm is 28-15-1 ATS in his career as a ‘dog, and Louisville’s defense often has been better than Brohm’s offense this season.