College Football Picks: Will Utah Be Celebrating Friday Night at Levi's Stadium?

Defensive end Bradley Anae (6) and his Utah teammates celebrate their win over Colorado.Photo by Jeffrey Swinger, USA Today

Jeff Faraudo

The conference championship games are upon us, beginning Friday night at Levi’s Stadium with No. 5 Utah taking on No. 13 Oregon.

Most of these games will be one-sided and only a few of them have significant bowl-game ramifications.

But the Utes (11-1) and the Ducks (10-2) should stage a compelling game, with Utah needing an impressive showing (and some help from LSU against Georgia) to convince the College Football Playoff committee it deserves one of the four spots.

Oregon, meanwhile, is out of the CFP chase but hopes to land a Rose Bowl berth.

For the Pac-12, this will be a farewell to Santa Clara. After six championship games held on the 49ers’ home field, the event will be shifted next season to the Raiders’ field — in Las Vegas.

The Pac-12 game has had two problem since coming to the Bay Area: 1) The games often have been lopsided, and 2) Nobody appears to care.

The first three matchups at Levi’s were decided 38, 19 and 31 points. Last year, Washington outlasted Utah in a dreary 10-3 game that featured no offensive touchdowns.

The one great game here was two years ago, when USC beat Stanford 31-28.

Meanwhile, the game here has never drawn well. Only one of the five matchups had an announced attendance of greater than 48,000 and change, and last year’s crowd was listed at 35,134. 

How much larger crowd than that will we see Friday night?

All picks against the spread

Lines taken from (opening lines used)

Last week: Jeff 4-2, Jake 4-2

Season: Jake 44-46, Jeff 44-46


Pac-12: No. 5 Utah (minus-4.5) vs. No. 13 Oregon

At Santa Clara, CA

Jake: Utah is getting better each week, and the Utes have the better quarterback. Pick: Utah

Jeff: All the motivation is with the Utes. And the best Pac-12 defense we have seen in years. Pick: Utah


Big 12: No. 7 Baylor (plus-9.5) vs. No. 6 Oklahoma

At Arlington, TX

Jake: Baylor has a knack for sticking around in every game, but the Sooners are simply more talented, especially at quarterback. Pick: Oklahoma

Jeff: The Sooners have won five straight in this series, averaging nearly 48 points per game. Pick: Oklahoma

Sun Belt: Louisiana (plus-3.5) vs. Appalachian State

At Boone, NC

Jake: App State beat Louisiana by 10 on the Ragin’ Cajuns’ home field this year, so it should do it again at a neutral site. Pick: Appalachian State

Jeff: The Mountaineers have never lost to Louisiana. It will stay that way. Pick: Appalachian State

MAC: Miami-Ohio (plus-4.5) vs. Central Michigan

At Detroit, MI

Jake: Central Michigan is pretty good when QB Quinten Dormady and RB Jonathan Ward are healthy, as they are now after missing games earlier. Pick: Central Michigan

Jeff: After transforming Central Michigan from 1-11 in his debut season last year to 8-4, will coach Jim McIlwain be somewhere else next season? He’s got at least one more victory where he’s at. Pick: Central Michigan

C-USA: UAB (plus-7.5) vs. Florida Atlantic

At Boca Raton, FL

Jake: UAB has won 18 straight home games, but this one is on the Owls’ home field. Pick: Florida Atlantic

Jeff: Florida Atlantic has forced 29 turnovers and leads the nation with 19 interceptions. UAB’s starting QB has missed the past two games with a knee injury. Pick: Florida Atlantic

AAC: No. 20 Cincinnati (plus-10) vs. No. 17 Memphis

At Memphis, TN

Jake: These teams meet for the second time in eight days at the same site. Cincinnati lost last week by 10, and will keep this one close. Pick: Cincinnati

Jeff: Memphis already beat the Bearcats by 10 this season. See no reason the Tigers won’t do it again. Pick: Memphis

SEC: No. 4 Georgia (plus-4) vs. No. 2 LSU

At Atlanta, GA

Jake: LSU QB Joe Burrow will find a way to score enough points against Georgia’s outstanding defense. Pick: LSU

Jeff: Utah fans will be rooting hard for LSU. Pick: LSU

MWC: Hawaii (plus-15.5) vs. No. 19 Boise State

At Boise, ID

Jake: Never pick against Boise State when it plays in Boise – even with a two-touchdown spread. Pick: Boise State

Jeff: Boise has beaten Hawaii seven straight times and the closest of those outcomes was 20 points. Pick: Boise State

ACC: No. 23 Virginia (plus-24.5) vs. No. 3 Clemson

At Charlotte, NC

Jake: Clemson has scored more than 50 points six times this season and leads the nation in scoring defense. It adds up to a blowout. Pick: Clemson

Jeff: Clemson played a couple close games early but the Tigers are picking up steam. They have won their past seven games by an average margin of nearly 42 points. Pick: Clemson

Big Ten: No. 1 Ohio State (minus-18) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin

At Indianapolis, IN

Jake: Buckeyes beat Wisconsin by 31 points in October, limiting Jonathan Taylor to 2.6 yards per carry. Badgers will keep it close this time. Pick: Wisconsin

Jeff: Wisconsin is a nice team. The Buckeyes are the best team in the country. Pick: Ohio State