Saturday’s Best Bets – TotalsBest Bets - Sides
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Yesterday I took at look at two different sides to consider for Conference Championship Saturday, and for those of you that prefer totals, this piece is for you. Considering half of the 10 title games this weekend are rematches from the regular season, there is somewhat of a benchmark to work with when handicapping these totals, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should weigh what happened in the first meeting overly heavy.
Teams have grown/regressed/changed since then in all likelihood – outside of say the Cincinnati/Memphis game who just played last week – and the stakes have ramped up considerably since those first meeting for some. And similar to the sides piece, I've got one 'over' and one 'under' to strongly consider, although only one of the two plays is a rematch game. Let's get to it:
Conference Championship Over to Back:
Baylor/Oklahoma Over 64.5This is the rematch game that makes the card, as it's probably the most highly anticipated rematch game on the board this week. Depending on how the Pac-12 and SEC title games shake out, the winner of this Big 12 contest could find themselves playoff bound. And given that the Baylor Bears thought they were the 2016 Atlanta Falcons in the first meeting with the Sooners, blowing a 28-3 lead to lose 34-31, there has been plenty of talk about the Bears getting another crack at Oklahoma since that meeting. The potential of the winner being CFB Playoff bound only adds to the intrigue.
But I'm not concerned with the side outcome in this game (although I would lay it with Oklahoma if forced to), as Baylor showed some character in not slipping up in their final two regular season games after that loss. The Bears did get some help in that regard as they faced a Texas team that had no interest in finishing the year strong after all their goals were unattainable, and Kansas just isn't a very good team. But make no mistake about it, Baylor has been itching for another crack at the Sooners, and I doubt they get held off the score sheet in the 2nd half like they did in the first meeting.
Oklahoma isn't interested in digging such a deep hole for themselves either, as they've heard all the noise about how badly Baylor wants another crack at them as well. From the Sooners perspective, they played an awful 1st half of football in that first meeting and still found a way to come away with the victory. An outcome like that can only give them confidence that should they be sharp from the outset in the rematch and take care of the ball throughout, that this game will be one that ultimately goes the Sooners way in a relative easy fashion.
Either way, I do expect both sides to be out to put up points, as Baylor has to believe no lead is safe against Oklahoma, while the Sooners will be looking to blow out the Bears early to squash any hope of revenge Baylor has. “Style points” are likely needed for whomever ends up winning this game, and when you put the whole picture together, it does suggest points will be scored.
In terms of looking at the first game, the 'under' did connect, but it was a rather lucky one considering Baylor was held scoreless in the final 30 minutes after putting up 31 points in the first 30 minutes. Obviously you could say that Oklahoma expected to score more then 10 points in the first half as well, which is what leads to the 'over' being the only way I believe you can look here.
And even though this is far from the best of the number having opened up around 62 for the rematch, I'm not sure it will matter. Oklahoma's defense is still one that can be had, and the Sooners will generally find a way to put up points themselves.
The fact that this number has been bumped up a few points since open with still the slight majority on the low side of things is telling as well, and with 65 points still put up in the 1st meeting where each team only really played a half of football up to their standards offensively, it's hard not to like the high side of this total.
After all, Baylor finished the regular season averaging 34.4 points per game, while Oklahoma clocked in at 42/game. We don't even need both sides to hit those numbers to see this one sail well over the number, although getting 70+ total points here should be the end result.
Conference Championship Under to Back:
Virginia/Clemson Under 55.5Dabo Swinney's rhetoric about nobody respecting Clemson and sticking up for his eight-game conference schedule is nothing but old at this point, but coaches will do and say whatever they feel they need to to stick up for their team and motivate them at the same time.
Playing the 'nobody respects us' card has become a time honored tradition for Swinney and Clemson, and if that's what fires up his team and gets them to play at their best then so be it. But you know what fires me up for the ACC title game this week. The fact that Clemson hasn't got enough respect to be laying 30 points or more because that's when their totals tend to become more of a coin flip.
This year the Tigers are a perfect 0-6 O/U this year when laying less than 30 points, and in that role the past three seasons they are 7-20-1 O/U. Whatever rhetoric Swinney uses in these types of spots when the whole world expects them to win big, seems to get his defense going the best, as they've allowed just 10.5 points per game in these sub-30 favorite roles this year, and I'm not sure that changes against a Virginia team that's played well over their head offensively in recent weeks against lackluster competition.
From a Virginia perspective, they want no part of being involved in a shootout type contest with Clemson, because it's those games where talent tends to win out in the end, and the talent edge on both sides of the ball clearly sides with Clemson. Since the Cavaliers have a running QB and would prefer to methodically move the ball down the field as it is, they will be comfortable slowing down the game in their attempt to pull off a monumental upset. How successful they are at it probably won't be very, but if they can slow things down for a half at least, that can only help an 'under' wager.
In all likelihood this game turns out to be a typical Clemson ACC game where they get out to a big lead by the break and then use their running game to bleed the clock away in the second half. Virginia's defense – which has been suspect of late too – should be good enough given what's on the line to hold down the 2nd half scoring in that case.
You know if Clemson's defense gives up more then 10 points in this game that they'll be disappointed in themselves, and given that their last two ACC titles the past two years have come thanks to 38-3 and 42-10 scores, this year's game probably resembles those final outcomes a great deal.
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