Welcome to conference championship week, where College Football Playoff hopes are either achieved or demolished.
The 2021 college football season has been a crazy year full of upsets, and it will end with even more upsets come bowl season. And it only seems fitting, in such a chaotic season, that championship-winning programs such as Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma will miss out, bringing in new blood to what could be one of the last iterations of the four-team playoff.
My Week 13 picks went 3-1-1, bringing my year-to-date record to 43-38-1 for +8.17 units. Here are more spread, total, and moneyline picks for conference championship week. All lines are from DraftKings Sportsbook.
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Tale of the Tape
Kent State emerged as 52-47 victors when these two teams faced off in Week 10, but it was a hard-fought offensive battle that produced 19 explosive rushing plays and 20 explosive passing plays in total.
Of course, it is difficult to beat the same opponent twice in a single season, but Kent State has a very good chance of winning again. And this time, they'd get to take home the MAC championship.
The Northern Illinois Huskies had real difficulty stopping the Kent State passing offense in Week 10. Golden Flashes quarterback Dustin Crum went 20-of-30 for 324 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions, ending the game with six big-time throws and a 93.6 PFF passing grade. The rushing attack piled up 14 explosive rushes of 10 or more yards, averaging 8.0 yards per carry.
The Huskies enter this all-important championship game as the MAC's worst-graded defense (50.3) and will need to put up more of a fight if they are going to square this series and leave with the trophy.
|Implied Value||Kent State||Northern Illinois|
Matchup to Watch: Kent State secondary vs. Northern Illinois WR TRAYVON RUDOLPH
In Week 10, Huskies quarterback Rocky Lombardi recorded only three big-time throws and hit just five of his eight 20-plus-yard pass attempts but still racked up over 500 yards through the air. So, just how were the Huskies able to match up with the Flashes offense?
Well, that would be thanks to Huskies wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph, who caught 14 of his 21 targets for three scores and 306 receiving yards, with 143 of those yards coming after the catch. He moved the chains 11 times, came down with two of his four contested targets and forced three missed tackles after the catch.
The 5-foot-10, 182-pound freshman enters the contest as the fifth-highest-graded receiver in the conference (81.2) and ranks eighth in yards after the catch per reception (8.7) and first in yards per route run (3.42). He was the only reason Northern Illinois got close in Week 10, so he'll need to play up to that standard with the conference title on the line.
X-Factors: Kent State RBs MARQUEZ COOPER and XAVIER WILLIAMS
Kent state runs the ball on 52.9% of their offensive snaps, so expect a heavy dose of Cooper and Williams. The duo has combined for 1,795 rushing yards, 1,007 yards after contact and 90 forced missed tackles across 392 attempts. Williams' 85.2 PFF rushing grade ranks third among the 38 MAC running backs who have run the ball at least 25 times, while Cooper's mark of 81.4 ranks eighth.
PFF Greenline likes the value in betting Kent State to cover as the Golden Flashes control the ground game, have superior quarterback play and dictate the pace of the game.