UP, UP, AND AWAY
You can expect the American Athletic Conference championship game Saturday between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the host Memphis Tigers to be a tight one. The Tigers come in as nearly double-digit favorites after ripping off 11 wins in 12 regular-season games while going a perfect 6-0 at home and 8-4 ATS for the season. But while the Bearcats fell short in their previous meeting, dropping a 34-24 decision in Memphis, they covered the -13.5-point spread and extended the road team cover streak to five games in the head-to-head series while improving to 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings between the teams.
The Bearcats are better than Saturday's spread might suggest, even with Memphis having dominated at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium this season – and we like the AAC title game to be competitive enough for Cincinnati to make good on the cover.
REELING RAINBOW WARRIORS
When it comes to facing superior competition, Hawaii has been one of the worst teams in the country – and that doesn't bode well at all for the Rainbow Warriors as they visit Boise State on Saturday for the Mountain West Conference championship. Hawaii looked dreadful in its three biggest games of the season, losing to Washington, Boise State and Air Force by an average of 28 points. And that extends a troubling trend for the Rainbow Warriors, who are just 7-18 ATS in their previous 25 games against teams with winning records and 5-15-1 ATS in their previous 21 as an underdog.
A return to Albertsons Stadium comes with Hawaii receiving nearly two converted touchdowns vs. the Broncos, who beat the Rainbow Warriors 59-37 in their previous meetings. We see the home side covering in the rematch.
SLOW START COMING?
Oddsmakers aren't giving Virginia much of a chance of keeping pace with the defending-champion Clemson Tigers, who look to return to the College Football Playoff as they host the Cavaliers in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game on Saturday night. Virginia comes in ranked 60th in the country in first-half points per game, thanks largely to a strong offensive stretch in which it has scored 33+ points in four straight contests. But the Tigers have shut the door on opposing teams, allowing just 3.8 first-half points per game vs. FBS teams; Clemson hasn't allowed a first-half TD since a Week 9 rout of Boston College.
Virginia's first-half team total is sitting at or around 7; we recommend the Under given Clemson's defensive dominance, which should effectively negate any offensive gains the Cavaliers have made over the past month.
BLAZERS IN BIG TROUBLE
The Alabama-Birmingham Blazers will need to stay on the field if they hope to keep up with the Florida Atlantic Owls as the Conference USA rivals tangle Saturday in their conference championship. And that could be a difficult task; UAB has one of the worst third-down conversion rates in the country, having extended a drive just 33.5 percent of the time (113th overall). And that rate might drop even further after this weekend, with FAU limiting opponents to a 32-percent success rate for the season (18th). But UAB has been even better at choking off drives, ranking fourth in the nation in third-down rate against (27.5 percent).
Look for plenty of three-and-outs in this one, which puts the Under squarely in play.
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