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Week 14 College Football Picks: Challenge Athlon Sports Experts


The final week of college football is here. Dry your eyes and enjoy what's left during championship week. The Playoff pecking order may be set, but conference title game bring plenty of intrigue and entertainment.

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Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior writer David Fox:

Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois

MAC championship, Detroit (Friday)

For the third consecutive season, Bowling Green and Northern Illinois will meet for the MAC championship, with each team winning one of the previous two matchups. NIU is here for the sixth consecutive year. The Huskies, as one would expect, have the best run game in the MAC. Bowling Green has the best passing attack with Matt Johnson running the show. It’s tempting to go with NIU’s experience, but Bowling Green is the more explosive team.

Fox’s pick: Bowling Green 49-42

Texas at Baylor

The Big 12 and the College Football Playoff is out of the picture for Baylor. A bowl game is off the table for Texas. Yet the stakes in this game will be more than just Baylor trying to get to the Sugar Bowl as the second-ranked team in the conference. Baylor can further bury Texas down the food chain in the Big 12 by handing the Longhorns only their third eight-loss season in school history (1-9 in 1956, 1-8 in 1938). Look for Baylor’s offense to return to form after a rain-drenched loss to TCU. Throw out an expected blowout of Kansas and Texas has lost its last three games by a combined score of 110-65.

Fox’s pick: Baylor 42-21

Temple at Houston

American championship

Houston welcomed Greg Ward back to the lineup and, what do you know, the Cougars clinched the AAC West with a 52-31 win over Navy. Ward completed 26-of-35 passes with 308 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 83. This will be one of the better defenses Houston has played this season after Temple held Memphis to 12 points and Notre Dame to 24. Remember: Notre Dame won that game in part because of a dual threat quarterback. This is a likely play-in game for a major bowl game as the Group of 5 representative in the CFP host bowls.

Fox’s pick: Houston 31-21

Southern Miss at Western Kentucky

Conference USA championship

Southern Miss is one of the great stories of the year as Todd Monken program resurrected a program that went 4-32 from 2012-14. This game has high shootout potential as these teams are 1-2 in Conference USA in both total and passing offense. Southern Miss led the league in total defense, but Western Kentucky won the tougher division and faced three Power 5 teams (Vanderbilt, Indiana and LSU). Go with Hilltoppers QB Brandon Doughty and the defending league champs.

Fox’s pick: Western Kentucky 41-28

Florida vs. Alabama

SEC championship, Atlanta

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This will not be the heavyweight bout we’re used to seeing the SEC Championship Game. Alabama is built to grind teams down with the front seven and with Derrick Henry in the run game. Since the suspension of quarterback Will Grier, Florida has shown no signs of a team able to withstand Alabama’s ruthless precision, especially in the second half. The Gators’ run defense may hold Henry in check for a time, but Florida State’s Dalvin Cook proved last week even the Gators’ defense has its limits. If Florida plays close in the first half, the Gators should consider it a minor victory. Anything beyond that is a plus.

Fox’s pick: Alabama 35–10

West Virginia at Kansas State

West Virginia lost its first four games in the Big 12, but that was more a reflection of playing a murderer’s row of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU (with three of those on the road). The Mountaineers have since flexed their muscles against the bottom half of the league. Kansas State is fighting for a bowl berth, but the Wildcats just aren’t consistent enough on offense to beat a solid West Virginia squad.

Fox’s pick: West Virginia 31-20

Air Force at San Diego State

Mountain West championship

San Diego State went 8-0 in the Mountain West by dominating both sides of the run game. The Aztecs outrushed conference opponents by an average of 210 yards per game. Air Force just allowed 377 yards to New Mexico’s option attack in a 47-35 loss and before that gave up 4.4 yards per carry in a win at Boise State. Air Force is probably a more solid team, but San Diego State has all the momentum.

Fox’s pick: San Diego State 35-31

Stanford vs. USC

Pac-12 championship, Santa Clara, Calif.

USC’s 40-21 win over UCLA was apparently good enough to seal the full-time job for coach Clay Helton. The Trojans are still a team that struggles to put together a complete game from week to week, and it’s likely the senior Kevin Hogan will be more prepared for this stage than freshman Josh Rosen was a week ago for the Bruins. Stanford still found a way to beat Notre Dame last week despite Christian McCaffrey falling below 100 rushing yards for the first time since Week 2.

Fox’s pick: Stanford 38-24

Michigan State vs. Iowa

Big Ten championship, Indianapolis

There’s no denying Iowa’s undefeated record, but it’s also no coincidence that the Hawkeyes’ unblemished record was helped by a schedule that did not include Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan. Michigan State is simply more battle tested with wins over the Buckeyes and Wolverines on the road (not to mention Oregon at home). Both teams have proven they can win a defensive struggle or a more wide-open game, but the edge goes to Connor Cook’s experience at quarterback and Aaron Burbridge’s explosiveness at receiver. 

Fox’s pick: Michigan State 35–24

North Carolina vs. Clemson

ACC championship, Charlotte

North Carolina is still fighting for respect even after going 11-1. The only way to get it will be to beat Clemson. The Tar Heels are good, no doubt, but they haven’t faced a ranked team all year. There’s plenty of reason to have high hopes for an entertaining matchup between two explosive offenses, but Clemson simply has too much talent, and despite a close call with rival South Carolina, the Tigers have shown they’re not prone to much of a let down.

Fox’s pick: Clemson 42-28

Last week: 15-5

Season to date: 194-66