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ZeLO makes conference title and bowl game picks

I will come right out and say it: This week of college football is boring. Of the top-25 teams playing on Saturday, the average point spread is 14.7. That feels like Vegas telling you that you can turn your TV off and go for a walk.

Do not get me wrong, there are good games. No. 7 USC takes on No. 16 UCLA in a game that could eliminate USC from its playoff chase. No. 4 TCU is only a 2.5 favorite on the road against Baylor. And since when has a ranked, 21-point favorite Notre Dame not felt like a trap game?

But bar No. 6 LSU dropping the ball against 14.5 underdog UAB, this weekend feels short on drama. So instead of breaking down individual games I dub important, I would rather look ahead and predict conference championship weekend, the CFP and the NY6. If you want to know whom ZeLO thinks will win the Notre Dame BC game, you will have to check out the graphic made by our wonderful graphics department (spoiler: it’s Notre Dame).

Conference Championship Weekend

The Locks

The SEC and ACC have already been decided, with LSU and Georgia squaring off for the SEC while UNC and Clemson head to Charlotte. Not surprising to anyone, Georgia is ZeLO’s heavy favorite to make the title game, with the Bulldogs having a 70% chance of taking the crown. That snarling Bulldogs defense should be able to give LSU’s offense fits, especially after Arkansas slowed the Tigers significantly last week.

Meanwhile, the ACC should be a much more watchable game. Though the Tigers have been a favorite to win the crown all season, ZeLO has it as a close one. The Tigers still win; however, UNC’s atrocious defense (ranked 121st) will make DJ and the gang look better than they are.

Up for Grabs

The Big 12, Big 10, and Pac-12 are all still up for grabs. Here are the most likely pairings for each championship game:

ZeLO has TCU playing a rematch game against No. 15 Kansas State. The last time these two teams faced down, TCU needed to overcome an 18-point deficit, which they did with ease, winning 38-28.

Right now, ZeLO has TCU as the favorite, with a 22.4% chance of ending the season as an unbeaten regular season champ and conference champion. The Wildcats would love to ruin their chances.

The Big 10 will be the winner of Ohio State vs. Michigan and whoever wins the royal rumble that is the West. Four teams (Purdue, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota) are 4-3. Of those four, Purdue has the easiest strength of schedule and the best odds of winning out. Just who is Purdue playing, though? The Buckeyes are slightly favored over Michigan. This game may be skippable…

As for the Pac-12, ZeLO currently has Oregon facing off against UCLA. It is odd, but ZeLO has Oregon and UCLA winning out. Seeing as Oregon faces Utah this weekend and UCLA plays USC, those two teams should be heavily favored to make it to the conference championship.

I will add that that is an improbable scenario, but it is ZeLO’s. ZeLO has been high on UCLA and Oregon all season long, so it does not feel like a surprise that ZeLO would have these two competing for the title. If you do not like that scenario, I will do you one better. UCLA wins the crown. It is not my prediction; a spreadsheet made it. So, that leaves us with Georgia, TCU, Clemson, Ohio State and UCLA (yes, I know) as the conference champions.

Based on current CFP rankings and the ZeLO Prestige Rankings, the likeliest order would be Georgia, Ohio State, TCU and then Clemson, though there is a chance that the committee ousts Clemson for Tennessee.

Considering Tennessee is ZeLO’s fourth net-ranked team, this would be the more innovative move, though it would likely mean that TCU is bumped to fourth to avoid a repeat matchup.

NY6
Capital One Orange Bowl

Two teams claim to play in Death Valley, and both have Tiger mascots. That is right, ACC champion Clemson takes on SEC runner-up LSU, with Brian Kelly getting a rematch against Dabo Swinney.

Clemson has had an offensive down year and genuinely struggles on offense, ranking 42nd. LSU is by no means an offensive juggernaut, but their defense should be able to frustrate DJ Uiagalelei more than Clemson can Jayden Daniels.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Given Alabama’s high ranking but impossibility of making the CFP, the Cotton Bowl would be an excellent finish for the Tide. It might not be the season they wanted, but overall, it’s a good one.

The Group of 5 team is a harder prediction. Based on the committees’ current rankings, I am inclined to put UCF here. They rank 19th in ZeLO’s net rankings and are the second-highest Prestige Ranking Group of 5 team.

ZeLO has Coastal Carolina as a slightly better Prestige team, but that is forecasting the season’s end. For now, it is the Knights.

Now, UCF can finally try to prove they legitimately won a championship, like they did in 2017 (ZeLO thinks they won’t).

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Capital One

Because ZeLO is so high on UCLA, ZeLO has them as a strong contender to make the Rose Bowl. Fitting, as UCLA plans on becoming a part of the Big 10 soon. Why not give them a sample of their new competition in Michigan?

ZeLO thinks the Bruins might regret the switch.

Allstate Sugar Bowl

The most likely teams for the Sugar Bowl are Oklahoma State and Ole Miss, as both are strong teams who failed to make their conference championship.

CFP
Fiesta Bowl

Although TCU made the CFP, ZeLO has Georgia in another class of team. There are currently five teams for whom ZeLO has above 100 net points. TCU is on the outside looking in, sitting in sixth. As a result, the defending champion Bulldogs continue their defense.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

The Buckeyes are ZeLO’s No. 1 team and have been all season. Although Tennessee sits 4th in the net rankings, Ohio State makes it to the title game to face off against the Bulldogs.

CFP National Championship

Though ZeLO loves the Buckeyes, Georgia is simply an elite team. Georgia is currently the third-ranked team by net, boasting the sixth-best and seventh-ranked offense.

The only problem? Ohio State boasts the third-ranked offense and fifth-ranked defense. The Buckeyes pick up their ninth national championship and first under Ryan Day.

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@nd-hcc.edu.

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