LAS VEGAS — After a wild party, there’s usually a hangover the next day. Jim Harbaugh is in his seventh year as Michigan head coach, and he waited a long time to celebrate a victory over Ohio State. So, after the Wolverines bashed the Buckeyes last week, will there be an emotional hangover?
A title game never should be a flat spot, especially when a College Football Playoff spot is on the line, but it’s fair to question whether Michigan will play at a similarly high level when it faces Iowa for the Big Ten championship Saturday in Indianapolis.
The Hawkeyes, who ascended as high as a No. 2 ranking in mid-October, grinded their way to 10 wins by running the ball, playing rock-solid defense and forcing mistakes. Iowa ranks third in the nation in turnover margin (+16) and takeaways (28).
Michigan’s offensive and defensive lines physically overpowered Ohio State, but Iowa is not a team that gets bullied up front. The Hawkeyes should be able to contain Wolverines running back Hassan Haskins, who busted loose for 169 yards and five touchdowns a week ago.
It’s not easy to bet against Michigan, which is 10-2 against the spread, but Iowa is a disrespected dog that finds ways to get in low-scoring, ugly games. Harbaugh will get the win, yet not without a sweat.
The pick: Iowa +11
Alabama (+6.5) over Georgia
The underdog has the better coach, Nick Saban, and the better quarterback, Bryce Young. The Bulldogs lead the nation in scoring defense by allowing 6.9 points per game, but Alabama’s offense presents a major challenge due to Young and a group of speed receivers capable of spreading the field and stretching the defense.
It’s not going to be stunning if Georgia rolls over the Crimson Tide for the SEC title. Still, it’s tough to turn down Saban, who has not been a dog since 2015, getting more than a field goal.
Wake Forest (+3) over Pittsburgh
Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett will start in the ACC title game despite missing practice with the flu early this week. Pickett has 40 touchdown passes and has put up Heisman Trophy-type numbers, but the Pitt defense is unlikely to stop quarterback Sam Hartman and the Demon Deacons’ high-scoring offense. The coaching edge goes to Wake’s Dave Clawson.
Utah State (+6) over San Diego State: The Aztecs, similar to Iowa, use an opportunistic defense to overcome their poor quarterback play. But the San Diego State defense was lit up by talented Mountain West passers such as Fresno State’s Jake Haener and Nevada’s Carson Strong. The Aggies are 6-0 on the road and led by veteran quarterback Logan Bonner, who has 32 touchdown passes.
Last week: 3-1; LSU (W), Penn State (L), North Texas (W), Notre Dame (W)