CFB betting preview: Group of 5 conference championships

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We finished last week's Thanksgiving feast of games strong at 8-7, giving us an 81-63-4 record for the regular season. When you add some of our underdog moneyline wins, we cashed approximately +15 units this season depending on your market entry point.

However, this is conference championship weekend. While it may mean more to the players, coaches, and alumni, it's no different for us. We don't need to make a big bet on any game, but if you're looking to try a side in the Group of 5 title games, here's my take.

C-USA championship:
Western Kentucky @ No. 22 UTSA (+1, 71.5)

We've liked both teams this season and were on UTSA in the first matchup, a 52-46 Road Runners win in Bowling Green. However, I like the Hilltoppers to get their revenge.

Western Kentucky had just played three smash-mouth-style games against Army, Indiana, and Michigan State, so a track meet with UTSA was a big ask early in the season. They'll have more success in the trenches on both sides of the ball this time around, and Bailey Zappe won't have the same hobble he came into that game with. WKU has a better chance to deal with UTSA's dynamic duo in Sincere McCormick and Frank Harris, so when WKU puts up 30 second-half points, it'll be to stretch a lead versus making a comeback.

The line move from WKU as home favorites to short underdogs happened almost instantly on Sunday's open. That's the right move.

Pick: WKU -1

MAC championship:
Kent State vs. Northern Illinois (+3, 73.5)

The Kent State defense doesn't stop anyone. Their special teams are nothing to write home about either, so Rocky Lombardi's offense should have ample opportunity to keep up with Dustin Crum.

If this game was still lined close to Kent State -1, then I'd lean that way, but knowing that Northern Illinois always finds the advantage in the dark areas, I would take the points with the Huskies.

Pick: Northern Illinois +3

MWC championship:
Utah State @ No. 21 San Diego State (-5.5, 50.5)

Utah State is the surprise participant of this whole group, and while we give them credit for that, the Aztecs are capable of shutting them down. You can only play the teams on your Mountain West schedule, but Utah State avoided SDSU, Nevada, and Fresno State this season, which is an incredible stroke of luck.

San Diego State has in-conference wins over Nevada and Boise State, along with an early season win over Utah, so I'm willing to bet SDSU will be on another level over the Aggies.

Pick: SDSU -5.5

Sun Belt championship:
Appalachian St. @ Louisiana-Lafayette (+3, 53)

The line for this game is moving in the opposite direction, but I'm more likely to let it climb than to jump on App State. Ragin' Cajuns coach Billy Napier is headed to Florida, but even if his on-field decision-making leaves something to be desired, the team will still be invested in the outcome of this game.

This is my least favorite play on the Group of 5 board, but I'll take my chances with a field goal in my pocket.

Pick: ULL +3

AAC championship:
No. 24 Houston @ No. 4 Cincinnati (-10.5, 53.5)

This is my favorite bet of these five. No one should want Cincinnati to lose this game. I'm not saying they will, I'm just saying their final step toward the College Football Playoff isn't going to be an easy one with Dana Holgorsen's group coming up the hill to Nippert Stadium, presumably with tricks up their sleeve and nothing to lose.

The Cougars are long branded as the high-octane offense, but this season it's been the defense leading the way. Ninth in the country in opponent's rush yards per carry at 3.02, Houston hasn't lost since its first game of the season. While the Bearcats' defense has the better NFL-ready talent, it would be surprising if either team were able to move the ball up and down the field - even with the veteran presence of both Desmond Ridder and Clayton Tune at quarterback.

If the Cougars are going to spoil the Bearcats' party, the offense will have to be better than it has been, even though it has putt up no less than 28 points in every game since that Week 1 loss. However, given the double-digit line in this game, we're not asking them to be explosive on Saturday, just good enough to give Cinci a scare.

Pick: Houston +10.5

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

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CFB betting preview: Group of 5 conference championships
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