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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, December 2, 2011 at 12:58 PM

I believe that Championship Weekend may be the single most important time for applying my Advanced Handicapping strategies in college football. Every game is chess on turf, with coaches and skill position players trying to find openings they can exploit to win a coveted title.

You’re generally going to get peak intensity from teams playing in a conference championship (though the occasional big favorite gets overconfident and plays flat). You’re generally going to get offenses and defenses going at full tilt for 60 full minutes because there’s no reason to pace yourself when your next game is still a few weeks away. To me, it’s all about X’s, O’s, and P’s.

You know what X’s and O’s are…those represent players on the chalkboard diagrams that head coaches use to draw up their formations and plays. P’s are PLAYMAKERS…the star athletes who often determine who wins and covers championship games.

During the regular season, I’m always encouraging you to count up the gamebreakers on each team so you can find talent mismatches. True mismatches like these are harder to find in conference championship games because you’re usually (note, I said “usually”) looking at quality teams who have established they can win games. What you would call “talent mismatches” aren’t as common. But, interestingly, having an edge of just one playmaker can mean the difference in a tight contest that has a relatively low Las Vegas spread.

Think of all the past championship games where a star quarterback (like Cam Newton of Auburn last year) or a star running back (many I could name in recent seasons) basically took over and led his team to a rout. You see, you don’t need five Cam Netwons to win a championship game. You only need one! Particularly if the opposing defense is ill-suited to stopping him.

So, that’s what I want you to focus on Friday Night and Saturday when you handicap the six conference championship games that are on this year’s card.

A: Who are the offensive and special teams playmakers?

B: Do the opponents have anyone who can stop them?

A superstar running back can be neutralized by a great run defense. A superstar quarterback can be completely taken out of his game by an aggressive pass rush (remember what Nebraska did to Colt McCoy two years ago?). But, if the defense CAN’T stop the playmaker…they’re going to be seeing a steady diet of him all game long.

Study the games from this particular perspective, and the winners just pick themselves. That’s no exaggeration. Good teams use their weaponry to the greatest extent when a championship is on the line. An opponent with poor defense against that weapon has no chance…and will get demolished. An opponent who’s defensive strengths line up perfectly with the weapon is well suited to win, and often score an upset if they’ve been installed as the underdog.

Note that this line of thinking will also help you pick the Over/Unders. If a strong offense is going to run wild…then they’re going to score a lot of points and take the game Over the Vegas total. If a strong defense is going to neutralize a star, then you’re looking at a much lower scoring game that may stay Under by double digits. There are only six championship games sitting on the board this weekend (seven if you count Oklahoma/Oklahoma State from the regular schedule in the Big 12). But, there are 12-14 betting options when you include the totals.

I hope today’s guidance from my College of Advanced Handicapping will help you pick winners in this weekend’s championship games. If you’d like some help, my plays can be purchased here at the website Friday afternoon and Saturday morning with your credit card. Be sure to check my videos for the latest news. I have scheduled another weekend article to discuss some Advanced tips for the NFL. It’s been awhile since we’ve talked about pro football on these pages. That installment should go up by late in the day Saturday.

December is absolutely LOADED with great sports betting opportunities in the NFL, in the college bowls, in college hoops (have you seen the big Saturday schedule?), and now even the NBA will join the fun around Christmas. My College of Advanced Handicapping will be running all month long with articles and videos to make sure you’re staying ahead of the Vegas oddsmakers

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