Another college football Saturday is upon us, and it’s time for some more winning picks (hopefully). There are some fascinating matchups this week across all conferences, and I think it will be a very entertaining weekend in the college football world.
Last Week: 7-2-1
Appalachian State @ Coastal Carolina -5
This is the Sun Belt game of the year. Appalachian State is 6-1 and have won four Sun Belt Championships in a row. However, Coastal Carolina is ready to take them down. The Chanticleers are 7-0 and gaining national attention, as they are ranked No. 15 in the country. Pretty hard to believe they were picked to finish last in the Sun Belt East division in the pre-season poll. The Chants are firing on all cylinders, and bring a balanced offense to the table that can strike at any moment. QB Grayson McCall has 16 touchdowns and just one interception, and has ran for 274 yards and four touchdowns as well. They are putting up 37.9 points per game, while holding opponents to 16.9. App State’s offense struggled last week, putting up just 17 points, and they will be without star RB Daetrich Harrington who is out for the season with a foot injury. They could also be missing starting QB Zac Thomas, who took a nasty hit out of bounds last week against Georgia State, and was sent to a local hospital. The hospital visit was just a precaution, and there is a chance that he plays this week, but if he does not, back-up QB Jacob Huesman will be asked to lead the Mountaineers against a stellar Chanticleer defense. Coastal’s “Black Swarm” defense has been one of the best units in the country, allowing just 16.3 points per game (11th in FBS), and have limited opponents to only 309.6 total yards and 174.9 passing yards per game. Both marks rank in the top-15 nationally. Coastal is 0-6 all-time against App State, but I think they get a convincing win at home on their teal turf to continue their historic season. Chants -5.
Indiana +21 @ Ohio State
Along with Coastal Carolina, Indiana has become one of the darlings of this college football season. The Hoosiers are 4-0 and have played themselves into a top-10 ranking, coming in at No. 9. QB Michael Penix Jr. is having a tremendous season, as he is leading the Big Ten in passing yards with 1,070. He also has 9 TD’s and just 3 INT’s. As just a sophomore, he is one of college football’s rising stars. Penix is surround by solid offense weapons like Stevie Scott III, Ty Fryfogle, Whop Philyor, and Peyton Hendershot, who make for a very dynamic Hoosier offense. Ohio State comes in at No. 3 in the country, and after cruising offensively in their first three games, putting up 52, 38, and 49 points, things came to a halt last week as their game against Maryland was cancelled. Could that have an effect on their offensive rhythm? Maybe, and I think Indiana has the defense to give OSU problems, as IU leads the Big Ten in sacks. They also completely shut out Michigan State last week. Overall, I think 21 points is pretty disrespectful to IU, and I think head coach Tom Allen will have his guys ready to roll and give OSU a run for their money.
Illinois +15 @ Nebraska
I really like Illinois in this spot. Both teams are pretty slow offensively, and haven’t been able to have much success. Nebraska is averaging 20 points per game, and the Fighting Illini are averaging just 17. Not exactly high-flying offenses. However, I do think Illinois has an advantage in the running game. Illinois is putting up 206.8 rushing yards per game, and broke through with 337 last week. They have multiple effective runners in RB’s Chase Brown and Mike Epstein, as well as QB’s Coran Taylor and Isaiah Williams, who was the Big Ten Freshman of the Week last week. Those are some pretty dynamic playmakers, and Nebraska is giving up 202.7 rushing yards per game, so I don’t see them giving this Illini rushing attack much resistance. I think that’s a good matchup for Illinois. Offensively, Nebraska has turned to Luke McCaffrey as their starting QB, and although he has been solid, especially running the ball, I don’t think he has shown much of a downfield passing game, and that can be a problem with a big spread like this against a good running team. Nebraska has been outscored 69-6 in the second half through three games this season, so if they aren’t able to build a big early lead, this one could be a lot closer than expected. I think the Fighting Illini give the Huskers a good contest. Illini +15.
Tennessee @ Auburn -10
Bo Nix loves playing at home. Nix was far better when playing in his home stadium last season, and the trend has continued into this season. Check out these splits for this season:
- Road games: 1-2 record, 58.1 CMP%, 2 TD, 4 INT, 5.9 YPA, 8 sacks, 106.2 rating
- Home games: 3-0 record, 64.6 CMP%, 7 TD, 0 INT, 9.1 YPA, 4 sacks, 170.4 rating
It’s truly a home field advantage. The Tennessee defense hasn’t been anything special, and I think Nix will have a solid game here. The Auburn offense has some momentum as well, as they have managed both 200 yards rushing and receiving in each of their last three games, and are coming off their best performance of the season with a big day against LSU. The Tigers have won two in a row, whereas Tennessee has lost four in a row. The Volunteers are really spiraling. They don’t really know who their quarterback is going to be, and they have only managed 300+ total yards in one of their last four games during the losing streak. I like Bo Nix at home against a Tennessee team that is a little lost right now, and I think just about everything points to Auburn winning this one by at least two scores.
LSU @ Arkansas Over 63
The much-improved Arkansas Razorbacks (3-4) host the much-deteriorated LSU Tigers (2-3) in Fayetteville with both teams looking to reach the .500 mark. I think there will be a lot of points in this game. LSU’s offense has been steady this season, scoring 35.8 points per game, but they scored just 11 in their last game against Auburn. However, that game was three weeks ago way back on Oct. 31. The time off hopefully gave young freshman QB TJ Finley and the Tiger offense some time to regroup and put it all together. LSU has the 13th ranked passing offense in the nation, and the Arkansas pass defense has not been great, ranking 77th in yards allowed at 245.4 yards per game. I see LSU using their time off to put together a good game plan to put up some points here. Offensively for Arkansas, Feleipe Franks is having a great season, throwing for over 200 yards in every game this season, along with 16 TD’s and just three picks. He has a good chance of success in this game, as LSU is second-to-last in the SEC in total defense (just ahead of Ole Miss), and dead-last in passing yards per game with 335.2, which is 123rd in the nation. I think Franks will be able to move the ball effectively and help the Razorbacks find the end zone frequently. I think both teams will air it out, leading to a high-scoring game and an Over.
Kentucky @ Alabama Under 58
Kentucky has one of the worst offenses in the country. They are last in the SEC and 116th in the country with just 317.6 total yards per game. They do not have good quarterback play at all, and usually stick to the ground game, which isn’t as bad (195 yards per game). However, they utterly lack any firepower and downfield threats, which make them very one-dimensional. Alabama’s defense has really picked it up, allowing just 17 points in their last ten quarters. Not a lot of optimism for the Wildcat offense here. Alabama’s offense is quite literally the exact opposite of Kentucky’s. QB Mac Jones is in the Heisman race, and their offense is putting up 47.2 points per game, which is 3rd-best in the country. The Tide haven’t played in three weeks, and I think they will come out firing in the first quarter. I imagine them getting up early, then sticking with the run and focusing on defense in the second half. Kentucky’s defense is actually fairly strong, as they can force turnovers and are holding opponents to 21.3 points per game. I don’t think that will necessarily change the outcome of the game, but it could help the total stay Under, especially if Bama gets up big and puts it on cruise control in the second half. I like the Under.
Cincinnati @ UCF +6 and Over 65
This is going to be a great game. Cincinnati has a great defense, but this will be the best offense they face. UCF has a great offense, but this will be the best defense they face. Cincinnati is running roughshod through the AAC, winning their seven games this season by an average of 29 points. They’re even faking punts in the 4th quarter up by 32. I love it. The Bearcats are tremendous on both sides of the ball, as they are scoring 41.6 points per game, and allowing just 12.4 points per game. Led by QB Desmond Ridder, the Bearcats have put up 513, 510, and 653 total yards in their last three games. I don’t think the UCF defense is going to be able to slow them down much. Cincy runs the ball extremely well (247.1 yards per game), and UCF is awful against the run, allowing 189.4 yards per game on the ground, 88th in the country. And as good as Cincy’s defense is, I think UCF will do what they do best: play fast and get lots of yards. The Knights have the #1 offense in the country, putting up 619.1 yards per game. That is insane. Even if Cincinnati is able to slow them down, that would mean UCF gets maybe 500 yards instead of 600. In UCF’s worst game this season, the Knights were still able to put up 455 yards of total offense against No. 25 Tulsa. They have over 600 yards of offense in five of their seven games. Give me lots of points in this one, and the Over of 65.
In terms of the spread, EVERYONE is going to be on the Bearcats to win this one easy, which is why I’m fading them and going with the Knights. In this game last season, Cincy came away with a 27-24 win at home, but UCF out gained Cincy 423-341, had 29 first downs compared to Cincy’s 18, and were better on third down. All of that with Cincy leading time of possession 31:52-28:08. The problem was the turnovers, as Dillon Gabriel threw 3 picks and the Knights also lost a fumble. This season, Gabriel hasn’t thrown a pick in his last four games (144 pass attempts), and has thrown 14 TD’s in that span. I think he continues his hot streak and has a big day. I think UCF will be ready to show that they are better than their 5-2 record, and that the AAC still goes through Orlando. It might be somewhat of a bold pick, but I think the Knights will give Cincy a fight and keep it within the six point spread (and maybe pull off the upset)? Who knows.
Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma -7
Bedlam is back! Chuba Hubbard and the 5-1 Cowboys head to Norman to take on Spencer Rattler and the 5-2 Sooners. Oklahoma is scoring at will this season, putting up 46.1 points per game, and over 500 yards of offense each week. They have put up 62 points in each of their past two games, and are clicking at the right time. They are coming fresh off a bye week, and should be plenty rested for this contest. Oklahoma State does have a solid defense which is 2nd in the Big 12 in yardage (311.5) and points (17.8), but I think OU will be able to speed them up a bit and put some points on the board. For the OKST offense, they haven’t exactly been what we thought they would be coming into this season, and injuries and inconsistency have slowed them down. Star RB Chuba Hubbard had to leave the game against Kansas State, and although it looks like he will play in this one, it doesn’t appear he will be at 100%, and the Oklahoma rushing defense is much-improved. The Sooners are 14th in the nation against the run, and a banged up Hubbard might have some problems finding some running lanes—especially with how much OKST has mixed and matched their offensive line. WR Tylan Wallace also missed some practice time this week, so his availability could have an effect on the downfield passing game as well. QB Spencer Sanders has been very inconsistent thus far, and only has 5 touchdowns with three picks through six games. I don’t think the Cowboys have the firepower to hang with the Sooners on the road, so I’m taking OU -7.
Iowa @ Penn State +2
This might seem crazy, but hear me out: As bad as Penn State has looked, the Nittany Lions have out gained three of their four opponents, two of them by more than 200 yards. The one exception was Ohio State. Their defense looked a lot better last week against Nebraska, holding them to under 300 yards of offense. Iowa cannot throw the ball very well, and their passing offense has gotten worse each week. After putting up 265 yards through the air in Week 1, the Hawkeyes have managed just 216, 179, and 111 passing yards in their last three games. I think that makes them a little one-dimensional with the run, and I think Penn State will be ready. Sure the quarterback position is a bit of a question mark, but the way I see it, Sean Clifford will be on a short leash so there will be a lot of pressure to perform, and even if he doesn’t, backup Will Levis held his own last week, throwing for over 200 yards and rushing for 62 more. Clifford has the talent to turn things around, and if he doesn’t, I think Levis provides a solid #2 option. Penn State has to turn things around eventually, and I think they will play a lot better at home this week, and I’ll take the two points.
Mississippi State @ Georgia Under 45
Remember when Mississippi State put up 44 points and K.J. Costello threw for over 600 yards in their season opening win against LSU? Well, this Bulldog offense has not even sniffed that much success since then. Since that game, MSU has scored 14, 2, 14, 0, and 24 points, and the 24 came last week against lowly Vanderbilt. Bottom line–Mississippi State hasn’t been able to put up points in the last five weeks, especially against better defenses. They had zero points and two points against Alabama and Kentucky respectively. Georgia’s defense is not going to have any problems with MSU in this one. Georgia’s offense is not terrible, but they aren’t exactly a juggernaut, as they rank 76th in total yards, 83rd in passing yards per game, 58th in rushing yards per game, and 62nd in points per game. However, J.T. Daniels is expected to get his first start at Georgia, so maybe that will spark something offensively, but I am always weary with a new QB in his first game in a new system. Pair that with MSU’s awful offense and Georgia’s solid defense, and I think we get an Under here.
Title Photo: Nick Masuda / The Post and Courier