We are into December and it may be getting colder, but the college football season is heating up. We’ve got some great showdowns this weekend, including 9-0 BYU traveling across the county to face 9-0 Coastal Carolina on two days notice. This college football season has been wild, and I absolutely love it. Embrace the craziness.
Last Week: 4-6
Let’s have a Saturday!
BYU @ Coastal Carolina Over 61.5
Starting off with what I think is the premier game in college football this weekend, we got BYU and Coastal Carolina. I am way too excited to watch this game. In a sport where games are often scheduled years in advance, having two days notice for a game of this magnitude is pretty wild, but that is the 2020 college football season for you. And what a game it should be. BYU’s offense is ridiculous, as they have put up at least 40 points in every single game except for one this season, and are averaging 47.6 a game. They have also managed 538.3 total yards of offense per game, good for 4th in the nation. Keep in mind, they have often led by so much that they call off the dogs in the second half, so is it crazy to think the offense might be better than those numbers say? Sure their level of competition hasn’t exactly been a juggernaut, but when the Cougars are on the field, they put up points. QB Zach Wilson is a monster, and even though Coastal’s “Black Swarm” defense is allowing just 16.8 points per game, I don’t see them holding BYU’s offense to anything near that number. Meanwhile, Coastal Carolina has put up at least 30 points in seven of their nine games. QB Grayson McCall is also a stud, and can run just as effectively as he can pass. I see that being an issue for BYU’s defense, who has been great this season (13.9 points per game), but McCall is without a doubt the toughest QB they have faced. McCall and the balanced Coastal offense could be hard for BYU to figure out, especially after traveling over 2,000 miles on short notice to face them. Bottom line–both defenses have been elite, but have not faced the kind of offenses they will face here. I think both offenses are too good to get shut down by any stretch, and the extremely limited prep time could be a disadvantage for both defenses trying to figure out these dynamic offenses. I think we get a very exciting and entertaining game with lots of points. Might be a track meet out there on the teal turf. Over 61.5.
Texas @ Kansas State +7
Is Tom Herman coaching for his job in this game? I’m not sure, but things are not looking good at the moment. Texas is coming off an extremely disappointing loss on their senior night to Iowa State, and have no shot at the Big 12 championship game because of it. Not only that, but safety Caden Sterns and OT Samuel Cosmi have opted out this week to prep for the NFL Draft. Those are two of their best overall players and two team captains. It has already been an underwhelming season for Texas, and morale could be low for the Longhorns. For Kansas State, they are currently 4-5, but I think playing at home to reach the .500 mark in their season finale can be motivation enough. After winning four in a row in the first half of the season, the Wildcats have now lost four in a row, but I think they are due for a solid outing. The Wildcat offense has looked rather sluggish in their four-game losing streak, but they were able to run for 256 yards and put up 31 points last week against Baylor, and I think RB Deuce Vaughn and the running game as a whole can replicate that success in this one. I like K-State +7 here. Interesting note: All three Texas road games this season have gone into OT. Would be crazy if that stat goes to 4/4.
Florida -17 @ Tennessee
As of right now, Kyle Trask has to be the front-runner for the Heisman. He is averaging 351.3 passing yards per game, has 34 touchdowns and just three interceptions all season. He is leading an offense that is scoring 43.4 points per game, and who has yet to score below 34. Not only that, but stud TE Kyle Pitts (Trask’s favorite target) returned from his concussion last week, and all he did was have 99 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The Trask-to-Pitts combo is extremely dangerous, especially in the red zone. Nobody has been able to slow down this Florida offense, and I don’t see that changing with Tennessee. Trask will want to cement himself at the top of the Heisman race, and Florida can clinch the SEC East with a win, and I think they will do so convincingly. Tennessee has struggled so much lately, and they have lost five games in a row, all by double digits. The average margin of defeat in those games is 21 points. Senior QB Jarrett Guarantano has not been good, and has even gotten benched earlier this season. He has an extremely tough task in this one, as Florida leads the SEC in sacks with 23, so there is a good chance he is pressured and taken down a lot. Even if the Vols turn things over to freshman QB Harrison Bailey, there is nothing right now to show that there should be any confidence in this offense hanging with Florida at all. The Vols are just not equipped for a shootout, and could be missing a number of guys due to covid protocols. Under Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee has lost by 26 and 31 to Florida, and this Florida team is way better than they were in those two games, and I think Tennessee has taken a step back. I think the Gators win big and I’m taking them -17.
Alabama -29 @ LSU
Nick Saban revenge mode has been activated. After missing last week’s game, Nick Saban will be back on the sidelines with his No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide on Saturday night in Baton Rouge. Remember last year when LSU beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa after losing eight matchups in a row and then went on to win the National Championship? I can’t help but feel like Saban is still sick from that loss and will have his team ready to light the Tigers up this year. There was also some serious chirping going on after that game if I remember correctly, so that might be in the back of Alabama’s minds as well. Obviously LSU is not the same team they were a year ago, and this is a big spread to cover, but I’m putting my money on Saban and the Tide. Saban by far and away has the more talented team, and this Bama offense is destroying everyone in their path. LSU’s defense has been less than great all season, and they rank 13th in the SEC at stopping the pass. Mac Jones will be letting it fly early and often. Bama puts up well over 45 points a game, and I think they reach that number easily. Defensively, the Tide have really stepped up since that Ole Miss track meet in early October. Since that game, the Tide held Georgia scoreless in the 2nd half, allowed just 17 to Tennessee, and did not surrender a touchdown for two straight games against Mississippi State and Kentucky. They then held their other heated rival Auburn to 13 points in a 42-13 rout, covering the 25.5 point spread. This spread for this one is even bigger at 29, but I still think Saban and the Tide are going to pour it on. Alabama has won five games by at least four touchdowns this season, and have covered the spread in five straight games, with the last four being spreads being 21.5, 29, 31.5, and 25.5. Add in a little extra motivation to reclaim their stranglehold on this rivalry and avenge last years loss, and the Tide roll easily. -29 it is.
Texas A&M @ Auburn Over 48.5
Bo Nix is a far better QB at home than he is on the road. I have raised this point before, but I think it’s worth repeating. He loves playing at Jordan-Hare. Just look at his career home-and-away splits:
- Home: 62.9 CMP%, 15 TD, 1 INT, 4.4 YPC
- Away: 55.5 CMP%, 8 TD, 10 INT, 2.2 YPC
This season alone he has a 64.8 CMP% at home compared to 58.7 on the road. He has thrown 8 TD’s and 1 pick at home, while throwing just 2 TD’s and 6 picks on the road. He’s just better at home. In addition, the Tiger offense as a whole is better at home. This season they are averaging 34.3 points and 6.4 yards/play at home, compared to 19.0 points and 4.99 yards/play on the road. For those reasons, along with a heightened sense of urgency after a tough showing last week at Alabama, I think the Auburn offense bounces back. On the other side, the Texas A&M offense also struggled last week, putting up just 20 points in a 20-7 win over LSU. But to be fair, it was their first game in three weeks and it was a full-on monsoon during the game. They put up over 40 points in three of the four games before their season was halted, and the wet conditions made it tough to move the ball for both teams last week. The weather looks more ideal Saturday in Auburn, and I think after getting an ugly game out of the way, the A&M offense will look better here. QB Kellen Mond has been fairly inconsistent, but he is not turning the ball over, as he has 16 TD’s and just two interceptions on the season. The A&M rushing attack is also 2nd in the SEC with 185.3 yards per game, while Auburn’s rushing defense is 10th in the SEC. Sophomore RB Isaiah Spiller has reached the 100-yard mark in four of his last five games, and I think he has a big day in this one. Defensively, Auburn has been solid at times, but has really struggled on third down. The Tigers are allowing an SEC-worst 54% of third down conversions to their opponents, and Texas A&M is the #5 team in the nation on third down. That could be a problem for Auburn. I see A&M being able to move the ball and keep the Tiger defense on the field. Keep in mind, Tennessee’s abysmal offense was able to put up 464 yards against Auburn’s defense. That’s more than Alabama had last week (445). I think all of this favors an Over with a fairly low number.
Nebraska @ Purdue -1
This might not be the sexiest matchup out there on Saturday, as Nebraska is 1-5, and Purdue is 2-3 having lost three in a row, but I like Purdue in this spot. The Boilermakers have been very impressive throwing the ball this season, as they lead in the Big Ten in passing with 304 yards per game, and are putting up 27.2 points per game. QB Aidan O’Connell was playing well, but then he went down with an injury, and Jack Plummer has filled in very nicely. He is completing 71.4% of his passes, averaging 7.8 yards per attempt, and has five touchdowns with two interceptions. It also helps to have a guy like Rondale Moore on your offense to make electric plays left and right. So, I’m not concerned with the Purdue passing game. The problem has been their running game, as they only run for 98.2 yards per game (13th in Big Ten). The good news is that Nebraska cannot stop the run. The Huskers are giving up over 200 yards per game on the ground, and just got lit up by Illinois, who ran for 285 yards and four touchdowns against them. So, I don’t see Purdue having an issue moving the ball either through the air or on the ground. Defensively for the Boilermakers, they are not great—giving up 28.4 points per game. However, again the good news is that they are not facing a daunting opponent offensively. Nebraska has struggled to move the ball in all six of their games, and are only putting up 21 points per game. The QB position is still an issue, as Luke McCaffrey and Adrian Martinez have proven that they can run, but they haven’t shown any downfield passing attack hardly at all. Although Purdue struggles to run, Nebraska struggles even more trying to stop the run. The key will be Purdue balancing the run with their pass-heavy offensive attack. Rondale Moore will be the best player on the field in this one, and I think Purdue’s passing attack outscores Nebraska’s offense giving the Boilers a win for the first time in over a month. Boilers -1.
Memphis @ Tulane Over 63
These teams know how to put up points. Memphis is averaging 33.1 points per game this season and Tulane is averaging 35.4. Memphis has the advantage in the passing game, as they are throwing for 325.3 yards per game (11th in the country), and Tulane’s passing defense has been weak all season. The Green Wave are 109th in the country at stopping the pass, and I think senior Memphis QB Brady White, who has 24 TD’s and just 6 INT’s this season, is going to find some success through the air. Memphis managed just 10 points in their last outing against Navy, as both teams went scoreless in the second and third quarters, but I don’t see that happening here. Tulane’s weak passing defense will give Memphis opportunities, and I see the Tigers bouncing back offensively and having a strong day. Offensively for Tulane, QB Michael Pratt continues to have a solid freshman campaign, accounting for 21 total TD’s. The Tulane running game is their strength though, as they are 2nd in the AAC with 224.3 yards per game. Memphis’ rushing defense is strong, but I still think Tulane’s running game is good enough to find a way to move the ball. Even if they aren’t, Memphis’ passing defense is last in the AAC allowing 313.3 yards/game through the air, so Pratt and Tulane should have some success throwing as well. In addition, this will be Tulane OC Will Hall’s last game with the program, as he has accepted the head coaching job at Southern Miss. I feel like he is going to want to leave New Orleans and his Tulane offense on a high note with a lot of points. In the last three matchups between these two teams, the winning team has scored 56, 40, and 47 points, and I think this game will be close from start to finish. It might be a back-and-forth race to 40 to determine the winner. Give me a shootout and the Over.
South Carolina @ Kentucky -11
You think Kentucky is happy to not be playing Florida or Alabama this week? The Wildcats went on the road in back-to-back weeks to face the No. 1 and No. 6 teams in the country, and suffered big losses with a combined score of 97-13. They gotta be revving to go now that they are back at home and facing a 2-7 South Carolina team that is pretty much in shambles. The Gamecocks haven’t been able to sustain much offensive success, as they have been out gained in eight of their nine games this season. Sure they put up 42 against Ole Miss and 41 against Vandy, but those are the bottom two defenses in the SEC. In the games where they don’t play those bottom-level defenses, the Gamecocks are scoring just 19.1 points per game. Kentucky’s defense is much stronger, and the Wildcats are actually 5th in the SEC in total defense, and are 2nd in the conference against the pass. I do think that freshman QB Luke Doty is an upgrade from Colin Hill, but with some offensive players out due to covid protocols and top WR Shi Smith questionable with a concussion, it’s difficult to bank on Doty lighting it up against the Wildcats. Especially given the fact that he is a freshman learning the system, and the Gamecocks have an interim head coach in Mike Bobo after firing Will Muschamp. Not exactly a great scenario for a freshman QB going on the road against a strong defense. For Kentucky, the Wildcats run the ball well (175.9 yards/game, 4th in the SEC), and have a tremendous offensive line which is ranked #5 in the country according to PFF. They don’t have any downfield passing threats, and are last in the SEC in passing yards per game at 115.9, but South Carolina’s defense is terrible against the run (184.4 yards/game, 12th in SEC), so I don’t see the Wildcats needing to throw too much in this one. The running game keeps the clock moving, and I think Kentucky will be able to control the clock and time of possession putting them in control of the game. In addition, the Wildcats are lights out covering the spread at home, going 9-2 ATS in their last 11 home games. I think that trend will continue with a win and cover for Kentucky at home here. Cats -11.
West Virginia @ Iowa State -6.5
Both of these defenses are great. WVU is leading the Big 12 in total defense, giving up just 274 yards per game to their opponents. However, they are not nearly as good on the road as they are at home. For starters, they are 5-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. In five home games, they have held every opponent to under 295 yards of offense. However, in three games on the road, they gave up 342, 348, and 363 yards of total offense. It should also be noted, their home schedule was also more favorable than their road schedule. Home games for WVU included FCS Eastern Kentucky, 0-8 Kansas, 2-5 Baylor, 4-4 TCU, and 4-5 K-State. No teams with winning records. Road games saw matchups with 6-2 Oklahoma State, 3-6 Texas Tech, and 5-3 Texas. The Mountaineers lost all three. So, they are taking care of business against lesser teams at home, but have struggled away from home against quality opponents—which is the situation they find themselves in here. Iowa State has yet have under 300 yards of total offense in a game this season, and given the Mountaineers defensive struggles on the road, I think the Cyclone offense has a strong outing. QB Brock Purdy and RB Breece Hall are as good of a QB-RB combo out there, and head coach Matt Campbell might be one of the most underrated coaches in college football. Purdy hasn’t been as great as expected this season, but he has turned things around in recent weeks, throwing for 548 yards in his last two games with 4 TD’s and no picks. The Iowa State defense is not far behind WVU, as the Cyclones are 3rd in total defense in the Big 12, and the last time they played at home they completely shut out K-State and out gained the Wildcats by 390 yards. Iowa State controls their own destiny in the Big 12, and a win could land them in the Big 12 title game. Motivation will be high and I like the Cyclones at home. ISU -6.5.
Iowa @ Illinois +13.5
Illinois has been able to run the ball very well this season. They are second in the Big Ten in rushing, just behind Ohio State, and in their last two games they have put up 337 and 285 rushing yards respectively. Both of those games resulted in wins against Rutgers and Nebraska. The Illini dominated Nebraska in Lincoln 41-23, and their defense really played well by forcing five turnovers. The running game continues to be their greatest strength though, as RB’s Chase Brown (5.9 YPC) and Mike Epstein (6.1 YPC) lead the way. They also have a mobile QB in Brandon Peters (15 carries, 111 yards, TD), who returned to the starting role against Nebraska and had a great day. He completed 72% of his passes for 202 yards and a touchdown. I just think this is very tough offense to stop when the ground game is working, and Peters’ throwing ability can help to keep the Hawkeyes on their toes. I also really like WR Josh Imatorbhebhe (15 receptions, 215 yards, 2 touchdowns) on the outside to help keep a defense honest. The Hawkeyes come in riding a four-game winning streak, but I think the Illini can give them a run for their money. The Iowa offense is not quite on the level of the Illini, as they are 12th in the Big Ten in total yards, but they can be opportunistic, as they are scoring 31.8 points per game. The only problem that may arise is that their passing game is not a major threat, as they are 12th in the conference in passing, and QB Spencer Petras is completing just 56.2% of his passes, and has more interceptions (5) than TD’s (4). The Illini defense isn’t great though, so they will need to step up and perhaps force some turnovers like they did against Nebraska. Overall, I think Illinois’ running game helps them control the clock while picking their spots to throw downfield in order to cover the spread at home. Illini +13.5.
Title Photo: Rick Bowmer / USA Today Network
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