There are only a few weeks left in the college football season, and the College Football Playoff is right around the corner. After a few solid weeks, my picks have gone cold with back-to-back 4-6 weeks. Some close ones, some not so close ones. That’s how it goes!
Time to get back on track!
Army -7 vs Navy
For the first time since 1941, the “greatest rivalry in sports” will not be played at a neutral field. The 121st rendition of the Army/Navy game will be held in West Point at Michie Stadium. That gives Army home-field advantage, and they will be looking to avenge their 31-7 whooping at the hands of the Midshipmen last year. I think they do just that. Army is the better team this year, and Navy’s offense just hasn’t been anywhere near what it was last year. Navy has yet to find their go-to quarterback in their triple option offense, and that has created a ton of problems. They put up just 6 and 7 points in their last two games respectively, and Army’s defense is no slouch, so I think it is going to be very tough for Navy to find the end zone in this one. Army’s defense is in the top-10 nationally in total defense (4th-289.3 yards per game), passing yards (7th-170.3) and points allowed per game (8th-16.3). Navy’s offense is going to struggle. Army’s offense has been strong, putting up 37, 55, 14, 28, 49, and 28 points in their seven wins. Their two losses were against Cincinnati and Tulane, where they put up just 10 and 12 points in those games respectively. Those are two defenses with great front fours that are excellent against the run. Navy’s defense is terrible at stopping the run. They are giving up 212.6 yard per game on the ground, and Army is going for 296.3 a game. Navy has been solid against the pass, but Army rarely passes, and I don’t see that being a big factor in this game. These games are usually close, but Army is just better, and I think Army will have a little extra motivation after last years rough outing. Add in the fact that they will be playing at their home field, and I’m taking Army -7.
Illinois @ Northwestern Under 41
Illinois loves to run the ball. The Illini ground attack is putting up 210.2 yards per game, which is 2nd-best in the Big Ten. They have a very dynamic backfield with Chase Brown, Mike Epstein, and a mobile quarterback Brandon Peters. However, Epstein was sidelined last week with an injury, and has had injury problems in the past. If he is not able to go, it would be a big blow to the Illinois offense. Even if Epstein is able to go, the Northwestern defense presents a very tough challenge. The Wildcats are the sixth-best scoring defense in the country (15.3 points per game), and have played well all season. The Illinois offense struggled mightily when they faced the #1 scoring defense in the conference (Wisconsin), scoring just 7 points in the season opener. They were also held to 14 against Iowa (3rd in B1G scoring defense), before a last-minute garbage time TD put their total at 21 last week. I think NW’s defense will have a good day against the Illini. NW’s offense isn’t particularly electric compared to other Big Ten teams (9th scoring, 10th in rushing, 11th in passing), and they have scored 20 and 17 points in their last two games. In addition, the weather in Evanston on Saturday is going to be terrible. It’s going to be very cold and raining with temperatures in the low 40’s at kickoff and dropping down to into the 30’s as the game goes on. The wind will be swirling around 20 mph, and the kicking game could be a struggle for both teams. Pair that with a run-heavy Illinois offense and a great Northwestern defense, and I like the Under.
Georgia -13 @ Missouri
Missouri is playing well as of late, winning three games in a row, but I think Georgia will give them a rough go of it on Saturday. Missouri’s three wins during their streak are against South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas, teams with a combined record of 5-22. They manhandled Vandy 41-0, but struggled with South Carolina 17-10, and went down to the wire with Arkansas 50-48. Georgia is more talented than all three of those teams, and they will be well-rested as their game against Vandy was cancelled last weekend. J.T. Daniels seems to be the guy at quarterback now, and the Georgia offense has put up 31 and 45 points in Daniels’ two starts. Even though those games were against South Carolina and Mississippi State, that is still much-improved from the offense with Stetson Bennett at the helm. Given Daniels has had a week to get more comfortable with the system, and I think he has a solid day. RB’s Zamir White and James Cook have also been very good, and the Georgia rushing attack put up 332 rushing yards last week, so I think their offense will be balanced and able to move the ball down the field. I do like a lot of things about Mizzou’s defense, but after giving up 566 yards of total offense, along with 48 points to Arkansas last week, it makes me less confident—Especially with a rejuvenated Bulldog offense coming off a week of rest. Georgia’s defense has not been as good as we thought they would be coming into the season, but they are still 2nd in the SEC in yards per game with 338.1. I have been impressed with Mizzou freshman QB Connor Bazelak, but ultimately I think Georgia will be too much for the Tigers, resulting in both a win and cover for the Bulldogs.
LSU @ Florida Under 68.5
Florida has their game of the season next week in the SEC Championship Game against No. 1 Alabama. Like a lot of people in the country, I cannot wait for that game. But Florida does have a game against LSU this week before they face Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. Florida should win this game easily, as they are by far and away the better team, and they will not have to worry about style points. They’ve already won the SEC East and next week will determine their College Football Playoff fate. Kyle Trask and the Gator offense will put up their usual number of points (they are averaging 42 a game), and LSU’s offense has been shaky enough where they shouldn’t give Dan Mullen and his team too much to worry about. The quarterback position is still somewhat of a question mark for the Tigers, and their running game is averaging a miserable 3.2 yards per carry this season. Florida has gotten off to some slow starts in the first halves of their last three games (slow for their standards), but LSU’s defense just got torched by Alabama last week, and haven’t provided much resistance to their opponents this season. I think the Gators get up big, and will want to finish this game with two results: a win and their health. They will not risk leaving guys in too long if the game is already decided into the second half, and for those reasons I think this game stays Under.
North Carolina @ Miami (FL) Over 69.5
This is going to be a great game with some exceptional quarterback play. UNC’s Sam Howell and Miami’s D’Eriq King are both having tremendous seasons and leading their offenses to very strong numbers. The Tar Heels have the 5th-most yards per game in the country with 534.5, and are scoring 41.1 points per game. Their passing attack is what makes them special, but somewhat surprisingly, their running game is top-20 in the country with 218.6 yards per game. That presents a very balanced offense that is tough for anyone to stop. In the last six games, the only team to slow down UNC was No. 2 Notre Dame, and that was for one half. Miami’s defense is giving up 22 points per game, which is solid, and they are coming off a 49-0 shutout of Duke. But North Carolina is not Duke. This will be Miami’s toughest test defensively since the Clemson game where they gave up 550 yards of offense and 42 points. The Canes gave up 550 yards to Clemson, over 500 to Louisville, and over 400 to NC State, while North Carolina gave up 606 to Wake Forest, over 500 five different times, and are allowing over 400 on average to their opponents. Both offenses definitely have an advantage over the defenses in this one. I would say that although Miami’s defense has the edge over North Carolina’s defense, I just think Sam Howell and UNC’s offense will be able to have success and score points early and often. D’Eriq King and Miami’s offense should be able to do the same, as UNC’s defense is nothing special, and has been burned with mobile quarterbacks this season. I don’t really think settling for field goals will win this game, and even though it’s a high number, there is not much there to give me confidence in either defense giving much resistance to these offenses. This is going to be a wild game with a potential bid to the Orange Bowl on the line, so expect both teams to come out firing and to leave it all out on the field. Whoever has the ball last might come out on top in this shootout. I’m going with the Over.
Michigan State @ Penn State -14
Penn State absolutely cannot afford to end this season with another loss. After starting out an abysmal 0-5, Penn State has picked up back-to-back wins against Michigan and Rutgers and are now 2-5. Still not great, but I think they have finally woken up. For a program like this, after starting the season that bad, ending the season on a three-game winning streak would be a nice way to salvage at least something positive. Their defense seems to have finally put some things together, allowing just 7 and 17 points in those two wins. I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in this Michigan State offense, as they are 115th in the country in yards per game with 319.7, and have been held to 12 points or less in three of their last four games. The Spartans are very inconsistent, as they have solid wins over Northwestern and Michigan, but have also looked terrible against Rutgers, turning the ball over seven times. They also got completely shutout by Indiana, and got trounced by Iowa 49-7 and Ohio State 52-12. Their four losses have an average margin of defeat of 29.3 points, and I do not think they will win this game. I think Penn State not only wins this game, but does so convincingly. The Nittany Lions have not won at home this season, but I think they get it done big here. Penn State -14.
Louisiana Tech +21.5 @ TCU and Over 51
A rare 2020 non-conference game here as Louisiana Tech heads to TCU to take on the Horned Frogs. La Tech is 5-3 and could very well be playing for a bowl invite here. If they lose, there is no guarantee that at 5-4 they get invited, especially given the amount of bowl games that have been cancelled thus far. I think they’ll play hard from start to finish. They haven’t been exceptional this season, but their passing game is their strength, averaging 231.9 yards per game through the air, and their offense is managing over 30 points per game. On the other side of the ball, La Tech’s defense has given up at least 30 points in six of their eight games, and that’s against lesser competition in C-USA. TCU QB Max Duggan can really do it all. He is leading the team in both passing and rushing, as he has 1,635 passing yards and nine touchdowns, along with 513 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the season. Duggan and the TCU offense should have a big day, and I think TCU will be able to reach the 30-mark easily. I also think the Bulldogs will be able to put up enough points to push this one Over. The only times they have scored less than 20 points this season were against Marshall and BYU, and I think both of those defenses are better than TCU’s. I like the Over here, and I’m taking La Tech +21.5 as well. TCU has been terrible covering the spread as home favorites, going 5-21 ATS last their last 26 games as a home favorite. I think La Tech has what it takes to keep it within 21.5.
Wisconsin @ Iowa +2
Iowa has to be one of the hottest teams in the country right now. After losing their first two games by a total of five points, the Hawkeyes have rattled off five straight wins, and have scored over 25 points in all five games. Their offense is clicking, but they will be put to the test here against a Wisconsin defense that is #1 in the country in terms of yards allowed per game with 229.3. Granted, the Badgers have only played four games, but there is no denying just how special this defensive unit is for Wisco. They have surrendered just 12.3 points per game, and even in their two losses they gave up just 17 and 14 points. The problem has been their offense. In their first two games, the Badgers put up 45 and 49 points, but have since fallen off severely, scoring just 7 against Northwestern and 6 against Indiana. Those are two of the top defenses in the Big Ten (and country for that matter), so it was not going to be easy to put up points, but freshman QB Graham Mertz was not up for the task and the offense struggled mightily. They really miss a RB like Jonathan Taylor who is now in the NFL, and replacing him has been challenge. Now they have to face an Iowa defense that actually is not far behind the Badgers, and right up there among the best in the Big Ten with Northwestern and Indiana. The Hawkeyes are holding opponents to 17.3 points per game, and have not surrendered more than 24 since Week 1 against Purdue. Wisconsin just doesn’t appear to be very confident offensively, and even though the Badgers have dominated this series winning seven of the last ten matchups, I think Iowa gets it done here. They are rolling and will be at home, and I think motivation will be high to end the season with a win against their Big Ten rival. Iowa +2.
Auburn @ Mississippi State +7
Don’t make me pull up the Bo Nix home/away splits again. The guy is just a better quarterback at home, and struggles on the road. He is on the road here, and Auburn’s offense has averaged just 19 points per game in their four road games. Their highest-scoring road effort was 35 points against Ole Miss, who has the worst defense in the SEC, and the Rebels’ fast-paced offense leads to more possessions for both sides. Mississippi State’s defense is not the greatest out there, but they are 7th in the SEC in opponents yards per game allowing 389.8. That is actually better than Auburn’s defense, which is 9th in the SEC and giving up 418.8 yards per game. The Bulldogs are much better against the run, as they are 4th in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 116.8 yards/game on the ground. If Mississippi State can limit the Auburn rushing attack, I feel like Bo Nix will be asked to do a lot, and I don’t know if I am confident with Auburn in that situation. Offensively for Mississippi State, freshman Will Rogers seems to be getting better and better in the starting QB role, as his passing yardage has increased every single game: 120, 147, 226, 336, 440. He has 6 TD’s and 2 INT’s in five games, with both picks coming in his second game against Alabama, the No. 1 team in the country. The Bulldogs have scored 24 points in each of their last three games—which is a drastic uptick from their previous four games where they scored 0, 2, 14, and 14 points. They may have the worst running game in the country, but this Mike Leach passing attack seems to have gotten things together. Auburn’s defense has been prone to allowing some passing yards, as LSU, Arkansas, and Alabama eclipsed the 300-yard mark in the air, and did not really need too many completions to do it (LSU’s 28 was the most). Rogers has completed over 35 passes in three straight games, and I think he will have some success here at home against the Tigers. Overall, Bo Nix is less reliable on the road, and Mississippi State’s passing offense seems to be on the upswing. They are going to need a strong performance from their rushing defense, but I think they will be solid in this one. Give me the Fighting Mike Leach’s +7 at home.
Tennessee @ Vanderbilt Under 49
I imagine most people will be watching this game to see if Sarah Fuller gets to attempt a field goal or extra point, because other than that, unless you are a Volunteer or Commodore fan (or a gambler), I don’t expect this to be the most exciting game out there on Saturday. These are two of the worst offenses in the country. Tennessee has not been able to score, as in their last five games they are averaging just 14.6 points. They don’t know who their quarterback is, and they haven’t been able to put an offensive rhythm together hardly at all this season. Jarrett Guarantano has seen nothing but the bench since the Auburn game three weeks ago, and freshman Harrison Bailey got the start last week against the No. 6 Florida Gators, and Tennessee struggled to move the ball with him at the helm. Perhaps J.T. Shrout gets some playing time, but all we’ve seen from him is one pass for an interception against Kentucky, and then some garbage time against Florida last week (He did throw a last-minute TD pass for a backdoor cover on Florida, so I’m still a little salty about that). But overall, Tennessee just hasn’t shown much on offense, and even going up against a depleted Vandy defense, I am not very confident in the Vols offense here. Meanwhile, Vandy is scoring just 14.5 points per game for the season (yikes), and is coming off an embarrassing 41-0 loss to Mizzou. They got rid of head coach Derek Mason, and the program really seems to be in shambles. Much like the Vols, there is not much to be confident about right now. This should be a low-scoring game with limited offense, and I think it stays Under 49.
Title Photo: CBS Sports