Spread picks for Week 12's biggest college football games
Last week was supposed to be the calm before the storm, but the reality is it was the actual storm. Five top-10 teams suffered losses, and Louisville went into the fourth quarter down 12-10 to might Wake Forest. This week’s slate of games is lessened significantly by the SEC’s annual “FCS Challenge,” but we still have a number of crucial games before rivalry week next week.
No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 14 West Virginia
Line: Oklahoma, -3
While West Virginia’s willingness to often send just three or four pass-rushers and drop the rest of the defense back into coverage has frustrated otherwise uber-productive QBs like Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, accomplishing this against Oklahoma appears less likely. Sooners QB Baker Mayfield is second in the country in both completion percentage (62.2 percent) and QB rating (133.3) when holding onto the ball for at least 2.6 seconds, and has thrown 20 touchdowns to just four picks. Oklahoma should survive this road trip, and set up an epic showdown with rival Oklahoma State next week.
Prediction: Oklahoma 34, West Virginia 24
No. 22 Washington State at No. 10 Colorado
Line: Colorado, -4.5
Seeing an under/over set at 60 may come as a shock with Washington State involved, but the Buffaloes defense had a five game stretch of giving up 17 points or less broken last week when Arizona managed two garbage time score in the fourth quarter after entering the final frame down 42-10. Unfortunately for the Cougars, WR River Cracraft tore his ACL last week against Cal, and his 12.7 yards per reception on 53 catches will be sorely missed. Colorado’s stud CB Chidobe Awuzie is likely to matchup against Washington State’s top receiver, Gabe Marks, and Awuzie has not given up more than two receptions in a game since September. Tavares Martin Jr. showed against Boise State in week two that he is capable of producing when called upon (12 receptions on 15 targets for 158 yards and five forced missed tackles), but he’ll face a very tough matchup this week against Colorado’s other star CB, Ahkello Witherspoon. Washington State is right now playing significantly better than they did early in the season and seems worthy of a much higher ranking, but the Buffaloes’ secondary makes this a difficult matchup for the Cougars.
Prediction: Colorado 24, Washington State 20
No. 23 Florida at No. 16 LSU
Line: LSU, -13.5
Hurricane Matthew forced the movement of this game to FCS Challenge week, thus Florida and LSU will face off in one of the feature games of the week as opposed to beating up on small schools like the rest of the SEC will be doing on Saturday.
Don’t expect to see much passing in this game, as Florida QB Luke Del Rio has a QB rating of just 43.1 when under pressure, while LSU’s Danny Etling has a rating of just 62.0 when faced with pressure, and both team should have success hitting home on the pass rush. With this being said, the LSU run game is now clicking, with RBs Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice combining for 352 yards rushing, five scores and eight forced missed tackles last week against Arkansas. While the lanes certainly won’t be as wide open for the duo this week, they should have enough success to get the job done. While I expect LSU to win, covering a spread this big with projected totals this small is a tall order, thus making this a very coverable game for Florida.
Prediction: LSU 19, Florida 10
No. 5 Louisville at Houston
Line: Louisville, -14
After the early season success of both teams this looked like a potential game of the year candidate, but unfortunately it’s a bit of an afterthought now considering Houston’s two losses. While both teams are known for lighting up the scoreboard with diverse QB play, the defenses have generally been the more impressive units on both sides, and have carried both schools through difficult patches. Look for the Cardinals’ defense to carry them again, as Houston QB Greg Ward has just eight touchdowns to six interceptions and has a QB rating above 100.0 just once in his last five games.
Prediction: Louisville 32, Houston 16
UNLV at No. 20 Boise State
Line: Boise State, -28
UNLV stunned Wyoming in triple overtime last week, but don’t expect them to duplicate the feat this week on the Smurf Turf. Boise State has yet to cover a home spread this season, and with UNLV playing reasonably well on defense as of late they’ll struggle to cover once again. The matchup to watch this week is UNLV CB Torry McTyer against Boise State WR Thomas Sperbeck; McTyer was tested nine times in coverage by Wyoming and yielded just one catch for six yards while intercepting two throws and breaking up another.
Prediction: Boise State 33, UNLV 15
Texas San Antonio at No. 25 Texas A&M
Line: Texas A&M, -27.5
In Texas A&M’s first three non-conference games the run game averaged 246 yards with seven forced missed tackles each game. There’s no reason to expect any different this week, and this spread is worth attacking as long as it stays under four scores.
Prediction: Texas A&M 42, Texas San Antonio 13
No. 11 Oklahoma State at TCU
Line: TCU, -4.5
This is a puzzling spread, as it seems to give far too much credence to TCU’s win over a lackadaisical Baylor last week and forgets the fact these same Horned Frogs put up just 24 at home the prior week against Texas Tech’s dumpster fire of a defense. Baylor was a completely different team when it beat the Cowboys at home in week four, and the same can now be said for the Pokes, who are now two wins away from a BIG-12 championship.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 39, TCU 29
No. 2 Ohio State at Michigan State
Line: Ohio State, -22.5
With the forecast for Saturday in the low 40s and a strong chance of wintery precipitation and high winds, this looks like another potential J.T. Barrett red flag game. While they’ve had just one win against lowly Rutgers to show for it, the Spartans have been excellent on the ground over the past four games. In that stretch they’ve averaged 244 yards and eight forced missed tackles on the ground in each game. While I think this game is closer than Vegas is predicting due in large part again to the potential for limited effectiveness through the air, the Buckeyes won’t make the same mistake they made last year against Michigan State when star RB Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball just 12 times. Look for Curtis Samuel to get a much larger share of the workload on the ground this week, and that should exactly what it takes for the Buckeyes retain their No. 2 ranking heading into Michigan week.
Prediction: Ohio State 27, Michigan State 16
Maryland at No. 18 Nebraska
Line: Nebraska, -14
Yet another matchup where the ground game will be critical, this time it’s Maryland that has been able to do nothing to stop opposing run games as of late. Opponents for the last month have averaged 307.5 yards on the ground, and with the Cornhuskers’ inconsistent aerial attack this is exactly the type of game that favors them. Look for Nebraska to win comfortably, regardless of the health and effectiveness of QB Tommy Armstrong Jr.
Prediction: Nebraska 36, Maryland 17
No. 7 Wisconsin at Purdue
Line: Wisconsin, -28
In Purdue RT Cameron Cermin’s last three full games (he played just six snaps against Penn State in Week 9) he has given up a total of 16 pressures. Look for Wisconsin OLB T.J. Watt, who is averaging 3.8 pressures per game this year, to take full advantage with another huge afternoon.
Prediction: Wisconsin 43, Purdue 9
Oregon at No. 12 Utah
Line: Utah, -14
Last year Utah destroyed Oregon 62-20 at Autzen Stadium, and this year’s matchup features a much more potent Utes’ offense and wildly disappointing Oregon team in all phases. Utah is averaging 19.4 pressures per game this season, and should have no trouble topping that this week.
Prediction: Utah 45, Oregon 23
Indiana at No. 3 Michigan
Line: Michigan, -23.5
The first loss in the books and health at QB a major concern, many interested eyes will be on the Wolverines this week to see how they adjust to possibly having to survive without Wilton Speight. Michigan’s defense should rebound nicely this week, as Indiana failed to average 4.0 yards per carry the past two weeks against Indiana and Penn State, but will need to lean heavily on the ground game with heavy wind and rain in the forecast. While there are whispers that Speight may actually be able to play this week, more than likely the Wolverines will lean on John O’Korn and possibly even Jabrill Peppers to take the bulk of the snaps.
Prediction: Michigan 27, Indiana 13
No. 17 Florida State at Syracuse
Line: Florida State, -21
North Carolina State QB Ryan Finley posted a QB rating of 119.9 against Syracuse last Saturday, which was the first game since Week 5 that he posted a rating above 84.0. The Seminoles will have an easy time of it, by both air and land.
Prediction: Florida State 46, Syracuse 13
No. 24 Stanford at California
Line: Stanford, -10.5
Stanford has quietly been playing solid football on both sides of the ball since beating Notre Dame in Week 7, and should have no problems continuing its stretch run through a Cal defense that has been nothing but awful as of late. Cardinal RB Christian McCaffrey has average 7.04 yards per carry in his last three games, and could be in for his biggest game of the season against the Golden Bears.
Prediction: Stanford 33, California 17
Missouri at No. 19 Tennessee
Line: Tennessee, -16
Missouri got its first conference win of the season against Vanderbilt last week, after losing the prior five SEC matchups by double-digits. This week look to them to get back to where they left off in Week 10, as their last-ranked run offense and second-lowest graded run defense (in the SEC) will not match up well against the Volunteers.
Prediction: Tennessee 32, Missouri 14
Buffalo at No. 21 Western Michigan
Line: Western Michigan, -35
The Broncos stayed undefeated last week by trampling Kent State on the ground with 333 rushing yards and 10 forced missed tackles, but considering Buffalo has the MAC’s second-lowest graded pass coverage, expect Western Michigan to attack more through the air on Saturday. WR Corey Davis had just one catch for 18 yards last week; look for him to approach 150 yards and two scores against Buffalo as he makes his case for the Bednarik trophy.
Prediction: Western Michigan 43, Buffalo 9
No. 4 Clemson at Wake Forest
Line: Clemson, -22.5
Wake Forest took a lead into the fourth quarter against Louisville last week before completely gassing, but don’t expect the same level of success this week that they showed early last Saturday. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson threw a ridiculous 68 passes last week, as he and RBs Wayne Gallman and C.J. Fuller were only have to amass 56 yards on 23 carries. Look for the trio to be much more effective on the ground this week.
Prediction: Clemson 38, Wake Forest 13
Arizona State at No. 6 Washington
Line: Washington, -27
Saturday against USC was the first time this season Washington scored less than 30 points, as QB Jake Browning struggled mightily under pressure. The Trojan pass rush affected him on 12 of 43 drop-backs, where he was sacked five times and completed just six of 16 passes for 83 yards and an interception. Arizona State pass rush ace Koron Crump is coming off his first game of the year without a QB pressure, and while it should be expected he rebounds this week, the Sun Devils have displayed little consistency elsewhere this season. The Huskies should be able to put this one away early to set up next week’s Apple Cup showdown with Washington State.
Prediction: Washington 48, Arizona State 17
No. 8 Penn State at Rutgers
Line: Penn State, -28
Suddenly Penn State has everything to play for. If the Nittany Lions win their last two games and Ohio State beats Michigan next week, they will in all likelihood take on Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, with the winner almost assuring itself a spot in the national playoff. Rutgers lost to the only other Big Ten team without a conference win last week by seven touchdowns, and there’s no reason to expect a different result this week.
Prediction: Penn State 44, Rutgers 15
No. 13 USC at UCLA
Line: USC, -11.5
UCLA has only been able to beat the teams at the bottom of the PAC-12 this season, and no team in the conference is playing better football than USC is right now. The UCLA offense has given up just nine pressures the past two games, while the Huskies have torched their opponents with 51. The Trojans will get after the QB again on Saturday, and should put this rivalry game away early.
Prediction: USC 32, UCLA 14