Last week I had three terrible picks, two great picks and the other was Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons went from a halftime lead to a five-score deficit thanks to six turnovers in one quarter. Wild occurrences like that come with the territory when betting on college football, I suppose.
I'm still in the green (barely) for the season, and there's still time to get hot again like I was back in September. Let's get back on the right track this week, shall we?
Last week: 2-4
Air Force at Army
Time: 11:30 a.m. | TV: CBS | Line: AFA -7 | Total: 40.5
I know Army’s defense has been really bad this year, but I automatically play unders in service academy games. Both teams use an option offense, meaning they run the ball almost exclusively. They know how to defend one another. The clock moves. The scores are low.
In this matchup specifically, the under is 14-5-1 in the last 20. I also lean to Army getting the touchdown, but the under is my preferred play.
Pick: Under 40.5
No. 15 Penn State at Indiana
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: PSU -14 | Total: 51
Indiana’s offense has been very one-dimensional, leaning on the passing game. It hasn’t been a great recipe for success and now leading receiver Cam Camper is out for the season with a knee injury. On top of that, IU coach Tom Allen admitted publicly that he is considering a quarterback change away from Connor Bazelak.
Whatever changes the Hoosiers make, I don’t expect them to find much success against Penn State’s defense. At the same time, I don’t trust PSU to cover two touchdowns on the road on the heels of a really deflating home loss to Ohio State. Penn State could be without three starting offensive linemen and there’s bad weather — rain and wind — in the forecast for Saturday in Bloomington.
I expect PSU to try to avoid mistakes on offense, lean on its defense and get out of there with a win.
Pick: Under 51
No. 20 Syracuse at Pittsburgh
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ACCN | Line: Pitt -3.5 | Total: 48
Pitt is coming off two road losses where it led entering the fourth quarter, but I like this spot for the Panthers coming home against Syracuse.
Syracuse got off to a hot start but is coming off back-to-back physical games vs. Clemson and Notre Dame, both losses. The Tigers and Irish both ran the ball with ease against Syracuse, which lacks depth and size along the defensive line. Pitt’s best chance at success on offense is feeding Izzy Abanikanda, and he should get a heavy workload in this game.
On top of that, Syracuse’s top corner, Garrett Williams, is out for the year. Garrett Shrader, the team’s starting QB, is also banged up and could not finish the Notre Dame game. At 4-4, the Panthers could really use a win and I think they’ll get a fairly comfortable one here.
Pick: Pitt -3.5
Liberty at Arkansas
Time: 4 p.m. | TV: SECN | Line: Arkansas -14 | Total: 61.5
After a bye week, Arkansas looked fresh in its 41-27 road win over Auburn last week. And the game was more lopsided than the final score would indicate with Auburn scoring two touchdowns in the final 5:30 of regulation.
This week, Arkansas has its first home game in over a month when it welcomes Liberty to Fayetteville. Liberty is 7-1 with its only loss being a 37-36 defeat at Wake Forest back in Week 3. This is a solid team, but it is going to have a really hard time matching Arkansas’ physicality.
Arkansas should be able to score points with ease, but I think Hugh Freeze will have some tricks up his sleeve as well. The Liberty coach has plenty of SEC experience from his time at Ole Miss and will be able to put some points on the board against an Arkansas defense that has struggled all year.
Pick: Over 61.5
No. 6 Alabama at No. 10 LSU
Time: 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: Alabama -13.5 | Total: 56.5
I think Alabama will win this game but I don't want to lay 13.5 points in a raucous atmosphere in Baton Rouge, especially with this Alabama team. This group has been far more undisciplined than the usual Nick Saban-coached team.
I'll attack the total. Even though this group of receivers isn't as good as we're used to seeing, I still think Bryce Young can have a huge game here. On the other side, LSU's offense has taken significant strides in recent weeks, albeit against weaker defenses. Still, I think the scrambling ability of Jayden Daniels is going to keep plenty of LSU's drives alive and help the Tigers put some points on the board.
This feels like a 38-24 type of game to me.
Pick: Over 56.5
BYU at Boise State
Time: 7 p.m. | TV: FS2 | Line: Boise State -7.5 | Total: 55.5
This is a game with two teams trending in opposite directions. BYU has lost four straight while Boise State has won its last four games. BYU’s defense has just been struggling mightily while the offense has been dealing with an array of injuries during just a brutal stretch of the schedule. This is BYU’s 10th game of the season without a true bye week.
Over the last month, BYU has had to face Notre Dame and Arkansas, travel across the country to play Liberty and then play East Carolina at home on a short week. Now the Cougars are headed to Boise to face a Broncos team that has been rolling since the switch to Taylen Green at quarterback and Dirk Koetter at offensive coordinator.
Boise State has a significant advantage in the trenches in this game. BYU’s defense has just been abysmal, especially against the run. I think the Broncos would love the chance to blow out a regional rival.
Pick: Boise State -7.5
No. 4 Clemson at Notre Dame
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: NBC | Line: Clemson -3.5 | Total: 44.5
I know what this line says. The No. 4 team in the country is only laying 3.5 against an unranked team? It's a fishy number, but I'll take my chances.
A lot has been made of Dabo Swinney’s decision to turn from DJ Uiagalelei to Cade Klubnik in the Syracuse game, but I still give Clemson a significant quarterback edge in this game with Notre Dame’s Drew Pyne on the other side.
I just don’t think Pyne is talented enough to make the throws needed to beat Clemson or keep the Irish within this short number. Notre Dame is extremely reliant on its running game and tight end Michael Mayer and has no consistent threats at wideout. And even though the running backs have been solid lately, Notre Dame has only eight runs of at least 20 yards this season. There’s just no explosiveness on this offense.
And with Clemson’s defense as healthy as it has been all season, I side with Clemson in every aspect of this matchup. Clemson should be able to stop the run, forcing lengthy third-down situations for the Irish. That’s not a good recipe for Pyne, who was just 9-of-19 passing last week vs. Syracuse.
Pick: Clemson -3.5
Arizona at No. 14 Utah
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: P12 | Line: Utah -17.5 | Total: 67.5
Utah is coming off a gutsy road win over Washington State without starting QB Cam Rising. Rising’s status is up in the air this week, but with a spread this large I think the oddsmakers are expecting him to return to the field. I still think this is too many points.
Arizona’s offense is really explosive and would have scored even more points last week vs. USC had it not stalled near the goal line a few times. Utah’s defense has allowed a touchdown on 12 of its opponents’ last 14 red zone trips. The Utes limited Washington State to just 264 yards last Thursday, but WSU’s offense has been decimated by injuries — especially on the line and at the skill positions. Utah is going to have much more trouble defending the Wildcats.
Beyond Rising, there’s also the injury status of star Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid. Kincaid landed hard on his shoulder in the WSU game and did not return. Utah is also dealing with some offensive line injuries and Tavion Thomas, the team’s top running back, did not make the trip to Pullman for disciplinary reasons. With those factors and the edge I give Arizona’s receivers to the Utah secondary, I like the Wildcats to cover.
Pick: Arizona +17.5