College football is about to get really interesting after we saw our first major upset of the season with South Carolina knocking off Georgia in Athens last week. Who is the next big-name team to be handed its first loss of the season? Could it be Ohio State in a Friday night potential trap game in Chicago? How about LSU on the road in Starkville? Could Alabama take Tennessee too lightly at home?
We’ve reached the unofficial midway point of the schedule, and frankly, we’ve been treading water with our weekly picks in the space. I’ve started to dig a little deeper in hopes of finding some hidden gems to pick up the pace as we enter the second half of the season.
No. 6 Wisconsin at Illinois
If it wasn’t for Rutgers, the worst team in the Big 10 would be Illinois. It’s hard to look at the Illini team and be happy with much we have seen so far. UL has lost all three games in conference and has given up more than 40 points in every one. Even Nebraska was able to score 42 at Illinois, and the Huskers only scored 13 points this past weekend at home.
For Wisconsin, this game is another chance to put up a score that will grab headlines. Four of the six opponents that the Badgers have played this season were unable to score a single point. UW is giving up less than 2 yards per rush and leads the nation in yards given up per play. While the offense is getting a lot of attention and running back Jonathan Taylor is in the Heisman conversation, the Badger defense is the reason this team is undefeated.
Last week, QB Jack Coan wasn’t spectacular but he doesn’t need to be with this running game that is the best in the Big Ten. The Badgers dominate time of possession and Coan just needs to keep his 8 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio going for this team to keep rolling over opponents.
While I lean toward the over, I think it’s unwise to expect a Badger opponent to score much. Given that, I’m more comfortable with Wisconsin scoring a ton here.
PICK: Wisconsin team total OVER 40.5
No. 17 Arizona State at No. 13 Utah
Arizona State is 4-1 and catching nearly two touchdowns in this game. I had to double-check this line because this seems really heavy for a game between two very similar teams in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils beat Washington State at home last week as four-point underdogs and now head on the road to Salt Lake City to face a Utah team coming off a 45 point win over Oregon State.
Utah has been very impressive since losing at USC. The Utes have won their last two by a combined score of 90-20. In both wins, over Washington State and Oregon State, QB Tyler Huntley threw for two touchdowns and no interceptions while also using his legs to move the chains. Huntley rushed for two additional scores against Washington State and now has three rushing touchdowns on the season to go along with nine through the air.
So far this season, Huntley has dropped by back for 131 passing attempts without throwing a pick and when healthy, has proven to be one of the best players in the Pac-12. When he was injured, the Utes offense just wasn’t the same. Now healthy, Huntley has the Utah offense looking like one of the best in the conference.
The total on this game is 45 and while games involving Utah have seen the under hit five out of six times, the margin by which the under has covered is razor thin. In four of the five games that the under came in, it was decided by seven points or less. Now maybe the books are just on point with their totals or maybe there is a trend that is worth fading.
Arizona State beat Michigan State on the road already with a total of 17 points being scored. The under has hit in four of their six games as well but the Sun Devils did score 38 against Washington State and 31 versus Colorado. Freshman QB Jayden Daniels has thrown eight touchdowns to just one pick and has played well on the road this season.
While some might think the under is the play here, I’m going to go against the current and pick the over. Huntley and company have really started to play well and I think Arizona State and star running back Eno Benjamin can score at least 17 points against Utah who gave up 30 to USC.
PICK: Over 45
No. 3 LSU at Mississippi State
LSU silenced all critics this past weekend by covering the 13.5 line against Florida in Death Valley. The Gators came into that game coming off a huge win over Auburn. In theory, Florida had the athletes to slow down the explosive Tiger offense. However, LSU had other ideas.
Against Florida, the Tigers scored 42 points and QB Joe Burrow threw for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns. LSU scored three unanswered touchdowns in the second half to get the victory and keep the Tigers undefeated while also moving LSU to 4-2 ATS.
Mississippi State can’t say the same. The Bulldogs come into this game having lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. Last week’s loss to lowly Tennessee on the road really hurt. At 1-2 in the SEC, MSU has only covered once in conference play as it was a five-point underdog to Kentucky and won outright.
I would play this game all the way up to 21 points as LSU’s offense is for real. Joe Burrow has thrown for 25 touchdowns in just six games and the Tigers have scored 15 touchdowns on the ground. Mississippi State gave up 56 to Auburn and 31 to Kansas State already this year and I just don’t think the Bulldogs can keep up with this LSU powerhouse.
PICK: LSU -18
No. 12 Oregon at No. 25 Washington
A home dog in a massive game in the Pac-12 looks like a pretty attractive play here. Washington is coming off a monster win over Arizona on the road and returns home to Seattle to face a 1-loss Oregon team that has been curb stomping opponents since losing to Auburn in Week 1. Can the Huskies win and keep their hopes of making the Pac-12 Championship Game alive? They are going to need a big game from QB Jacob Eason if they want to avoid a third loss this season.
Oregon comes into this game off another insane defensive performance against Colorado where the Buffs could only muster three points for the entire game. Over the last five weeks, the Ducks defense has given up a grand total of 25 points. That’s only two less than they gave up to Auburn for the entire game in Dallas. To say the Ducks D is for real would be an understatement.
However, they still have a potential No. 1 pick overall at QB in Justin Herbert who continues to put up big numbers. So far this year, Herbert has thrown for 17 touchdowns to just one interception and he is completing over 69 percent of his passes. If Washington can’t slow down Herbert and company, a sixth straight blowout victory for Oregon could be in the works.
While I do like the Ducks to win and cover in this game, I’m more comfortable predicting that this game will be low scoring. In five of the Ducks six games, the under has hit — including past four games. The under isn’t just hitting, it has been hitting by at least 14 points every time. Washington can score, but the under is 3-3 in Huskies games so far this year. The under also hit in UW home games against USC and Cal. I think a very similar thing will happen here in this one.
PICK: Under 50.5
No. 4 Ohio State at Northwestern
The Buckeyes were off last week after beating up on Michigan State at home in week 6. Ohio State has been picking up more and more first place votes each week and they have a chance here to impress even more voters on a Friday night standalone Big 10 game in Chicago. A lot of eyeballs will be on this game and that’s a good thing for OSU.
Ohio State QB Justin Fields has been simply outstanding this year, throwing 18 touchdowns compared to just 1 interception. Equally impressive has been the 8 rushing touchdowns for Fields, which has taken the Buckeye offense under Ryan Day to another level. Ohio State ranks in the top 10 of most ever major offensive category in the country and they are showing no signs of slowing down.
However, Wisconsin’s high-flying offense wasn’t able to get much going against Northwestern’s physical defense in week 4. The Badgers only scored 24 points and star running back Jonathan Taylor was held to just 1 touchdown in the game. The Wildcats’ D has been pretty good, although the 1-3 record has left a lot of Northwestern fans quite unhappy overall.
The problem for Northwestern is their offense which has only scored 30 points once this season. Losing starting QB TJ Green for the season was a major blow from which the team has yet to recover. Hunter Johnson and Aiden Smith have been unable to move the ball and both back-up QBs have thrown 4 interceptions to only 1 touchdown when they have played.
I have no idea how Northwestern scores in this game against a Buckeye defense that has been as good as the offense. However, this is the type of game that Northwestern fans live for in Chicago. I don’t trust the Wildcats to score but they can play defense. I’m going to trust that continues here to hold Ohio State under their projected team total in this game.
PICK: Ohio State Team Total Under 38.5