It’s hard to believe that it’s already Week 9 in college football, but here we are with a bunch of big games on the schedule. This has been a really interesting college football season so far and now we get to see how the No. 1 team in the country handles playing without its starting QB. Will it be business as usual or could there be a problem in T-town?
How about the Wisconsin Badgers and their road trip to Columbus? Will they bounce back from their shocking loss to Illinois? And we also have a newcomer to the Top 25 getting some attention this week in this space.
For this week, I wanted to pick a few games that will have the biggest number of eyeballs and give you guys plays on the games that will everyone at the office will be talking about on Monday morning. This isn’t always the best strategy as matchups with the biggest platforms often have the sharpest lines, but I think there are some winning angles to be found this week.
No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 13 Wisconsin
If you thought the Badgers were going to enter this game cocky and full of themselves, the loss to Illinois brought the Badgers down to earth in a hurry. As massive favorites on the road, Wisconsin lost on a last-second field goal to take themselves out of the national championship picture. Sure, Wisconsin could win out and get into the playoffs as a one-loss Big 10 Champ but after watching how the Illini were able to shut down the Badger offense, I don’t think Wisconsin running the table the rest of this season is a logical thing to project.
Ohio State has been simply the most impressive team week in and week out this season. The undefeated Buckeyes went on the road last week against a stingy Northwestern defense and dropped 52 on them. QB Justin Fields is fifth in the country in touchdown tosses (22), fourth in passer rating (190.2) and 11th in completion percentage (70.7). Ohio State is fifth in the country in yards per game (526.7) and second in the country in yards given up per game (229). In short, the Buckeyes score on everyone and you can’t score on them.
If Wisconsin had played well last week, I might have picked them to keep this game close. But I have come off the Badgers in a big way. If you look at who the UW defense has faced so far this year, the best offense they have seen is …. Michigan? Sure, the numbers are there, Wisconsin is still No. 1 in the country in yards per game given up (193.9) but that looks like fool’s gold now. The 7.6 points per game allowed is still best in the nation and a great stat until you realize that Ohio State is one of the top two or three best offenses in the country. The Badgers haven’t seen anything like this Buckeye team so far this season.
OSU DE Chase Young is going to be the top pick in the draft and for good reason. The junior from Maryland is an athletic freak who has recorded 9.5 sacks this year and that’s with being double-teamed consistently. UW QB Jack Coan hasn’t faced a defense like Ohio State’s and he will be in for a very long day. I like the Buckeyes big.
PICK: Ohio State -14
No. 3 LSU vs. No. 9 Auburn
LSU QB Joe Burrow finds himself suddenly the frontrunner to win the Heisman at sportsbooks around the country. After opening up the season as a 200 to 1 underdog to win the award, he is now the odds-on favorite. Burrow is tied for the lead for the most touchdowns thrown (29), second in yards (2,484), second in average yards per completion (11.4) and second in quarterback rating (216.1). With Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa out for several weeks, it looks like the Heisman is Burrow’s to lose.
That is, as long as LSU keeps winning football games against top opponents.
In comes Auburn to Baton Rouge with its physical defense which is only giving up 17.9 points per game. The other Tigers in this game are coming off a 51-10 blowout of Arkansas that got freshman QB Bo Nix back on track after the loss at Florida. The problem for Auburn is that Bo Nix is a true freshman. Sure, he is super talented, but at Florida and even at Texas A&M, he got exposed. Nix is going to be a great QB for boys on the plains, but asking him to win a road game like this? I just can’t do it.
LSU has won the last nine games against Auburn in Baton Rouge and I think this game is going to be number 10.
Pick: LSU -10.5
No. 1 Alabama vs. Arkansas
Welcome to primetime, Mac Jones. The sophomore from Florida is now the starting quarterback for the No. 1 team in the nation and Alabama fans are hoping he doesn’t screw up their chances to win another national title. Jones is playing because star QB Tua Tagovailoa is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain. The Tide hope to have him back in time for the LSU game in two weeks which could be an SEC West title game. However, that’s a big if, and the big loser here with this injury is Arkansas.
The Razorbacks got boat raced by Auburn last week to the tune of 51-10. The Tigers were up 17-10 at half and scored 34 in the second half on the road. Arkansas gave up 491 yards of total offense to a team that doesn’t have the weapons that Alabama will show off on Saturday. Auburn ran for 298 yards and that’s a big deal because that is what I think Alabama is going to unleash in this game.
The talk around the Crimson Tide offense has been all about the four NFL-caliber wideouts that Tua has been able to throw to in space and watch them make big play after big play. The running game for Alabama, normally a massive part of its attack, has been an afterthought this season. Well, until this game that is. I think this is where Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. get to remind everyone that Alabama also has NFL caliber running backs.
With the bye week coming up for Alabama, I expect them to pound the rock and dominate this game. Arkansas couldn’t stop Auburn and couldn’t score on them either. The Razorbacks are in for a long afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
PICK: Alabama -31.5
No. 2 Clemson vs. Boston College
This was going to be a really tough game for the Eagles regardless but now BC must play the defending champs on the road with a backup QB. Starter Anthony Brown was lost for the season after suffering a lower leg injury two weeks ago at Louisville. Enter Dennis Grosel, who will make his first road start of his young career in Death Valley.
Last week, Boston College rocked North Carolina State 45-24 thanks to its best player having a monster day. Running back AJ Dillon is a first-round talent and he ran for 223 yards and three touchdowns against the Wolfpack. The only problem was that Grosel threw for only 103 yards and that was in front of Eagle fans. Saturday will be a much different environment.
Clemson comes into this game with a defense that only gives up 111.9 yards per game on the ground. North Carolina rushed for 144 yards and nearly pulled off a massive upset of the Tigers, but a big reason UNC played so well was that Tarheels QB Sam Howell threw for two touchdowns. It’s hard to see BC being able to do the same thing even with one of the best backs in the country.
The Tigers are losing respect because of their schedule. Boston College isn’t ranked but they are 4-3 and 2-2 in the ACC. Unfortunately, the only other win for the Eagles was over Rutgers and this team shockingly lost to Kansas at home earlier this year.
While I do think Clemson wants to put up a big number here and I don’t hate laying the 34 points, I think the smarter play is to look at the total. There is no way that Boston College scores big on Clemson on the road with a one-dimensional offense.
PICK: Under 59
No. 21 Appalachian State vs. South Alabama
This is one of those games where I’m strictly looking at the numbers and I just don’t think the line is big enough.
Appalachian State is averaging 42.8 points per game. South Alabama is scoring just over 16. App State is giving up less than 22 points per game while USA is giving up over 30. The Mountaineers are 6-0 while the Jaguars 1-6.
Why is this line only 26 points again?
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that ASU is the highest-ranked Sun Belt team in conference history and some might think they are due to lose. However, App State has a real shot at a New Year’s Six bowl game if it continues to play well. There is a lot of incentive for the Mountaineers to keep blowing out their opposition. It’s not enough for teams from the Sun Belt to win games, they have to dominate to keep the voters’ attention.
One area that ASU should have success in this game is running the football where it features a top 20 rushing attack led by Darrynton Evans and his 10 rushing touchdowns. South Alabama is giving up over 200 yards per game on the ground and gave up 312 yards to Memphis earlier this season. If the Jags sell out to stop the run, however, QB Zac Thomas is a weapon who has thrown for 10 touchdowns to only three interceptions.
This line is too small. I like ASU to roll here.
PICK: App State -26