We are into the home stretch of the college football season and it’s a good time to heat up in the picks department. Last week, we went 4-1 on our official plays in this space. If you took the under for the first half and the game for LSU-Alabama, I apologize. But it would have still been a winning week if you played all seven pick suggestions.
For Week 12 in college football, there are several big games that we are betting and for the first time this season, three of the matchups are between ranked teams. Every Saturday, we are getting a clearer picture of who will be in the College Football Playoffs. If you lose now, you are most likely done, but a big win, like what Minnesota got last week against Penn State, can vault you up the standings. This is when things get really fun in college football.
No. 4 Georgia at No. 12 Auburn
Georgia finds itself in the same spot that Penn State was a week ago. The Committee put the Nittany Lions at No. 4 knowing that they had a tough game on the road against Minnesota staring them in the face. If Penn State had won the game, the Committee would look smart for putting Penn State in the top four. If PSU lost, which it did, the Nittany Lions are eliminated from playoff consideration.
Bottom line, Georgia better be ready on Saturday.
Georgia has wins over Notre Dame and Florida but the loss to South Carolina at home is the worst of any of the top teams. Going on the road at Auburn to renew the Deep South’s oldest rivalry is a must-win game and UGA knows it. The Bulldogs are coming off of a dominant 27-0 win over Missouri and have now won three straight since the loss to South Carolina.
Auburn had a strange week due to the rumor that the Razorbacks want to hire Arkansas native Gus Malzhan away from the plains. Malzhan was forced to issue a statement that he loves where he is, but that is not what the Tigers want to be talking about right now. Auburn has two losses, so the playoffs are out, but the Tigers are not mathematically out of the running for the SEC West. The Iron Bowl is only two weeks away and closing out the year with wins over Georgia and Alabama at home would send a message about Auburn for next season.
Tigers freshman QB Bo Nix will be facing his fourth Top 10 team on Saturday. But this time, it’s at home. Auburn beat Oregon to start the year in Dallas but has since lost to Florida and LSU on the road. This game being at Jordan-Hare is the reason the line is so short. Georgia won this game last year 27-10 in Athens, its fifth win in six seasons over Auburn. However, the Tigers have won three of the last five at home over UGA and Auburn features a defensive front that might be the best in the country. The Tigers are alive to win this game for sure.
Georgia’s season has been very strange. Its offense simply hasn’t been good. QB Jake Fromm was expected to have a big season but he isn’t even in the Top 50 for passing yards this season. The good news for the Dawgs is that their defense is ranked second in the country in points per game allowed (10.1). Georgia is only giving up 74.6 yards rushing per game (4th best in the country) and under 186 yards passing per game. Bo Nix has struggled against elite defenses this season and I believe he will struggle on Saturday.
Defense travels, and while this game is going to be a low scoring affair and the under is very much in play, I’m going to lay the points here. I think Dawgs do enough on defense to force Bo Nix into mistakes to keep themselves in the top four of the playoffs for another week.
PICK: Georgia -2.5
No. 8 Minnesota at No. 20 Iowa
No team made a bigger jump up the rankings than Minnesota’s nine-spot leap after its win over Penn State. The Gophers are now ranked No. 8, still behind both Pac-12 teams with one loss and Alabama after the loss to LSU, but they are in the conversation for the playoffs. The fact that the Gophers control their own destiny is a really big deal. If they win out, they are in. But even if they lose to Ohio State in the Big 10 title game, many people will be pushing for Minnesota to get into the playoffs.
Iowa is 6-3 and is coming off a hard-fought, two-point loss at Wisconsin. The Big 10 West race is Minnesota’s to lose with a two-game lead over Wisconsin with three games to play. Iowa is 3-3 in conference, so the Hawkeyes are out of the Big 10 title game conversation. The Hawks have also lost all three games against ranked opponents this season. The Gophers better be on upset alert because winning the Floyd of Rosedale trophy would be a major accomplishment for Iowa. Giving Minnesota their first loss of this season and winning this trophy game for a 5th straight year would be something to brag about.
However, this is a different Gopher team than in years past. QB Tanner Morgan might be the best player in college football that nobody has heard of. The Gopher signal caller is ranked fourth in the country for QB rating behind Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jalen Hurts. He has thrown 21 touchdowns to just four interceptions and when he isn’t throwing, he can hand the ball off to Rodney Smith who has seven rushing touchdowns, running behind a massive offensive line.
Iowa has given up only 11.7 points per game this season; that’s fourth best in the country, but they gave up only 24 points last week to Wisconsin, 17 to Penn State and 10 to Michigan and lost all three games. The problem for Iowa isn’t its defense — it’s the offense. QB Nate Stanley has underperformed this year and his hitting less than 61% of this passes. The rushing attack for Iowa has been good but not good enough to overcome the lack of explosive plays in the passing game.
While Minnesota better be ready for a war on Saturday, the fact that the line is making them an underdog only feeds into the narrative that world thinks that the Gophers aren’t any good. I think this is playing right into PJ Fleck’s hands. I’m taking the points.
PICK: Minnesota +3
No. 5 Alabama at Mississippi State
Once again, we are left with a big question about the quarterback for Alabama’s health heading into a big SEC game. Tua Tagovailoa played last week against LSU but did not look like himself. As the game wore on, the ankle injury became a bigger and bigger problem. He is going to be a game-time decision again but some believe he will not play against Mississippi State.
The line is going down for this reason and I think that presents an opportunity. Mac Jones played against Arkansas and played well. The sophomore is expected to compete for the starting job next season and he might get his second start of the year on Saturday. If that is the case, I’m not worried about the Tide offense. Bama beat Arkansas 48-7 and Jones threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns. He has the talent to play the position for one of the top programs in the country.
Alabama is also angry. The defense gave up 46 points to LSU and got shredded in key moments by the Tigers offense in the second half. The Tide have a chance to take out some frustration on Bulldogs QB Garrett Shrader who is ranked last in the SEC in passing this season. However, MSU does move the ball very well on the ground with Kylin Hill leading the conference in rushing with 1,027 yards. Unfortunately, you have to be able to pass and score quickly to beat this Alabama team.
Another problem for Mississippi State is that its defense is giving up over 30 points per game. Alabama’s offense is going to try for style points to make up for the loss to LSU and that’s bad news for boys in Starkville. Historically speaking, this is a tough place to play for Alabama, but not this week. I’m laying the points.
PICK: Alabama -17.5
No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 13 Baylor
Much like Minnesota, Baylor has been getting disrespected by the Playoff Committee for the past two weeks. The Bears were fortunate to stay unbeaten last week on the road at TCU by winning in overtime after trailing for most of the game. However, these next two weeks are going to be the season for Baylor. First, the Bears have OU at McLane Stadium and then they welcome Texas to town.
At 9-0, Baylor leads the Big 12. The one problem for the Bears is that they are playing their first ranked opponent of the year in OU here in Week 10. Oklahoma is led by one of the best QBs in the country in Jalen Hurts and the Sooners are trying to stay in the race for the playoffs. A loss in Waco and those dreams are dashed. The Baylor defense, which gave up 66 points last year to the Sooners, is going to have its hands full.
ESPN’s College Gameday will be on campus to pump up this game and that’s good news for Baylor. The Bears’ margin of victory over the last four conference games has been 3.5 points. Two of those games have gone to overtime. The added excitement of Gameday will only pump up the home crowd even more for this game. The last time OU played in Waco, the Sooners won 49-41. That feels about right for this game.
While I think the run ends for QB Charlie Brewer and company here, I’m going to take the points. An undefeated team catching double digits at home in a marquee game is too good to pass up. Especially since OU lost to Kansas State on the road and nearly lost to Iowa State last week. The Sooners defense will give up points on Saturday and let Baylor keep the game close.
PICK: Baylor +10
No. 3 Clemson vs. Wake Forest
Wake Forest has had a nice season. The Demon Deacons have one of the best offensives in the country, currently ranked 13th overall, scoring 35.7 points per game. Wake is 7-2 overall and 3-2 in the ACC. That’s good enough for second place in the ACC Atlantic and just close enough to Clemson to get the full attention of the Tigers on Saturday.
That’s not good news.
Since nearly losing to North Carolina five games ago, Clemson has outscored its opposition by a combined score of 263 to 55. The Tigers offense scored 55, 59, 55, 45 and 45 in those five games. Wake Forest’s defense gave up 62 points to Louisville at home earlier this year. What number will Wake give up to Clemson on the road?
Last year, Clemson beat Wake Forest 63-3. That game was on the road for the Tigers. This one is at Memorial Stadium and Clemson has won 25 straight games overall. You might think that Wake has the offense to keep pace for a little while in this game, but the Demon Deacons will be without two of their top three wideouts on Saturday. Sage Surratt, who currently leads the ACC in receiving yards, will be out for the rest of the season. He will be sorely missed in this one.
This is just a bad situation for Wake Forest. Clemson has to keep winning by large margins to make up for their lack of strength on their schedule and Wake Forest’s defense isn’t good enough to slow down an offense of this caliber. The Tigers can name their score and cover easily.
PICK: Clemson -34.5