Last week was not good for the sportsbooks across the country. Heavy favorites and public teams like Alabama, Clemson and LSU all won big and covered. Will that continue into Week 13? I think the odds are high because teams know that style points matter. You can win but right now, that might not be enough for teams trying to get attention from the Playoff Committee.
We are on a hot streak in this space, having hit nine of our last 11 official plays. Hopefully, we keep things rolling this week as we are once again backing several favorites.
No. 8 Penn State at No. 2 Ohio State
How good are the Buckeyes?
Well, OSU is playing a top 10 team this week and favored by 18.5 points. Last week, Ohio State failed to cover the first time since Week 1 of the season as the Buckeyes played mostly backups in the second half against Rutgers. The Buckeyes also failed to cover the first half line for the first time all season. At 10-0, Ohio State controls its own destiny for the playoffs. If it beats Penn State, Michigan, and then wins the Big 10 Championship, OSU should be a top 2 seed when the playoff bracket is announced.
Penn State has not been playing well the last two weeks. The Nittany Lions lost at Minnesota and then didn’t cover against an underrated Indiana team that was in the game all the way until the end. PSU’s defense is ranked 7th in the nation in points allowed but gave up 27 to Indiana and 31 to Minnesota. While those offenses are good, they don’t possess the firepower that the Buckeyes will put on the field on Saturday.
Ohio State is currently No. 1 in points allowed (9.8) and No. 4 points scored per game (51.5). Those are some really scary numbers for any team trying to beat OSU. However, the Buckeyes haven’t played a top 25 ranked scoring offense yet this season. The problem is that Penn State is a defensive-minded team and that describes the majority of the teams that Ohio State has played. The fact that the Buckeyes has faced tough defenses all season and they are averaging 51.5 points per game is downright frightening.
While I want to take Penn State and the points, I just don’t know how the Nittany Lions score enough to stay in this game. They have to score at least 24 points to cover because I believe that the Ohio State is going to score at least 40. I don’t think PSU is going to do that.
PICK: Ohio State -18.5
No. 10 Minnesota at Northwestern
The professionals were on Iowa last week and they were proven correct to pick the Hawkeyes to end the undefeated run for the Gophers. The public bettors, most likely, will not be looking to back Minnesota on the road again after losing outright in Iowa City. But Minnesota will face a much different opponent this week.
Northwestern has really struggled against quality competition this season. Sure, the Wildcats blew out UMass last week and snapped a seven-game losing streak but they didn’t do that until the 2nd half. Against quality teams, Northwestern’s offense has been just awful. The Wildcats scored three against Indiana on the road, zero against Iowa at home, and three against Ohio State at home. Over the last four Big 10 games, Northwestern has been outscored 130 to 28. That’s incredible for a program that prides itself on playing defense.
Minnesota still has a chance to win the Big 10 West by winning this week and next week against Wisconsin. If they do that, they will get a chance to make up for the loss to Iowa if the Gophers can beat Ohio State. Now, that’s not likely to happen but that’s what makes this game so important. Minnesota cannot hang its head and must come out firing against an inferior opponent.
I’m still a massive fan of UM QB Tanner Morgan and this Gopher offense. Sure, they didn’t make the key plays last week, but I think they will bounce back in a big way this week.
PICK: Minnesota -14
No. 14 Baylor vs. Texas
Welcome to the battle of broken-hearted teams.
Baylor blew a 28-3 lead against Oklahoma and blew its undefeated season in the process. Texas led Iowa State late but lost on a last-second field goal for the second time this year. Both of these teams could still play in the Big 12 title game but Baylor can clinch their spot with a win on Saturday over UT.
The Bears offense just couldn’t get anything going against the Sooners in the second half after scoring 31 points in the opening two quarters. Part of the credit for that goes to Oklahoma’s defense but Baylor shot itself in the foot by turning the ball over twice in the second half.
Texas head coach Tom Herman has a well-documented record covering as an underdog. However, this season, Texas is just 2-2 ATS when getting points despite covering last week catching seven points at Iowa State. UT has a dominant record of 78-26-4 straight up all-time against Baylor and won 38-7 in Waco the last time it played there in 2017.
This game feels like it’s going to be tight. The Longhorns’ season is on the line in this game. Baylor would love to get revenge on OU for last week and face the Sooners again in the Big 12 Championship game. With some much on the line for both teams, this number feels too heavy.
PICK: Texas +6
No. 19 Cincinnati vs. Temple
Cincinnati might be having the best season that nobody is talking about in 2019. The Bearcats have lost at Ohio State — and that’s it. Since that loss, UC has won eight straight games and has gone 5-3 ATS. Luke Fickell’s defense has only given up more than 24 points once since that rough road trip to Columbus and the Bearcats are poised to win their division.
Temple is 7-3 on the year but just 2-2 on the road this season. Owls QB Anthony Russo has thrown 18 touchdowns this season but he has also thrown 10 interceptions. The Bearcats defense has 13 picks so far and 25 sacks. Temple’s offense will need to protect the football in this game if it wants to win its fifth straight over the Bearcats.
The American Athletic Conference has three teams with only one loss. Cincinnati lost to Ohio State. Memphis lost to Temple. SMU lost to Memphis. All three of those teams have impressive records. The AAC commissioner went public this week with his frustration at the lack of attention his conference is getting right now. The Bearcats have a chance to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game but they need to keep this streak going to get the attention the AAC is trying to attract.
A victory in this game will clinch an appearance in the AAC Title game for Cincinnati. I think UC QB Desmond Rider will have a big game here and I don’t think Temple will score much on a physical Bearcats defense. I like UC to cover this line.
PICK: Cincinnati -10.5
No. 6 Oregon at Arizona State
The steam on this game has been on the underdog after the line opened up with Oregon as 16-point favorites. That’s interesting given that Arizona State has lost four straight games straight up and against the spread. Last week against Oregon State, the Sun Devils lost 35-34 and you have to wonder if this young roster is running out of gas for Herm Edwards.
Arizona State’s defense was tremendous earlier this season and they have been great a forcing turnovers. However, ASU has given up a total of 108 points over the last 3 weeks and now they face an Oregon offense that is averaging 37.8 points and hasn’t lost since week 1 of the season.
To compound the bad news, ASU has lost 11 of their last 12 games to Oregon.
ASU is expected to get Freshman QB Jaylen Daniels back for this game but Oregon needs to make statements the rest of the way. Even at 12-1, the Ducks would be a long shot to make the playoffs because of the loss to Auburn. The Ducks defense leads the nation with 17 interceptions and while Daniels has thrown only two picks this season, this is potentially the best defense he will face this season.
The Sun Devils need to win to become bowl eligible but I just don’t think this is the game for them to do it. Oregon is ranked in the top 15 for scoring offense and the Ducks defense is also ranks in the top 15 in scoring defense. This is too much for the Sun Devils to deal with, even at home.
PICK: Oregon -14.5