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Duck the Odds, Week 14: What's So Civil About War Anyway

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Hoke and Muchamp are almost out, John Gruden is ready to be back on the househunt in college towns nationwide, and we'll find out who's in the conference championships. A great set of games awaits and Rusty and Sean can't wait to screw up the picks.

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Rusty: 7-7 (Last Week); 79-86-2 (Overall)

Rusty's Hits: Kansas State (+2), Boston College (+19), Arkansas (+3.5), Louisville (+3.5), Arizona (+4), Washington (-6), Arizona State (-16.5)

Rusty's Misses: Colorado (+33), Duke (-6), Miami (-6), Tennessee (-3.5), Nebraska (-10), Cal (+5.5), USC (+3.5)

Sean: 5-9 (Last Week); 83-82-2 (Overall)

Sean's Hits: Oregon (-33), Kansas State (+2), North Carolina (+6), Minnesota (+10), Boston College (+19)

Sean's Misses: Miami (-6), Tennessee (-3.5), Ole Miss (-3.5), Cal (+5.5), Notre Dame (-3.5), Utah (-4), Oregon State (+6),  Washington State (-16.5), USC (+3.5)

This Week's Picks

Big, big Week 14. A lot of great games on the slate that we are sure to get completely wrong. Let's go!

Home Teams in CAPS

Sean Says: Oregon (-20) over OREGON STATE

Word is that the Beavers' running backs are beat up. Without them, and without a reliable defense, the Ducks' fearsome ground game, with a healthy dose of down-the-field play action, beats up the Beavers in Corvallis. Marcus Mariota's last appearance in Reser Salad Burrito Stadium was efficient and fearless, as the Ducks won by 24 against a then-#16 Beaver squad in 2012. Ducks roll, as their defense is starting to gain some steam.

Rusty Says: Oregon (-20) over OREGON STATE

Oregon State won’t be able to protect Sean Mannion in the backfield and I don’t see them getting the same rushing attack against the Ducks that they did last year without Brandin Cooks stretching the field deep.

The biggest matchup issue here is the Oregon rushing attack against the Oregon State rush defense, which might be the worst in the country.  According to our advanced stats preview, the Beavers are significantly worse than the Buffaloes on defense.  Woof.

Sean Says: TEXAS (+6.5) over Tcu

I just have a feeling that the Longhorns are peaking at the right time, and are ready for an ugly-it-up, defensive battle in Austin. Horns keep it close in a squeaker win for the Horned Frogs.

Rusty Says: TEXAS (+6.5) over Tcu

Texas has been getting better nearly every week.  Their defense is stifling and their offense has been on the upswing.  This Thanksgiving Day game will be a real gem to watch and replaces the TAMU-Texas annual matchup.

This would be a big win for Charlie Strong in his first year as head coach and would really set the tone going into the off-season.

Sean Says: MISSOURI (+1.5) over Arkansas

This is a tough one to pick. Both teams have strengths. Arkansas plays elite power football and is on a freaking roll. Missouri's defense has played outstanding all year, and is on the precipice of an improbable second straight appearance in the SEC Championship Game.

I like the Tigers a little more at home. Arkansas's quarterback is banged up and they won't be able to go to the air when they need to. Missouri has enough on defense to get stops, and I think the Tigers' ability to get big plays at home makes the difference here. Tigers win outright.

Rusty Says: Arkansas (-1.5) over MISSOURI

Missouri is a team that is built for speed.  Fighting in a phone booth is not their strength.  I’m betting that Arkansas’ rushing attack will suck the life out of the Tiger defense who won’t match up well.

I don’t think the Tigers are that great on offense and they don’t have a real quality win.  If the Razorbacks were in a different division they’d have a much better record.  I like the Razorbacks in this one.

Sean Says: UCLA (-4.5) over Stanford

Stanford has beaten UCLA six straight times. Six. Straight. Times. The last win for the Bruins? A 23-20 win in the Rose Bowl on October 18, 2008.

Huge, defining win for UCLA last week over USC. Normally I'd be worried about a letdown spot for UCLA, but UCLA has revenge on its mind. Without Ty Montgomery to stretch the field on offense and special teams for Stanford, UCLA wins by 10+ and cruises into their 3rd Pac-12 Championship Game.

Rusty Says: UCLA (-4.5) over Stanford

UCLA is surging.  Hundley is on fire.  Meanwhile, Stanford is struggling.

UCLA will go to the PAC-12 title game and keep their playoff hopes alive with a win.  With the game being in the Rose Bowl I expect Hundley to ball out and look like the NFL-caliber player that we expect him to be.

Sean Says: Arizona State (Pick) over ARIZONA

If Solomon plays at least close to full capacity, I like Arizona. Without him at full strength, the edge drifts to Zona State. I was very impressed with the Wildcats drubbing the Utes last week in SLC, but Arizona is beat up. My heart says Arizona, but my head says Arizona State.

Arizona's losses (tight to USC and UCLA) are a lot better than Arizona State's (routed by UCLA, tight loss to Oregon State), but the Sun Devils are playing disciplined and motivated under Graham.

Rusty Says: Arizona State (Pick) over ARIZONA

Anu Solomon might not play in the Territorial Cup and at a pick ‘em the quarterback position means a lot.  Solomon is really a dynamic threat running the offense and so much of Rodriguez’s offense requires experience to run effectively.

Arizona State’s games against UCLA and Oregon State are weird, uncharacteristic anomalies, although maybe the Notre Dame game was too.  I think we’ll see a Sun Devil squad that looks more like the one we saw against the Irish than the Beavers.

Sean Says: OHIO STATE (-20) over Michigan

Look for paper bags on the heads of any Michigan fans who brave the Horseshoe.

My prediction: 90s teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas takes over as head coach of the Wolverines at halftime. Improbable, you say? The only thing more improbable is that Michigan covers this spread.

Can't wait to see John Gruden in the maize and blue next season.

Rusty Says: OHIO STATE (-20) over Michigan

Michigan is straight awful and Ohio State is running on almost all cylinders.  Expect a press conference Sunday.

Sean Says: Minnesota (+13.5) over WISCONSIN

Yes, it's in Camp Randall. Yes, UW has MelGor.  Yes, the Badgers finally have a pulse in the pass game. But this is too many points for a rivalry game, and too many points in a game with so much on the line: a berth in the Big 10 Championship Game. Give me the points. Minnesota will do its best to out-methodical the Badgers, hem in MelGor, and keep it tight. I think Wisconsin wins somewhere around 31-20, but Minnesota keeps it interesting until late.

Rusty Says: WISCONSIN (-13.5) over Minnesota

Melvin Gordon doe.  The only person who can really challenge Marcus Mariota for the Heisman is Melvin Gordon.  Gordon has transcended the position and what can be expected from a Big Ten running back this season.

Minnesota is good, especially by Minnesota’s standards, but they haven’t yet played someone like Gordon.  With the Big Ten Championship Game appearance on the line I know the Badgers will show up.

Sean Says: BOISE STATE (-9.5) over Utah State

Looky here, a Mountain West Conference game!  The Mountain West has been quietly interesting this year, with three very good teams all in the same division: BSU, USU, and Colorado State.

This is a really nice matchup. Boise State has been straight up annihilating people on offense recently. Since an uncharacteristic loss to Air Force, they have scored 51, 37, 55, 60, 38, and 63 points. Meanwhile, the most points USU has allowed (other than their opener loss at Tennessee) is 24 to Wake Forest.

I'm tempted to rely on the maxim that "Defense Travels," but as a native Idahoan I know that a night game at Boise is no joke. My prediction: Utah keeps it tight into the fourth quarter until the Broncos score on a big play or on special teams, and cover this spread. Broncos by two scores.

Rusty Says: Utah State (+9.5) over BOISE STATE

It’s a top offense against a top defense when Utah State takes on Boise State.  Utah State dominates on the defensive side of the field, especially against the run.  The Boise State defense has been improving against the run but still isn’t great.  Look for Utah State to dominate field position and pull out a close win.

Sean Says: Washington (-3.5) over WASHINGTON STATE

I haven't been able to figure out either of these teams all year. Seriously. I would predict that I am close to 10% at picking games involving these two teams.

That said, what do we know? That Washington is dynamic on defense. That Washington State can't control the clock. That Washington State can't defend.

This tips the scales to UW, even on the road. Cautiously laying the points on a road favorite in the Apple Cup.

Rusty Says: Washington (-3.5) over WASHINGTON STATE

I’m very interested to see how the Cougars counter the Washington pass rush.  The Huskies strength is getting to the quarterback but Washington State gets the ball out quick.  Stopping the pass was something Oregon wasn’t able to handle, so that is the most intriguing matchup of this game.

The Apple Cup has been maligned recently but with the Cougar backup playing well this will stay close. Late he’ll make a couple mistakes in his first big game as starter and Washington will backdoor cover.

Sean Says: Georgia Tech (+13) over GEORGIA

This is a lot of points in a rivalry game for a good team in Georgia Tech. I'll take the points in what could be a low-scoring slugfest. Georgia is really talented, but inconsistent. Georgia Tech is a lot better than it is given credit for in a lousy division of the ACC. Take the points in a rivalry game.

Rusty Says: Georgia Tech (+13) over GEORGIA

Georgia Tech has a tough offense to defend against and knows how to win. I expect them to really take the air out of the ball, slow down the game, and limit the total number of drives in this game.

Georgia’s rushing attack is too good though to not win.  However, the Yellow Jacket offense is tough to prepare for and the Bulldogs will be off-balance throughout the game.

Sean Says: Auburn (+9.5) over ALABAMA

Too many points to lay on Bama in this game. I realize that Alabama has been playing well, but if this turns into a shootout at all, then Auburn has the advantage. Auburn was getting #1-like accolades until midway through this season. They have an experienced QB in Nick Marshall who has been in big-time games before. They've had a practice-type game with Samford to iron out tweaks after a disastrous showing against Georgia. This game stays tight until the final buzzer.

Rusty Says: Auburn (+9.5) over ALABAMA

Alabama may be the better team and be at home but there is no reason to take them at -9.5.  Auburn is not a pushover and was playing like the best team in the country at times this season.

Gus Malzahn’s spread attack has caused some fits for the Crimson Tide defense but this game will come down to the Tiger defense.  Can they slow Blake Simms and Amari Cooper?  If so, they can win.  However, I think the Tide offense is too dynamic and dangerous in many facets to be held down.

Sean Says: Florida (+7.5) over FLORIDA STATE

The Seminoles are 3-8 against the spread this year. Florida still has elite defensive talent and will be able to give FSU fits. Seminoles win an ugly, gross game, which is the perfect swan song for the Will Muschamp era at Florida.

Rusty Says: Florida (+7.5) over FLORIDA STATE

Florida State struggles against teams that can play great defense and run the football.  Florida has found the ability to do that the last few weeks however inconsistent that may be.  The Seminoles aren’t that great even when at home and the Gators are going to be playing very hard to send off their coach in style.  I like Florida with a late push to win a close game.

Sean Says: MISSISSIPPI (+2) over Mississippi State

Dr. Booooooooo is back. I think the Rebels pull together one more performance to upset their hated rivals and really screw up the Bulldogs' season. Plus I REALLY don't want 2 SEC teams in the CFP.

Rusty Says: Mississippi State (-2) over MISSISSIPPI

This is a must win game for the Bulldogs.  They know they have to win this game in order to keep their playoff spot.  There hasn’t ever been an Egg bowl this important.

Ole Miss does matchup well when on defense as they tackle well in space and are solid against spread teams.  Their offense is prone to mistakes and a few costly mistakes will be the difference maker resulting in a narrow Mississippi State win.

Sean Says: USC (-7) over Notre Dame

List of teams Notre Dame has beaten: Rice, Michigan, Purdue, Syracuse, Stanford, North Carolina, Navy. Know who has the best record from those teams? 7-4 Rice.

Notre Dame has zero momentum and has to fly to the West Coast to take on a still talented USC team. I think this one gets ugly.

Rusty Says: USC (-7) over Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish and Everett Golson struggle against top teams and despite their showing last week, USC is a very good team.  Their offense is dynamic and they have playmakers on defense.

Keep in mind that the Irish haven’t beaten anyone good this year.  They beat bad teams and lose to good teams.  Given that the game is in Los Angeles I’ll take the Trojans and lay the points.