After two great weeks I have come crashing to Earth.
R: UCLA (+10) at Colorado
Colorado was the sleeper team coming into the season. The Buffs are sitting at the top of the PAC-12 South division. The last few years the Mike MacIntyre-led Colorado squad fell just short each time against the Bruins. But the Buffs were young and still were susceptible to mistakes. This season they have done a much better job finishing their games.
UCLA is without Josh Rosen for the rest of the year but backup quarterback Mike Fafaul still threw for five touchdowns and put up 42 points against Utah. However, the five interceptions also came with four turnovers. Fafaul also threw seventy times that game, which is a lot. But the offense will be able to score points and keep the game even. Colorado will win the game but will close the game out, giving the Bruins a loss that is closer than the experts think.
S: UCLA at Colorado (-10)
UCLA is playing like hot garbage right now. Beat up, without much of an identity, Josh Rosen-less, and having trouble moving the ball. That's a bad combo when you're playing at altitude against red-hot Colorado. Colorado's defense is secretly very good, and I think their offense is balanced enough to challenge UCLA. I'll lay 10 on the Buffs at home. (If you told me a year ago, I would be laying double-digit points on Colorado vs. UCLA, I would have assumed I was on a shroom-fueled escapade.)
R: TCU (+9) at Baylor
Baylor was undefeated until they dropped the game to Texas last week in a 35-34 loss. Now that the Bears have been essentially eliminated from the playoff hunt they have to rebound against TCU at home. Seth Russell has been good this year, throwing for 18 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions. The Bears are doing a great job despite the fallout from the off-season and the continuing horror stories to come out of the school.
TCU enters Waco with a 4-4 record with losses to Arkansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas Tech. None of those losses were against bad teams and all were close. Quarterback Kenny Hill has been mistake prone, which can clearly be seen in the 10 interceptions this season. The Horned Frogs have shown that they can keep up with anyone and giving nine points is a lot ven against a top-25 team with only one loss.
S: TCU (+9) at Baylor
Oh man. What a weird game. TCU has been listless, Baylor has been inconsistent. I think a good rule of thumb in a Big 12 game is that if you get a spread over 7, you take the points. Because this one feels like a sloppily-played shootout. So I'll take the 9, and look for TCU to play better than they have.
R: Florida (-3.5) at Arkansas
Arkansas was last seen getting blown out of the water by Auburn. Auburn’s defense has been surprisingly good but they held the Razorbacks to 3 points while dropping 56 on them. Luckily, Arkansas is coming off a bye week. Austin Allen has been playing through an injured knee that could cause some problems for the offense.
The Gators pretty much have the SEC East wrapped up but have this upcoming away game against the Razorbacks and eventually have the make-up game against LSU but in Tiger Stadium. One of the biggest playmakers on defense, Jarrad Davis, is coming back off an injury, I love the Gator defense is solid and the offense gets the job done.
S: Florida (-3.5) at Arkansas
I think Florida's defense is far and away the best unit on the field in this game. Arkansas lacks a real identity outside of Austin Allen at quarterback. And Allen is banged up. I just trust the Gators' ability to control the Arkansas offense and then run out the clock, as Arkansas's run defense is real bad. Florida wins 24-14.
R: Washington at Cal (+17.5)
The Huskies didn’t get enough respect for their season thus far. They are beating their opponents, however weak they are, the way a top-ranked team should. The team is deserving of the fourth spot in the playoff at this point. Jake Browning is climbing the Heisman watch lists and it is safe to say he is the best quarterback in the conference.
Washington is going to get their points, and I see breaking 50 as a good possibility. David Webb is probably the second-best quarterback in the conference and can lead this offense to a lot of points as well. Berkeley might not be the best home-field advantage but stuff gets weird there. And it is Marshawn Lynch bobble head night celebrating his cart hijacking after a win over Washington.
S: Washington (-17.5) at Cal
This feels like a replay of Cal's debacle at USC last week. Washington has a similar identity to USC in terms of personnel and defensive style. I think they go to Berkeley and do just fine against the Bear Raid. More comfortable laying points against Cal than in weeks past after watching what USC did to the Bears. Lay all those points.
R: Oregon (+14) at USC
The Ducks have found their groove offensively. Most of the praise has gone to Herbert and justifiably so. But the tight ends have been the key to the offensive resurgence. With Evan Baylis, Pharaoh Brown, and Johnny Mundt, the Ducks have three seniors playing a hybrid-type role. All three can beat linebackers in coverage and block defensive backs. Defenses get stuck at a disadvantage in terms of personnel.
USC’s offense is led by redshirt freshman Sam Darnold. Darnold is composed, sneaky athletic, and throws the ball well. The Trojans are very likely to win but I don’t think they will win by more than two touchdowns. The Oregon offense is too good. However, the Trojans run the ball well and the Ducks don’t stop the run well. When the Trojans can average more than 5 yards a carry they have comfortably led. The mismatch at the line of scrimmage is what will help the Trojans pull it out.
S: Oregon (+14) at USC
I think I have picked every Oregon game wrong on this column all year. So, what does it matter?
THAT SAID, I loved what I saw out of Justin Herbert last year. I think Oregon always - always - plays better against USC than they should. So I'll take 14. And hope that I see some more fight out of the defense in what should be a very tough matchup with an improving USC offensive attack. PLEASE LET ME GET ONE RIGHT.
R: Texas A&M (-13) at Mississippi State
This line leads me to believe that Vegas knows something that we don’t. Mississippi State’s only wins are over South Carolina, who is really bad, UMass, and Sam Houston State. The running backs have been erratic week-to-week and it doesn’t help that they’re going up against one of the best defensive lines in the country.
The Aggies have taken care of all their opponents not named Alabama and come into this game debatably over ranked at fourth in the country. Quarterback Trevor Knight can make plays with his legs as well as he can with his arm. Myles Garrett and the pass rush will get after the quarterback and the teams will separate drastically in the third quarter.
S: Texas A&M (-13) at Mississippi State
This game looks supremely boring. I think Texas A&M takes care of business on the road in Starkville. I can't name a single characteristic of the Bulldogs this year. I'll lay the 13.
R: Iowa at Penn State (-7)
Iowa gave head coach Kirk Ferentz is a recent recipient of what might be the most ridiculous contract extension in college football. The contract runs through 2026 and pays him $4.5 million a year with a massive buyout that makes it beyond financially difficult for the school to part ways with him. After losses to North Dakota State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and with close wins over Rutgers, Minnesota, and Purdue, there may be some buyers remorse. Iowa just isn’t a great team this year.
Penn State pulled off a huge upset two weeks ago when they toppled Ohio State. The defensive line dominated the inexperienced Buckeye offensive line in the second half, getting pressure on nearly every pass play with a 4-man rush. I don’t’ see a letup either. The Nittany Lions crushed Purdue by scoring 62 points. I thought it was against Big Ten policy to surpass 60 points in a game. I think they will win big in this matchup.
S: Iowa at Penn State (-7)
Penn State is playing as well as anyone in the Big Ten right now, and has become very good at making second half adjustments. Iowa has a good defense, but is lackluster everywhere else. Penn State has an elite run game with Barkley, and I think their defense is maturing nicely. I like Penn State by double digits at home.
R: Oregon State (+16.5) at Stanford
Stanford really struggles to score. They only scored 5 against Colorado and 2 of those points came from Colorado willingly taking a safety at the end of the game to run the clock out. Last week they scored 34 on Arizona, but, that is the Arizona defense.
Oregon State’s offense is very effective. Victor Bolden Jr. and Ryan Nall have been playmakers on offense. In the last four games the Beavers beat Cal, almost beat Utah, and almost beat Washington State. Vegas is betting that bettors are sleeping on the Beavers. I’m not. They’ll keep this close and might even pull off the win.
S: Oregon State (+16.5) at Stanford
Look, if these bookies are going to keep giving me so many points with Oregon State, I'm going to keep taking them. The Beavs aren't beating anyone, but they're playing respectably (especially on offense) and have a decent shot to keep this one close and even win it! That's a lot of points to lay on a Stanford team that has been unimpressive, and with no home field advantage. So give me the Beavs.
R: Arizona at Washington State (-16.5)
The Wildcats are on the road after giving up 34 points to Stanford. Stanford’s offense is not good. Washington State’s offense is very good. That’s very simple and might seem obvious but that is pretty much an accurate depiction of how this game will go. Washington State has won the last six in a row and their defense will be able to make enough stops to make beating the spread very likely.
S: Arizona at Washington State (-16.5)
Arizona has had really nothing of note to show of its schedule so far. Washington State has been playing steady, despite not blowing anyone out for a few weeks. But I like that Wazzu is at home, and I like the matchup of the Cougars' defense against Arizona's lifeless offense. Don't love how big this spread is, but I trust Wazzu more.
R: Alabama (-7) at LSU
LSU has made huge strides since Ed Orgeron took over as head coach. As soon as Orgeron was in charge they scored 42 against Florida, 45 against Southern Miss, and 38 against Ole Miss. With quarterback Danny Etling playing at an above average level, Leonard Fournette has been able to run wild over defenses that have to be spread out to defend the pass.
Alabama is in a tier by itself this year. Even though they have to travel to Tiger Stadium at night they are still excellent on both sides of the ball. Lane Kiffin might be the best offensive coordinator in football. He has a freshman quarterback and is making him look great. Alabama’s defense is essentially designed to stop an offense like LSU’s. Alabama will slowly chip away points and will end up winning by a couple touchdowns.
S: Alabama (-7) at LSU
I think Alabama does to LSU what it does to everyone: wear the opponent down, win in the 4th quarter. I hope I'm wrong. I'd like LSU to knock these guys off. But from what I've seen, Alabama is too deep at too many positions and too well-coached to get outclassed in the second half. Don't love laying points in Baton Rouge, but I think with Alabama you have to trust them until you see otherwise.
R: Wisconsin at (-6.5) at Northwestern
Northwestern has been the biggest surprise in the conference. They are going full Washington State after opening with losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State. They can also score a lot of points as seen in their 38-31 win over Iowa and a 54-40 over Michigan State. But the Wildcats haven’t beaten a good team this year.
The Badgers are the best 2-loss team in the country with their only losses to Michigan and Ohio State, dropping both by a single touchdown. The level of execution between the two teams is wide and the portfolios that each team has are very different from each other. Wisconsin is just the better team and that will show in their win and cover.
S: Wisconsin (-6.5) at Northwestern
This game last year was an absolute snoozer snow game. This one is far more intriguing. Northwestern just nearly shocked the world in Columbus, and Wisconsin has hung in with everyone on its tough, tough schedule. But I trust the Badgers more. Northwestern might be primed for an emotional letdown after battling it out with Ohio State last week. Wisconsin has been in tight games all year and knows how to weather that storm. Plus, I just love Wisconsin's defense, even against Northwestern's improving offense. Give me UW.
R: Nebraska (+15.5) at Ohio State
The Buckeyes have struggled the last few weeks on offense. The juggernaut that destroyed Oklahoma on primetime television only scored 30 against Wisconsin, 24 against Penn State in a loss, and 24 against Northwestern. The offensive line has struggled to protect TJ Barrett and somehow the speed at the skill positions have been mitigated. Ohio State is in the second-tier of college football teams this year and will win this game, but it won’t be by much.
Nebraska is coming off a close loss to a very good and underrated Wisconsin team. The Cornhuskers rise and fall with Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s decision-making ability. Against Wisconsin he threw two interceptions. But Armstrong and the Huskers have taken care of business against every other opponent and I don’t see them getting beat by three touchdowns without an epic collapse.
S: Nebraska (+15.5) at Ohio State
I expect a similar show-up from Nebraska as we got from Northwestern against Ohio State: stout defense, ball control offense, good special teams play. Ohio State has speed, for sure, but lacks a downfield passing game. I think the Husker defense is talented enough to keep Ohio State's speedsters corralled enough to keep the game within two touchdowns. Take the points.