Rusty’s Record: 38-37-1
Sean’s Record: 37-38-1
Rusty’s Record: 3-3
Sean’s Record: 2-4
S: Alabama at Auburn (+4.5)
Alabama is good at everything, except for maybe quarterback play on obvious passing downs. By some metrics, Auburn is the #1 passing defense in the nation.
Not a ton of other analysis here. We have a talented defense at home as an underdog in a rivalry game. And this line is lower than I thought it would be, which makes me want to jump on it. Take the points. It's gonna be a close one, and Auburn has a good chance to win this thing. The Tigers are much more battle-tested than Alabama: they've played a tougher schedule. Let's make this an Iron Bowl to remember, and upend the College Football Playoff picture.
R: Alabama at Auburn (+4.5)
When both Alabama and Auburn are good, Auburn tends to be the team that wins. With the home advantage I like the Tigers a lot more.
Alabama’s offensive coordinator has been fantastic this year. He mixes personnel groupings and concepts really well over the course of a game. Jalen Hurts is a really good quarterback in this offense. He gets a lot of criticism for his passing, but running ability is so good that he more than makes up for it. The Tide defense has taken a lot of hits. Some important guys are limited and the linebackers have been crushed by injuries.
Auburn’s line has come a long way since their loss to Clemson at the beginning of the year. In their showdown with Georgia, it was the lines on both offense and defense that set the tone. I think the Auburn offensive line will take advantage of the weakened front seven. Whether Auburn can pull the win off will be determined by how well Auburn receivers can get open and how often Stidham can connect on the deep ball. I like them to cover, at least.
S: Ohio State at Michigan (+10)
Similar analysis to the Iron Bowl: talented defense at home as an underdog in a rivalry game. The Ohio State offense is very Jekyll-and-Hyde: they look great against bad defenses. They look confused and out-of-sync against good defenses (Oklahoma, Iowa, Penn State). J.T. Barrett had one of his worst appearances in last year's matchup.
I'm just not comfortable laying double digits on a road favorite in a game like this where Michigan's defense is so good.
R: Ohio State (-10) at Michigan
Fun fact: Hoke has a better record over Michigan’s rivals than Harbaugh does. The Buckeyes are the top team in the country according to S&P+. They’re 8th in the most recent rankings and don’t pass the eye test well but the numbers really love them.
Michigan is still winless against teams that have even or winning records, so this Saturday should spell more trouble. Quarterback Brandon Peters is in concussion protocol from a hit in the game against Wisconsin. That means John O’Korn will be the quarterback, which gives Michigan’s offense little chance of succeeding.
The Ohio State rushing attack is the best in the country. As long as the Buckeyes remain committed to rushing the football they’ll be fine. The OSU defense is also one of the best against the run and should totally shut down Michigan’s offense. I think Ohio State wins this one by a lot.
S: Notre Dame (-1.5) at Stanford
Notre Dame is just better than Stanford. Their defense might be the best that Stanford has faced all year. Notre Dame is making a last-grasp attempt to get back in the playoff discussion, and will need to win, and win impressively, and then hope for chaos at the top. Stanford is awaiting the Apple Cup to figure out if they're in the Pac-12 title game. A loss won't affect their eligibility for the championship game.
Notre Dame is just more talented across the board than Stanford. I think they grind out a boring 6-point win on the Farm.
R: Notre Dame (-1.5) at Stanford
I’m not sure how much Stanford is going to be into this game. They’re not in the playoff, are already bowl eligible, and may be having an eye on a possible championship game against USC. They’ll have an eye on UW-WSU. With a Washington State win the Cardinal will represent the north. If Washington State loses then their regular season is over after this game.
I don’t put a lot of stock into Notre Dame’s close win over Navy. The Irish defense will be able to load up on the run, similar to what Cal did, and slow it down. Notre Dame’s great pass defense is going to do its job against a rough Stanford passing attack. The Notre Dame ground game should also be able to work efficiently on the farm. I think Notre Dame will win a close one, but with such a small spread you might as well pick the team you think will win.
S: Washington State (+11) at washington
Both teams are to some degree untrustworthy. If there would be a time for Mike Leach to sneak up on Washington and win one, this is the time. Wazzu got BEAT DOWN last year at home in a game people thought they had a chance. They haven't forgotten that.
Too many points in a game that is more even than in recent years, because Wazzu has the defensive clout to hold Washington down. Take the points.
R: Washington State (+11) at washington
This may be a case where I just pick whatever I want to have happen. The Huskies escaped a close one against Utah. If not for Kyle Wittingham getting a little aggressive with his timeouts near the end of regulation, there’s a slight chance Washington might have come out with a loss. However, washington is only in this game for pride. They can only play the role of spoiler. A win keeps the Cougars out of the PAC-12 North championship game.
This is a lot of points to give up on teams that have both had terrible games. The WSU defensive line is really the key to the whole team’s success. As Bill C points out, they are top 10 in getting to the qb, getting teams off the field, and stopping big plays. I think the WSU defense will be able to force Browning into some bad decisions and cough up a few turnovers.
S: Oregon State at Oregon (-21.5)
Ducks are peaking at the right time. Defense has played super well all year and is in the top 40 by pretty much every metric. Offense is energized with the return of Herbert, who is just a really exceptional passer. We need to appreciate him more.
Ducks are probably still pissed that they, well, pissed away the game last year in Corvallis. I think they're going to run the ball over the Beavers' beleaguered defense. Just not enough talent on the Oregon State roster to hang in this one. Yes, 21.5 is a lot of points in a rivalry game, but the Ducks are healthy, motivated, and angry.
R: Oregon State (+21.5) at Oregon
I really hate the phrase around rivalries that goes, “Throw out the record books with this one.” That’s not the case here when it comes to who will win. Oregon is extremely likely to win and Oregon State would have to play at a level we haven’t seen them play this year in order for them to pull off the upset. Since Justin Herbert has returned, Royce Freeman has rushed for four touchdowns and the offense is effective once again. Oregon didn’t even throw the ball more with Herbert at quarterback compared to Burmeister. Just the presence of a passing attack and a deep ball threat was enough to loosen up space for the entire office to run.
Oregon State has not given up on this season. They may have looked lost at times to Arizona but they didn’t give up, even pulling off the back door cover. Cory Hall is coaching to take over the job as the official head coach next season so they will be as prepared and energized as ever. I wouldn’t even feel very comfortable if the spread was -17. I think the Beavers will keep it close, maybe pull off the back door cover, but Oregon will be firmly in the driver’s seat the whole time.
S: Virginia Tech at Virginia (+7.5)
Virginia Tech has won 5 straight Commonwealth Cups. That might end this weekend.
UVA has had an up-and-down year, for sure, but man have they improved! Va. Tech is kind of backsliding since looking good early in the year, and I can't really name an impressive win. West Virginia? Boston College?
UVA has the horses to keep with VT. And I think they have a chance to win the dang game. They have good quarterback play, pretty good O-line play, and a few very good defensive players. Take the points again.
S: Georgia at Georgia Tech (+10)
I may sound like a broken record, but I love taking home 'dogs in rivalry games, especially tricky rivals who have been ignored. What do I mean by ignored? Well, everyone's kind of saying: "You know, if Georgia runs the table, and beats Alabama, they should be in the playoff."
Tech is like: Hey! We've won two of the last three!" And they're right. Even more than that, Georgia hasn't won by more than single-digit points since 2012. These two programs are kind of close together, in terms of their ability. And 10 points is too many, especially for a Georgia team that is on the road, and looking ahead to a matchup with the Iron Bowl winner in the SEC Championship. Take the points!
R: California (+8) at UCLA
It’s a little too late in the season for the “nobody believes in us game.” Jim Mora was recently fired, meaning that they are one of the top two teams for the Chip Kelly sweepstakes. The head coach is not coaching for his job and the Bruins just gave everything they had for the USC game, which resulted in a loss.
Meanwhile, Cal is playing for bowl eligibility. Wilcox has a star-studded coaching staff that is going to have this team ready to play. UCLA has the worst run defense in the country and Wilcox is going to be able to figure out a way to contain, but not stop, Rosen. I like Cal to win straight up.
R: Indiana at Purdue (-3)
I’ve had a real good feeling about Purdue this whole season and it continues in this matchup between Hoosier state teams.
Purdue is fresh off a big win at Iowa and I think Jeff Brohm’s offensive prowess is going to show up in this game. The Boilermakers are failry balanced on offense and defensively they stack really well against the run. Indiana has one of the worst rushing attacks in the country but only an above average passing attack. The Hoosiers are going to be completely one-dimensional and the home field advantage is going to play a big role. BANG THE DRUM