Before we begin, some observations.
First, you should never use these picks as the basis for your betting, because it is clear I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing when it comes to picking against the spread. On the season, I’m picking straight up with 71.4% accuracy (60/84), which is down from last year but also isn’t terrible. Against the spread, however, I’m considerably worse: 42.1%, with a particularly dismal 1-for-8 week in week ten. I should never have added spreads.
On a lighter note, rivalry games are starting to pop up! As part of my commitment to giving you the best generic football coverage available, I’m going to try to pick every major rivalry game. “Major” in this case mainly means “Power Five,” so I apologize if I overlook the annual battle of Louisiana Directional vs. Mississippi Unaccredited for the Waffle House #6 Combo Trophy. It’s a mainstay of college football and I’m terrible for ignoring it.
Lastly, you’ll notice this week’s picks are devoid of any SEC or ACC teams, who this week are taking part in the annual SEC/ACC/FCS Challenge Presented by Dr. Pepper. So instead, Big Ten, Pac-12, and Big 12 teams get the spotlight.
(Another note, due to injuries some games are lacking lines. Should they appear later, I’ll try to add them, but probably won’t to avoid further ATS embarrassment.)
#21 Memphis at Temple (+1.5)
It’s been a weird trajectory for the Tigers: blast Ole Miss, lose to Navy, jump out to a huge lead over Houston only to watch it slip away, but keep the same spot in the Committee rankings anyway. If you haven’t watched Justin Fuente‘s or Matt Rhule‘s teams yet, watch this 11AM kickoff, because I guarantee you both of them will be named to much more prestigious jobs a month from today. Memphis 32, Temple 27
The Territorial Cup: Arizona at Arizona State (NL)
Last year the Wildcats Bore Down and outlasted the Sun Devils 42-35 in a play-in game for the Pac-12 Championship Game. This year’s game occurs with substantially less fanfare: the teams are 6-5 and 5-5 respectively and the Sun Devils need a win just to maintain hope for bowl eligibility. The Wildcats and Anu Solomon (who may not play, hence the lack of a line) have a dependable rushing game but are a sieve on defense, ranking 111th in defensive S&P+, having allowed 38 or more points on six occasions. The Sun Devils have been less erratic and play substantially better defense. Arizona State 38, Arizona 33 (To read NCB’s preview of this game, click here.)
UCLA at #13 Utah (-2)
The Utes saw their stock drop after a second loss to lowly Arizona . . . but their #13 ranking shows that the Committee still thinks pretty highly of them. They don’t rip off huge gains, but they run the ball little by little and play stout defense. And while the 7-3 Bruins have gotten all that they expected out of freshman QB Josh Rosen and then some, I don’t think they have the defense to slow down a tough Utah rushing attack, even without Devontae Booker. Utah 31, UCLA 28
USC at #23 Oregon (-4)
The Ducks woke up. After the crushing loss to Utah and the 45-38 loss to Washington State that now suddenly makes a lot more sense, Oregon has returned to its big play roots, scoring 38 points on just 48 snaps against Stanford. Vernon Adams has been a veritable sniper since getting healthy, attacking a Cardinal defense last week for 10-of-12 passing for 205 yards and two scores. Meanwhile, the Trojans continue their post-coach-firing bounce, going 4-1 since the termination of Steve Sarkisian. But the cracks are showing, having escaped lowly Cal, Arizona, and Colorado teams all by less than a score. USC keeps it interesting for awhile but can’t contain Oregon’s big play threats. Oregon 45, USC 31
Northwestern at Wisconsin (-10)
This game is one of the few recurring Big Ten series which doesn’t have a name or a traveling trophy, so we’ll call this one the “Who Gets To Be Iowa’s Quality Win? Bowl.” Also, that line is ridiculous. Both teams have fought and scraped to 8-2 thanks to great defenses and an offenses that do just enough, but I think Wisconsin’s defense shuts down Clayton Thorson and Co. Wisconsin 19, Northwestern 13
#10 Baylor at #6 Oklahoma State (Even)
History has not been kind to Baylor in Stillwater, with the Cowboys taking the last three meetings at home by scores of 49-17, 59-24, and 55-28. Oklahoma State might be “neutral” from a momentum standpoint (surviving 35-31 at Ames) but Baylor can’t be feeling too great after seeing its undefeated season hopes wash away in a rainy 44-34 defeat to Oklahoma in which Corey Coleman was almost completely neutralized. Also, QB Jarrett Stidham isn’t 100% and that’s bad news. I think the Pokes continue to build toward an undefeated season with their two-headed QB system that actually works and win again in Stillwater. Oklahoma State 45, Baylor 35 (To read NCB’s preview of this game, click here.)
#9 Michigan State at #3 Ohio State (-13)
The annual Urbtonio Bowl (don’t laugh at the name, it’s gonna be a thing) has either decided the Big Ten or gone on to in each of the last two seasons, and this one will do so again. I don’t think the Spartans can run well enough to go into Columbus and pull off the upset, but these teams both perform will in big games. Ohio State 27, Michigan State 19 (To read NCB’s preview of this game, click here.)
#18 TCU at #7 Oklahoma (NL)
Poor Trevone Boykin, whose Heisman campaign might have survived a four-interception day again Oklahoma State were it not for an injury against Kansas. Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield‘s took off with a near-perfect performance against Baylor in the rain, the stuff of legends. Oklahoma’s defense is legit, and with Boykin and big-play receiver Josh Doctson I don’t think they have the firepower to hang with OU. Oklahoma 41, TCU 24
The Big Game: Cal at #11 Stanford (-11)
Apparently 11 is Stanford’s number this week, despite being a personnel grouping they almost never use. The Committee left the door cracked open for Stanford despite the Oregon loss. Normally, one would assume the Trees have this in the bag, but after Adams’ stellar day against the Cardinal last week, there’s plenty of tape for Jared Goff to study on how to gash that defense. But the Bears’ defense is plenty pliable itself, and Christian McCaffrey will probably be raring to blow somebody up again. Stanford 44, Cal 30 (To read NCB’s preview of this game, click here.)