People, I have some wild news for you: We have now basically reached the midway point of the college football season. It feels like it was just yesterday I was sitting in Hawaii, writing my Week 1 picks while on my honeymoon, without a care in the world – well, except whether the UCLA/Cincinnati under hit. Now it’s mid-October, several teams have played half their schedule, and if you haven’t heard, my wife has already discussed divorce with me.
It’s incredible how quickly things change.
And yes, I’m kidding on that part about divorce. I got ya, didn’t I?
Anyway, since those picks in August, this sport has completely undergone a makeover, but the one thing that remains consistent is this: Our picks here at AaronTorresOnline have been excellent. Last week – even in a week I told you that there just weren’t very many games we liked – I still managed to go 3-2, making it now six weeks out of seven that I’ve had a winning record with the picks (including Week 0). Overall my record sits at 21-14-2, meaning that if you bet every single one of my picks this season, you’d have some nice pocket change. As I say every Saturday night on Twitter, if you’re not following the picks, you really are costing yourself money.
Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, and now it’s time to get to the picks. Unlike last week I actually like the board and am ready to give you a bunch of winners to line your bank account.
And as always, the picks are brought to you by my friends at MyBookie. Remember if you’re gambling on games this weekend, the only place to do it is at MyBookie – use the promo code “TORRES” at checkout, to receive a 100 percent sign-up bonus.
Alright, no more delay, let’s get to these picks.
South Carolina (+24 ½) at No. 4 Georgia: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
After South Carolina suffered a disastrous loss in Week 1, I went on my podcast and made a bold declaration: That I would never talk about South Carolina again the rest of the season. That they were the same team every year, wouldn’t beat anyone of significance, and finish 7-5 like they always do.
But then a funny thing happened: I hate to say it, but their starting quarterback Jake Bentley got hurt, Ryan Hilinski replaced him, and they have actually looked better with Hilinski in the lineup. The Gamecocks put up close to 400 yards against Alabama, played Missouri tough on the road before the Tigers pulled away late, and then dominated Kentucky two weeks ago in Columbia.
And now, they’re coming off a bye heading to Georgia. And I like them to keep things close.
On the one hand, Georgia is clearly the better team here. But they are also coming off a closer-than-the-final score indicates win over Tennessee, and are returning home, for a noon kick-off against a team they know they’re better than.
More importantly they are – at least in my opinion – hitting a lull in their season where they’re probably starting to feel like the only game that matters on their schedule is Florida. Beat the Gators, and the Dawgs are heading to Atlanta for Bama-Georgia Part III. I mean, how can they not be thinking that at this point?
Therefore, and with this game kicking off at noon, I think the Dawgs come out flat and the Gamecocks play them tough. I wouldn’t even be surprised if it’s a one-possession game late in the third quarter.
Georgia may win, but South Carolina will cover. I can’t believe I’m saying nice things about the Gamecocks, but they’re not nearly as bad as many think.
No. 11 Texas (+11) vs. No. 6 Oklahoma: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
Sometimes it’s OK to admit that you’re wrong, and I’ve got to be honest: I was flat wrong on Texas prior to the season. Coming into the year the Longhorns lost a ton on defense and at the skill positions, and I really believed they would struggle even despite the presence of Sam Ehlinger.
Only here they are, about to reach the midway point of their season, and the Horns are a couple plays away from potentially upsetting LSU and being undefeated. More importantly, they’re starting to look like Texas again, and take care of business against the teams they are supposed to. Seriously, just think about that West Virginia game last weekend. How on-brand would it have been for Texas to lose that game, and make this weekend’s matchup with Oklahoma less significant? They’ve been losing games like that for years.
Instead, they took care of West Virginia with ease last Saturday.
Looking ahead to this weekend, there are a few reasons I like the Longhorns here.
One, this is a rivalry that’s always close. If you take out last year’s Big 12 Championship Game, the last five Red River Shootouts have had final scores that read like this: 48-45, 29-24, 45-40, 24-17, 31-26. That’s right, none of the last five Red River games have been decided by more than a touchdown – and let’s be honest, the talent gap between the two teams was much wider in those seasons than it is this season.
Add in the fact that Tom Herman is basically lights out against the spread as an underdog and that’s more reason to like the Longhorns, and also I’d add this: If you go back to the LSU game, the one thing that Texas was sorely lacking was a run game. Well, in each of the last two games, they’ve had a 100-yard rusher, with Keontay Ingram hitting that mark two weeks ago, and Roschon Johnson last week.
Point being, I see no reason that Texas can’t keep things close, if not win this game outright. I’ll take the Longhorns and the points here.
Florida State at No. 2 Clemson (UNDER 59 ½): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
They say that the Masters is “A Traditional Unlike Any Other,” but let’s be honest: This season, betting the UNDER in Clemson games has become a tradition unlike any other in these parts. It’s routinely my favorite bet of the week and has already hit three times for us this season.
It really is the perfect storm of elite defense holding the opposition in check, and an offense that everyone keeps expecting to explode well, not exploding.
And I see no reason why this week is any different. Clemson will be by far the best defense Florida State has played all season (they rank in the Top 10 nationally in both total defense and scoring defense) and I find it hard to see a scenario where the Seminoles score more than 14 points. Then there is the Clemson offense, which, like the Clemson defense is coming off a bye and should be as locked in as they’ve been in weeks. But what does “locked in” even mean for this team? Twenty-eight points? Thirty-five? I know Florida State’s defense hasn’t been great this season, but credit where it’s due: They’ve looked good the last few weeks.
Point being, I just can’t see a scenario where Florida State scores more than 14 points, meaning that Clemson would need 46 for this game to go OVER.
Maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t see it happening. A tradition unlike any other continues this weekend.
No. 1 Alabama (-17.5, now -17) at No. 24 Texas A&M: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Two thoughts, and two thoughts only on this game.
1. For whatever reason, Alabama has just absolutely owned Texas A&M in this series. I’m not sure why (other than that Alabama owns everyone) but here are the scores of this series since Johnny Manziel left Texas A&M: 59-0, 41-23, 33-14, 27-19, 45-23. So basically, in the last five meetings, only one game has been within 18 points.
2. This year has proven that Alabama has one big weakness: Their defense can be beaten, especially on the ground. And they are especially susceptible to big plays. Just one problem: A&M is literally one of the least explosive offenses in college football. They rank just 92nd nationally in rushing yardage, and also 92nd nationally in plays of 30 or more yards. For comparison’s sake, the Aggies have the same number of 30+ yard plays this season as Tennessee. Woof.
I still believe in Jimbo Fisher, and believe he is the right guy for this job. But Bama’s offense is always explosive. And with an extra week off to prepare and get healthy, I think we’ll see their best defensive effort of the season too.
Which is bad news for the Aggies.
Michigan State at No. 8 Wisconsin (-10 ½): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
At this point, I really think Wisconsin is just a good football team. No caveats. No, “Well, if they’re playing this team” or “they can only win playing this way” or anything like that. They’re just legitimately, awesomely good, and I think they can hang with and beat anyone in this sport.
Mostly I think that’s because of the defense, and right now, Wisconsin has just been stupid on that side of the ball. The Badgers currently rank No. 1 nationally in total defense, giving up just 178 yards per game (178!!!) and are also giving up just 3.09 yards per play. That is a half-yard better than anyone else in college football. That’s also almost four yards fewer per play than UCLA is allowing.
No, that has nothing to do with anything. But figured I’d just throw that in there anyway (sorry UCLA fans).
What’s most important to this game particularly however, is this: That Wisconsin defense will be going up against a tired, beat up Michigan State squad. The Spartans of course are coming off a butt kicking at the hands of Ohio State last week, and this is now their seventh straight game to open the season with no bye week yet (the Spartans’ first bye comes next week). A second straight road game, against a second straight elite defense is an awful lot to ask of the Spartans. Especially when they’re already tired from a daunting, front-half of the schedule.
The Badgers in this spot are one of my favorite plays of the weekend.
No. 7 Florida at No. 5 LSU (UNDER 54 ½, now 55): Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Look, we all love this LSU story right now. They’re fun! They’re scoring a bunch of points! Look at them go! Except here is the thing: Look at the defenses that they’ve played. Georgia Southern in ranked 60th nationally. Texas is ranked 104th. Vanderbilt is ranked 125th. Utah State is ranked 95th. Northwestern State is neither a state, nor an FBS team. So we’re not even going to talk about them.
Now obviously, part of the reason those numbers are so high for those five teams is because they’ve played this explosive LSU offense. But part of it is also that those defenses aren’t very good.
So that’s part of why I like the UNDER here, and the other reason is this: Both of these team’s strengths on offense will go against the other team’s strength on defense. LSU is ranked No. 2 nationally in passing, but also haven’t faced a pass defense like Florida’s; Gators currently lead college football with 12 interceptions. And Florida is going to try to run the ball to take pressure off quarterback Kyle Trask and Emory Jones in a hostile environment in Baton Rouge. LSU has the No. 8 rushing defense in college football.
So in the end, while this point spread scares me (13 feels like a lot for LSU) the one thing I know is that both will make each other uncomfortable defensively. It’s enough for me to take the UNDER, in what should be a fun, highly-entertaining game in Death Valley.
Washington at Arizona (UNDER 58 ½): Saturday, 11:00 p.m. ET, FS1
Last week I told you the Washington/Stanford UNDER was my favorite play of the week and it hit with ease. So why not double-down with another Washington UNDER this week?
The bottom line with Washington is that the one thing that the Huskies do well is keep teams out of the end zone. They haven’t given up more than 23 points per game in any game this season. And while – from the outside – Arizona seems like an up-and-down team under Kevin Sumlin, they’ve actually played pretty good defense of late. In their last three games, Arizona hasn’t given up more than 30 points. And that 30-point game was on the road last week at Colorado. In their last two home games, they’ve given up 14 and 17 points respectively.
While I’m not feeling great about either side on the point spread, the one thing I do feel good about is that this one is low-scoring. Washington simply doesn’t give up a lot of points, nor do they score often themselves, which is why I love the UNDER here.
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