Updated: Nov 7, 2020
It's Wednesday and you know what that means: It's time to make some college football picks.
It's also time... to welcome back the Pac-12 and MAC. That's right baby, #MACtion kicked off Wednesday night, and now we're about to get some Pac-12 After Dark. Because honestly, what's better than placing a bet on an Oregon State team you know nothing about, then sweating it out until well after 2 a.m. in the morning, with one eye barely open.
Nothing, dammit. The answer is nothing!!
Now, on a much more serious topic, there is a national crisis going on right now that needs to be discussed. I wanted to avoid it, but couldn't any longer. That crisis is.... that man, the picks have been bad the last few weeks. After a red-hot five straight winning weeks to open the season, we have hit the skids hard with three straight losing weeks. I'm not going to make excuses, or try to justify things. Much like Mark McGwire I'm not here to talk about the past, and instead, am ready to turn things around for a second half charge.
So with that, let's get to those picks, which as always are presented by our friends over at MyBookie. And if you want to gamble this week - even if it's to fade my picks - go ahead and do it at MyBookie. Use promo code "TORRES" and they will double your first deposit. So if you want to take $100 and put it to fade all six of my picks, MyBookie will give you $200 to play with it.
It's the best deal going in sports gambling.
Now, to today's picks, with one caveat - I actually added one game to the card late Wednesday night, after initially only picking seven games. This article was also written before news broke that Cal had a Covid outbreak and their game against Washington wouldn't be played. Obviously that game is now off the card.
Arizona State at No. 19 USC (-10.5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
So you've heard of "Pac-12 after dark." Well what about "Pac-12 before dawn." That's right, in Larry Scott's attempts to piss off anyone even remotely affiliated with any Pac-12 school, the league will kick its season off at... 9 a.m. local time in Los Angeles Saturday.
It's football, at the Coliseum, at dawn, without fans in the stands. Can you feel the excitement?!?!
In all seriousness, I am actually pretty fired up to watch this USC team, and to me they're easily the most interesting story in all of the Pac-12. One, they were actually pretty good last year once they got comfortable in the Air Raid offense last year. Over USC's final six games of the regular season, they went 5-1 and scored 40+ points three times. Like, make fun of Clay Helton for what you want. But hiring Graham Harrell might have just saved his job.
The other reason I'm excited to watch 'SC is because they were the school, more than any other in the Pac-12 that fought hard for actual football this year. Much like Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan in the Big Ten, if it weren't for USC, this league might not be playing, and I think they come out extra fired up for this one, even with the early kick.
Considering they bring back most of their offense, and are going up against an ASU team that had the nation's 115th ranked pass defense last season, I think USC scores, score often and win going away at the Coliseum.
USC fights on to a 1-0 record, with a big, statement victory over the Sun Devils.
No. 23 Michigan (-3) at No. 13 Indiana: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FS1
Look, I'm not here to defend Jim Harbaugh. Last Saturday against Michigan State was an abomination. I've defended the guy in the past, but am beyond that point. Understand, it's one thing to lose to Ohio State. It's one thing to lose to Bama in a bowl game. It's another to lose as a 24-point home favorite to a rival. It's inexcusable.
So now that I've said my peace on Michigan, let's turn to their opponent, Indiana. Because the Hoosiers are 2-0 and the best story in the Big Ten right now.
Just one problem: I think it's fools gold.
Look, the Indiana story is impressive, but here are some facts: They were outgained by over 200 yards by Penn State, had one "scoring drive" of four yards off a turnover, and still needed a fluky, potentially incorrect call in overtime to seal that win. They also scored two touchdowns last week against Rutgers off turnovers, meaning that while they're 2-0, they actually haven't been all that impressive, especially offensively.
Put another way, here is a full list of teams in the Big Ten whose offense has been worse than Indiana's so far: Rutgers. That's it. That's the entire list, as the Hoosiers currently rank 13th of out of 14 teams in the Big Ten in offense right now.
In the end, I know it's easy to crush Jim Harbaugh here, but if Indiana doesn't get a fluke play to beat Penn State, they're probably at least a touchdown underdog coming into this game.
I'm not a believer in Harbaugh long-term, but entering this game as barely a field goal favorite is straight stealing.
It's honestly one of my favorite bets of the year.
Michigan State at Iowa (UNDER 46): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
I'm going to spare you hard-hitting analysis here, because, well, it's Iowa-Michigan State, and instead leave you with one simple thought. That thought is this:
Michigan State played about as well as it could, in a big rivalry against Michigan last week... and still only came up with 27 points. Now they're going to go on the road for a second straight week, coming off a huge win and play better? Forgive me, but I just don't see it.
To me, this is the quintessential, noon ET Big Ten kick-off that we've all grown to love so much, that is close, low-scoring and to be perfectly honest, a little bit boring.
I except Iowa to win, and I expect it to be somewhere in the 20-14 range.
BONUS PICK: No. 8 Florida vs. No. 3 Georgia (UNDER 52.5): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CBS
When this article initially published I stayed away from Florida-Georgia but have decided to jump in. While the line of Georgia (-3) scares me (I expect it to be closer to a pick 'em by kickoff) the more I think about how I see this game being played, the more intriguing the UNDER is to me.
The bottom line is that Kirby Smart knows that the only way for Georgia to win this game is to run the ball, keep running the ball, take time off the clock and not get into a shoot out against Florida. That appeared to be their exact game-plan against Kentucky last week - "run the ball as much as we can, and get out of here no matter what the score is" - and I think it's the same here. Smart learned against Alabama that Stetson Bennett simply can't go score for score against elite offenses, meaning that this is their only shot.
Therefore look for Georgia to run the ball and chew clock, and I believe his defense - which has largely had success against Dan Mullen through the years - can keep Florida's offense in check.
I wouldn't be surprised if Florida wins outright, but Georgia isn't going to let them get the ball enough for the OVER to hit.
Take the UNDER here.
Kansas at No. 19 Oklahoma (-20.5 - first half): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
One of the most disappointing things about the college football season reaching the halfway point (well, except in the Pac-12 and Mountain West) is that it means we only have a few more chances to bet against Kansas. Seriously, if you haven't made enough money betting against Kansas to pay off your student loans, your car payment and purchased at least one gift where your wife says "honey, we can't afford this" when she opens it, you really are wasting your life.
The Jayhawks are 0-6 against the spread this year, and my hunch is that they make it 0-7 this weekend.
But just to play it safe, rather than betting against the (-38) full game spread, take the first half spread of -20.5.
The bottom line is that Oklahoma is finally starting to hit its groove after embarrassing Texas Tech last weekend, and they're playing their first home game in over a month (the last one was September 26th) so I expect them to come out fired up. With Kansas State and Oklahoma State both losing last weekend, they also are quietly playing themselves back into Big 12 title contention.
So when you factor in all those things, I just think Oklahoma comes out early and tries to put on a show for the home fans in Norman, just in time to take out their starters once halftime hits.
Don't sweat the 38 points late in the game, but get Oklahoma early to cover the three touchdowns in the first half.
No. 1 Clemson (-6) at No. 4 Notre Dame (UNDER 51.5): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Ahh yes, the big game. Clemson at Notre Dame. A top five matchup with major playoff implications. And obviously the story here is, how will D.J. Uiagalelei handle his first career road start.
Except to me, the story isn't really Uiagalelei but instead Notre Dame. The Irish are 6-0, and ranked No. 4 in the country, but what do we really know about them? To me, it's not as much as you think, and here's why: They haven't played anybody.
Want a crazy stat about the Irish: There are currently seven teams in the ACC with losing records... and Notre Dame has played six of them. Of the six ACC teams besides Notre Dame with winning records, the Irish have played zero of them.
To steal the old "They ain't played nobody" line from Paul Finebaum, in this case, it's actually 100 percent true. Notre Dame ain't played nooooobody!!!
In other words, this is the first real defense the Irish have faced all season, and to be blunt, I kind of wonder if they'll be able to move the ball. Notre Dame has been great on the ground this year but terrible through the air, and currently rank 12th out of 15 teams in the ACC in passing offense. For a team that is 6-0, that's kind of an incredible stat.
As for Clemson, look I know everyone wants to freak out about the Tigers, but for all the talk about their close call against Boston College last week, here are the facts: The Eagles did just about everything right in the first half, including a fluke, 97-yard fumble return for a touchdown. If Clemson just punches that one in, it's a 21-20 game, instead of 28-13 going into the half. And from there, Clemson's defense shut out the Eagles in the second half.
Therefore, I think that Clemson's defense more than handles itself against a one-dimensional Notre Dame offense, and I think Notre Dame's defense can keep Uiagalelei in check for at least a half.
In the end, I think Clemson wins somewhere in the neighborhood of 28-10 or 24-14, giving us a Clemson cover and an UNDER hit.
Washington at Cal (-1.5): Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
(*Note: This article was published before news of Cal's Covid-19 outbreak on Wednesday night)
Man, it has finally happened. After 10 long weeks, we finally get a late night, Pac-12 kick-off.
It's Pac-12 After Dark, and as the kids say, it's about to be LIT... right? Yeah I'm not so sure. One, these are two defensive-oriented teams, with each ranking in the top four in the Pac-12 last year in total defense. So yeah, this isn't going to be your grandfather's 48-44 Pac-12 After Dark.
Now, in terms of why I like Cal, well a few reasons. One they are a quietly improving program, one which has improved its win total in each of Justin Wilcox's first three seasons as head coach. Also, this team which relies almost exclusively on defense returns its entire offense from last year. Literally, every offensive starter who played in their Red Box Bowl win over Illinois last year is back.
Finally there's Washington, and never forget that this is the debut of new head coach Jimmy Lake. That's right, it's easy to forget now, but Chris Petersen stepped aside this off-season and in his place is his long-time defensive coordinator. Therefore, to be clear, I'm not saying that Washington can't or won't be good under Lake. But playing on the road, with a first-time head coach and a first-time starting QB against a legitimately good team is a tough ask.
This line actually opened with Washington as over a field goal favorite, and now Cal is slightly favored.
Get in on the action before it goes up even more.
No. 9 BYU (-3) at No. 21 Boise State, Friday, 9:45 p.m. ET, ESPN: Look, I'm not going to lie, I love this BYU story and want to bet them with every ounce of my heart. At the same time, I've been burned by Covid uncertainty all season long, and right now, we're still not sure if Boise quarterback Hank Bachmeier is going to start or not. Forgive me, but I just don't want to see him walking through the tunnel like Willis Reed three minutes before kick and know I'm screwed before this game even starts.
West Virginia at No. 22 Texas (-6.5), Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC: West Virginia is quietly one of the best stories in college football right now, sitting at 4-2. Just one problem, they're 0-2 on the road, and their wins aren't all that impressive (Eastern Kentucky, Kansas, Baylor and a Kansas State team playing a true freshman QB on the road in his first career start). Texas beat Oklahoma State last week, but did it when OSU basically gifted them a bunch of points off turnovers. I don't think we know much about West Virginia and it's wayyyy too on brand for Texas to lose this one after their big win last week. No thank you.
Vanderbilt at Mississippi State (-19), Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network: For me to bet on this game, would mean that I'd have to watch it. And I just don't want to. Life is too short, and when I'm on my death bed (hopefully many years from now) the last thing I want to be thinking is "Man, why did I waste three hours of my life watching that Vandy-Mississippi State game I bet on back in 2020?!?"
No. 7 Texas A&M (-10) at South Carolina, Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN: With the way Texas A&M absolutely steamrolled Arkansas last week, this has a Georgia-Florida "it feels a little obvious" vibe to it. My biggest fear is that with A&M coming off a big win, they come out a little flat, and with South Carolina off a bye they come out refreshed. I'd lean A&M. But don't love it enough to bet it.
Tennessee (-1.5) at Arkansas, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network: Another one that just has me completely shook. I know Tennessee is coming off a bye, but how are they a road favorite against anyone other than Vanderbilt at this point? I just don't get it.
Rutgers at No. 3 Ohio State (-38), Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC: Credit to Greg Schiano, who actually has Rutgers playing hard - which is the problem here. Ohio State will be up 35-0 or more at halftime, and Ryan Day will probably pull the starters. Greg Schiano will coach his team to the final whistle. I just don't feel like sweating out a drive when the score is 45-3 with four minutes to go. No thank you.
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