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Iron Bowl and the rest of the Thanksgiving Weekend College Football Picks

It's Saturday and you know what that means: It's time to make some college football picks.

With college hoops starting and the Thanksgiving holiday we decided to wait an extra day to put out the picks, but mannnnn I'm telling you, it was worth the wait. We are coming off our best week of the season after going 5-1 last Friday and Saturday, and overall are 9-3 in the last two weeks. Basically, I'm like a fine wine, getting better with age, hitting my stride as we head down the home stretch of the season.

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Now, let's get to the picks.

No. 4 Ohio State at Illinois (+28): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX Listen, I'm not going to spend a whole ton of time here writing about this game, but all I can tell you is this: If you've watched Ohio State at all, you know that for all the hype coming into the season, this team has real holes. Specifically, they're just not the same team defensively as last season, which is perfectly explainable: They lost their best pass rusher (Chase Young) and cornerback (Jeffrey Okudah) in the first three picks of the NFL Draft.

Yes, Ohio State is a football factory. But man, those are two tough guys to lose and they've proven to be impossible to replace.

Therefore, when I look at this game, it really isn't all that complicated to me. Ohio State being a four-touchdown favorite, on the road, in a week there they were limited across the board because of Covid seems like way too much to me. On top of not playing well, their week has been fragmented, and it seems it likely that several players will have to miss this game.

I'd also add, that - and don't judge me for saying this - I don't think Illinois is awful.

Now I know the 2-3 record doesn't exactly inspire confidence, but remember, they were down both their starting and back-up quarterbacks for three weeks because of Covid. The starter, Brandon Peters, returned last week and immediately lit up the scoreboard helping the Illini run Nebraska out of the building.

They certainly won't "run Ohio State out of the building" this weekend, let alone win. But I could see something in the 42-24 range, an easy cover.

Maryland (+12) at No. 12 Indiana: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2

To quote "Stepbrothers": Did Indiana football and I just become best friends? Because I think we did. Weeks after picking against them, I bet on them, and they won and covered. Afterward, I said nice things about it, and it even ended up on Michael Penix's Twitter account.

Hate to brag, but I'm kind of a big deal (sorry, LOT of Will Ferrell in this preview).

Still, there's an old saying in sports gambling: Bet numbers, not teams. And while I like Indiana, I like this number for Maryland.

Admittedly, it scared me at first, especially with Maryland coming off back-to-back weeks where they were limited in practice because of Covid positives, contact tracing and restriction. At the same time, there are two things that make me like this number: Maryland can score points, and as bad as Maryland's defense has been this season, they're a team that struggles against the run, but has actually been reasonably good against the pass. The Terps only allow quarterbacks to complete 58 percent of their passes, which is third in the Big Ten. Indiana - as we saw - is great through the air, but limited on the ground, so I think it's *slight* advantage to the Hoosiers here.

Therefore, while I think Indiana wins, I do think the Maryland defense is good enough (first time I've written that all year) to hold them in check, and score just enough points to cover the 12.

No. 8 Northwestern at Michigan State (UNDER 41.5): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

So look, Northwestern, aka the "Fighting Rece Davises" are probably the best story in college football. And they play legitimately fantastic defense, so what I'm about to say next is not a knock on them at all: Their offense really isn't all that good. They've actually been outgained by three of their five opponents (Purdue, Iowa and Wisconsin) and rank 13th out of 14 Big Ten teams in total offense.

Fun fact: You know the only team in the Big Ten whose offense is worse than Northwestern's? Michigan State.

The Spartans are flat out terrible, and going up against not only an elite Northwestern defense, but one that is forcing turnovers at an insane clip (including 11 interceptions) I just don't see how they move the ball. The good thing is that Michigan State actually plays pretty stout defense themselves, and they should be able to keep Northwestern in check.

To be perfectly blunt, unless there are multiple defensive touchdowns, I just don't see any scenario where this game goes over.

The UNDER is my favorite bet of the day.

Pittsburgh at No. 4 Clemson (OVER 55.5): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

It's been three weeks since Clemson played, over a month since Trevor Lawrence stepped on the field and these are two of the best defenses in the ACC. So we gotta go UNDER, right?

Nope, not today, people.

Here's why I like the over here: First off, you KNOW Clemson is going to be fired up. Between Lawrence being back, playing in front of a geeked up home crowd and what happened at Florida State last week, you know the Tigers are coming for blood. Not to mention that it probably isn't the worst idea to start putting up solid "eye test" wins for the committee.

Here's the thing though: Pitt's offense isn't bad either. Don't let the season-long numbers fool you, since quarterback Kenny Pickett came back from injury, the Panthers have scored 41 and 47 points. And it's not as though this Clemson team is some "Iron Curtain" either. They've given up at least 21 points in four of their eight games this season.

If Pitt - which has a better offense than a bunch of those teams - can get us to 21, I see no way we don't get the OVER.

No. 22 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama (-24.5): Saturday, 3:30 p.m., CBS

At first, I was hesitant to lay a number this big, especially with Nick Saban sitting at home with an ice pack on his head. But really, what this boils down to is a few simple things:

  1. Alabama's offense is just so damn explosive. You know about Mac Jones, Devonta Smith, Najee Harris, etc. They're going against a respectable Auburn defense, but also one that is majorly deficient in a few key areas, specifically on third down defense, where they rank 13th out of 14 SEC schools. Alabama doesn't get into third down often, but it's bad news if you can't get them off the field.

  2. I worry about Alabama's defense a bit, but they weirdly might be getting Auburn at the best possible time. Gus Malzahn said on Tuesday that both of his offensive tackles might be out for this one, which umm, changes the calculus on this one.

  3. I feel like I'm the only one who remembers this, but umm, does anyone else remember when all agreed Bo Nix wasn't good? And that he was especially bad on the road? And now all of a sudden, we're not worried because of a pair of home wins over Tennessee and LSU? Just as easily as Auburn could be 5-2, they could 3-4.

Ultimately, I think Auburn can keep this one close early for a half, mainly because Gus Malzahn always tries some wild crap early in these games and gets a freak big play and occasional touchdown. But in the end, Alabama has too much firepower and will be too fired up at home, and with

LSU at No. 5 Texas A&M (-15): Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

So I'm really not a big fan of betting teams who are coming off extended breaks, yet am literally breaking that rule three different times in this article (Maryland, Clemson, now Texas A&M).

In this case, here is why: Texas A&M is really good. LSU is really bad.

Starting with Texas A&M, I know there's a lot being made about the across the board improvement of the offense, something I wouldn't dispute. But do you know who has the No. 1 total defense in the SEC right now? It's not Georgia or Alabama. It's A&M - and they've played arguably the two best offenses in the country in Bama and Florida.

So now we're going to take that defense, and put it up against an LSU group which struggled against a depleted Arkansas squad last week (and needed multiple BS ref calls to seal the win) and who scored 11 points the game before that against Auburn? Puh-leeze.

As for the A&M offense, while it might take them a minute to find their groove, remember, they are going up against a just porous LSU defense, one which has basically been gashed by every half-decent offense they've faced (Mississippi State, Missouri, Auburn).

A&M rolls to the win in College Station.

Stay Aways:

Kentucky at No. 6 Florida (-25.5); No. 8 Georgia (-21.5) at South Carolina: My logic here is basically the same in that I liked the favorite, but got to it late and the line jumped massively in the wrong direction. Just going to sit back and enjoy this one.

Penn State at Michigan (-1): I actually think Penn State wins this one, but if you're really asking me to give you a strong opinion on the worst Penn State team of a generation and the worst Michigan team of the Harbaugh era, you're straight up out of your mind.

Remember, if you're going to wager on these games or any others, make sure to use MyBookie. Put in the promo code "TORRES" at checkout, and you automatically receive a 100 percent sign-up bonus.

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