Week 11 College Football Picks: Michigan-Penn State, A&M-Ole Miss and much, MUCH more
It's Wednesday and you know what that means: It's time to make some college football picks. And as the kids say... I'M BACK, BABY!!!
That's right, after several tough weeks, low-lighted by the final play of the Florida State-Clemson game that cost us BOTH the under and Florida State +9.5, we got hot last week going 6-1 in our seven picks. Everything we touched turned to gold.
Now the question is, can we stay hot in what is a somewhat quiet slate. We have officially hit the time of year where a bunch of SEC schools will now play directional opponents (Alabama vs. New Mexico State, Florida vs. Samford etc.) thinning out our list of potential games to wager on.
Still, the show must go on. As always, make sure you're subscribed to the College Football Betting show, where new episodes go up every week. The only goal is to make you the smartest bettor possible, and I have no doubt in my mind we are doing that.
Also, a reminder: These picks are presented by DraftKings Sportsbook - the team at DraftKings has an incredible offer for you, with details below.
Now to the picks:
No. 6 Michigan (-1) at Penn State: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC
In what is an otherwise quiet slate, this is probably the single biggest game of the day. And really, for bettors, it sets up a fascinating push-pull on where you should place your money.
Do you trust the metrics, which basically say that Michigan should win this game?
Or do you trust the eye test that tells you that Michigan always seems to figure out how to lose big games in the most frustrating way possible under Jim Harbaugh?
Clearly I'm taking the former not the latter, but let me explain why.
Really, every advantage in this game favors Michigan. While the College Football Playoff committee never should have put Michigan ahead of Michigan State in the most recent ranking, their logic of "they look like the more complete team" isn't really that far off. As I've been saying in this column for weeks, there is really no phase of the game, Michigan is bad at.
Instead, they're good at pretty much everything, while Penn State has one, glaring weakness. They simply can't run the ball, and currently rank 117th nationally in rushing yardage. Michigan meanwhile is only OK against the run defensively (30th nationally) but elite against the pass, as they rank No. 9 in that category, and No. 7 in opponent completion percentage.
In other words, what Michigan does great on defense goes directly against Penn State's strength (the Wolverines' pass defense vs. the Nittany Lions' pass offense) and the place that Michigan struggles (if you want to call it that), Penn State can't exploit.
And it's the same on offense. Michigan has one of the best run offenses in college football, going up against a Penn State run defense that gave up 182 yards against Auburn earlier in the year, and 161 vs. Ohio State (although much of that was late.
Ultimately I spent way too much time thinking about this game this week, but if Michigan does what they're supposed to do this week, they should win fairly convincingly.
Mississippi State (+5.5) at No. 17 Auburn: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Last week in this very space, I previewed the Auburn-Texas A&M game, picking A&M to cover the -4.5 point spread by saying if the Aggies could stop the run and force Bo Nix to make plays, Auburn could be beaten. As soon as I said that, Auburn fans freaked out and spent most of the next few days flooding my timeline and telling me what an idiot I was.
Then the game happened, Auburn was held to less than three yards per carry forcing Bo Nix to make plays - and the game swung on a Bo Nix fumble recovery return for a touchdown for A&M.
So one, shout out Auburn fans. Good job, good effort. Two, let's see if I can go 2 for 2 here.
That's because while Mississippi State clearly doesn't have the players A&M does, they should be uniquely built to slow down this Auburn offense. One, they defend the run really well (No. 11 nationally in run defense), which again, will put the ball in Bo Nix's hands. And while the pass defense isn't great, they do have 10 interceptions in nine games, fourth most in the SEC.
Then there is just the psyche of these two teams coming into this game. Yes Auburn is home, but it's a noon kick-off, coming off a tough, physical, brutal game against A&M. Mississippi State is coming off a loss too, but it was at Arkansas, in a game where they outgained the Hogs and probably should've won.
Auburn may win this one. But it'll be close.
No. 8 Oklahoma (-5.5) at No. 13 Oklahoma: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
It's funny how narratives work in sports. When we think Baylor, we think Dave Aranda. And when we think Dave Aranda we think defense. You know, since he was at one point the highest paid defensive coordinator in college football at LSU, and helped lead the Tigers to a national title.
So now the head coach at Baylor, sitting at 7-2, it's got to be the defense that's leading the Bears to their impressive turnaround from last season. Well, not exactly. Baylor is currently ranked 57th in total defense and gave up 562 yards to TCU last week. Instead, it's the offense - specifically, the run game, which has allowed Baylor to jump out to that 7-2 start. They currently lead the Big 12 in rushing offense and are second in the league in scoring behind, well, only Oklahoma.
Just one problem? While Oklahoma has at times struggled defensively this year against high-powered passing attacks, they've always been good against the run. They are actually Top 20 nationally in rush offense and lead the Big 12 in that category by a wide margin.
Which is why I like them here.
Oklahoma can absolutely be exposed on defense, but it's through the passing game, and I'm just not sure Baylor has the vertical pass game to do it. At the same time, that Baylor defense has been bend but don't break all year, and going up against an Oklahoma offense that has put up 500+ yards in three of the four games that Caleb Williams came into the fold, it feels like it will be a lot more "break" then "bend" on Saturday.
This Top 15 matchup may be close early. But Oklahoma will pull away late.
No. 19 Purdue (+21) at No. 4 Ohio State: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
As soon as the point spreads came out on Sunday afternoon this line immediately jumped out at me, as at the time Purdue was getting three touchdowns on the road in Columbus. It fell down to 20 earlier this week but is back up to 20.5 I just don't see it.
Look, this isn't just about "Purdue has beaten two Top 5 teams previously" but instead, against, the numbers back up that the Boilermakers will keep things close. The one thing Jeff Brohm's teams do well is toss the ball over the field - I told you it would be an issue against Michigan State's 127th ranked pass defense and it was. And it could be an issue for the Buckeyes as well.
Can you believe that Ohio State, quietly, ranks 96th nationally in pass defense in college football? The crazy part is, it's not like they've played elite pass offenses. Three of the teams they've played (Minnesota, Rutgers and Indiana) are in the bottom 30 teams in passing offense in college football, and five of their nine opponents are in the both half of the sport.
So the fact that they've given up yards through the air to just about everyone has to be concerning. Especially considering that this is the best pass offense the Buckeyes will have faced all season. By a lot.
Beyond that, Ohio State's best offensive attack is through the air, and Purdue actually defends the pass really well. They rank No. 15 in pass defense, and should slow down CJ Stroud, who has been really good all season, but has seen his numbers regress over the last two weeks as the competition has gotten tougher.
Again, the number seems high and the money the last day or so has come in on the Buckeyes, so if I'm a sucker, so be it. But I really do like Purdue to cover the number here.
No. 11 Texas A&M at No. 15 Ole Miss (UNDER 55.5): Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Independent of what the College Football Rankings say, I think you can make a legitimate case that Texas A&M is one of the Top 5 teams in college football right now. With losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State early in the season, I'm not saying they should be ranked there. But serious question, who is playing better right now? Texas A&M or Alabama (who they just beat)? Texas A&M or Cincinnati?
So what has changed for A&M since early in the year? They are completely controlling the line of scrimmage. They have rushed for at least 200 yards in three straight games since beating Alabama, and held all three of their opponents (Missouri, South Carolina, Auburn) to under 100 yards. When you have 100+ yards rushing more than your opponents (and sometimes much more) on any given night, that's usually a good recipe for success.
Then there's Ole Miss, and every time I bring up this fact, everyone thinks I'm making an excuse: But they were the first team in the SEC to have a bye this year (back in September) and are banged up, after now playing six straight weeks. And that's not just a metaphorical "limping," Matt Corral is so banged up he hasn't practiced the last few weeks.
I could go on and on, but just know that Ole Miss UNDERS have cashed with ease the last few weeks, including last week where the over/under for the Liberty game was 67 and the total ended at 41.
In a lot of ways, I actually like A&M here, but taking an SEC road team, especially at night scares me.
I'm much more comfortable just rolling with the under.
No. 9 Notre Dame at Virginia (OVER 63): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
It feels appropriate to end on this one, for one simple reason: You know how I just told you that everyone thinks Ole Miss' offense is electric but really hasn't been for the last few weeks? Well, thankfully Virginia is basically everything, everyone wants Ole Miss to be.
The Cavaliers just can't stop scoring points, and can't get stops on the other end!
Don't believe me, here are the facts: Virginia has now scored 30+ points in eight of their nine games this year. They have topped 40 three times, including each of the last three games. Oh, and they have topped 39 points twice - and LOST, including their last game where they put up 49 points in a 69-49 loss to BYU.
So yeah, they can't stop anyone.
The Irish meanwhile seem to be clicking, putting up 30+ points in each of their last four games, yet have been weirdly susceptible against the pass this year, as they rank just 94th in pass defense nationally. UNC threw for over 300 yards against them, and Purdue just under 300.
It's Saturday. It's November. And you want POINTS.
Notre Dame and Virginia will deliver here.
No. 1 Georgia (-20) at Tennessee: I've been on the Tennessee hype train earlier, and more aggressively than most. But I just can't pull the trigger here. Tennessee is a quick-strike offense, but Georgia hasn't allowed more than 13 points to any SEC opponent, and in both those games (South Carolina and Kentucky) scored their second TD late in the fourth quarter. While I'd love to just throw a few bucks down on Tennessee for "fun" these picks aren't for fun. They're to try to make us money. And I can't do it.
No. 25 Arkansas (-2.5) at LSU: Anyone who thinks they have any pulse on LSU right now is either a liar or an idiot. Sometimes they play well, sometimes they don't. I lean Arkansas here, but am I really taking them in a night game, against this LSU team that no one can really figure out? Naw, I'm good.
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