Week 12 College Football Picks: Ohio State big over Michigan State? Bama vs. Arkansas? And more!
It's Wednesday and you know what that means, it's time to make some college football picks. And as we enter Week 12 - Week 12!!!!! - this is that time of year where things get especially wacky in college football, in college football betting and with the lines.
That's right, just look at some of the lines this week: Ohio State as a 19-point favorite over a Top 10 team? No. 3 Oregon a road underdog to Utah? Again, it's just insane, but a reflection of it being that time of year, where some teams are banged up, coaching changes are being made, some teams are starting to think about the off-season etc., on and on.
Still, despite the wacky point spreads it isn't going to stop us from making our college football picks.
As always, the point spreads are presented by our friends at DraftKings - click here or check below for an INCREDIBLE offer from DraftKings for first time users.
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Now, to the picks:
No. 7 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State (-19): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC
The biggest game of the day is in the noon window. So why beat around the bush, why not jump into it, and why not ask the question everyone is thinking: How the hell is Ohio State a three-touchdown(ish) favorite over a Top 10 Michigan State team?
Well, actually, the answer is pretty simple: If you've read this column or listened to the College Football Betting podcast, you know I've been telling you for weeks: Michigan State is awesome. BUT, they have one big weakness. They are truly atrocious against the pass.
That isn't hyperbole, they currently rank 130th out of 130 teams in college football in pass defense. Literally, the worst team in the country defending the pass. Seriously, even my alma mater UConn defends the pass better than Michigan State does.
So because of it, I think the line is justified, as Ohio State is both the No. 1 scoring offense in college football, headlined by the sport's No. 6 passing attack. More importantly, they have one of the best wide receiver rooms we've ever seen in college football. It features two guys who will probably be drafted in the first round this year (Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave) and the No. 1 wide receiver in the high school class of 2020 (Julian Fleming) and 2021 (Emeka Egbuka). Oh and I should probably mention that NONE of those guys is actually Ohio State's leading receiver - that's Jaxon Smith-Njgba, with 59 catches. Or that the Buckeyes also have an elite pass catching tight end (Jeremy Ruckert) and pass catching running back (Trey'Veon Henderson).
Basically, this is all a long winded way of me saying that the Buckeyes strength goes directly against the single biggest weakness of any contender in college football right now (unless you consider Jim Harbaugh's coaching a "weakness.").
The Spartans are a solid team, but the Buckeyes roll here.
No. 9 Wake Forest (+4.5) at Clemson (OVER 57): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
You can criticize your old buddy Torres for a lot of things, but one thing that can't be denied is that I've kind of had a pulse on Clemson all season long. I told you they were terrible before anyone else would, then slowly told you they were turning a corner before anyone else either, and actually picked them to cover against Louisville.
I don't say this to brag, I just say this to say: This line feels way off to me.
The bottom line is that as good as Clemson's defense is (and it remains elite, even despite the struggles of the offense) I just can't see them holding up for 60 minutes against a Wake Forest offense that puts pressure on you every time they snap the ball.
Seriously, the Demon Deacons have scored 35+ points in every game, and it's not like Clemson has been immune to giving up points and yardage to good offenses this year. Pitt went for 464 yards against them and Louisville just under 400, and Wake has an ability to draw even good defenses into shoot outs. NC State came into last week's game against the Demon Deacons as the No. 2 defense in the ACC behind Clemson, and ended up losing 45-42.
And that last part is the most interesting: As good as Wake's offense is, their defense is just as bad. They rank 106th nationally in total defense and 115th against the run and have given up at least 34 points in four of their last five games.
Clemson's defense will be tested like it never has before this season, but the good news the offense should get on track.
I expect both teams to score in the 30's in a close, back-and-forth game. Take the Deacons and the OVER here.
Iowa State at No. 13 Oklahoma (OVER 60.5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
That's right we're going big or going broke with a LOADED noon ET card. Four bets, all in the noon window.
Yup, here at AT Online, we... PLAY... TO... WIN... THE... GAME!
Anyway, enough hyperbole and let's talk Oklahoma. Because I'm really not all that sold they're all that much improved, or a realistic College Football Playoff contender. But what I will say is that two trends line up nicely for them to win, and for the OVER to hit.
First off, Caleb Williams has been a totally different quarterback at home this season than he has been on the road. He was obviously awful last week at Baylor and against Kansas, the Jayhawks played a style that was clearly intended to keep the ball out of his hands. Yet the numbers don't lie: In two starts away from home he has averaged 160 yards passing, with two TD's and three interceptions.
Meanwhile at home he is averaging 348 yards with 10 TD's and zero INT's. As Terrell Owens once said... THAT'S MY QUARTERBACK right there!
Again, sorry about all these 2004 NFL references.
But back to this game, because in addition to that trend I just mentioned - Caleb Williams is awesome at home and not so much on the road - there's kind of another crazy trend that I'm not sure many know about. Iowa State's defense simply can't get stops away from Ames.
Yes, a team that we think of as an old school run game and defense type squad has allowed 31 points at Baylor, 38 at West Virginia, 20 at Kansas State and 41 last week against Texas Tech. That's an average of 35 points per game and a 1-3 record away from Ames in the Big 12 this year.
Ultimately I think Iowa State can score enough in this one to keep things competitive, which is why I love the OVER in this spot.
No. 21 Arkansas (+21) at No. 2 Alabama: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Here's the tricky thing about this point in the season: You really know everything there is to know about these teams. You're not going to find anything new about them, and at some point have to compare what the metrics tell you, with what your eyes tell you.
And this game may be a perfect example of that.
Every metric tells you that Alabama probably dominates this game. Arkansas does one thing exceedingly well, which is run the football, and they're going up against an Alabama run defense which is ranked fourth in college football. Meanwhile, there is a clear way to beat this Alabama team, which is by both passing the ball on offense and getting after Bryce Young on defense. Arkansas neither passes (95th nationally in pass offense) or gets after the quarterback (just 19 sacks in 10 games this season) particularly well.
Yet despite those metrics, I also don't think we can deny what we've seen with our eyes this season either.
Arkansas is a tough, gritty team that finds ways to stay in games, and in the case of the last two weeks, win them, against Mississippi State and at LSU. Meanwhile, the last time we saw Alabama they had a grand total of six yards rushing - SIX!!! - against LSU. Maybe beating up on New Mexico State set them straight last week, but it would kind of run counter to everything we've seen the last month or so.
Again, maybe this Alabama team has grown in the last two weeks, and maybe Nick Saban will have them peaking heading into the Iron Bowl and (almost certainly) the SEC title game.
But the last month tells us its more likely they win this one, but in closer-than-the-spread fashion. Give me the Tide 31-20.
Nebraska at No. 15 Wisconsin (UNDER 42): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Yes, I am taking an under of 42, which some gamblers might consider a crime punishable by jail time. And I don't necessarily disagree. But my job isn't to pick the sexiest bets, but the ones that I think will end up as winners, and I think this is the smartest side to be on here.
One, this is the first game since Scott Frost was given his one-year vote of confidence... which was immediately followed by him firing basically his entire offensive staff. So while it's impossible to know what to expect from that Nebraska offense, that defense should be status quo - and the status has been pretty damn good this year. They're allowing opponents just 20.9 points per game this season.
Then there's Wisconsin, and here's something crazy to consider: As much as we talk about Georgia's historic defense, the Badgers are actually better in most categories. They actually rank No. 1 in total defense, allowing just 211 yards per game (30 fewer than Georgia) and No. 1 in run defense, allowing a staggering 55 yards per game. Their pass defense is No. 2 nationally behind Washington and they're No. 2 in scoring defense, a number that is actually skewed by the fact they were blown out late in back-to-back weeks against Notre Dame (31 fourth quarter points) and Michigan (25 in the second half).
I could go on and on, but I trust this Nebraska defense to be competitive and this Wisconsin defense has a 10 week sample size of being lights out.
It ain't sexy, but the UNDER is the play here.
UCLA at USC (OVER 65.5): Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, FOX
This column is going long so I'll try to make this quick, but essentially, you have two shaky defensive teams going against great offensive teams, and those offensive teams are going up against the other team's defensive weakness.
UCLA is one of the best rushing teams in college football (27th nationally in that category) and is going up against an abysmal rush defense from USC. The Trojans are 82nd nationally in that category and allowed over seven yards per carry in their last game against Arizona State.
Meanwhile, UCLA is even worse against the pass as they rank dead last in that category in the Pac-12 (most of the "might Chip Kelly be out at UCLA" conversation from the last few weeks essentially centers on Kelly's refusal to change up his defensive staff). USC of course is a pass happy Air Raid team, and here's the best part: Freshman Jaxson Dart is getting his first start since he absolutely balled out against Washington State. The Trojans staff has been loyal to Kedon Slovis to a fault, but with his injury he's out for this one.
Anyway I could go on and on, but take two offensive strengths and put them directly against two defensive weaknesses and we have all sorts of points.
Oh, and did I mention that the final score of this game the last two years has been 43-38 and 52-35 the last two seasons?
SMU at No. 5 Cincinnati (-10.5) - Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC: All the money has been coming in this week on SMU, but I'm the same guy who bet SMU in this game last year and saw them lose by 29 at home. The gambling losses stick with you longer than the wins, and I just can't shake that one.
No. 3 Oregon at No. 23 Utah (-3) - Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC: Yes, the No. 3 team in the country is a road favorite at Utah, and I probably lean Utah. For all the Joe Moorhead chatter, the Utes offense has been much more explosive the last few weeks, but I don't know, something is telling me to stay away.
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