It’s Thursday and you already know what that means… IT’S TIME TO MAKE SOME COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS!
I’m not going to lie: It’s mid-November and we have mid-day college basketball on TV today, so I’m going to kind of cut to the chase and get to the point here.
No small talk, just wins, baby!!!
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Now, let’s get to the picks.
Even with so many SEC teams on literal or figurative byes this week (yes, I’m talking to you, Alabama playing Western Carolina) there are still good games being played and money to be made.
No. 10 Minnesota (-14) at Northwestern: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC
Yes, Minnesota is coming off a loss. But as I mentioned on the Aaron Torres Pod on Monday, the loss didn’t really change the outlook of their season. If Minnesota wins this weekend, and assuming Wisconsin wins as well, it sets up a “Winner Takes the Big Ten West” showdown next weekend. Win that game and the Gophers are headed to the Big Ten title game.
So you know Minnesota is going to come out fired up, especially coming off its first loss of the season.
Beyond that, this matchup just also works out favorably for the Gophers as well. The one thing that PJ Fleck’s team does well is play defense. Even after last week’s loss, they have given up an average of just 14 points per game in its last five games.
That’s good news, especially when you consider that with due respect to Vanderbilt, Northwestern is the worst offensive team in major college football. The Wildcats rank 129th out of 130 teams in points scored this season, and incredibly, that stat comes a week after they put up 45 on UMass, the worst defense in FBS football.
Point being, it’s only going to take a good Minnesota effort to cover the spread, let alone a great one. Start your day off with an easy win in Evanston.
No. 8 Penn State at No. 2 Ohio State (-19): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
This is obviously the game that everyone wants to see, and with good reason. It should be the biggest test Ohio State has faced all season, and really the first of three games which will prove whether or not the Buckeyes are for real (they play Michigan next, then likely the Big Ten Championship Game).
Still, Ohio State giving almost three full touchdowns at home? It sounds like a lot, right?
I’m not so sure.
First off, are we 100 percent positive that Penn State is an elite team? Yes, they’re 9-1, but they have had four games decided by a touchdown or less – Pitt, at Iowa, Michigan and last week against Indiana. Michigan dropped a touchdown pass which would have tied the game, and Pitt and Iowa – which are both Top 15 defenses – held the Nittany Lions to 17 points apiece. Meaning that Penn State has largely struggled to score against elite defenses. And just as easily as they are 9-1, they could be 7-3.
Then there is Ohio State, and on top of being really, really good they have two motivating factors here. With three elite teams in the sport this year (LSU, Ohio State and Clemson) getting the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff is seemingly more important than ever. The Buckeyes and LSU have flip-flopped in that spot, and I do believe that while sometimes “Style Points” are overrated, they won’t be in this case. Ohio State wants to win big and prove to the committee they are the best team in college football.
Oh, and then there is this: This is the weekend that Chase Young returns for Ohio State after a two-game suspension. That is big by itself, but it’s even bigger when you consider this: There are rumors in the Ohio State community that it was James Franklin who turned Chase Young into the NCAA. While I don’t dabble in internet message board rumor (OK, who am I kidding, I love it!) I do believe Ohio State will be extra motivated.
In the end I think the Buckeyes win in a similar fashion to the Wisconsin game, where it’s close early, but they pull away late.
Give me the Buckeyes big over Penn State.
Illinois (+15) at No. 15 Iowa: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
This is another line that I just don’t get.
With all due respect to Iowa (which has been pretty good this year), the Hawkeyes aren’t built to cover big spreads. Iowa hasn’t scored more than 26 points against any Power 5 school all season besides Rutgers, and even against the worst team in major college football, they only put up 30. And that was back in Week 2.
So now that same offense is expected to win by two touchdowns against a red-hot Illinois team which has won four straight, coming off a bye, and has scored at least 24 in each of its last four games?
I don’t know if Illinois can win this game (although it wouldn’t shock me). But a full two touchdowns just feels like wayyyyyyyyy too many points to me.
Michigan State at Rutgers (OVER 43 ½): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FS1
I can’t lie: Trying to bet a Rutgers game is like playing with knives or juggling fire torches. It might work out OK for you. Or it might end in disaster, with at best, you questioning your life decisions, and at worst you in the hospital.
I guess that’s just the risk you have to take.
Still, this number feels preposterously low to me.
Keep in mind that Rutgers has given up at least 30 points to every Power 5 team they’ve played this season, and has given up at least 35 in each of its last five. I know Michigan State isn’t exactly the Kansas City Chiefs right now, but they are going to score points. On the flip side, Michigan State has given up 36 points per game in its last five games overall.
Therefore, if you have two pretty bad defenses, even if both offenses are suspect, all you need is each team to score around 21 points for the over to hit. If one hits 30 you’re on easy street.
This is one of my favorite bets of the day.
Texas A&M at No. 4 Georgia (UNDER 44): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
You know where points won’t be scored however? In this game.
Look, say what you want about Georgia (and believe me, I’ve said it all) but the one thing that this team does is play defense. They haven’t given up more than 17 points in a game all season, and have shut out two of their last four opponents. Basically, if you aren’t super dynamic on offense, Georgia will eat you alive. With due respect to Texas A&M, they aren’t all that dynamic. This is a team that scored 10 points against Clemson and 20 against Auburn, two comparable defenses to Georgia.
Then of course on the flip side, there is Georgia’s offense, which has been written about so much, it doesn’t feel like we need to say much here. The Dawgs haven’t scored more than 27 points in their last four games, and I just don’t see them doing it against the Aggies Top 25 defense here.
In the end, the 13-point spread scares me, but the UNDER seems like a safe bet here.
Tennessee (+3 ½) at Missouri: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Again, maybe I’m taking crazy pills, and I’m going to get killed on all my picks this week. But this line makes no sense to me. And
apparently the public agrees since Tennessee opened as close to a six-point underdog and has now been bet down to three.
The bottom-line is that the Vols have now won four straight games (which feels like some sort of record since Phil Fulmer left the program), is playing its best ball of the season and coming off a bye. Then there is Missouri which is going in the opposite direction and has lost four straight. Add in the fact that the NCAA still hasn’t ruled whether they’re eligible to go to a bowl game or not (right now they’re banned) and it’s fair to wonder just how motivated this team will be.
Tennessee on the other hand is bowl eligible, and after back-to-back losing seasons, a win here would clinch their first postseason berth since 2016.
It’s enough to make me think that Tennessee is motivated, leaves no doubt and not only covers the spread, but wins straight up.
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