It's Thursday, and I can't believe I'm saying this: But it's time to make the Week 13 college football picks.
Week 13? How the heck did we get here? It feels like just yesterday we were arguing over the Big Ten season should even be played, and demanding Kevin Warren be fired. Now, 13 weeks later, Kevin Warren is no where to be found, but we have plenty of good football going into the final few weeks of the season.
We're also getting back our mojo going into the final few weeks as well. Last week, the picks went 2-3, which doesn't sound great, but considering that we lost a Texas A&M cover with under 30 seconds to go and our favorite bet (Illinois +28 vs. Ohio State) was canceled, it could've and probably should've been better. Had A&M just gotten a goal line stop at the end of regulation it would've been our third straight winning week, but even without it, we're still 11-6 the past three weeks.
And with that, let's get to this week's picks.
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Now, let's get to the picks.
No. 4 Ohio State (-13.5 - first half) at Michigan State: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC
A couple thoughts, and a couple thoughts only on this game.
One, I'm normally concerned about teams being rusty who have gone through Covid-19 shutdowns, but I'm not really sure Ohio State applies here. After all, they were planning on traveling to Illinois as late as mid-day last Friday, before cancelling the game at the last minute, and picked practice up on Tuesday. So what are we really talking about here, a missed day or two? Also, they've been practicing without Ryan Day, so I'm sure the impact it will have with him not being on the sideline.
Two, even with Ohio State at less than 100 percent (since they'll be missing players), Michigan State just doesn't play the style you need to beat Ohio State. The Buckeyes are abysmal against the pass, but to be blunt, there might not be a worse passing team in the Big Ten than Michigan State. The Spartans will try to run the ball, but I'm just not sure how much success they'll have.
Three, Michigan State does play good defense, but their weakness defending the pass. Obviously that's Ohio State's strength, and Ohio State has been a fast-starting team this season, scoring at least 21 points in every first half this season.
Add in the fact that the Buckeyes are literally playing this game because they know it matters for their Big Ten championship game livelihood and playoff seeding, and I think we get a bit of extra urgency from the Buckeyes.
The backdoor cover does concern me here, so I'll play the first half instead.
Texas at Kansas State (+7): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
We've all heard the term "circling the wagons." Yeah, well whatever the opposite of that is what's happening at Texas right now. The Longhorns lost at home on Senior Day, Herman's own players questioned him publicly, and now, naturally there are reports of Urban Meyer's wife shopping for real estate in the Austin area (Hmm, wonder if she uses the same realtor as Nick Saban's wife a few years ago).
Now on top of all this, Herman has the worst possible opponent, in the worst possible place, at the worst possible time. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it's actually the truth and here's why: Kansas State owns Texas in Manhattan. Yes, that sounds absurd, but here is the facts: If you can believe it, Kansas State is 6-1 straight up in their last seven home games against Texas. As in, they've won six out of the last seven! And the only loss was two years ago, in Bill Snyder's final season, when the Longhorns eeked out a 19-13 win.
So now we're getting Kansas State - who again, is spectacularly good against Texas at home - getting a touchdown at home, on Senior Day, when the Longhorns team has checked out on Herman?
This is a gambling opportunity that comes down once in a blue moon, and you've simply got to take advantage.
No. 5 Texas A&M (-6.5) at Auburn: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
And on the opposite side of Texas's misery, their once hated rival is thriving. The Aggies need some help, but are two wins away from a 9-1 season and a real shot at throwing a wrench in the College Football Playoff conversation.
Still, in a year where there's been essentially no chaos, I've seen a lot of people proclaiming that this might be the game where that chaos happens.
Sorry, but I just don't see it.
As I told you last week, while Georgia gets credit as the defense du jour that everyone loves in the SEC, Texas A&M, has been, by far, the best in the SEC this season. They gave up just seven points to LSU a week ago, and that touchdown came with just seconds to go in an otherwise convincing win.
On the flip side however is the offense, and many might rightfully say "Aaron, did you see that offense? It was abysmal last week."
Well first off, of course I saw it. I had A&M in the picks so I watched the game closely, and I will readily admit that the offense was awful. At the same time, A&M was coming off back-to-back weeks of no games, and we've seen at times that it takes an offense a little bit of time to gel after they've been shut down for an extended period. With a game now under their belts, they should be back in rhythm, where they put up an average of 45 points in their two games before they were shutdown.
I'm not calling for an A&M blowout here. But 27-14 feels about right, and an easy cover.
Indiana at No. 16 Wisconsin (UNDER 45): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
For the third time this season I bet against Indiana last week, and for the third time they absolutely came back to burn me and cover. Therefore, as much as I'm itching to pull the trigger on Wisconsin (-14) I'll stick what I believe is the safer play, which is the UNDER.
The bottom-line is, I just don't see how Indiana is fired up for this game. I know they're 5-1 and in the midst of a historic season, but they also lost quarterback Michael Penix to a season-ending injury a week ago. Not only was Penix the heart and soul of that team, but he was also essentially the entire offense. The Hoosiers run game is abysmal (12th in the Big Ten) and they relied on Penix to do everything. Now they've got a back-up quarterback in, against the best defense they'll see all year? This could get ugly.
Just about the only thing I could see keeping this game close is Indiana's defense, which is one of the most opportunistic in the country. On the year, Indiana leads college football in interceptions at 16, a staggering number considering they've played 2-3 more games fewer than most teams in the sport. Overall they rank second in turnover margin, behind only Wake Forest.
Assuming the Hoosiers don't completely melt down without Penix, I could see something in the neighborhood of a 24-10 Wisconsin win, and the UNDER hitting here.
No. 13 BYU (-9.5) at No. 18 Coastal Carolina: Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Following the Boise State game a few weeks ago I made a vow to myself, and that vow was this: I would bet BYU every game the rest of the season. You can criticize me for a lot of things, but I am indeed a man of my word.
Therefore, I'm not stopping here and instead rolling with the Cougars against Coastal. For those who aren't familiar, this game was put together literally in a day, after Coastal Carolina's game against Liberty got cancelled. And while I know it's weird to ask BYU to fly across country on a day's notice, I think this is a much worse spot for Coastal. All week long they were preparing for an option-based run team, now just like that, they have to flip to one of the best pass offenses in the country?
I respect Coastal, but could see it getting ugly.
I'm rolling with the Cougars, and since there is no official line out yet on MyBookie, I would take it up to 13.5 points.
No. 1 Alabama at LSU (UNDER 67): Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET, CBS
I'm just going to keep it real with you: This is one of the single most baffling lines of the season to me, and in my opinion, at least a touchdown off. All I can assume is that it's a gross overreaction to Alabama beating the brakes off of everyone.
Maybe I'll be proven wrong come Saturday night, but I just don't see it.
First off, LSU's offense is comically bad. Their last three games, they've scored seven points against Texas A&M (which came on the final possession of the game), they scored 27 the week before against Arkansas, in a game where half the Razorbacks' defense out with Covid, and they scored 11 the game before that. Now they're going up against an Alabama defense which has given up one touchdown in the last three games? I know they're at home, but I just can't see them scoring more than 10 points here.
As for Bama, well look, I know their offense is incredible. As I argued on the podcast earlier this week, I believe a claim could be made that this is the most dominant team of the Saban era so far. But as exciting as that offense is, I just don't see Nick Saban going crazy here. Not at Tiger Stadium, at night, with fans in the stands. And even if they do get up big, I'm guessing the back-ups get big reps, as we get closer and closer to the games that matter - Florida in the SEC title game and the playoff.
Again, if this number were 57 it would probably be a stay away, but 67 just feels preposterously too high.
This is one of my favorite plays of the season.
UCLA (+1.5 - first half) at Arizona State: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, FS1
It's kind of incredible what Covid has done at some programs this season, Take Arizona State for example, which lost to USC back on November 7th - and hasn't played since.
That's right, now been close to a month since they've taken the field.
Now they return, against a UCLA team that appears to finally be figuring things out under Chip Kelly. The Bruins aren't great per se, but in their last three games, they've gone 2-1 and their only loss was by three points at Oregon.
In reality I think they win outright in Tempe. But just to be safe I'll take the first half line, since I think it will take Arizona State at least a half to get caught up to the speed of the game after so much time off.
I'm rolling with the Bruins to close out another great Saturday of college football.
Arkansas at Missouri (-2.5), Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network: The stay away here is simple. Arkansas has been one of the best teams against the spread all season. Missouri has covered the spread in all four home games this season. Something has to give in CoMo, and I'm not going to be the one to try and figure out which.
Florida (-17.5) at Tennessee, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS: Florida is clearly the better team, and clearly going to win. But I'll say this for Tennessee: In the season of the opt out (where seemingly everyone with even a half decent chance at an NFL future has left college football the last few weeks), Tennessee hasn't had a single guy leave the program. To me that's a sign that they still believe in Jeremy Pruitt and are still playing hard for him. I just can't bet this game.
Vanderbilt at Georgia (-36), Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network: Vanderbilt has scored a total of seven points in its last full seven quarters of play, and Georgia's offense has looked good since JT Daniels took over at QB. Still, I don't want to watch five minutes of this game, let alone late into the fourth quarter to see if Georgia scores up 34-3 for me to get my cover.
No. 4 Clemson (-22) at Virginia Tech, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC: Clemson is going to roll, but what scares me is that when Virginia Tech's offense gets clicking they can move the ball as well. Frankly, I could see Clemson winning 59-7 here, or winning 42-24. Because of it, I'd rather just stay away.
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