Updated: Oct 7, 2022
It's Thursday and you know what that means: It's time to make some college football picks - and I'll be honest, there's some good news and bad news going into this week.
The good news is, we're coming off a winning week, where several of our best bets (Kentucky-Ole Miss under, for example) weren't even sweats.
The bad news however is, well, this week is as tough to gauge and predict as any I can remember. As we get deeper into the season injuries are ravaging teams, and it's especially dire at the quarterback position. Do you ever remember a weekend where in the two marquee games (Texas A&M-Bama, Texas-Oklahoma) we're not sure who is going to start at quarterback for any of the four teams?
Oh, and by the way, it's mid-week and we don't know if either KJ Jefferson (Arkansas) or Will Levis (Kentucky) will play either.
That's six elite quarterbacks, on top of every other injury out there, that we're not totally sure whether they'll play or not.
(UPDATE: Since this article was published, we have found out that Quinn Ewers will play for Texas and Max Johnson will not play for Texas A&M)
Still, the show must go on - but make sure to proceed with caution this week!
As always, the picks are presented by Betfred Sportsbook - and we've got a special deal for listeners in Colorado. Betfred is the presenting sponsor of the Denver Broncos, and we have two VIP tailgate tickets to Thursday night's Colts-Broncos game available courtesy of Betfred. DM me at @Aaron_Torres if you're interested.
Now, let's get to the picks:
BEST BET: No. 6 Tennessee (-3) at No. 25 LSU: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
First off, does anyone remember the last time Tennessee played at LSU? It was 2010, back in Year 1 of the Derek Dooley era, and the finish was... bananas. Incredibly, this was the like 6,278th Les Miles game that ended in chaos - all in favor of the Tigers.
Well, 12 years later, let me say this: While the casual fans are excited about Texas A&M at Bama and Texas-Oklahoma, this is actually the best game of the weekend. And while I hate betting on SEC road favorites more than just about anything in life, I think this is the right side.
One, this game plays into what I mentioned above. As we get deeper into the season, it's important to monitor the teams that have had a bye, the teams that haven't, the teams coming off a bye and going into one.
Well, heading into this Saturday, Tennessee is coming off a bye and is close to full strength, while LSU is playing its sixth game in six weeks.
And the body blow effects are starting to show.
The Tigers enter this game with quarterback Jayden Daniels at less than 100 percent, after banging his knee last week against Auburn. Thankfully, there's no structural damage, and it's just a bruise. But he is definitely less than 100 percent. LSU will also be down one of their best corners in Sevyn Banks, who, in a very scary situation was carted off the field last Saturday at Auburn. Again, thankfully, Banks appears to be OK.
But in terms of football, both those injuries are huge.
One, LSU has quietly improved its rushing attack last year, after finishing with the second worst run offense in the SEC a season ago. The problem is that about a third of those rushing yards have come from Daniels himself. Well, with a bad knee and with two more games before their bye, you think Brian Kelly is going to let him loose. Me neither.
By the way, you think it's good news to be down a starting corner going into a game with the best passing attack in the SEC?
As I say all the time, styles make fights. The problem with this "fight" is that LSU is going in with one hand tied behind its back.
Vols go on the road and get the big win.
Arkansas at Mississippi State (OVER 59): Saturday, 12:00 p.m., SEC Network
Like so many games this weekend, the status of one of the most important players on the field Saturday is unknown at this time: As of right now, we're not sure whether Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson plays in this one, as he remains in concussion protocol as I write this.
One, I obviously hope that he remains healthy and makes a full recovery.
But from a football perspective, I'm not sure if it matters whether he plays or not.
I say that because, even if he plays, you'd think that Arkansas isn't going to put too much on his shoulders, and frankly, probably won't let him run the ball all that much. So, whether it's the starter or the back-up, I expect Arkansas to take the ball out of the QB's hands, and do what they do against everyone: Run the ball right at you.
Well, to date, Mississippi State hasn't really shown an ability to stop that. They gave up over 200 yards on the ground against LSU, and 4.5 yards per carry against Texas A&M last week. No matter who is at quarterback, I don't think it stops Arkansas from moving the ball.
Then there's Mississippi State, and well, let me ask you a simple question: What happens when the nation's No. 7 ranked pass offense goes up against America's No. 124th ranked pass defense?
I think we all know the answer: I expect a lot of points here.
No. 17 TCU at No. 19 Kansas (+6.5): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FS1
It's a Saturday in early October and "College Gameday" is going to... Kansas? What a time to be alive!
Look, I could break down this game from a million different angles, but Kansas isn't just 5-0, they're 5-0 against the spread, with three of those wins coming as an underdog.
I'm going to stick with history, especially with everyone overvaluing TCU after last week's dominance of Oklahoma.
No. 4 Michigan at Indiana (UNDER 59): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
Listen, I could sit here and break this game down from every angle if you'd like. But its Michigan and Indiana. The question isn't if the Wolverines are going to win. But whether they're going to cover the 22-point road spread or not.
To me though, rather than betting the spread, I'll just play the over/under. And I think this one leans wayyyyy under.
From the Michigan perspective, first off, credit to them for going on the road and proving all the doubters wrong (myself certainly included) at Iowa. I'm not saying Iowa is good per se, but they play real defense and the Wolverines had lost their last four games straight up in Iowa City. So to get the win, in a relatively sweat-free way is damn impressive to me.
My thought going into this one though, is this: Last week was Michigan's first road game of the year. Everyone questioned if Iowa could pull the upset. Didn't we get an A+ effort from Michigan a week ago? And aren't we going to get something a little bit less from the Wolverines this week, against an inferior opponent.
Especially since, well, have you seen the schedule? Michigan's next two games are against Penn State at home, and then after a bye, Michigan State at home as well. You don't think the Wolverines just want to get through this one healthy and onto next week?
In the end, expect Michigan to keep most of their offense playbook under wraps and let their defense take it from there.
I expect something like a 34-3 Michigan win, as they cruise into what should be a mega showdown with Penn State next week.
Auburn at No. 2 Georgia (UNDER 49.5): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Before we get to the game itself, this is just another massive whiff by the SEC schedule makers. Last week we had Kentucky-Ole Miss in the noon ET window, and this week its Tennessee-LSU playing at noon, when I'm pretty sure 99.999999 percent of America would rather watch that game at 3:30 ET than Auburn-Georgia.
And yes, I absolutely include Auburn fans in that 99.99999 percent.
Still, in handicapping this game, there are a few reasons why I like the play here.
First off, like LSU-Auburn last week, this historically has been a low scoring game. For fun, I went and looked it up, and the game total has gone over 49 just once in the last 10 meetings. The total has gone under 40 in four of the last five.
And I really don't think much changes this year.
To its credit, the Auburn defense has actually played decently the last couple weeks, and I think they slow down Georgia just enough early to keep this close into the third quarter. Then, Georgia will do what Georgia' done the last two years when they get up big on an opponent - take the air out of the ball, chew clock and win going away.
I'd also add, my guess is that Kirby Smart doesn't want to embarrass Bryan Harsin here either. Coaches are all part of a fraternity, and my guess is that Kirby knows what's at stake for Harsin, and knows what a really bad, hyper-embarrassing loss would do for Harsin this weekend.
Georgia wins, maybe even covers the 30-point spread, but this one will be low-scoring.
South Carolina (+6) at No. 13 Kentucky: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Couple things here:
One, this line went from Kentucky (-12) to Kentucky (-6) virtually overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, as we got increasing reports that Will Levis will not be available to play.
Umm, yeah, a line doesn't drop by six points, unless a quarterback is much more than "questionable." I have to believe he isn't playing this week. That's on top of the fact that Kentucky's leading tackler Jacquez Jones left the Ole Miss game and didn't return (Mark Stoops said "we'll see") when asked about his status and fellow starting linebacker JJ Weaver has missed the last three games as well.
And while Kentucky is the walking wounded, Shane Beamer said that his team is fully healthy off a bye.
This is a scheduling play, and I give the big-time edge to South Carolina.
Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama (UNDER 51.5): Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Ahhhhh, it's the matchup of all of America has waited since May for - and now we get a bad A&M team going to Tuscaloosa, were, we're frankly not sure the status of either quarterback heading into this one.
Truth be told, I do think it's hard to handicap this one, but let me once again ride with the under. It's under Saturday on these picks, baby!
From Texas A&M's perspective, well, their offense stinks. We all know that. And they're going up against what is, by far, the best defense they've faced so far this season. Alabama ranks No. 6 nationally in total defense. No other Texas A&M opponent currently ranks in the Top 35. And A&M couldn't move the ball against any of those teams!
Then there's the Alabama perspective, and a few thoughts here: Even if Bryce Young plays, I have to imagine that the Tide really limit what he does, and to be blunt, I wonder if he does in fact play.
On the other side, let me say this for Texas A&M: For all the criticism they've gotten, all of which is totally justified, the defense has mostly been good this season. That is until last week where the sheer volume of plays simply wore them down.
I expect this one to be closer than most expect, even if Bama pulls away in the end to win.
Oklahoma vs. Texas (-7): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC: We all love Red River, but Oklahoma stinks, Texas may or may not have Quinn Ewers playing and neither team is ranked. There is just no way to accurately handicap this game with the limited information we have right now.
No. 11 Utah (-3.5) at No. 18 UCLA: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX: It's a Top 20 matchup at the Rose Bowl, and I'll be blunt, I have zero idea how this is going to go. I've said since August I think UCLA is wildly underrated, but Utah has also been legitimately awesome since that narrow loss to Florida. By the way, Utah also has USC next week, which could either mean that this is a look-ahead, or they simply want to make a statement here. Just a big, fat, stay away for this guy.
No. 3 Ohio State (-27) at Michigan State: Saturday, 7:30 ET, ABC: Ohio State might be the best team in the country and put up 49 on Michigan State last year... in the first half. Still, 27 points is a lot in a road night game. Especially in what is Ohio State's first road game of the year. On the opposite side, I'm not backing Michigan State because, well... they stink.
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