Last week was somewhat of a wash, but who could think about spread when a national title was on the line? Alabama was in trouble until late in the fourth at LSU, but to their credit, the Tide pulled out the huge win under tough circumstances. UCLA re-established itself in the Pac 12 South by blowing out Arizona; the Wildcats are impossible to figure out. Oregon is easy to figure out. The Ducks covered against USC despite a somewhat questionable defensive performance.
We’re all looking for a winning week 11:
Zach Bigalke: 43-43-1 (5-4)
John Mitchell: 40-46-1 (4-5)
Matt Strobl: 40-46-1 (4-5)
Week 11 Picks
A week after critical games between Alabama and LSU and Oregon and USC, we have a bit of a down week here. No true marquee matchups on the calendar, although with the way the Aggies have been playing of late, Texas A&M at Alabama comes close. There are, however, several stiff tests in addition to the battle in Tuscaloosa. Kansas State must survive Collin Klein’s health woes at TCU, and Michigan needs big home win to stay in the Big Ten hunt.
The Big 12′s also-rans are going to be jockeying for bowl position this week; Iowa State and Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State all fighting to stay in the middle of the pack in the nation’s deepest conference. Out west, Oregon State and Stanford square off in a decisive head-to-head that precedes their respective dates with the Ducks.
Here’s what the Tailgater crew is predicting in college football this week. Rankings are according to the AP Top 25 poll. All times are eastern. All picks are against the spread as defined by Yahoo! Sports’ final lines.
Saturday, 12:00pm. Ann Arbor, MI
Northwestern Wildcats @ Michigan Wolverines (-9.5)
Strobl: Our first pick of the week and already I have a problem with the spread. Northwestern lost by a single point to Nebraska, a team that beat Michigan 23-9. Granted, that was road Michigan, and the Wildcats must go to Ann Arbor, but still…the math doesn’t figure. I can see Michigan getting more than a field goal. Perhaps even a touchdown. But after hovering in the double-digit all week, this line only dropped to 9.5. That seems excessive. Northwestern is competent on both sides of the ball, and is far better than the lesser Big Ten temas that the Wolverines feasted on back in October. PICK: Northwestern
Mitchell: Will Denard Robinson play for Michigan? Or will Devin Gardner make his second straight start for the Wolverines under center? Gardner started the season as a wide receiver, but stepped in at quarterback and performed admirably last week in Michigan’s 35-13 win over Minnesota. Regardless of who starts at quarterback, I’d be surprised if this is a double digit game, and it wouldn’t shock me to see Northwestern knock off the Wolverines in the Big House. Michigan’s defense has struggled at times this year to stop the run, and the Wildcats just so happen to boast one of the most potent ground games in college football. I do think Michigan comes out on top at home, but I think it’s a one score game regardless. PICK: Northwestern
Bigalke: Has Vegas been watching the same team as I have this season? The Wolverines have been a disappointment, while the Wildcats have been a revelation. I know they’re playing this one in the Big House, but Kain Colter and Northwestern aren’t exactly about to be intimidated… especially given the roster on the opposite side of the ball. Even if Denard Robinson plays, can we guarantee that he’d be 100%. This just all adds up to an easy cover (if not more) for Pat Fitzgerald’s crew on the road. PICK: Northwestern
Saturday, 12:00pm. Austin, TX
Iowa State Cyclones @ Texas Longhorns (-10)
Strobl: This is painful. Do I go with the Texas that beat Texas Tech and watch in dismay as the Longhorns bumble their way to a three-point win (or worse)? Or do I go with the inconsistent team I’ve seen all year and watch Iowa State get blown out in Austin? I feel like either pick I make has a high probability of blowing up in my face. In the final analysis, here’s what swayed me. Texas hasn’t covered a 10-point spread in conference all year. ISU had a very nice game against Baylor before getting roughed up by Oklahoma. I think Texas is something closer to the bears than the Sooners. PICK: Iowa State
Mitchell: I think the Longhorns turned a corner last week with their big nine point win on the road against Texas Tech. Iowa State, on the other hand, has now lost three of their last four games after losing to Oklahoma last week. Texas is the better team and should take care of business at home, but I just don’t see the ‘Horns getting a double digit win over the pesky Cyclones. Paul Rhoads will have his guys ready to go in Austin, and I think this will be an extremely competitive game. Iowa State has four losses, but they have been competitive in three of their four defeats against Texas Tech, Kansas State, and Oklahoma. Look for Iowa State to be competitive once again this Saturday, but look for them to fall short in their upset bid. PICK: Iowa State
Bigalke: Look, I keep betting against Texas week after week. And it keeps biting me in the ass. Just looking at this one, in Austin, a surging 7-2 team hosting a reeling 5-4 squad… it feels like the week I should stop doubting the Longhorns. Except, now that I’ve said that, David Ash is going to revert to 2011 Ash instead of his 2012 vintage. The defense is going to return to mediocrity. And Mack Brown is going to think he’s back at Tulane. The Cyclones can easily cover a 10-point spread, and they should. PICK: Iowa State
Saturday, 3:00pm. Palo Alto, CA
Oregon State Beavers @ Stanford Cardinal (-4)
Strobl: My football limbic system– you know, that primitive part of your brain that relies on old preconceived notions and “woulda shoulda coulda” instead of actual facts and figures”– is yelling at me to pick Stanford. My higher functions have sided with Oregon State all season long. This puts me at cranial crossroads. Despite the nagging feeling that the Cardinal will win, it’s a safer bet to assume that whichever way this one goes, it will be close. Therefore, I’m siding with the underdgo. All OSU has to do is finish within a field goal. PICK: Oregon State
Mitchell: The Cardinal enter a three game gauntlet to end the season against three consecutive ranked teams in Oregon State, Oregon, and UCLA. Stanford needs to get off to a good start in this three game stretch on Saturday afternoon against the Beavers. Oregon State rebounded from their first loss of the season with a 36-26 win over Arizona State. Cody Vaz got the start at QB and played well, so he will start once again for Mike Riley’s crew against Stanford. Both teams bring in Top-20 scoring defense, so points will likely be few and far between. I’m taking the Cardinal mainly because this game is in Palo Alto. I’d feel better if this spread was 2.5 or 3, but 4 points isn’t enough for me to go the other way in this one. PICK: Stanford
Bigalke: Both of these teams are technically still very much alive and well in the Pac-12 North divisional race. Both are 5-1 in conference play, and both still have Oregon on their schedule. The winner of this matchup turns their battle against the Ducks into a semifinal game, with the winner hosting the Pac-12 South champ for the conference crown and a BCS bid. OSU has tested their young QB, while Stanford throws their freshman to the wolves against the Beavers. Most important fact, though… there is an In-n-Out Burger less than five miles from Stanford Stadium. PICK: Oregon State
Saturday, 3:30pm. Lincoln, NE
Penn State Nittany Lions @ Nebraska Cornhuskers (-7.5)
Strobl: Nebraska had a huge comeback against Michigan State last week, and the Big Ten’s powers that be let out a huge sigh of relief. The ‘Huskers are one of only a couple of teams left in the league with acceptable records. With Ohio State ineligible for the Rose Bowl, it’s quite possible that a three-loss team could be representing this “power conference” in Pasadena. That would be, well, embarrassing. Nebraska will be the favorite here, not just in terms of the line but also in terms of Jim Delaney’s rooting interest. That said, I’m struggling to imagine Big Red winning by 10 points. PICK: Penn State
Mitchell: Nebraska should win this game, but I like Penn State with 7.5 points. I feel like the Nittany Lions can keep this game within a touchdown. Surprisingly enough, the best passing quarterbacks in the Big Ten this year have been Penn State’s Matt McGloin and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez. That’s not something I would have ever thought coming into this season. Bill O’Brien has done a magnificent job with McGloin and Penn State as a whole as the Nittany Lions sit at 6-3. Nebraska is the best bowl eligible team in the Big Ten, and for the credibility of the league they really need to win this game. At home, I think Martinez and the Cornhuskers get it done, but I don’t see it being by more than a touchdown. PICK: Penn State
Bigalke: The Cornhuskers need to win to stay on target to play whichever weakling emerges from the Leaders Division in Indianapolis. The Nittany Lions have been better than anticipated in 2012, 4-1 in conference play and bowl-eligible (if they were allowed to go bowling any time in the next quadrennial). The way the Big Ten has shaken out this year, it would make no sense for Nebraska to consolidate its position both in the standings and in the polls. PSU gives Louisiana Tech new life. PICK: Penn State
Saturday, 3:30pm. Stillwater, OK
West Virginia Mountaineers @ Oklahoma State Cowboys (-8.5)
Strobl: At first blush, that 8.5 spread scream underdog. Go for the Mountaineers…surely they can keep it respectable, right? Right? Well…they didn’t against Kansas State or Texas Tech, and while the Cowboys may not be as good as either of those teams, they are definitely playing better of late. A late interception in the endzone against K-State cost OSU the chance for a single-digit loss, and given how good KSU is, that’s pretty impressive. I can see a ten-point margin here, particularly in Stillwater. PICK: Oklahoma State
Mitchell: Maybe I’m dumb for continuing to pick West Virginia, but I think this is the week the Mountaineers get back on track. They are better than they have played recently, and I don’t see them dropping a fourth straight game. After a 5-0 start, the Mountaineers are currently riding a three game losing streak that included blowout defeats at the hands of Texas Tech and Kansas State, and then their double overtime loss to TCU last week. This game figures to be a shootout as neither defense will likely be able to stop the opposing offense, so it should come down to who has the ball last. I look for former Heisman front runner Geno Smith to have a big game, and regardless of whether or not West Virginia gets the win or not, I think they keep it within a touchdown. PICK: West Virginia
Bigalke: If this game had been played a month ago, the line would likely be swinging in the opposite direction. What, by the way, has happened to the Mountaineers? Is it simply a matter of wearying from all the travel late in the season? And, if so, what does that tell us about the folly of realignment? WVU would be battling Louisville for Big East supremacy if they’d stayed put; instead, they’ve got another long road trip (1084 miles) to Stillwater this weekend. Miles wear a team down. PICK: Oklahoma State
Saturday, 3:30pm. Tuscaloosa, AL
Texas A&M Aggies @ Alabama Crimson Tide (-13.5)
Strobl: Every time I predict that some decent team will cover against ‘Bama, the Tide prove me wrong. The one time I sided with them, they let LSU nearly steal the win. So I don’t know what to do here. But given how good the Aggies are, and given the way Johnny Manziel plays, two touchdowns seems like a risky play. I think Alabama will win, but it may not be all that comfortable. Tide fans will have to endure back-to-back challenges here. PICK: Texas A&M
Mitchell: For whatever reason, people are a bit down on Alabama this week after their come from behind victory on the road against LSU last week. The pundits say they saw flaws in the Crimson Tide machine in Baton Rouge last Saturday. You know what I saw? I saw a team rally around each other when everything looked bleak. Alabama came together as one and pulled off a remarkable comeback to knock off LSU in Death Valley. I understand the argument that Alabama will be physically and emotionally drained after such a taxing game against the Bayou Bengals, but I also have complete faith in Nick Saban’s ability to have his team ready. Johnny Football and the Texas A&M offense present a daunting task for Alabama, but I look for the Crimson Tide to pull away in the second half and win by two touchdowns. PICK: Alabama
Bigalke: We always hear that the SEC just plays better defense. It could also be that their offenses play the same way their daddies and granddaddies played — slow, methodical, ground-pounding football. Defenses don’t tire as easily when teams, you know… huddle, and leave time to substitute players. Texas A&M didn’t get that SEC offense memo when they shifted conferences. Johnny Football tests the Tide all game, at the very least covering a far-too-wide spread of 13.5. PICK: Texas A&M
Saturday, 7:00pm. Baton Rouge, LA
Mississippi State Bulldogs @ LSU Tigers (-14.5)
Strobl: Mississippi State was doing great so long as it didn’t have to play anyone good. I think LSU is going to handle the Bulldogs with relative ease, and Zach Mettenberger somehow emerged as a competent QB last week against Alabama. So does he keep that momentum going, or does he revert to his old craptastic self? If it’s the latter, LSU won’t win by more than two touchdowns. But given the raw talent on this Tiger team and the friendly venue, I’m inclined to lean toward LSU. The other question plaguing me here is whether or not the Bayou Bengals will have a letdown after their late-game loss in week 10. No way of knowing, so I’m going…PICK: LSU
Mitchell: After their 7-0 start, Mississippi State has now been exposed as a fraudulent contender after back-to-back blowout defeats at the hands of the big boys in the SEC in Alabama and Texas A&M. Now, the Bulldogs face their third straight SEC heavyweight, and they will look to stop the bleeding in Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, LSU is a much better team than Mississippi State, and despite losing to Alabama last week, the Tigers looked very good and established themselves as one of the ten best teams in the nation. Zach Mettenberger had his best game to date with LSU, and look for him to continue that as the Tigers batter and bruise Mississippi State with their ground game. I also don’t see Tyler Russell and the Bulldogs offense finding much success against this swarming LSU defense. PICK: LSU
Bigalke: Suddenly LSU looks like a world-beater to Vegas… despite, you know, not actually getting the win last weekend. Mississippi State has been reeling over the past fortnight, a 7-0 start now a 7-2 slide. Another home game for the Tigers seems almost unfair, getting to play their two toughest division opponents of 2012 in the not-so-friendly environs of Death Valley. It also seems like 14.5 is way too many points for Vegas to expect LSU to cover, much less score in the first place. PICK: Mississippi State
Saturday, 7:00pm. Ft. Worth, TX
Kansas State Wildcats @ TCU Horned Frogs (+7)
Strobl: Kansas State has been mauling opponents; every time I think they’re about to come back to earth, they look even better. The one blip on the radar was the Iowa State game, but as I mentioned back when it happened, a bogus pass interference call prevented that from being the 11-point margin it should have been. Now we have TCU coming to town and getting only seven points…wow. Seems like an easy pick until you remember that Collin Klein’s status is uncertain. With a fully healthy Klein, KSU wins by double-digits, easily. But if he does play as expected, how complete will he be? Will the concussion impact his running? Will KSU pull him if it gets a lead? How does the road venue change things? There are a lot of variables in play that suggest this one could be tight. PICK: TCU
Mitchell: This pick is completely dependent on whether or not Collin Klein plays for Kansas State. If he does, then I don’t see the Wildcats having much trouble covering the 7-point spread. If not, I’m not even sure they can go into Forth Worth and win the game at all against Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs. I’m going to assume Klein plays because I can’t see him sitting out with this much on the line unless he is seriously injured. If he plays, Kansas State is simply too good for TCU, and to be fair they may win the game even without him. Their defense is suffocating and will make life tough for freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin. PICK: Kansas State
Bigalke: Well, this one is actually on Vegas’ board now; all week it was off the board, while the oddsmakers waited to see if QB Collin Klein would play for the Wildcats this weekend. If Klein does play, K-State should win by more than a touchdown. If he can’t go, or if he’s still less than 100%, the odds decrease significantly. Gary Patterson knows how to keep a game close. In what had already looked like a trap game for Kansas State, this now looks like even more of one. PICK: TCU
Picks of the Week: Our Favorite Point Spreads
Strobl: Miami (-1) over Virginia
I’m sorry, did I slip into a coma and miss Virginia doing something of value? Ok, the Cavs beat NC State. Good. Miami is not only the superior team, but also has a great deal more to play for. The ‘Canes still have a shot at winning the Coastal, and road game or not, Virginia seems unlikely to stand in their way. This is a team that got killed by Duke and Georgia Tech, and also lost to Maryland and Wake Forest. Sorry, I’m not buying the “Vegas being Vegas” storyline here.
Mitchell: Georgia (+15.5) over Auburn
I don’t think Georgia is all that great, but I know Auburn is terrible. Auburn fans can look at all the silver linings they want after they beat New Mexico State last week for their second win of the season, but the Tigers are still not a good team. Add in the distraction of all the rumors swirling about head coach Gene Chizik and the possibility that he could be out as Auburn’s coach as early as Sunday, and I don’t have much faith in this game being close. The Bulldogs aren’t elite, but they lost by more than 15 points to the likes of Arkansas and Ole Miss. Aaron Murray should pick apart Auburn’s secondary, and freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall should have their way against an Auburn run defense giving up close to 200 yards per game. Georgia wins this by three touchdowns.
Bigalke: Boston College (+19) over Notre Dame
Is this the weekend we finally get our hefty dose of collegiate chaos? The last time Notre Dame was undefeated for their showdown against Boston College was in 2002; the Eagles won 14-7. In fact, the Irish haven’t managed to win by more than 19 points in this rivalry since 1997, when they won 52-20 at home over BC. This is a 2-7 BC team, yes, but Notre Dame has looked precariously mortal for most of the season. This may not be the week that luck runs out for ND, but I have a feeling that Vegas has set this line far too wide for gambler’s comfort on that fact.
Join us in the coming weeks as Tailgater continues to present its weekly picks and previews along with reactions to the best and worst of what college football has to offer.