Stanford hosted Oregon State last week, and the game resulted in the crew’s second push of the year. I added a third push when Virginia benefited from one of the worst phantom pass interference calls in recent memory against Miami. Ties are no fun, and with a push, no one wins. So here’s hoping that week 12 will be a bit more definitive. I’ve often wondered why all spreads don’t end in .5…
After the first 11 weeks we’re holding steady around the .500 mark:
Zach Bigalke: 47-47-2 (4-4-1)
John Mitchell: 44-50-2 (4-4-1)
Matt Strobl: 44-49-3 (4–3-2)
Week 12 Picks
Week 12 looks pretty anemic in comparison to recent events. Other than the Stanford-Oregon and USC-UCLA games, there isn’t a whole lot of top-end football to be found. Ohio State at Wisconsin could have been huge, but the Bucks’ bowl ban effectively spoils the magnitude.
Still, there are games worth picking. If nothing else, we’ll get to see Louisiana Tech try to extend its bid to bust the BCS. We’ll see whether or not the Big East is likely to end in a multi-team tie. We’ll see which team will stake its claim to a hotly-contested MAC North. Ok, ok…so this isn’t exactly Alabama-LSU, but there is a lot riding on some of these matchups.
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. Bowling Green, OH
Kent State Golden Flashes @ Bowling Green Falcons (-2.5)
Strobl: Kent State has been hanging around our personal top 25s and is currently ranked in the Coaches Poll as well. That high-profile win over Rutgers stands out as Kent’s marquee moment in 2012, and was a win good enough to keep the Flashes in the nation’s football consciousness for weeks. It was, by all accounts, a great performance, complete with seven takeaways. But a turnover-filled game like that is rare, and a look down the KSU schedule reveals that little else of note has happened. Plus, there’s that horrific loss to Kentucky. Bowling Green has an equally ugly loss to Virginia Tech, but otherwise has played just as well as Kent. Narrow losses to Florida and Toledo are respectable. With homefield advantage going their way and the pressure squarely on the Golden Flashes, BGSU has a good shot here. PICK: Bowling Green
Mitchell: How good is Kent State? The Golden Flashes are a staggering 9-1 and ranked 25th in the Coaches Poll, but that one loss on their resume is very hard to ignore considering it came against SEC bottom feeder Kentucky by 33 points. You know, the same Wildcats that haven’t won any other game this year. Meanwhile, Bowling Green is 7-3 with their losses coming against Florida, Virginia Tech, and Toledo.It’s strength versus strength as Kent State brings in one of the best rushing offenses, led by two 1000-yard rushers, against the Falcons and their stingy run defense. In this toss-up, I’m picking the home team. PICK: Bowling Green
Bigalke: Bowling Green has definitely had an impressive run, winning six straight after starting the season 1-3. Because the Falcons have become so competitive, this game now serves as the de facto MAC semifinal for the East. But can Bowling Green stop Dri Archer and the rest of a high-powered Kent State team? The line says they can; Vegas must have been impressed by surging BGSU’s victory over slumping Ohio. I, though, still can’t get over the Golden Flashes. PICK: Kent State
Saturday, 12:00pm. Cincinnati, OH
Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ Cincinnati Bearcats (+6.5)
Strobl: I’ll be rooting for my hometown Bearcats, but Rutgers has been the Big East’s best this year. Aside from the turnover-plagued loss to Kent State, the Knights have played extremely well nd momentary stumbles, like a poor first half against Army, have been folowed by stretches of stellar football. I expect Rutgers to win, but the 6.5-point spread gives me room to hedge a little. Cincinnati is just good enough to keep this score closer than a TD. PICK: Cincinnati
Mitchell: New Cincinnati starting quarterback Brendon Kay looked really good last week against Temple, and he should keep it up this week against Rutgers. This line seems a bit bigger than it should be even with the game being played in the Queen City. Rutgers is currently in the driver’s seat of the Big East race after Louisville suffered their first loss of the season to Syracuse. Look for the Bearcats to keep their dreams of a Big East title and a BCS Bowl berth alive with a win over Rutgers. PICK: Cincinnati
Bigalke: Do it for Louisiana Tech, Bearcats! If we are to have hope of a BCS Buster this season, something will have to give in either the Big East or the Big Ten. And this game offers a prime opportunity for Cincinnati to throw a wrench into the BCS machinery. It’d be fitting for the Big East to send a non-AQ school to a BCS game by imploding… especially since their previous implosions as a league are the reason that the Big East is being included in the “Other Five” once the playoff system starts in 2014. Rutgers has been a force, but Cincinnati still has plenty to play for and should spring the surprise at home. PICK: Cincinnati
Saturday, 3:05pm. Pasadena, CA
USC Trojans @ UCLA Bruins (+3.5)
Strobl: The Trojans aren’t exactly the powerhouse challengers that we had hoped to see in the Pac 12. They couldn’t make a play for supremacy against Oregon, and it’s hard to imagine the Ducks finishing anywhere but a distant first. However, USC is still a very talented team, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. UCLA is a solid team, but I expect USC to retain its advantage over the cross-town rival Bruins. PICK: USC
Mitchell: Remember when USC was the odds on favorite to win the National Championship in the preseason? That was fun. Since then, the Trojans have lost three games and are barely hanging on in the AP and Coaches Polls. UCLA, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise in Jim Mora Jr’s first year as head coach sporting an 8-2 record and looking to wrap up the Pac-12 South with a win over the rival Trojans. The bad news for UCLA is that they have one of the worst passing defenses in the country, giving up 266 yards per game, and they will be tasked with defending one of the best passing offenses in the country led by Matt Barkley and Marqise Lee. PICK: USC
Bigalke: Is the monopoly finally over in Los Angeles? It has been so long since the Bruins had the better record of the two teams coming into the Battle for the Victory Bell that we’ve been through two presidents and the entirety of the BCS era; it hasn’t happened since 1998. Could this finally be the changing of the guard? Jim Mora has UCLA surging; Lane Kiffin has USC reeling. This year, as opposed to last year, the Bruins earn their way into the Pac-12 championship. PICK: UCLA
Saturday, 3:30pm. Stillwater, OK
Texas Tech Red Raiders @ Oklahoma State Cowboys (-10)
Strobl: Oklahoma State has been playing very well of late, even going so far as to make a game of it against Kansas State. Texas Tech, on the other hand, has been struggling, most recently needing overtime to top Kansas. The trends tell me that the Cowboys will win, and I believe that will happen. But despite the differences, ten points feels like too much of a cushion. With Seth oege under center, the Red Raiders are never out of it, and I expect a single-digit margin in Stillwater. PICK: Texas Tech
Mitchell: It seems like I pick Texas Tech pretty much every week, and pretty much every week I get burned by them. I nailed their “upset” win over West Virginia earlier in the year, but haven’t been right with them since. Well, I’m rolling with Tuberville again this week on the road against a surging Oklahoma State team. The Pokes have the better team, but the Red Raiders are good enough to keep this game in the single digits, and they boast the best defense in the Big XII statistically. PICK: Texas Tech
Bigalke: Texas Tech was high on our radar. Then they faded after losing to Oklahoma, Kansas State and Texas. So they’re competing with Oklahoma State in this one, effectively, for the 4-spot in the Big “XII” standings. The Pokes haven’t been bad; hell, you can say they’ve put up miraculous performances in getting multiples wins each from three different quarterbacks as injuries haven’t stifled what the departure of Weeden couldn’t either. Still, Tuberville should have some sort of answer for a Holgorsen-looking offense… shouldn’t he? PICK: Texas Tech
Saturday, 3:30pm. Madison, WI
Ohio State Buckeyes @ Wisconsin Badgers (-2.5)
Strobl: Kudos to my Buckeyes for being undefeated at this late stage, but let’s not fool ourselves. The schedule has been favorable and the team has weathered some tense moments with a mixture of timely play and good luck. Ohio State, all things considered, has done a fantastic job in Urban Meyer’s debut season, but games in Madison always seem to cause us grief. The Badgers have momentum coming in, having played well over the past few weeks, and this should be the toughest test of the year for Braxton Miller and company. The Bucks need to hope for a Wisconsin team like that one that showed up against Michigan State rather than the one that showed up against Indiana. But that could be wishful thinking. PICK: Wisconsin
Mitchell: Anytime an undefeated team is an underdog in November, it causes you to take notice. The 10-0 Buckeyes are headed to Madison to play three loss Wisconsin, and are 2.5 point underdogs. The Badgers wrapped up the Leaders division last week by thumping Indiana, and have gotten better with each passing week. What looked like a train wreck early in the season has turned into a potential Rose Bowl bid, as no eligible Big Ten team has looked as good as Wisconsin has the last few weeks. Montee Ball and Badger offensive line has been rolling the last few weeks, and I look for that to continue this week as Wisconsin delivers Urban Meyer his first loss as the Buckeye head coach. PICK: Wisconsin
Bigalke: Wisconsin is giving 2.5 points at home to an undefeated Buckeyes team that has looked awfully shaky getting to 10-0. Ohio State has nothing left but that goose-egg to play for, while Wisconsin can play to validate the potential Rose Bowl berth they can earn by virtue of winning the Big Ten championship over whoever comes out of the non-suspension-plagued division. These games have always been close between Ohio State and Wisconsin at Camp Randall. And Bucky is rolling at the right time to unseat Brutus. PICK: Wisconsin
Saturday, 4:00pm. Shreveport, LA
Utah State Aggies @ Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (+3)
Strobl: Even before Vegas decided to slap a big old red flag on this one (visitors giving three against a one-loss ranked team??) I was leaning toward Utah State. If you haven’t seen the Aggies play this year, take a look at the schedule. Wins over Utah and San Jose State, narrow losses to BYU and Wisconsin…USU has put together a quality season and is within a play or two of being in the same position as Louisiana Tech. I haven’t forgotten the Bulldogs’ level of talent or their on-field success this season; that game against Texas A&M looks more and more impressive by the week. But the pressure is mounting as the possibility of a BCS berth looms. PICK: Utah State
Mitchell: Watch out here. The 19th ranked Louisiana Tech Bulldogs have just one loss on the season, and that came by two points to that same Texas A&M team that upset Alabama last season. For all intents and purposes, Louisiana Tech has been the best non-AQ team in college football this season. So, of course, Vegas lists them as a three point underdog at HOME against Chuckie Keeton and Utah State. I’m rolling with Vegas on this one as the public have bet hard on Louisiana Tech this week. This is a classic Vegas line, and I think Utah State surprises most and knocks off the Bulldogs on the road. PICK: Utah State
Bigalke: Suddenly Chuckie Keeton is the flavor of the moment in the WAC… but Colby Cameron, he of the NCAA-record interception-less streak (both single-season and consecutive passes over multiple seasons), is at home and will certainly have something to say about the matter. This is a high-profile game for a dying conference and it could play one of two ways. But instead of providing one last upset thriller (a la San Diego State over Wyoming circa 1996, or Nevada over Boise State in 2010), it’ll instead be confirmation for a team that SHOULD earn a BCS Buster spot. PICK: Louisiana Tech
Saturday, 8:00pm. Eugene, OR
Stanford Cardinal @ Oregon Ducks (-20.5)
Strobl: This spread is giving me fits. One the one hand, Stanford is a well-coached, balanced program that loses well; that is, the Cardinal don’t get blown out of games. Their defense and ground game help control the clock. On the other hand, only USC has come within three touchdowns of Oregon this year. The Ducks are winning by huge margins, and aside from the road win over USC, opponents can’t get within sniffing distance. So the question is whether or not Stanford will play the best opposing game that the Ducks have seen all year. That’s what it will take for this to finish with a margin under 20. Oregon is probably going to win, and win easily. Beyond that, I truly don’t know what will happen. Given the spread this is a coin flip for me, a “gut versus brain” game. My gut says that spread is too big; my brain says no one is hanging with Oregon. Which way do I go… PICK: Stanford
Mitchell: Oregon is outstanding. I think they are the best team in college football, and no team has been able to stop that offense this year, and no team probably will. The Ducks are rolling toward their second appearance in the BCS Championship game in three years. But, they still have some tough games left, and one of them is this Saturday in Eugene against Stanford, a team that has been a giant killer in the past. Oregon should win, but I don’t see this being a three touchdown difference when the dust settles Saturday night. Stanford is too good of a team to get blown out like this. The Cardinal boast the absolute best run defense in college football, so they should provide a legitimate challenge to Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas. PICK: Stanford
Bigalke: Look, I understand that the line on this one makes Stanford especially attractive. The reality is that Vegas is setting it this high knowing that Oregon won by as much the past two years against far better Cardinal teams than the one coming to Eugene this year. The Duck defense is banged up as hell, so Kevin Hogan and crew will score some points. But is this Stanford defense appreciably better than the crews that got demolished 53-30 and 52-31 the previous two years? (Both results would have covered this spread… and if Andrew Luck couldn’t outscore the Ducks, why should Hogan?) PICK: Oregon
Saturday, 7:00pm. Morgantown, WV
Oklahoma Sooners @ West Virginia Mountaineers (+11)
Strobl: This spread is just big enough to make me think about going with WVU. But then I remember that the Mountaineers have been lousy against good defenses. I can’t in good conscience pick West Virginia, even if Holgorsen should know what he’s doing against Bob Stoops and company. PICK: Oklahoma
Mitchell: I’m done betting on West Virginia. Every week I think they are going to turn it around, and every week they lay an egg and fall right flat on their face. Remember when this was a Top-5 team? That seems so long ago. Big XII play has treated the Mountaineers harshly in their first season in the league, and I think that will continue on Saturday at home against Oklahoma. I don’t think West Virginia’s corners could cover me, so I don’t give them much chance of stopping the Sooners receivers, and Landry Jones should have a field day against a secondary that is giving up 343 yards per game through the air. PICK: Oklahoma
Bigalke: So we’ve resorted to this, in an SEC-meets-FCS weekend in November, picking the best of the rest for the eight spot. The Sooners are playing for a potential at-large berth into a BCS bowl, while West Virginia is merely playing to salvage some pride after looking like the darling of their new conference at the beginning of October and ending the month an oft-exposed quantity. Dana Holgorsen can get his comeuppance for a rough first Big XII season against an old nemesis (Holgorsen was 2-2 as a Big XII offensive coordinator in games against Oklahoma)… and all he has to do is beat an 11-point spread for YOU to win! PICK: West Virginia
Picks of the Week: Our Favorite Point Spreads
Strobl: Mississippi State (-6.5) over Arkansas
Yes, the Bulldogs were exposed by the SEC West’s elite teams, but let’s not get all crazy about it. There’s a world of difference between the top and the bottom of that division, and the Razorbacks are most assuredly at the bottom. The Hogs barely scraped by Tulsa recently, winning by four and failing to cover. But Vegas is saying that they’ll stay within a TD of MSU? That seems unlikely.
Mitchell: Wake Forest (+24) over Notre Dame
I like this spread, but I don’t love it. Notre Dame is vastly the superior team, but too many times this season they have played down to their competition. They could be looking for style points as they sit in third in the BCS Standings and likely needing either Oregon or Kansas State to lose to get a crack at the BCS crown. But I don’t see them getting style points this week. The Fighting Irish beat an inferior ACC team by only 15 last week, so I don’t really see them beating Wake Forest, even at home, by more than that. Now that I have said that, of course, watch Notre Dame go out and win by 40.
Bigalke: Syracuse (+4.5) over Missouri
What, Vegas? Seriously? I know both teams are 5-5 coming into this one, but which team inspires more confidence at this point? The Tigers needed four overtimes to beat Tennessee; Syracuse just knocked off then-undefeated Louisville. One is 2-5 in their conference, the other 4-2. I understand the three points for a home team, if you really think they’re identical teams… but do you really think that Missouri gives 1.5 to Syracuse on a neutral field? Thanks for free money, Vegas, as the Orangemen win outright this weekend….
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.