As this unique 2020 college football season trudges on, COVID-19 issues continue to force cancellations or postponements of games. Nevertheless, there are a handful of intriguing matchups within the Big Ten and Big 12 this weekend.
Here are our previews and predictions (point spreads courtesy of BetOnline.ag) for this weekend's games featuring teams in The Associated Press Top 25 and some other interesting matchups throughout the country.
All times Eastern.
Four straight wins has Tulsa 4-0 in the American Athletic Conference and one-half game behind league-leader Cincinnati. After scoring 21 unanswered second-half points to beat then-No. 19 SMU 28-24 last weekend, the Golden Hurricane are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 2010. Paced by a defense that allows an average of 21.8 points, Tulsa now tries to avoid a fourth consecutive loss to a Tulane squad that has outscored its opponents 114-36 during its three-game winning streak.
Prediction: Tulsa (-6 1/2)
One of these teams is likely to win the Sun Belt Conference's East Division. Coastal, which is 5-0 in the conference, has half-game lead over the Mountaineers. However, the Chanticleers are 0-6 all-time versus Appalachian State, which has won five in a row but could be without ailing starting quarterback Zac Thomas (1,285 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, five interceptions, 275 rushing yards).
Prediction: Coastal Carolina (-5 1/2)
Trevor Lawrence appears healthy and ready to get going as Clemson looks to rebound from its first regular-season loss since Oct. 13, 2017. The Tigers, whose shot at a College Football Playoff berth has not diminished, have won five in a row against Florida State. Lawrence has thrown for 484 yards with seven touchdowns and an interception in his two games against the Seminoles, who are trying to avoid a fourth straight defeat overall.
Prediction: Clemson (-35 1/2)
One of the biggest games in Indiana football history and no fans will be able to witness it live from Ohio Stadium. Maybe that's a good thing for the Hoosiers, who last were 5-0 in 1967. Yes, Indiana is a confident group having outscored its first four opponents 135-77, but also has lost 24 in a row to Ohio State. The Buckeyes also have perhaps the best quarterback in the country in Justin Fields (908 passing yards, 11 touchdowns; two rushing TDs).
Prediction: Indiana (+20 1/2)
COVID-19 is still apparently an issue within the Florida program but not enough to halt this contest. The Gators average 45.8 points and are coming off a 63-35 rout of Arkansas. Heisman Trophy candidate Kyle Trask (2,171 yards, 28 touchdowns, three interceptions) threw for 356 yards and six TDs in that contest. Florida has won six in a row and 28 of the last 29 versus Vanderbilt.
Prediction: Florida (-31 1/2)
Fans looking for a little action on this contest might want to take the halftime line, over/under or any available prop bets. BYU averages 45.3 points, and pundits are talking about a possible College Football Playoff berth (really?). Out of the FCS, North Alabama has totaled 37 points all season in games against Liberty, Jacksonville State and Southern Miss. How ugly can this get?
Prediction: BYU (-48)
Another big matchup in the Big Ten, this time between the top two teams in the league's West Division. Northwestern is allowing an average of 14.0 points, but has won its last three games by a combined 16 points. Wisconsin, meanwhile, appears collectively recovered from its COVID-19 outbreak and has totaled 94 points in wins over Illinois and Michigan. Quarterback Graham Mertz has thrown for 375 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions in those games.
Prediction: Wisconsin (-7 1/2)
Cincinnati is not just thinking about an American Athletic Conference title, but maybe a shot at the College Football Playoff. We're not kidding. The Bearcats are one of the most complete teams in the country, averaging 41.6 points and giving up 12.4 per contest. Cincinnati snapped a three-game skid to UCF with last year's 27-24 home win. The Golden Knights, however, have won three in a row overall, averaging 44.3 points during that stretch.
Prediction: Cincinnati (-6)
It's been a good start to the season for Oregon, which outscored Stanford and Washington State by a total of 35 points. Running back CJ Verdell (223 yards, two touchdowns) has been a big reason for the Ducks' early success. UCLA has a good one of its own in quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (499 passing yards, seven touchdowns, two interceptions; 161 rushing yards, two TDs). The Bruins, however, have lost six straight at Oregon.
Prediction: Oregon (-13 1/2)
Like a few other SEC teams on this list, Alabama has not played since Halloween due to COVID-19 issues. We know what the Crimson Tide offense can do, and their defense has yielded 17 points in the last two games. That might not bode well for Kentucky, even though it pulled out a 38-35 win over Vanderbilt after totaling 13 points its previous two contests. Alabama has won six straight in this series and allowed 13 total points in the last two meetings.
Prediction: Alabama (-30 1/2)
Another game that's potentially in doubt due to COVID-19. Kansas State, which has totaled 28 points while losing back-to-back games, continues to have coronavirus issues. Iowa State, however, is looking for a third consecutive win after putting up a total of 90 points in victories over Kansas and Baylor. Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy threw five touchdown passes in those two games but was also picked off four times.
Prediction: Iowa State (-11)
Auburn has not played since a 48-11 rout over LSU on Halloween. So, yes, the Tigers should be eager to get back out on the field while doing so as a ranked team. Freshman running back Tank Bigsby has averaged 114.3 yards in the last four games and has scored five touchdowns over the last three. Tennessee, meanwhile, has been outscored 150-58 during its current four-game losing streak.
Prediction: Auburn (-11)
For those keeping score at home, Georgia has lost two of the last three and has had to wait to get back on the field following that 44-28 loss to Florida on Nov. 7. It's the second time in three games that the Bulldogs allowed at least 41 points. Mississippi State snapped a four-game slide with a 24-17 win over Vanderbilt in its most recent game, also on Nov. 7. However, MSU has averaged 9.4 points in its last five contests.
Prediction: Georgia (-25)
Already this season, Liberty has won at Syracuse and at Virginia Tech. Pulling out another road win over a Power Five school, and again from the ACC, would be even more impressive. Versatile quarterback Malik Willis (1,645 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, one interception; 700 rushing yards, nine TDs) and a defense that has held three opponents to 14 or fewer points provides an obvious challenge for N.C. State, which is averaging 38.8 points while going 3-1 at home.
Prediction: Liberty (+3 1/2)
It's Bedlam time again. While Oklahoma State is the higher-ranked team for this year's installment, Oklahoma is riding a four-game winning streak overall and looking for a sixth consecutive victory in this series. Oklahoma State star running back Chuba Hubbard (581 yards, five TDs) has totaled 103 rushing yards in the last two games and gained 104 in each of his two against the Sooners. Rhamondre Stevenson has totaled 191 yards and five rushing TDs over the last two games for Oklahoma, which scored 62 points each in those contests.
Prediction: Oklahoma (-7)
Will Utah have enough players (due to COVID-19) to finally kick off its season this weekend? That remains the underlying question in this matchup. Should the game go on without a hitch, the Trojans, who beat the Pac-12's two Arizona schools by a combined five points, might still have their work cut out for them even against a short-handed Utes squad. USC has been living dangerously thus far, but can that last?
Prediction: Utah (+3)
Ed Orgeron and LSU have their issues off the field and still enough of them on it to be below .500. Thanks to COVID-19 issues, the Tigers have not played since losing 48-11 at Auburn on Halloween. Quarterback play is a concern, and so is a defense that has allowed at least 44 points three times already. Arkansas, meanwhile, has shown improvement in 2020, but it has not won consecutive games this season and has lost four in a row against LSU.
Prediction: Arkansas (+2 1/2)
Think about this. Penn State has been playing football for 134 seasons and has never started 0-5. Pretty remarkable. Nevertheless, it's quite possible the Nittany Lions reach that dubious mark considering they have been outscored 139-102 this season. Iowa is not exactly beating down the doors toward dominance, but it outscored Michigan State and Minnesota 84-14 while winning the last two games.
Prediction: Iowa (-2 1/2)
It took a little longer than expected, but Jimmy Lake enjoyed a successful debut as Washington head coach with last weekend's 27-21 win over Oregon State. The Huskies were far from dominant, and things could be even tougher this weekend. Arizona lost 34-30 in a back-and-forth contest with USC. Wildcats quarterback Grant Gunnell, who threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 40, deserves a look.
Prediction: Arizona (+11)
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.