Welcome to rivalry week.
We’ve somehow reached the final week of the regular season, and we’ve got to cherish what should be an excellent weekend of action.
It’s been an up-and-down season for my picks, but I’m coming off my best week of the year. I went 7-1, with UCLA being my lone loser. I had the Bruins +2.5. They lost by three. What can you do?
Let’s close out the season strong, shall we?
Last week: 7-1
Utah State at Boise State
Time: Noon (Friday) | TV: CBS | Line: Boise State -17 | Total: 51.5
This is strictly a situational play for me. Boise State wrapped up the Mountain division with a hard-fought road win over Wyoming on Saturday night. That game came down to the wire despite Wyoming’s quarterback completing just 3-of-15 passes for 30 yards and three interceptions.
The Broncos are dealing with quite a few injuries and are playing on a short week in a strange 10 a.m. local kickoff. Boise State is the better team, but getting 17 points against a Utah State team that has won five of its last six is too good to pass up. Utah State hasn’t beaten Boise State since 2015, so the Aggies should be motivated.
Pick: Utah State +17
Arizona State at Arizona
Time: 3 p.m. (Friday) | TV: FS1 | Line: Arizona -4 | Total: 65.5
Arizona has lost five straight to Arizona State and there have been some lopsided losses in recent years. In 2020, ASU trounced the Wildcats 70-7. Last year, ASU won 38-15.
But Arizona is a much-improved program now in its second year under Jedd Fisch, and I think there’s a chance the Wildcats put up a big number on ASU this time. Arizona has been competitive against teams like Washington and USC and pulled off an upset over UCLA two weeks ago.
Last week, the Wildcats hosted Washington State but were doomed by turnovers in a 31-20 loss. Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura is a WSU transfer and seemed a little too jacked up playing against his old team. WSU has a very good defense, but ASU will not present anywhere near the level of resistance.
ASU is playing out the season under an interim coach and has lost three straight by a big margin. Let’s make it four straight.
Pick: Arizona -4
Arkansas at Missouri
Time: 3 p.m. (Friday) | TV: CBS | Line: Arkansas -3 | Total: 56
After two tough losses, Arkansas was able to clinch bowl eligibility last week at home vs. Ole Miss. Arkansas took advantage of a porous Ole Miss run defense and jumped out to a big lead. I was on Arkansas last week at home, but this week I’m playing against the Razorbacks on the road.
Missouri is also looking to clinch bowl eligibility. Frankly, it probably should have already happened when you consider how that Auburn game ended back in September. Missouri has an excellent run defense and has been playing in competitive games throughout the second half of the season. Missouri beat South Carolina on the road, had a tough home loss to Kentucky and trailed Tennessee just 28-24 in the third quarter in a game with a misleading final score.
Brady Cook, Missouri’s quarterback, has quietly been improving as coach Eli Drinkwitz utilizes his running ability. I think this is a really good spot for the Tigers. I’ll take the points and won’t be surprised at all by an outright upset.
Pick: Missouri +3
Nebraska at Iowa
Time: 4 p.m. (Friday) | TV: BTN | Line: Iowa -10.5 | Total 38.5
Improbably, Iowa can clinch the Big Ten West with a win here. The Hawkeyes are the better team in this matchup but there’s no way I can trust them to cover a double-digit spread even against a Nebraska team limping to the finish with an interim head coach.
Iowa has combined for just 426 yards of offense over the last two weeks and will be without tight end Sam LaPorta and fullback Monte Pottebaum on Friday. LaPorta is the team’s best playmaker and Pottebaum plays a significant number of snaps. And on the other side is a Nebraska team that hasn’t scored more than 14 points in a game since Oct. 15.
It’s a very low number, but I’m going to hold my nose and take the under.
Pick: Under 38.5
Florida at No. 16 Florida State
Time: 7:30 p.m. (Friday) | TV: ABC | Line: FSU -9.5 | Total: 57.5
Florida State has been cruising ever since it came back from its bye week. The Seminoles have won four straight by an average margin of 33.5 points to get to 8-3 on the year. It’s been a positive step in Year 3 under Mike Norvell and FSU can cap off the regular season with a win over a big rival.
While Florida State’s offense has been playing at a high level, the recent defensive performances have come against some lackluster offenses. FSU faced Georgia Tech with a true freshman QB making his first start, a Miami team that looked like it had completely quit, a Syracuse team decimated by injuries and a Louisiana team without its starting quarterback.
That makes me slightly skeptical that FSU can beat Florida by double digits. Instead, I’ll look at the total. UF lost to Vanderbilt last week. It wasn’t a fluky loss, but UF handed Vanderbilt 14 points with turnovers, including a punt return fumble that was recovered in the end zone. Florida’s defense isn’t very good, but the offense has enough firepower to put this game over the total.
Pick: Over 57.5
No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State
Time: Noon | TV: Fox | Line: OSU -7.5 | Total: 57
Ohio State has been waiting a year to get revenge on Michigan. The Wolverines bullied the Buckeyes last year in Ann Arbor, and Ohio State is going to want to match that physicality this year.
For Ohio State defensively, its weakness is actually in the secondary. Michigan doesn’t have the passing attack to exploit it. There’s also the looming health issues of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, Michigan’s top two running backs. Corum missed the second half last week with a knee injury and Edwards was out. And those aren’t the only key injuries for the Wolverines on offense.
Michigan leans heavily on the ground game. If Ohio State can neutralize the run and force J.J. McCarthy to make throws, I don’t envision many points from the Wolverines. At the same time, I don’t want to lay more than a touchdown with Ohio State. The Buckeyes just haven’t looked quite right on offense for much of the season. I’m projecting a bit of a lower-scoring game instead.
Pick: Under 57
West Virginia at Oklahoma State
Time: Noon | TV: ESPN2 | Line: OSU -8.5 | Total: 63.5
Oklahoma State fell behind Oklahoma 28-0 by the end of the first quarter in last week’s Bedlam game and just could not recover. The Cowboys moved the ball but ended up with four turnovers and two failed fourth-down attempts deep in OU territory. I’m expecting the Cowboys to be much sharper in their home finale against a reeling West Virginia team that has lost four of its last five.
WVU has been terrible as a road team under Neal Brown, going just 5-10 ATS in its last 15 road games. There’s been hot-seat talk surrounding Brown for weeks, so it’s hard to envision a focused Mountaineers team for an early kickoff in Stillwater.
Additionally, this could be Spencer Sanders’ last home game in an Oklahoma State uniform. I think this could end up being a blowout on Senior Day for the Cowboys.
Pick: Oklahoma State -8.5
Memphis at SMU
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN2 | Line: SMU -4.5 | Total: 69
SMU is a much better team than what it showed last Thursday vs. Tulane. SMU was coming off a road win over USF and then had to go back on the road to play Tulane on a short week. That much travel certainly could have played a role in such a bad start for the Mustangs in New Orleans as Tulane jumped out to a quick 28-7 lead in a half that included a turnover on downs, an interception, a fumble and a missed field goal by SMU.
Back at home with a few extra days of rest, I’m expecting SMU to be much sharper against a Memphis team that I still think gets overvalued by the oddsmakers. Memphis is 6-5, but there’s not a single impressive win in the bunch. The Tigers have been horrific on the road under Ryan Silverfield, going just 2-11 ATS with a 1-8 ATS mark as a road underdog.
I like SMU by at least a touchdown.
Pick: SMU -4.5
Iowa State at No. 4 TCU
Time: 4 p.m. | TV: Fox | Line: TCU -10 | Total: 47.5
Taking the under in Iowa State games has been a profitable venture, so let’s do it again. Iowa State’s defense is tremendous and its offense has a penchant for moving the ball without scoring many points. The Cyclones are 1-7 in Big 12 play and just one of those seven losses was decided by more than a touchdown. Additionally, all but one of those eight conference games went under the total.
We all know what’s at stake for TCU. The Horned Frogs are undefeated with the Big 12 title game coming next week. A playoff berth is within reach. TCU has won so many close games and is coming off a one-point win over Baylor that was decided by a field goal as time expired. The Horned Frogs haven’t had a bye week since Week 3 and are pretty beat up.
With all that said, I’d lean toward Iowa State getting the 10 but I like the under a lot more. TCU can rely on its defense in a low-scoring game.
Pick: Under 47.5
Syracuse at Boston College
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN3 | Line: Syracuse -10.5 | Total: 47
Syracuse opened the year 6-0 but has since lost five straight. The Orange have been dealing with a ton of injuries but looked competent on offense for the first time in weeks in last Saturday’s 45-35 loss to Wake Forest.
Some of that offensive success should carry over to the regular season finale vs. a Boston College team that just got blasted 44-0 by Notre Dame. In the previous weeks, though, BC showed a lot of fight with a close loss to Duke and a road win over NC State.
BC has a promising freshman quarterback Emmett Morehead and an underrated group of receivers led by Zay Flowers. Flowers could be a first-round NFL draft pick, and he’s playing in his final home game. BC should be able to put up some points on a Syracuse defense that has allowed at least 38 points in three of its last four games.
Pick: Over 47