USC @ Utah (-3)
USC had possibly the worst week of any football program, with reports surfacing that coach Clay Helton was punched in the face by offensive lineman E.J. Price, and up to eight players plan to transfer or leave for the NFL. While USC will put more talent on the field than Utah, don’t bank on the Trojans to circle the wagons, especially starting a redshirt freshman quarterback.
Iowa (-13) @ Rutgers
Iowa had the most disappointing loss last weekend, at home to North Dakota State (when will teams stop scheduling them?), which derailed a promising start to the season. Expect the Iowa running game to bounce back in a big way against a Rutgers team that is in major rebuilding mode, considering the Hawks ran for only 39 yards against NDSU last week.
San Jose State @ Iowa State (-6.5)
This game is the early front-runner for lowest rated game of the weekend. Not much to see here, but my money is on the team that isn’t flying halfway across the country for an 11am CT kickoff (thanks for body clocks, Jeff Long).
Pick: Iowa State
Wisconsin @ Michigan State (-5.5)
I live in Madison, WI, and no one expected much from the Badgers this year due to a tough schedule and question marks at quarterback, but a win over then-#5 LSU will do wonders for expectations. Still, this is a Michigan State team coming off of a convincing win at Notre Dame last week (that game was not as close as the final score indicated). Dantonio teams are strong at home and I’ll take Tyler O’Connor (who has won at Ohio State and at Notre Dame) over whoever starts between Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook. Spartans win a low scoring game by a touchdown.
Pick: Michigan State
Georgia @ Ole Miss (-7)
For the first half of the Florida State game on Labor Day, Ole Miss looked like the best team in the country. For the first quarter of the Alabama game, Ole Miss again looked like the best team in the country. Unfortunately for them, the game is four quarters long. On the other hand, Georgia needed all four quarters to sneak by a Nicholls State team it was favored by 55 points against, and then struggled to beat a very mediocre Missouri team last week. The Dawgs have shown they can win a close game, but I’ll take Chad Kelly and Ole Miss at home in a game they desperately need to win to keep their season alive.
Pick: Ole Miss
Pittsburgh (+7) @ North Carolina
Until the rise of Louisville, this looked like the biggest ACC game of the year outside of Clemson-Florida State. I’ve been impressed by Pitt this year, despite the fact they came up just short at Oklahoma State last week (who may be the best team in the Big 12). From the feel-good story of James Conner overcoming cancer to play again, to consistent quarterback play from Nathan Peterman, this Pitt team won’t blow you away with stats or a pretty offense, but I think they find a way to cover at North Carolina.
Penn State @ Michigan (-19)
Michigan has arguably been the most impressive team in the country this year, outside of the first half against Colorado last week. Jim Harbaugh has this team rolling, and that continues against a Penn State team which outside of Saquon Barkley, doesn’t have many weapons (I thought James Franklin was supposed to be a good recruiter). Michigan big.
Florida @ Tennessee (-6.5)
I still think that Tennessee is overrated (images of the Appalachian State game dancing in my head), and Florida has history on it’s side, as they look to make it 12 straight wins over the boys in orange (who misses Phil Fulmer?). Still, the most important position in football is the quarterback, and I’ll take Josh Dobbs over Austin Appleby. As a side note, both Florida and LSU in the MIGHTY SEC are starting former Purdue backup QBs.
Duke @ Notre Dame (-21)
This line has moved toward Duke since opening, but this is put up or shut up week for Brian Kelly and the Irish. Duke doesn’t pose much of a threat offensively or defensively, and if the Irish defense can’t stop Duke, then expect to start seeing “Fire Brian Van Gorder” banners circling Notre Dame Stadium. Now 28 years since their last national title, the Irish, despite a talented roster, don’t seem like they’re heading in the right direction.
Pick: Notre Dame
LSU (-3.5) @ Auburn
I’ve never seen a coach shuffle quarterbacks like Gus Malzahn did against Clemson, playing three quarterbacks–on the same drive! LSU rides Leonard Fournette to a win on the road in Jordan-Hare Stadium, in large part due to Auburn’s inability to move the ball against a strong LSU defense.
Nebraska @ Northwestern (+7)
Maybe it’s because of recent history in the last few years, but I don’t believe Nebraska is that good after beating Oregon, and I don’t believe Northwestern is that bad, despite losing to Western Michigan and Illinois State. With a wide-open Big 10 West still up for grabs, I expect the Wildcats to save their season and pull out the win at home. Northwestern always seems to win a game it shouldn’t, and Nebraska always seems to lose one as a heavy favorite.
Oklahoma State @ Baylor (-8)
Expect a high scoring game as two great quarterbacks, Seth Russell of Baylor and Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State, go head to head. Oklahoma State has had perhaps the toughest “loss” of the year, as officials allowed a Hail Mary to Central Michigan when the clock should have expired, but followed that up with a dramatic win against Pitt. Baylor has played a very Baylor-like schedule against teams you’ve never heard of, but this game is in Waco, where the Bears have been tough to beat. It’s a big line, but I think there’s too many weapons for the green and gold and they win 55-45.
Stanford (-3) @ UCLA
This game pits the perennial overachievers vs. the perennial underachievers. No coach does more with less than David Shaw, and arguably no coach does less with more than Jim Mora. I give the Bruins the edge at quarterback with Josh Rosen and they’re playing at home, but this Stanford Cardinal team has Christian McCaffery, who I expect to have a big game against a team that gave up 203 rushing yards to Texas A&M.
The Common Room’s Playoff Picks
- Alabama vs. 4. Stanford
- Ohio State vs. 3. Clemson