Betting Against The Spread: Week 12 Picks

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Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.

<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

College football has a way of surprising you each and every week. It's what makes it the greatest sport on the planet. Despite hitting on four of my top five picks, THE Ohio State University decided to trip all over itself in West Lafayette - for the second time in a row. Additionally, had I kept the last two games off of my list (USC -11.5 and Vanderbilt -15.5) - and if Alabama could have figured out a way to put 0.5 more points on the board - I would have posted a lucrative 8-3 mark.

However, I have only myself to blame for not having the guts to roll with the red-hot Dores and Trojans. And close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Thus, I settled for a modest (but still winning) 5-4 weekend.

Season Record ATS: 67-43-1 (5-4 last week)

Week 12's Top Picks:

Wisconsin (-14.5) at Illinois
Illinois has gone four straight games without scoring in the first half and has totalled 42 points in those games - all losses. On the flip side, this is probably the best offense Big Red has ever put on the field. The Badgers have their sights set on Indianapolis with the most efficient quarterback in the history of college football and America's leading scorer leading the way. Ron Zook, meanwhile, will be looking for a new place of employment next fall. My Pick: Wisconsin -14.5

Kansas State (+8.5) at Texas
What have you done for me lately? I was on Texas winning last week against a Missouri team that had allowed 118 points in three games. Yet, Mizzou held the Horns to three points and 247 yards on offense. Collin Klein, and his 24 rushing touchdowns, refuses to let his team lose - especially to a team that hasn't beaten the Wildcats since 2003. Kansas State is tied for second in the nation with an 8-2 record against the spread and should keep it very close, if not win outright, in Austin. My Pick: Kansas State +8.5

Mississippi State (+13) at Arkansas
The Hogs have covered four straight times in which the kickoff did not take place at noon eastern. This one begins at 3:30 eastern. The Razorbacks are clicking on all cylinders offensively as they have scored 93 points over the last two weeks. The Bulldogs have struggled to score all season, scoring 97 combined points - 62 of which came against Kentucky and Auburn - in six SEC contests (1-5). A nine-win MSU team allowed 38 points in a loss to Arkansas last season in Starkville. Expect more of the same from the deepest receiving corp in the nation against a 5-5 Bulldog team. My Pick: Arkansas -13

SMU (+20) at Houston
The Cougars are aiming at a BCS bowl bid if they can continue to rack up huge wins and SMU is the next victim. SMU might need to score 50 points to cover this spread, and without star tailback Zach Line, that just became a much more difficult task. Houston is 8-2 against the spread this season and has averaged 67.3 points per game over its last three. Houston won this game last season by 25 points at SMU...without Case Keenum. My Pick: Houston -20

Oklahoma (-15) at Baylor
Baylor has allowed fewer than 30 points in Big 12 play only once this season (26 to Iowa State), giving it an ugly 40.8-points per game allowed in conference play. And Oklahoma knows how to score - try 45.4 points per game (sixth nationally). Expect a high-scoring affair - something akin to the 55-28 Bears loss to Texas A&M or the 59-24 loss to Oklahoma State. My Pick: Oklahoma -15

Louisville (pk) at UConn
Charlie Strong and the Cardinals have the 12th-rated scoring defense in the nation at just over 18 points per game allowed. UConn sports terrible quarterback play (Johnny McEntee ranks 94th in efficiency), medicore coaching and have struggled on offense all season: 107th in total offense and 93rd in scoring. Strong's bunch has its sights still set on a Big East title, but has to win this game to stay in the hunt. My Pick: Louisville

Cal (+17.5) at Stanford
Coming off its worst performance since, well, the last time they played Oregon, Stanford will be motivated. An at-large BCS bowl bid is still possible and Andrew Luck shouldn't need any extra motivation to top a brusied and beaten crosstown rival. This was a 34-point win for the Cardinal last season in which they rushed for 232 yards on the road in Berkeley. Stanford still leads the nation against the spread at 9-1 and will get back on track this weekend with a big win. My Pick: Stanford -17.5

Virginia (+17.5) at Florida State
The Seminoles have quietly reeled off five straight wins, however, those came mostly against the ACC's worst competiton. While FSU has more raw talent than the Cavaliers, there is really no difference between these two teams on paper. Both are 7-3 with convincing wins over Duke and Maryland to go with hard-fought victories over Miami. Florida State's defense should win the game for the Noles, but not by three scores - not against a motivated and extremely well-coached Wahoo team that wants a piece of the ACC crown. My Pick: Virginia +17.5

Oklahoma State (-27.5) at Iowa State
The Cowboys have 60 more minutes of football to play before the Bedlam Series on Decemeber 3 - and the poor Cyclones get to play the role of punching bag in the Pokes' final tune-up. The last two games between these two came in 2008 and 2009 with the Cowboys winning both by a combined 93-25. Oklahoma State is 8-2 against the spread this season and the nation's No. 2 scoring offense (51.7 ppg) will post another huge number against the nation's 91st ranked defense (420.4 ypg). My Pick: Oklahoma State -27.5

Vanderbilt (-1.5) at Tennessee
The Dores are arguably the most improved team in the nation and have everything to play for this weekend.  Not only is their arch-in-state-rival down on their luck, but Vanderbilt likely needs this win to get to a bowl game in James Franklin's first season. (Vanderbilt visits a solid Wake Forest team next weekend.) If Tyler Bray were 100% healthy, the Vols would be tough to beat in Neyland Stadium. But Vandy is going to hit him early and often, forcing him to make the tough throws with a recovering broken thumb. This Commodores team plays harder than their opponents and that isn't likely to change this weekend - not with all that is at stake. My Pick: Vanderbilt -1.5

2011 Top 20 Teams ATS:

1. Stanford (9-1)
2t. Arkansas State (8-2)
2t. Houston (8-2)
2t. Kansas State (8-2)
2t. Louisiana Tech (8-2)
2t. Oklahoma State (8-2)
2t. Vanderbilt (8-2)
2t. Western Kentucky (8-2)
9. Georgia (7-2-1)
10t. Alabama (7-3)
10t. Clemson (7-3)
10t. LSU (7-3)
10t. Michigan (7-3)
10t. New Mexico State (7-3)
10t. Rutgers (7-3)
10t. Southern Miss (7-3)*
17t. Eastern Michigan (6-3-1)
17t. USC (6-3-1)
19. Oklahoma (6-3)
20. Wyoming (6-3)

2011 Bottom 20 Teams ATS:

1. Central Michigan (1-10)
2t. Maryland (2-8)
2t. Texas A&M (2-8)
4. Penn State (2-7-1)
5t. Colorado State (2-7)
5t. Florida Atlantic (2-7)
5t. Troy (2-7)
8t. Colorado (3-8)
8t. Tulane (3-8)
10t. Air Force (3-7)
10t. Arizona (3-7)
10t. Memphis (3-7)*
10t. Ole Miss (3-7)
10t. Oregon State (3-7)
10t. Syracuse (3-7)
10t. UCLA (3-7)
10t. Virginia Tech (3-7)
18t. Akron (3-6-1)
18t. Hawaii (3-6-1)
18t. Nebraska (3-6-1)
18t. NC State (3-6-1)

* - team played on Thursday night

Other Week 12 Content:

Mitch Light's Top Ten Games of Week 12
Athlon Sports Predicts Every Game of Week 12

Steven Lassan's Top Week 12 Storylines to Watch
Conference and National Championship Races Update

Who is the nation's best one-loss team?

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