The Week 11 edition of college football picks against the spread is highlighted by the epic showdown in Tuscaloosa between Alabama and LSU. Elsewhere, Illinois seeks to increase its winning streak to four as it heads to Michigan State; Penn State travels to Minnesota in a battle of unbeatens; and Purdue looks to keep its bowl hopes alive against Northwestern. Here are 10 predictions for games against the spread.
The biggest game on the 2019 college football slate has a chance to be one of the most entertaining. Both of these teams are elite on offense and talented but vulnerable on defense. They rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the SEC in total offense (LSU, 535.9 ypg; Alabama, 506.6 ypg) and scoring offense (Alabama, 48.6 ppg; LSU, 46.8 ppg). Assuming Tua Tagovailoa is healthy, two of the top quarterbacks in the nation will also be on display. What more can we ask for? LSU has lost eight straight in the series and has not scored more than 17 points in any of those eight losses. The streak ends Saturday afternoon! LSU 35, Alabama 31
Illinois has emerged as one of the surprise teams in the nation. The Fighting Illini have won three straight — all in league play — to improve to 5–4 overall and 3–3 in the Big Ten. They have also covered in four straight, dating back to the 42–25 loss at home to Michigan on Oct. 12. Lovie Smith’s team will have three opportunities to reach bowl eligibility for the first time in his tenure — trips to Michigan State and Iowa and a home date against Northwestern. Michigan State has a similar record (4–4) as Illinois, but the mood around the program isn’t nearly as upbeat. The Spartans have lost three straight games and have not looked good in the process. In their four losses this season, they have scored a total of 24 points. Michigan State 24, Illinois 20
Billy Napier continues to do an outstanding job at Louisiana, his first stint as a head coach. The Ragin’ Cajuns went 7–7 last season and are currently 6–2 overall and 3–1 in the Sun Belt. Their two losses are both by 10 points, at Mississippi State and at home against Appalachian State. Each of their six wins has been by 13 points or more. Coastal Carolina snapped a three-game losing streak last weekend with a 36–35 win over Troy. The Chanticleers held Kansas to seven points in a Week 2 win in Lawrence but have allowed at least 28 in every other game against FBS opponents. Louisiana 41, Coastal Carolina 24
UCF has stubbed its toe twice this season — at Pittsburgh and at Cincinnati — but has been dominant in its seven wins (average margin of victory of 31.3 points). Statistically, UCF is better this year than last — it's averaging 46.3 points per game and 7.3 yards per play compared to 43.2 and 6.9 in 2018. Tulsa has been good enough to lead SMU by 21 points in the second half and be in a position to beat Memphis with a chip-shot field goal at the buzzer. The Golden Hurricane, however, lost both of those games, as well as their other three AAC games to date. The Tulsa defense has allowed 38 points or more in four of five league games and figures to have a tough time slowing down the UCF attack. UCF 48, Tulsa 28
Appalachian State fell from the ranks of the unbeaten last Thursday night with a 24–21 loss at home to Georgia Southern. It was the Mountaineers’ first loss at home to another Group of 5 team since November 2015. Now, they make the short trip to Columbia to face their second Power 5 foe of the season. App State beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill in mid-September. This is an absolute must-win for South Carolina, which is 4–5 overall and still has to play at Texas A&M and Clemson at home. The Gamecocks have been decent at Williams-Brice Stadium this season. They have wins over Charleston Southern, Kentucky and Vanderbilt and played relatively well in losses to Alabama and Florida. The Alabama game got out of hand in the second half, but South Carolina was competitive against the mighty Crimson Tide. South Carolina 28, Appalachian State 23
It’s the biggest Minnesota game to be played at TCF Bank Stadium, which opened for the 2009 season. The Golden Gophers are 8–0 and checked in at No. 17 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. The schedule hasn’t been overly taxing — and there were narrow escapes against each of the three non-Power 5 opponents on the slate — but there is no doubt P.J. Fleck is making progress at Minnesota. Penn State was ranked No. 4 by the committee, one spot ahead of the defending national champs, the Clemson Tigers. The Nittany Lions are undefeated but haven’t looked as dominant as teams such as LSU, Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson. Beating Minnesota, even on the road, might not make too big of a statement, but it will keep James Franklin’s team in the hunt. Penn State 27, Minnesota 17
It’s been a difficult season for these two Big Ten West teams that entered the fall with high expectations. Many of Purdue’s issues are a result of injuries to key personnel on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The Boilermakers are down to third-string quarterback Aidan O’Connell and have been without All-America wide receiver Rondale Moore for the last five games. Bowl-eligibility is still a possibility, but the Boilermakers must beat Northwestern and Wisconsin on the road and Indiana at home. Northwestern’s season has been a disaster; the Wildcats are 1–7 overall and 0–6 in the Big Ten thanks to an offense that is averaging an anemic 6.9 points in seven games against Power 5 opponents. Purdue 21, Northwestern 14
Air Force (-21.5) over New Mexico
Air Force is quietly enjoying a nice season. The Falcons, who went 5–7 in both 2017 and 2018, are 7–2 and have won four straight, highlighted by victories over Utah State (by 24 points) and Army. New Mexico, as expected, is struggling this fall. The Lobos are 2–7, with an eight-point win over Sam Houston State and a three-point win over rival New Mexico State — both in September. On the positive side, they have been relatively competitive; none of their six losses vs. Group of 5 teams has come by more than 14 points. That will change this weekend. Air Force 41, New Mexico 14
NOTE: This game has been moved to Nov. 23 due to the death of New Mexico defensive lineman Nahje Flowers.
Ole Miss (-29) over New Mexico State
It’s been a rough season for the Aggies from Las Cruces. One of three winless teams nationally — Akron and Rice are the other two — New Mexico State has scored more than 17 points only twice this season. Two years ago, when they broke through and played in a bowl game, the Aggies averaged 29.3 points per game; this year that number has dipped to 18.0 per game. Ole Miss hasn’t been great offensively either, but the Rebels have some talented playmakers who have the ability to expose the New Mexico State defense. This spread is a bit high for an Ole Miss team that has not scored more than 31 points against an FBS opponent, but the Rebels are the far more talented team. Ole Miss 44, New Mexico State 10
Georgia Southern (-3) over Troy
Troy has been one of the most disappointing teams in the nation in 2019. The Trojans won a total of 31 games in the final three years of the Neal Brown era but are 3–5 overall under first-year coach Chip Lindsey. There’s no shame in losing to Southern Miss, Arkansas State or Missouri, but the last two losses — at home to Georgia State and Charleston Southern — can’t be sitting well with a fan base that expects to compete for division titles in the Sun Belt. Georgia Southern is the team to beat in the Sun Belt East. The Panthers knocked off Appalachian State in Boone last Thursday and play Georgia State, which also has only one league loss, at home in the season finale. Georgia Southern 30, Troy 20
Last week: 8-2