Can Jim Harbaugh break through and beat Ohio State?
The Week 13 edition of college football picks against the spread is highlighted by the huge showdown in the Big Ten East as Michigan heads to Ohio State with a spot in the league title game on the line. Elsewhere, Ole Miss hosts Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl; first-year coaches Herm Edwards and Kevin Sumlin get together in the Territorial Cup; and Oklahoma and West Virginia meet in Morgantown for the right to play in the Big 12 Championship Game. Here are 10 predictions for games against the spread.
Michigan is searching for its first win over Ohio State since 2011 and its first win in Columbus since 2000. And the stakes, as usual, are high — the winner heads to the Big Ten Championship Game and remains (especially if it's Michigan) in prime position to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. Ohio State is struggling on defense like no Buckeyes' team we’ve seen in the Urban Meyer era. The Buckeyes have allowed 450 yards or more in three of the last four games, including 579 (on a 9.3-yard average) in last week’s overtime win at Maryland. Michigan was a bit sluggish in last week’s win over Indiana, but this team has been playing very well over the last two months. The Wolverines have not allowed more than 21 points in any game, and they lead the nation in total defense at 234.8 yards per game. Michigan is the better team. Michigan 28, Ohio State 17
Ole Miss (+10.5) over Mississippi State (Thursday)
The latest installment of the Egg Bowl is a fascinating matchup between one of the SEC’s best offenses (Ole Miss) and the league’s best — at least statistically — defense (Mississippi State). The Rebels are averaging 539.7 yards and 36.7 points per game, but those numbers dip to 466.9 and 24.7 against SEC opponents. Mississippi State leads the league in both total defense (275.6 ypg) and scoring defense (12.8 ppg) and has allowed only 12 touchdowns in 11 games, the fewest in the nation. Weird things happen in rivalries, but it’s tough to envision Ole Miss doing too much damage against an elite Bulldog defense. Mississippi State 21, Ole Miss 13
Missouri (-21) over Arkansas (Friday)
Arkansas is limping to the finish line in Chad Morris’ first season. The Razorbacks weren’t competitive in last week’s 52–6 loss at Mississippi State and have given up at least 37 points in four of their last five SEC games. In addition, there is some off-the-field drama; Morris suspended two starters for the finale after they were seen flirting with members of Mississippi State’s dance team before last week’s game. There are no issues at Missouri. The Tigers have won three straight, all in league play, and are closing in on an eight-win regular-season. Missouri dominated Tennessee on both sides of the ball in a 50–17 win in Knoxville, its second straight road win of at least 21 points. Missouri 44, Arkansas 17
The stakes are high Friday night in Morgantown: The winner will head to the Big 12 Championship Game to face Texas (assuming the Longhorns beat Kansas). West Virginia played its way out of Playoff contention by losing at Oklahoma State last week, but Oklahoma is still in the picture — despite its season-long defensive issues. The Sooners have allowed a total of 133 points in the last three games. That’s not usually a recipe for success, but OU has managed to win all three games thanks to an offense that scored 154 points during that stretch. This figures to be one of the most entertaining games of the holiday weekend. The hunch here is that the OU offense makes one more play. Oklahoma 44, West Virginia 41
Louisville’s nightmare 2018 season will come to an end on Saturday afternoon. And barring a significant upset, it will end with nine straight losses and a 2–10 overall record. The defensive numbers are horrific; the Cards are allowing 505.4 yards and 49.9 points per game against Power 5 opponents, and only one league game has been decided by fewer than 18 points. Kentucky, once mentioned in the College Football Playoff discussion, has not played as well in the latter half of the season, but this is still a good team that can win 10 games with a win on Saturday and a win in the bowl game. The Cats are limited on offense but haven’t given up more than 23 points to a team not named Georgia this season. Kentucky 31, Louisville 10
Here’s a stats that can’t make former Florida coach Steve Spurrier happy: The Gators have scored 22 points or fewer in seven of the last eight games against Florida State. In a related stat: Florida has lost seven of its last eight to its rivals from Tallahassee, and that’s one of the key factors why the Gators have a new coach, Dan Mullen. There’s also a new boss at Florida State, and things aren’t going quite as well for Willie Taggart, who needs to win this game to reach bowl eligibility. The Noles have struggled on both sides of the ball, ranking in the bottom half of the ACC in both total offense and total defense. They did show signs of life last week with a 22–21 win over Boston College, but this simply is not a very good team right now. Florida 31, Florida State 20
Second place in the SEC West is on the line when LSU visits Kyle Field on Saturday. The Aggies bounced back from consecutive losses at Mississippi State and Auburn by beating Ole Miss and UAB at home. The defense, however has allowed 400-plus yards in back-to-back games for the first time this season. The run defense has been stout all year (yielding a league-low 3.1 yards per carry), but the pass defense continues to be an issue (allowing a league-high 8.7 yards per attempt). This appears to be a favorable matchup against an LSU offense that has passed for 200 yards or fewer in its last five league games. Texas A&M 24, LSU 20
From the opening night loss to Northwestern to the blowout win over Ohio State to the drama involving the future of coach Jeff Brohm, it’s been an eventful season at Purdue. That season will end with a losing record unless the Boilermakers can win in Bloomington this weekend. The offense has been uneven over the past five games, scoring 38 points or more three times and 13 points or fewer twice. Indiana opened the season with a 4–1 mark but has won only once since the end of September. There have been some close losses (as usual), but the Hoosiers' only league wins have come against Rutgers and Maryland. Purdue, on the other hand, has defeated Iowa and Ohio State in league play and Boston College in a non-conference game. Purdue 37, Indiana 30
These two iconic programs are trending in opposite directions. USC has lost four of five games, with the only win coming over Oregon State. Notre Dame, on the other hand, is closing in on a perfect 12–0 regular season and a spot in the College Football Playoff. After struggling in a home win over Pittsburgh (a team that won the ACC Coastal), the Fighting Irish have strung together four straight impressive performances, including last week’s 36–3 win over Syracuse at Yankee Stadium. It would be a significant surprise if this team doesn’t play well Saturday night. Notre Dame 30, USC 17
Arizona State has exceeded expectations under first-year coach Herm Edwards and can secure a second-place finish in the Pac-12 South with a win in the Territorial Cup. Arizona has been a bit of a disappointment under first-year coach Kevin Sumlin but can secure a second-place finish in the Pac-12 South with a win in the Territorial Cup. Yep, both Arizona schools are tied for second in the division at 4–4 as the regular season comes to a close. There is one difference; Arizona State has already secured bowl eligibility, while Arizona needs one more win. The Wildcats will come up just short. Arizona State 28, Arizona 24
Last week: 4–5