Can Michigan make Ohio State sweat?
The Week 13 edition of college football picks against the spread is highlighted by some of the biggest rivalries in the game — Ohio State-Michigan, Clemson-South Carolina and Ole Miss-Mississippi State. Here are 10 predictions for games against the spread.
Michigan’s late-season surge has added some intrigue to arguably the best rivalry in college football. The Wolverines have won four straight — each by at least 25 points — and look like they can make Ohio State sweat on Saturday. But there’s a big difference between making a team sweat and winning the game. Ohio State has cruised to an 11–0 record with relative ease; the Buckeyes have outscored their opponents by an average of 38.9 points per game. Michigan will have to win the turnover battle — the Buckeyes lost three fumbles last week against Penn State — and find a way to force Ohio State to kick field goals rather than score touchdowns when it reaches the red zone. Ohio State 31, Michigan 20
Ole Miss (+3) over Mississippi State (Thurs.)
The Egg Bowl is not the best rivalry in college football, but it is no doubt among the most heated — among both the players and the fans. The road team has won four straight, most recently Mississippi State’s 35–3 beatdown in Oxford last November. Neither team has won many games in the latter half of the 2019 season. Mississippi State has lost five of its last six SEC games, with the only win over Arkansas, and Ole Miss has lost its last four league games. The difference, however, is that the Rebels have at least been competitive. They put up 37 points on LSU two weeks ago and lost their previous two games by seven points, at Auburn and vs. Texas A&M. None of MSU’s five SEC losses has come by fewer than 10 points. Ole Miss 34, Mississippi State 21
Since escaping North Carolina with a one-point win in late September, Clemson has won its six games by an average of 42.8 points. The Tigers have scored at least 52 points in four straight games and have not allowed more than 20 points in any game this season. They have completely dominated 10 of their 11 opponents to date. South Carolina, meanwhile, has lost four of five and has not scored more than 27 points in any game against an FBS opponent all season. In the last two games, losses to Appalachian State and at Texas A&M, the Gamecocks have scored a total of 22 points and one touchdown. This will not be close. Clemson 49, South Carolina 14
Kent State has shown significant progress in Sean Lewis’ second season. The Golden Flashes are 5–6 overall — with three of the losses at Power 5 opponents — and 4–3 in the league one year after finishing 2–10 and 1–7. They have won two straight — by three points over Buffalo and Ball State, both at home — to keep their bowl hopes alive. Eastern Michigan reached bowl eligibility last week with a 45–17 win at Northern Illinois. With a win on Friday, the Eagles can secure back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the late 1980s. Eastern Michigan 37, Kent State 31
Penn State (-38.5) over Rutgers
Rutgers’ 2019 season is mercifully coming to an end on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights have lost all eight games against Power 5 opponents, with only the September home game against Boston College decided by fewer than 27 points. This might be the most alarming stat: Rutgers has scored a total of six touchdowns against Big Ten opponents. Assuming Penn State is properly motivated — and James Franklin’s teams usually are — it’s hard to envision this game being remotely competitive. Penn State 47, Rutgers 0
Utah has been on a defensive tear of late. The Utes have allowed a total of seven touchdowns in the last seven games, with four of those coming in one game, a 33–28 win at Washington. The competition hasn’t been great, but that is still very impressive. And don’t expect any letdown this week. Despite its gaudy record and high ranking, Utah needs to win this game to secure a spot in the Pac-12 title game. Colorado’s first season under Mel Tucker is ending on a positive note; the Buffaloes are 5–6 after back-to-back wins over Stanford and Washington. Both of those games were at home. Their last three road games have ended with losses to Oregon (by 32 points), Washington State (31 points) and UCLA (17 points). Utah 41, Colorado 7
Rice (-6.5) over UTEP
Rice was clearly an improved team throughout the first two months of the 2019 season yet had nothing to show for it. That changed two weeks ago when the Owls broke through with a 31–28 victory at Middle Tennessee, and they followed up with a 20–14 win over North Texas. Rice has regressed a bit offensively in Mike Bloomgren’s second season, but the defense has made big strides; the points allowed is down from 36.0 points per game in 2018 to 26.8 and the yards allowed per play are down from 6.9 to 6.1. The breakthrough has yet to occur at UTEP. The Miners are 1–10 overall, with the only win coming in Week 1 by two points over Houston Baptist. There is not much this team does well. Rice 21, UTEP 10
Not many would have predicted that both teams would have winning records at this point of the season — especially when you factor in the injuries they have had to deal with at the quarterback position. Louisville, amazingly, has secured a second-place finish in the ACC Atlantic Division. The only thing left for Scott Satterfield in what has been a magical first season: Beat the school’s biggest rival on the road. Kentucky hasn’t been as much of a story nationally, but Mark Stoops deserves a ton of credit for coaxing six wins (so far) out of a team that suffered huge personnel losses on defense and is playing with a wide receiver at quarterback. Louisville 27, Kentucky 24
Things are not going well in Tucson. Arizona has lost six straight games (and scored a total of 13 points in the last two) to drop to 4–7 overall, and head coach Kevin Sumlin recently fired his third defensive assistant coach of the season. Meanwhile, Arizona State is riding high after last Saturday night’s impressive upset over Oregon on the big stage (ABC primetime affair). That win snapped a four-game losing streak and secured bowl eligibility for the second time in Herm Edwards’ two seasons on the job. A second-straight win over Arizona would create even more momentum for the Sun Devils. Arizona State 34, Arizona 20
Wake Forest bounced back from a two-game losing streak to cruise past Duke 39–27 for its ninth win of the season. The Demon Deacons have been outstanding on offense (when not playing Virginia Tech and Clemson) and good enough on defense; they are 8–0 when holding the opponent to 35 points or less. Aside from a 49–6 win at Duke two weeks ago, not much has gone right at Syracuse, which is on the shortlist of most disappointing teams of the season. The Orange are 4–7 overall and 1–6 in the league one year after winning 10 games. Last week, they gave up 56 points in a loss at Louisville — the second time this month they have allowed 50-plus points. Wake Forest 41, Syracuse 30
Last week: 7-3