Alabama will be tested in Starkville against Mississippi State
The Week 11 edition of college football picks against the spread is highlighted by an intriguing battle in the SEC West (Alabama makes the short trip to Mississippi State) and a key Pac-12 North game for Washington, which heads to Stanford. Here are 10 predictions for games against the spread:
Note: All games are on Saturday, Nov.11 unless otherwise noted.
Alabama (-14) over Mississippi State
Alabama continues to look like the best team in the country, but the Crimson Tide will have to play well to win their final two SEC games, at Mississippi State this week and at Auburn on Nov. 25. Nick Saban’s team is also dealing with some key injuries — but this roster is better equipped than most to handle such problems. Mississippi State is in the midst of an interesting season. The Bulldogs are 7–2 overall, with all seven wins by at least 11 points (six by at least 21) and both losses by at least 28 points. Those losses were both on the road and to top-10 teams (Georgia and Auburn). State should play well in front of the home folks, but Alabama is simply too good.
Alabama 34, Mississippi State 17
Toledo (-3.5) over Ohio (Wednesday)
There is a strong chance these two teams will play again early next month in the MAC Championship Game. Ohio, 7–2 overall, has been on a roll of late, beating Bowling Green, Kent State and Miami (Ohio) by an average score of 47–20. But keep in mind that Bowling Green and Kent State are among the 10 worst teams in the nation, and Miami (Ohio) has been perhaps the most disappointing team in the league. Toledo, 8–1, has faced a more difficult schedule, in large part because the MAC West is the more challenging division. The Rockets feature one of the nation’s top passing attacks and have been relatively strong on defense. Toledo is the better team.
Toledo 31, Ohio 21
Washington (-5.5) over Stanford (Friday)
Washington has rebounded nicely from its 13–7 loss at Arizona State by beating UCLA and Oregon by a combined score of 82–26. The Huskies have scored at least 30 points in each of their eight wins and have allowed 23 points or fewer in every game. This is a complete team that had a really bad day in Tempe a few weeks ago. Stanford has been very average in recent weeks. Playing without Bryce Love, the Cardinal survived a major scare at Oregon State, winning 15–14 on a late TD. Then last week, with Love back in the lineup, they lost 24–21 at Washington State. They had 222 yards against Oregon State and only 198 against Washington State. Those are alarmingly low numbers.
Washington 27, Stanford 13
Indiana (-9) over Illinois
Both teams are 0–6 in the Big Ten. It’s not a surprise that Illinois is winless, but Indiana has been a disappointment. Yes, the schedule has been tough — the Hoosiers have played Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin — but this team is too good not to have at least one league win. It should come this week. Illinois has been one of the worst Power 5 teams in the nation. The Fighting Illini are 0–6 in the Big Ten and have scored more than 17 points in only one league game (24–17 loss at Minnesota). Last week, true freshman Cam Thomas got his first start at quarterback.
Indiana 41, Illinois 13
Iowa (+12.5) over Wisconsin
Iowa has won 86 games in Kirk Ferentz’s 18-plus seasons at the school, but I’m not sure there has been a victory as surprising as what occurred at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. Beating Ohio State was not expected — especially after the Buckeyes’ big win over Penn State the previous week. Scoring 55 points and winning by 29 points were unthinkable. But when you look at the big picture, you realize this is a pretty good team. The Hawkeyes at 6–3 overall, with a 21–19 loss to Penn State on the final play of the game, a 17–10 loss at Michigan State, a team tied for first in the Big Ten East, and a 17–10 overtime loss at Northwestern. They won at Iowa State in Week 2 and have wins over two solid Group of 5 teams, Wyoming and North Texas. Can they win in Madison? The guess here is no, but the spread seems a bit high.
Wisconsin 27, Iowa 20
Southern Miss (-10.5) over Rice
There’s been no announcement, but you’d have to believe that this is the end of the David Bailiff era at Rice. The Owls are 1–8 and have lost seven straight games. Four of their last five opponents have scored their season high (vs. FBS opponents) against Rice. Southern Miss has lost two straight, UAB at home and at Tennessee. Prior to that, the Golden Eagles had won five of six, with three of those five on the road. This is far from a great team … but it’s far superior to Rice.
Southern Miss 37, Rice 15
West Virginia (+2.5) over Kansas State
West Virginia won a game in which it scored fewer than 38 points for the first time this season, holding off Iowa State 20–16 in Morgantown. It was the Mountaineers’ first win over a team currently ranked in the AP Poll after losses to Virginia Tech (by seven), TCU (by seven) and Oklahoma State (by 11). Kansas State has been competitive in pretty much every game but doesn’t have anything resembling a quality win; the Wildcats have four wins over FBS opponents, and those four teams have a combined 5–25 record against other FBS teams. There are questions at quarterback as well. Bill Snyder will not announce a starter, but the guess here is that redshirt freshman Skylar Thompson will get the nod.
West Virginia 37, Kansas State 27
TCU (+7) over Oklahoma
The four-team tie atop the Big 12 standings has been whittled down to two teams (for now) — and those two teams meet this week in Norman. Both teams will be a strong favorite to win their final two games (TCU plays at Texas Tech and hosts Baylor; OU visits Kansas and hosts West Virginia), so the winner of this one will emerge as the likely regular-season champ. Oklahoma has been the best offensive team in the nation, averaging 608.2 yards per game and an impressive 8.6 yards per play. No team has averaged more than 7.7 yards per play for a season in at least the past 10 years. The Sooners’ potent offense will meet the Big 12’s best defense. The Horned Frogs are allowing only 4.4 yards per play (0.6 per play fewer than any other team) and 284.1 yards per game (83 fewer than any other team). This is strictly a home-team pick.
Oklahoma 34, TCU 28
SMU (+4.5) over Navy
Navy’s 5–0 record has turned into a 5–3 record after Thursday’s 34–26 loss at Temple. The Midshipmen were held to 136 yards rushing on a 2.6-yard average — both season lows (by far). Quarterback Zach Abey went down with a shoulder injury and is questionable for Saturday. SMU’s three-game winning streak was snapped by UCF, but the Mustangs played well in a seven-point loss — well enough to give them hope that they can win in Annapolis this week.
SMU 38, Navy 34
Marshall (-13) over Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky is a relatively soft 5–4 (the wins are over EKU, Ball State, UTEP, Charlotte and Old Dominion), and the Hilltoppers have significant injuries on both sides of the ball, most notably at linebacker and on the offensive line. Last week, they netted minus-six yards rushing (sacks included) in a 31–17 loss at Vanderbilt. Marshall has hit a rough patch after winning six of its first seven games (most with ease), but the two losses are to FIU and FAU (the two top teams in C-USA East) by an average of eight points.
Marshall 34, Western Kentucky 21
Last Week: 5–5