It's rivalry week!
The Week 13 edition of college football picks against the spread features a host of rivalry games, headlined by the Egg Bowl in Starkville and the Apple Cup in Seattle. There are also intriguing matchups in the Territorial Cup (Arizona-Arizona State) and the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket (Indiana-Purdue). Here are 10 predictions for games against the spread:
Note: Games below are on Saturday, Nov. 25 unless otherwise noted.
Ole Miss (+16) over Mississippi State (Thurs.)
Mississippi State has lost only three games. Pretty impressive at this point in the season. You know what’s more impressive? That the three losses have come against teams ranked in the top seven in the latest College Football Playoff Ranking. So the Bulldogs are 8–0 in games not involving top-seven teams. You know who’s not in the top seven? Ole Miss. The Rebels are 5–6 overall and have only one win over a team with a winning record (Kentucky). Despite their struggles, the Rebels do have a very capable offense that has scored 37 points or more in two of the three SEC games with Jordan Ta’amu at quarterback. Mississippi State is the better team, but the Rebels’ offense should make this competitive.
Mississippi State 34, Ole Miss 27
Navy (+4.5) over Houston (Fri.)
These two teams played in the first (Houston) and second (Navy) AAC title games but are both 4–3 in the league heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Memphis, which beat both of these schools, will represent the West Division in 2017. Navy has lost four of five after opening the season with a 5–0 record. But all four of the losses have come by 10 points or fewer, and three have come against ranked teams — Memphis, UCF and Notre Dame. Houston is coming off a disappointing loss at Tulane and is 6–4 on the season. Not exactly what the school had in mind when it promoted Major Applewhite to take over for Tom Herman.
Navy 34, Houston 27
Pittsburgh (+14) over Miami (Fla.) (Fri.)
It’s been a strange season for Pittsburgh, which is 2–5 in the ACC despite not having to play Clemson, Florida State or Louisville from the Atlantic Division. The Panthers, however, have shown signs of life over the last month, with wins over Duke and Virginia and a 20–14 loss at Virginia Tech (in a game that ended with Pittsburgh failing to punch it in four times from the Hokies’ 1-yard line). Miami overcame a sluggish start to beat Virginia 44–28 last Saturday. This will be the Canes’ first road game since late October. The guess here is a lethargic Miami win before a sleepy noon crowd at Heinz Field.
Miami 24, Pittsburgh 17
UCF (-11) over USF (Fri.)
The AAC East Division title is on the line when these two rivals meet in Tampa on Friday. Both teams have gaudy records, but it’s clear that UCF is the superior team at this point of the season. The Knights are 10–0 overall with an average margin of victory of 27.7 points per game. The schedule hasn’t been overly taxing, but they did beat Maryland 38–10 on the road and Memphis, the AAC West champ, 40–13. USF, on the other hand, has been rather average over the last month. The Bulls beat Tulane and Tulsa, two middle-of-the-pack AAC teams, by six points and seven points, respectively, and lost at home to Houston.
UCF 41, USF 20
Kentucky (+10) over Louisville
Kentucky is 7–4 overall, a record that could easily be 8–3 or 9–2 had the Wildcats made one more defensive play against Florida and/or Ole Miss. Louisville, too, is 7–4, with recent losses at home to Boston College and at Wake Forest. The Cardinals have played well the last two weeks, beating Virginia and Syracuse by a combined 63 points (though Syracuse was without QB Eric Dungey), but this is a team with some defensive issues. Louisville is probably the better team, but it’s a bit surprising that the Cards are a double-digit favorite on the road.
Louisville 35, Kentucky 33
Arizona State (pick) over Arizona
The two Arizona schools were picked by most (including Athlon Sports) to finish fifth and sixth in the Pac-12 South standings. But heading into the final week of the regular season, both Arizona and Arizona State are 5–3 in the league and tied for second behind USC in the South. Arizona has made more headlines, thanks to the emergence of Khalil Tate at quarterback, but Arizona State has been rock solid over the last two months. The Sun Devils have wins over Washington at home and by 20 points at Utah, and two of their three league losses have come against USC and Stanford. This should be a fun game.
Arizona State 44, Arizona 38
Washington State (+9) over Washington
The Apple Cup is one of the nation’s most underrated rivalries, and it takes on extra meaning this week with a title on the line. A Washington State win will send the Cougars to the Pac-12 Championship Game for the first time (they own the tie-breaker with Stanford). A Washington win means Stanford will represent the North, but the Huskies would still tie for the division title. Not exactly what UW had in mind before the season, but 10 regular-season wins and a 7–2 record in the league are still impressive. Washington has scored at least 30 points in nine games this season (all wins) but was held to seven in a loss at Arizona State and 22 in a loss at Stanford. Washington State is much improved on defense but has still allowed 21 points or more in six of eight league games. The Cougars should be able to keep this one tight, even in Seattle.
Washington 30, Washington State 23
Purdue (-2.5) over Indiana
It seems fitting that these two rivals are both 5–6 and need a win to reach bowl-eligibility. For Purdue, a win would cap off a nice first season for Jeff Brohm, who has given the program hope for the first time since the Joe Tiller era. For Indiana, it would be a third straight bowl game for the first time since the late 1980s. The Hoosiers went winless in their first six league games against a brutal schedule that featured the usual heavyweights from the East plus Wisconsin from the West. They broke through two weeks ago with a 24–14 win at Illinois and then pounded Rutgers 41–0 last week. The confidence level will be high for this trip to West Lafayette. Purdue bounced back from a midseason slump to post a 24–15 win at Iowa last weekend. This is an important game for a pair of first-year coaches.
Purdue 30, Indiana 24
Texas (-10) over Texas Tech (Fri.)
It hasn’t been the smoothest ride for Tom Herman in Year 1 in Austin, but the Longhorns are 5–3 in the Big 12 and have an outside chance to finish in a tie for second in the league. Not bad. On Friday, the Horns host struggling Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are 2–6 in the league and are coming off a 27–3 loss at home to TCU in which they managed only 327 yards of offense — the fewest for the program since November 2011. It’s tough to envision Texas shutting down the Red Raiders to that degree, but the Longhorns have limited four of their eight Big 12 foes to 14 points or fewer.
Texas 28, Texas Tech 17
Missouri (-11) over Arkansas (Fri.)
Missouri continued its improbable late-season run with a 45–17 win at Vanderbilt on Saturday night. The Tigers have now won five straight games, each by at least 28 points, and — more important for this column — have covered the spread in seven straight games. It should be noted that Mizzou’s wins are over Idaho, UConn and three SEC East teams that are imploding late in the season, Florida, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Still, this is quite an impressive run. Arkansas is 1–7 against Power 5 teams this season, and that one win was by one point at Ole Miss in a game in which the Hogs once trailed 31–7.
Missouri 41, Arkansas 27
Last Week: 2–8