This week doesn't have quite the star power that last week did, but it still does provide some tough matchups to try and get a read on. The top 4 teams in the country all face big point spreads this week, so the only one of those games that we'll touch on this week is the Ohio State game. But that gives us a chance to pick a Duke regular season game for the first time.
Last Week ATS: 5-5 (2-3 National, 3-2 B1G)
Season ATS: 65-59-3 (30-26-2 National, 35-33-1 B1G)
Washington vs. #13 UCLA (-3) - Friday 9:00 PM EST - ESPN2
If you flipped it to UCLA/Arizona last week after the LSU/Alabama game, you saw Myles Jack lead the Bruins in rushing with 120 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Oh yeah, Jack is a freshman and a linebacker. That's how much injuries have decimated Jim Mora's backfield. The 66-yard touchdown run that Jack made early in the fourth quarter put the Bruins up over RichRod's crew 31-19 and turned out to be the difference in the game. Running back Jordon James should be able to play for UCLA in this one, so Jack's skills might only be needed on the defensive side of the football. That UCLA defense will be tested against a Washington teams that have beat up on the Pac-12 cellar dwellers in the past two games after dropping their previous three. The offensive trio of QB Keith Price, RB Bishop Sankey, and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins paces a Husky offense that is averaging 515 yards/game. Washington's offense will be too much for UCLA to keep up with, and the Huskies take the first meeting between the two teams since 2010.
Washington 34 UCLA 27
#25 Georgia vs. #7 Auburn (-4.5) - 3:30 PM EST - CBS
Auburn will be looking to break a two game losing streak in The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, in which the Bulldogs have outscored the Tigers 83-7. This is the 117th meeting between the schools, with the series being tied at 54-54-8. With both teams averaging over 35 points a game, this has the makings of another SEC shootout. Georgia's defense has gotten a lot of flack this year but their run defense has held their own, only allowing 126 yards/game. They'll have their work cut out for them against Auburn's third-ranked rushing attack that is rolling up 320 yards/game on the ground. Hard to go against the trends is this game with Georgia coming in at 1-7-1 against the spread, while Auburn is 8-2 against the number in 2013. Auburn heads into the Iron Bowl on a seven-game winning streak.
Auburn 37 Georgia 30
#12 Oklahoma State (-3) vs. #23 Texas - 3:30 PM EST - Fox
Texas went into Morgantown last week and won a thrilling game with the Mountaineers 47-40 in overtime, but that win came at a cost. The Longhorns lost running back Johnathan Gray for the season with an achilles injury, and also lost defensive tackle Chris Whaley to a knee injury. Mack Brown's team has rebounded nicely after early season blowout losses to BYU and Mississippi, and would earn the Big 12's BCS bid should they win-out. Oklahoma State also controls their own destiny. The injuries will be just too much for Texas to overcome. Desmond Roland will find running lanes in the hole left by Whaley, while the loss of Gray forces turnover-prone Case McCoy to shoulder more of the load. In the last three games McCoy has thrown five interceptions versus only four touchdowns. The Cowboys' Big 12 hopes stay alive with home games against Baylor and Oklahoma still left.
Oklahoma State 33 Texas 21
#24 Miami (FL) (-3.5) vs. Duke - 3:30 PM EST - ESPNU
After starting the season 7-0, the Miami season has lost the plot the last two weeks with losses to Florida State and Virginia Tech, along with the loss of Duke Johnson for the year in the Florida State game. Meanwhile, Duke has won five straight games and has ACC Championship Game aspirations. This could be the armpunt game of the century, as Stephen Morris has thrown 10 picks, while Blue Devil QBs have combined for 15 on the year. I like the unranked home team that is getting points against the sliding ranked team in this one. Duke keeps their dreams of heading to the ACC Championship Game (and the drubbing that will follow from Florida State) alive.
Duke 31 Miami (FL) 28
#5 Stanford (-4.5) vs. USC - 8:00 PM EST - ABC
With the rate that USC is suffering injuries lately, it might be easier for the Trojans to list who isn't injured each week instead of who is. The latest casualty was defensive end Morgan Breslin, who is out for the regular season after hip surgery. Running back Silas Redd is dealing with a knee problem that has made him iffy for this game. Stanford will be trying to avoid a letdown after the huge win last Thursday in Palo Alto against Oregon. The way the Cardinal punished Oregon with the run last week was impressive. While USC has a strong run defense, they are banged up which could lead to running holes opening up a little sooner from the pounding that Stanford's ground game can dish out. Coach Orgeron has done a nice job after Lane Kiffin was fired, but David Shaw's team gets the job done.
Stanford 23 USC 16
#3 Ohio State (-34) vs. Illinois - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
A couple streaks will be at stake in Champaign on Saturday afternoon, and all indications point to both of the streaks continuing on after the final whistle is blown. Ohio State is looking for their 22nd straight win, while Illinois is trying to snap a 19-game winning within the Big Ten. The first loss in Illinois' streak happened in 2011 in Champaign where the Buckeyes only threw four passes in the 17-7 victory.
The last two games have seen full-fledged Urban Warfare declared on opponents, beating Penn State and Purdue by a combined 119-14. The balanced offense that the Buckeyes possess is clicking on all cylinders and shouldn't have a problem moving the ball on a defense that equally bad against the run and the pass. The Fighting Illini have given up 42 points or more to three of their last four opponents. Carlos Hyde is 299 yards away from becoming the first running back to rush for over 1,000 yards, and he could put a big dent into that total against a rushing defense that just allowed 371 yards to Indiana.
The focal point of the Buckeye defense will be to stop quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. There has been four games this season where Scheelhaase has gone over 300 yards passing, including a career-high 450 yards last week against Indiana. While the Buckeye secondary has been much improved over the last two games, I could see Scheelhaase using his experience to capitalize on some holes in the coverage. Illinois hasn't had much success running the ball this year, and that should continue against a Buckeye run defense that is only allowing opponents 88 yards/game.
Even with the Buckeyes coming off a bye week, and needing to win big to try and possibly sway some voters, I just think the line for this game is just a little too big. While I think the Buckeyes won't be threatened in this game, I'm leery of a late TD or two when the game is well in hand for Ohio State securing a Illinois cover. I probably should disclose that I thought the same in last year's game when the Buckeyes were 25-point favorites in Columbus, so I'm sure that I'm bound to repeat history since I didn't learn from it.
Ohio State 48 Illinois 21
Indiana vs. #17 Wisconsin (-24) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
Indiana needs to win two of their final three games to become bowl eligible, but the odds of winning on Saturday look to be stacked against them when they take on a team that has beaten them by a combined score of 204-41 in the last three meetings. The Hoosiers defense has been putrid against the run this year, allowing 217 yards/game, and now must try to contain the Badger backfield duo of Melvin Gordon and James White. Given the recent history it might seem laughable to think that Indiana can keep this inside the number, but it's hard to pass up that many points with a team that can put a lot of points on the board. It might be a situation where a late garbage time TD swings the spread in Indiana's favor, but I'll take that chance.
Wisconsin 47 Indiana 27
Purdue vs. Penn State (-22) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
With 14 points last week, it was an offensive explosion for Purdue. The problem for the Boilermakers was that they still lost by 24 to Iowa on Saturday. In five Big Ten games this season, Purdue has scored a combined 31 points. Now the Boilermakers have to head to Happy Valley to take on a Penn State team that has alternated wins and losses in their last eight games, losing last week to Minnesota 24-10. The last two games that Penn State has played at Beaver Stadium have went to overtime, but I'm not expecting this to go past the 60 minutes of regulation. The last time Purdue hit the road they kept the game against Michigan State close, only losing 14-0, and in this game three touchdowns just seems like a little too much.
Penn State 30 Purdue 14
#14 Michigan State (-6.5) vs. Nebraska - 3:30 PM EST - ABC/ESPN2
Last time the Spartans hit the field I was thinking that they would end up losing to a Michigan football team. Hooooo boy was I wrong. Michigan State's defense held the Wolverines to -48 rushing yards, Last week while Michigan State was enjoying their bye week I thought the Wolverines would bounce back and Nebraska wouldn't have any magic left over from their hail mary the previous week against Northwestern. The Cornhuskers defense only held Michigan to -21 yards on the ground. The common theme is to never pick Michigan, but I guess I should've already known that. Now the lead in the Legends Division is at stake when Sparty heads to Lincoln to take on Nebraska. To clinch a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game Michigan State will have to do something they have never done before, beat Nebraska. Sparty is 0-7 against the Cornhuskers, including a 28-24 loss in East Lansing last year. This Michigan State defense is for real, only yielding 43 yards/game on the ground and holding opponents to a combined 9 points in their last three games. In previous years this would be a game that you just knew that there would be some serious "SPARTY, NO!" action, but this year feels different. Sparty shuts down Ameer Abdullah and punch their ticket to Indianapolis.
Michigan State 24 Nebraska 14
Michigan vs. Northwestern (-3) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
To tell you where Vegas thinks Michigan stands currently, just take a look at the line for this game. Michigan has never gone into a game against Northwestern as an underdog. Oh yeah, Northwestern has lost five games in a row. After two straight weeks of rushing for negative yardage you would think that Michigan could hit positive numbers this week against a suspect Northwestern rushing D, but you never know what tricks Brady Hoke and Al Borges have up their sleeves. The Wildcats need to win two of their last three games to become bowl eligible, and with a tough game against Michigan State on deck next week makes winning this week even more important. Since whatever I pick in Michigan games is usually wrong I was entertaining just picking the Wolverines so they would lose, but I'll take a shot that I can find a way to get this one right. Devin Gardner is the gift that keeps on giving and on Saturday he finds a way to gift the struggling Wildcats a victory.
Northwestern 27 Michigan 20