With only three weeks of picks left before the regular season ends and we can start looking towards bowl games, MC&J is trying to end the season on a hot streak, and hopefully get to 10+ wins over .500. Purdue was close to a rare cover last week and Northwestern found another way to lose, or else the season record might have been boosted a little bit headed into this week. I guess that I can't complain though after the number of garbage time covers that I've hit this season. While I'm not happy with going 5-5 the last few weeks, at least it's better than falling closer .500.
Last Week ATS: 5-5 (3-2 National, 2-3 B1G)
Season ATS: 70-64-3 (33-28-2 National, 37-36-1 B1G)
#24 Duke (-6) vs. Wake Forest - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
After the success of last week's Duke pick, I figure that I might as well go back to the well again this week. The Blue Devils have won six straight games, and wins in their last two will clinch them a spot against Florida State in the ACC Championship game. Wake Forest is hurting after the loss of starting wide receiver Michael Campanaro to a broken collarbone a couple weeks ago. This series has produced a lot of close games lately, but I just can't see a Wake Forest offense that has scored 24 total points in their last three games keep up with a Duke team that rushed for 358 yards against Miami last week.
Duke 24 Wake Forest 13
#10 Texas A&M vs. #19 LSU (-4) - 3:30 PM EST - CBS
Texas A&M will look to stay undefeated on the road under Kevin Sumlin, but it won't be easy when they travel into Baton Rouge on Saturday. The Aggies have scored 40+ points in 13 straight games, and will be facing a LSU defense that is solid but not quite as dominate as in years past. Johnny Manziel has gained almost 4,000 yards of total offense this year, 2nd in the country, and the Aggies have needed it all with a defense that is giving up nearly 31 points/game. Jeremy Hill only needs 36 rushing yards to hit 1,000 on the season, and should be able to do that pretty quickly against a team allowing 210 yards/game on the ground. A couple road wins to close the season could have Texas A&M playing in the BCS, and also clinch another Heisman for Johnny Football. I like tthe points in what should be a shootout on Saturday afternoon as the Aggies get some revenge for LSU coming into College Station and winning last year.
Texas A&M 41 LSU 34
#22 Arizona State (-1.5) vs. #14 UCLA - 7:00 PM EST - Fox
Last week Myles Jack set a UCLA freshman record against Washington with his four rushing TDs, but the sledding should be a little tougher on Saturday night. The Sun Devil defense is only allowing opponents to rush for 120 yards/game, and while Jack is more of a short-yardage back, Sparky's D should benefit from having some added tape on Jack from the last few weeks. While UCLA has Myles Jack, Arizona State can counter with running back Marion Grice. Even though Grice doesn't star on both sides of the football, he is really good on the offensive side. On the season Grice has 20 touchdowns and is two TDs away from tying the Arizona State record of 22 total touchdowns in a season. A win on Saturday would give Arizona State a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game, where they would have a chance to earn their first Rose Bowl bid since 1996. The last couple games in this series have been fun, with UCLA taking a 29-28 decision in 2011 and 45-43 thriller last season. The last couple weeks I've been expecting the Bruins to fall flat, so hopefully the third time is the charm for me.
Arizona State 33 UCLA 28
#8 Missouri (-3) vs. Mississippi - 7:45 PM EST - ESPN
Maty Mauk has done a solid job of filling in for quarterback James Franklin during the time that Franklin was sidelined, but Franklin will be on Saturday night when the Tigers head into The Grove. During Franklin's absence Missouri did suffer their only loss of the season to South Carolina, but they have rebounded with two blowouts to stay in the drivers seat in the SEC East. These teams have very similar feels to them, with both teams having offenses that can hurt you both through the air and on the ground. The wide receiver duel between Mizzou's Dorial Green-Beckham and the Mississippi's Laquan Treadwell should be an interesting one to keep an eye on. Ole Miss has won four straight games and will get running back Jeff Scott back after he missed the last three games. This will be the sixth straight game for Ole Miss and I like them getting points to help out South Carolina and hand Missouri a loss in Oxford.
Mississippi 31 Missouri 28
#4 Baylor (-10) vs. #9 Oklahoma State - 8:00 PM EST - ABC
Nine games into the season and Baylor is still averaging a ridiculous 61 points/game and 685 yards/game on the season. I think those numbers take a hit on Saturday night when the Bears head into Stillwater, where they have won since 1939. The Oklahoma State defense has been vicious at home this season, only allowing over 14 points in one game, a 33-29 win against Kansas State. Mike Gundy's team has rebounded nicely from a late September bad loss at West Virginia and seems to be clicking now that they've settled on Clint Chelf and quarterback and Desmond Roland at running back. This will be only the third true road game for Baylor on the season, and their closest result of the season came when the Bears went into Manhattan to play Kansas State. After the AP poll came out on Sunday I predicted a Oklahoma State win, so I'll stick with my prediction and also gladly take the points here in a shootout.
Oklahoma State 40 Baylor 37
Illinois (-7) vs. Purdue - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Since this clearly is the least appetizing of the Big Ten matchups this week, we might as well get it out of the way early. About the only point of intrigue in this game is whether or not Illinois will be able to snap a 20-game losing streak within the Big Ten. Last week show they have the ability to move the football and put some points on the scoreboard, which Purdue hasn't shown much of this year. The Boilermakers have one of the worst offenses in the country, only averaging 259 yards/game. Even against a Illinois defense that has allowed 50+ points the last two games, Purdue won't be able to keep up with Nathan Scheelhaase and the rest of the Illini offense.
Illinois 38 Purdue 17
Michigan vs. Iowa (-6) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Not only did the Wolverines outlast Northwestern last week and pull out a 27-19 win in triple overtime, but they were able to total positive rushing yards in a game for the first time since mid-October. If the Wolverines are looking for offense they would be wise to try and get the ball to Jeremy Gallon. Last week Gallon became just the 10th Wolverine to gain 1,000 receiving yards in a season. On the other side of the football, Michigan's stingy rushing defense will have their hands full with a Iowa rushing attack that is averaging nearly 195 yards/game. As much as I hate to admit this, I sort of want to see a Michigan win in this one just so an Ohio State win next weekend against the Wolverines would look a little bit better.
Michigan 23 Iowa 20
#13 Michigan State (-7.5) vs. Northwestern - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
At point in their six-game losing streak, it feels like Northwestern just has a wheel they spin before games that has creative ways to lose football games. Between blowing the lead against Ohio State to start the streak, a beatdown in Madison, a couple overtime games, and a hail mary, there isn't many ways left for Northwestern lose. The Wildcats come into this game struggling on offense, and now must try and solve one of the best defenses in the country. While defense carried Michigan State to start the season, the offense is starting to come together for Mark D'Antonio. Running back Jeremy Langford has rushed for at least 100 yards in five straight games. While he's done a good job recently of taking care of the football, quarterback Connor Cook has to be on guard against a Northwestern defense that is leading the Big Ten with 22 turnovers. These teams are headed in opposite directions and while on paper it seems like Sparty should be able to cover this game, I think this game will come down to the last few minutes. Pat Fitzgerald will have his team ready to try and throw a wrench into Michigan State's Big Ten Championship Game plans. The Wildcats will make Sparty work to earn their berth in Indianapolis, but won't be able to pull the upset.
Michigan State 21 Northwestern 17
#17 Wisconsin (-16) vs. #23 Minnesota - 3:30 PM EST - ESPN
Another edition of the most played FBS series will be played on Saturday, when the Badgers and Golden Gophers get together. Minnesota holds a 58-56-8 edge in the series, but Wisconsin is looking to win their 10th straight game against Minnesota. Both teams have been profitable against the point spread this year, with Wisconsin holding a 9-0-1 mark, and Minnesota coming with a 7-3 ATS record. With the propensity these two teams have to run the football, this game might not take more than two and a half hours. Last week the Badgers rushed for 554 yards against Indiana, and are averaging 307 yards/game on the season. Minnesota counters with running back David Cobb, who has rushed for over 100 yards in four straight games. Over two touchdowns is just too much in a game that'll feature cold conditions and lots of running plays. Minnesota has been a nice surprise in the Big Ten this year, but Wisconsin is just a little too tough right now.
Wisconsin 31 Minnesota 21
Nebraska vs. Penn State (-1.5) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Had Nebraska not committed 24 turnovers last week against Michigan State, we might be talking about the Cornhuskers needing a win here to keep their Big Ten Championship Game hopes alive. Instead all Nebraska has left to play is to try to win their final two games to try and build some momentum heading into a bowl game. Meanwhile the Penn State seniors will be playing in their final game at Beaver Stadium, and trying to end their home careers on a high note. Wide receiver Allen Robinson will try to add to his school record 81 catches this season against a Nebraska defense that has been inconsistent this year. This game feels like the ultimate coin flip and the coin says that Nebraska is the way to go.
Nebraska 28 Penn State 24
Indiana vs. #3 Ohio State (-35) - 3:30 PM EST - ABC/ESPN2
The Buckeyes will be trying to break a school record on Saturday on senior (and Bradley Roby) day at Ohio Stadium by earning their 23rd straight win. That isn't the only feat at stake on Saturday, as Carlos Hyde is just 53 yards from becoming the first running back to gain 1,000 yards in a season under Urban Meyer. Hyde might well get that number on his first couple touches against a team that allowed Wisconsin to rush for 554 yards on the ground last week. The most amazing part of it all is that Hyde has done all of this after missing the first three games of the season. Had Hyde been available for those games he might be knocking on the door to 1,500 yards right now. Not only did the Buckeyes jump out to a 28-0 lead against Illinois last week, but Indiana also trailed by that number after the first quarter against Wisconsin. While Wisconsin continued the mashing, the Buckeyes did ease up a little which allowed the Illini to get back within 12 points early in the fourth quarter.
Indiana's offense reminds me a lot of what the Illinois offense had to offer to the Buckeyes. The Hoosiers don't have a quarterback quite as good as Scheelhaase, but they do have the ability to run the ball a little bit better than the Illini. While Indiana may have that ability, Ohio State still hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher on the season, so Tevin Coleman and Stephen Houston will probably have issues finding any holes. Cody Latimer figures to get the Roby treatment on Saturday, and while Latimer is nearing 1,000 receiving yards on the season, Roby will want to step up with a big game in his final appearance in Ohio Stadium.
While I'm not usually a fan of laying such a large amount of points against a team that has the ability to put points on the board at a high rate, I have a feeling that Meyer will have his team ready to play a complete game after last week's game when Ohio State let the foot off the gas after jumping out to a big early lead. The largest margin of victory in the last four games in this series has been 28, but most of those were under Tresselball. The Buckeyes send those playing their last game in front of a home crowd out in style.
Ohio State 63 Indiana 24