Last week MC&J correctly predicted a Oklahoma State upset on the way to grinding out a 6-5 record. While last season's B1G mark was better than what we have put up this year, there is still seven games left to pick in the B1G this year before the bowl season begins. Hopefully by the time the weekend is over not only will the Buckeyes have clinched another victory against The Team Up North, but MC&J will be sitting at 10 or more games over .500 heading into the conference championship games next weekend.
Last week ATS: 6-5 (3-2 National, 3-3 B1G)
Season ATS: 76-69-3 (36-30-2 National, 40-39-1 B1G)
#1 Alabama (-11) vs. #4 Auburn - 3:30 PM EST - CBS
The last four years the winner of the Iron Bowl has gone on to win the BCS National Championship Game, with Alabama doing most of the damage in taking three of those last four games. The winner of this bitter rivalry will earn a berth in the SEC Championship Game. Should Auburn win they'll end up needing some help to earn a berth to head to Pasadena in January though. Auburn comes into the game averaging 322 yards/game on the ground, but they'll face their toughest test of the season against a Crimson Tide defense that is only giving up 91 yards/game rushing. I can just imagine the death stares that Nick Saban will be shooting across the field at Gus Malzhan as the Tigers run their up-tempo offense. As a Buckeye I know that an Auburn win is needed if the Buckeyes want any shot at heading to Pasadena, but I just don't see them having enough to top the defending champs. If Auburn's running game gets shut down I just don't see them having the passing game necessary to beat the Tide. I'd be more than happy to take a loss in this one if it helps out the Buckeyes, so I hope I'm wrong, but I have to go with my head over my heart in this one.
Alabama 37 Auburn 24
#9 Baylor (-13.5) vs. TCU - 3:30 PM EST - ESPN2
After having their dreams of a perfect season dashed in Stillwater on Saturday night, Baylor will look to get rebound against a struggling TCU team. Oklahoma State's defense was able to shut Baylor's offense down, holding the Bears to only 17 points after they came into the game averaging 60+ points a game. The Bears hope to have running back Lache Seastrunk back after only being able to gain 94 yards on the ground against Oklahoma State. For the first time since 2004 TCU isn't eligible for a bowl game. Casey Pachall hasn't played well since returning from a broken collarbone, throwing six interceptions in four games back. This spread feels a little low, but I'll be a sucker and bite. It's hard to see the TCU defense being able to keep up with a Baylor offense that'll be itching to get back to their high-scoring ways.
Baylor 47 TCU 27
#25 Notre Dame vs. #8 Stanford (-14) - 7:00 PM EST - Fox
Combined with Oregon's loss to Arizona last week, and their 50-point win over Cal, Stanford was able to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game next week against the winner of Arizona/Arizona State. Ty Montgomery is becoming one of the most electrifying players in the country, scoring touchdowns the first four times he touched the football last week, on the way to tying a school record with five touchdowns. Notre Dame was able to shut down BYU last week 23-13, which was the fifth time this season that Notre Dame has held an opponent to 13 points or less. The Fighting Irish will be missing Louis Nix again, but I have a feeling they keep things within the number. This just has the feeling like one of those games that Stanford grinds out to a 7-10 point win. With the Pac-12 title game next week I could see them maybe being a little conservative, not wanting to give away to much to whoever they'll play.
Stanford 24 Notre Dame 17
#6 Clemson vs. #10 South Carolina (-4) - 7:00 PM EST - ESPN2
In the 110th meeting of this Palmetto state rivalry, this will be the first time that both teams are in the top-10 coming into the game. Clemson has rebounded nicely after the thumping they took at home to Florida State, and will be looking for a win to keep their BCS at-large bid hopes alive. To do so they'll have to halt the nation's longest active home winning streak. South Carolina has won 18 straight games in Williams-Brice Stadium, and while they can't make the SEC Championship Game, the Gamecocks also have hopes of making a BCS game. Especially being at home, I just trust the Gamecocks a little more in this matchup. I like Tajh Boyd, but I think he'll be tested against a stout South Carolina pass defense, along with having Jadeveon Clowney breathing down his neck. Meanwhile Connor Shaw isn't flashy but he makes good decisions on the field, only throwing one interception so far this season. South Carolina wins their fifth in a row against Clemson.
South Carolina 34 Clemson 27
#19 Texas A&M vs. #5 Missouri (-5) - 7:45 PM EST - ESPN
After seeing their streak of 13 straight games scoring over 40 points snapped last weekend against LSU, can Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M bounce back against Missouri on Saturday night? I don't think they'll get to 40 points, but they'll certainly put more than 10 up this week. If there is one area where the Missouri defense is suspect, it is in the passing game, and that's not where you want to be weak against the Aggies. The good thing for Missouri is they get to square off against a Texas A&M defense that is allowing 460 yards/game to opponents. Last week James Franklin returned from injury but did show some rust, only passing for 142 yards and rushing for 42 more. The Texas A&M defense and a week under his belt should allow Franklin to look a lot better this week. Running back Henry Josey is averaging 6.1 yards/carry, and should be able to open things up for Franklin to hit 6'6" Dorial Green-Beckham and 6'4" L'Damian Washington for some big gains through the air. The Aggies won't be able to keep up in another SEC shootout, and the Tigers head into the SEC Championship Game with some momentum.
Missouri 41 Texas A&M 33
#22 UCLA vs. #23 USC (-3.5) - 8:00 PM EST - ABC
UCLA will be looking to win against their cross-town rival at the Los Angeles Coliseum for the first time since 1997. The Bruins won last year's contest against the Trojans 38-28 after losing 50-0 back in 2011. Last week saw the Bruins show some fight in the second half against Arizona State, rebounding from a 35-13 halftime deficit to at least make things close in the game that ended up in a 38-33 Arizona State win. Myles Jack was against UCLA's leading rusher in the game, going for 86 yards on 16 carries, but UCLA was forced to throw the ball more after falling behind so big. Coach Orgeron has gone 6-1 since taking over at head coach for Lane Kiffin, and he'll have stud receiver Marqise Lee back after Lee missed last week's game against Colorado with a shin injury. Very tough call in this one, but I'll take the points as even with UCLA losing their shot a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game last week, they'll want to avenge getting shutout the last time they were in The Coliseum.
UCLA 27 USC 24
Iowa vs. Nebraska (-3) - Friday 12:00 PM EST - ABC
We go from picking a toss-up in the last game of our national game picks this week to another one in the first game of the B1G section of MC&J. Both teams had come-from-behind victories last week, with Nebraska needing overtime to down Penn State. Iowa has only allowed four rushing touchdowns on the season, but that number could increase as Nebraska has Ameer Abdullah, who has rushed for nearly 1,500 yards this season, in their backfield. I don't have a terribly good feeling about this game so really my only reasoning for picking Nebraska in this one is since it's Senior Day in Lincoln. Really this game could go either way, so tread lightly.
Nebraska 23 Iowa 16
Minnesota vs. #11 Michigan State (-16) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
With a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game already clinched, Michigan State will try to complete the regular season undefeated in Big Ten play with a win on Saturday over Minnesota. The Golden Gophers really struggled offensively last week against Wisconsin, with their only touchdown in the 20-7 loss coming from an interception return for a touchdown. This game will feature 1,000 yard rushers on both sides, with David Cobb sitting at 1,010 rushing yards for Minnesota, and Jeremy Langford at 1,076 for a Michigan State team that seems to be improving offensively each week. Much like last week, while Minnesota won't score much against a nasty Michigan State defense, but they'll hold the Sparty's offense in check for the most part and cover a spread that's a little too big.
Michigan State 21 Minnesota 13
Purdue vs. Indiana (-21) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
It's hard to believe that Indiana is 21-point favorites against anybody with a defense that is giving up 529 yards/game, but Purdue is just that challenged offensively. The Boilermakers are the 122nd ranked scoring offense in the country, and are averaging just over 260 yards/game. While some of it may have been due to the weather, Indiana holding Ohio State to 471 total yards really isn't too bad considering what many (myself included) were predicting coming in. After only scoring 17 points in the last two games, Indiana breaks out against the inept Boilermakers and ends their season on a high note.
Indiana 44 Purdue 17
Penn State vs. #14 Wisconsin (-24) - 3:30 PM EST - ESPN
Wisconsin is the only team in the country with two running backs that have over 1,000 yards on the season so far. Melvin Gordon tore up the early season and sits at 1,375 yards rushing while James White has come on strong late and isn't too far behind Gordon with 1,281 yards on the ground. Linebacker Chris Borland is eight tackles away from his third straight season of 100+ tackles and last week tied the Big Ten career forced fumbles record at 14. Wisconsin isn't the only team with a player that has a chance to break records, as Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson is 10 catches away from Deon Butler's career receptions record at Penn State of 179. The Badgers have been money against the spread this year going 9-1-1, but last week saw them suffer their first loss against Minnesota in frigid conditions. I thought last week's spread might be a little high for the Badgers, and I think the spread this week might be a little generous as well.
Wisconsin 42 Penn State 21
Northwestern (-4) vs. Illinois - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Now that Illinois snapped their 20-game Big Ten losing streak last week, the only real intrigue in this matchup will be if Northwestern can end the conference schedule with a win after losing seven straight. Illinois hasn't played horrible recently behind Nathan Scheelhaase, showing some fight against Ohio State and pulling out a win against Purdue in blustery conditions. Illinois may have a bad defense, but will Northwestern be able to capitalize on it? The Wildcats might not have Kain Colter and they definitely won't have Venric Mark in this one. I'm not sure what Northwestern has to play for in this one with the high expectations coming into the season. Illinois will send Scheelhaase out with a victory after numerous losses over the last few seasons.
Illinois 30 Northwestern 20
#3 Ohio State (-16) vs. Michigan - 12:00 PM EST - ABC
We saved the best for last week, and there is no better rivalry in sports than the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry. The rivalry has been rather one-sided lately, but at least it has been favoring the right side. Urban Meyer will be looking to win in his first trip up to Ann Arbor as Ohio State head coach, and smart money is on that happening with the struggles that Michigan has been dealing with this year. Michigan had a chance to grab some momentum heading into "The Game", but weren't able to finish the job against Iowa last week, dropping a 24-21 decision at Iowa to fall to 7-4 on the season.
Last week saw the Buckeyes win their school record 23rd straight game, and Carlos Hyde becoming the first running back to go for over 1,000 yards under Urban Meyer in a season. The Buckeyes are averaging 531 yards/game on offense, including 315 yards/game on the ground, so the Wolverines will have their hands full trying to stop what the Buckeyes have to offer. Earlier this year the Wolverines gave up 47 to Indiana, so scoring points shouldn't be a problem for the Buckeyes, it's just a question of how they decide to score their touchdowns.
While the Buckeyes have had no issues scoring this season, the Wolverines have had a real hard time finding points over the last month. Take away overtime against Northwestern a couple weeks ago, and Michigan has only scored 49 points in the last four games. In two of those games Michigan rushed for negative yardage, and they shouldn't be able to gain much against an Ohio State run defense that is allowing just 95 yards/game on the ground. This will allow Ohio State to load up and try to tee off on Devin Gardner. If you thought the destruction of Michigan quarterbacks that we saw during "The Game" last year was bad, it might be nothing compared to what Joey Bosa, Noah Spence, Ryan Shazier and others have in store for Gardner behind the turnstile offensive line that Michigan employs.
There is absolutely no reason to think that Urban Meyer to go Wolverine hunting while they up in Michigan. With as much as Meyer wants to beat Michigan I'm guessing that he is tucking each Buckeye in each night this week and reading them the Beat Michigan bedtime story. No way am I going to take Brady Hoke and Al Borges to be able to outsmart Urban and his coaching staff. The Buckeyes have covered six in a row in this series and they make it seven on Saturday with a decisive victory in Ann Arbor, leaving the key jingling Wolverine fans to head home in heavy defeat. GO BUCKS!
Ohio State 38 Michigan 17