All things considered, last week wasn't quite as bad as it could've been. The only real tough loss against the spread was Ohio State, who really could've won by at least 17 points if they didn't shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers. Mississippi State and Florida State were able to salvage a couple of late covers, and move MC&J a game closer to .500 with a few weeks left before bowl matchups are announced.
Last week ATS: 6-5 (3-1 National, 3-4 B1G)
Season ATS: 71-76-1 (31-30-1 National, 40-46 B1G)
National Games: (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):
#12 Kansas State v. West Virginia (-2.5) - 7:00 PM - Fox Sports 1
The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for either of these teams. Kansas State now has had some time to shake off the thumping TCU gave them, and West Virginia is on a two-game losing streak. West Virginia has fielded a greatly improved defense this year, but still is giving up 181 yards per game on the ground. The Mountaineers have made up for it with the combination of Clint Trickett to Kevin White, who has 91 catches and 1,207 receiving yards. Kansas State really needs this game if they want to keep their outside shot at a Big 12 title alive. The Wildcats finish the year with Kansas and Baylor, and would need to win-out and also see TCU lose somewhere. Even with the urgency Kansas State might have, it's hard to go against the Mountaineers under the lights in Morgantown. Some weeknight couch burning might be in order.
West Virginia 34 Kansas State 27
#15 Arizona v. #17 Utah (-4) - 3:30 PM - ESPN
There are few matchups between ranked teams this week, with two of them coming from the Pac-12. The first of those games comes from Salt Lake City, with the winner still hoping to have an outside shot at winning the Pac-12 South. Both teams went down to the wire last week, with Arizona squeaking by Washington and Utah downing Stanford in overtime. The overtime game for Utah was the third overtime game of the season they have played. The Utes should be able to use their pass rush to put heat on Arizona and slow down the Wildcat attack. Utah is a different team at home and should find a way to get the win.
Utah 30 Arizona 20
#8 Mississippi (-3.5) v. Arkansas - 3:30 PM - CBS
He finally did it! After nearly two years in Fayetteville, Bret Bielema finally secured his first SEC win while coaching the Razorbacks. Arkansas was mighty impressive in shutting out LSU this week, and will now turn their attention to making it two in a row against Ole Miss. Hugh Freeze's team suffered a couple tough losses (and injuries) against LSU and Auburn, but have had time to recover with cupcake Presbyterian and a bye week. Ole Miss still has an outside shot at winning the SEC West as long as they win-out and Auburn beats Alabama. The Rebels have had a tough time stopping the run in their losses, and it won't get any easier against the running attack of the Hogs. I like the points in this game where while Ole Miss knows they need a win, they could have their mind of next week's Egg Bowl.
Arkansas 23 Ole Miss 20
#19 USC v. #9 UCLA (-3) - 8:00 PM - ABC
The other Pac-12 game between ranked teams will happen in primetime, with the winner looking to take the next step to securing the Pac-12 South. UCLA wins the division with a win, while USC needs a win and a Arizona State loss. USC has to be thinking they should have more to play for right about now after losing their three games this year by a combined 13 points. For UCLA it has been a tale of three seasons so far after winning their first four, dropping their next two, and then winning the following four. After losing the past two games to UCLA, the Trojans will be looking to spoil the title hopes of their rival. I keep trying to find reasons to take UCLA in this game, but I think the combination of Cody Kessler and Nelson Agholor will be a little too much for the Bruins.
USC 34 UCLA 31
Big Ten Games:
Indiana v. #6 Ohio State (-35) - 12:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Don't worry, compared to past MC&J write-ups about Ohio State games, I'll keep this one a little shorter. There really isn't much to say about Indiana. The Hoosiers are bad. All they really have is Tevin Coleman, but the Buckeyes should be able to focus their attention on the sensational running back with the issues the Hoosiers have a quarterback. Zander Diamont had his first career passing game of more than 100 yards last week against Rutgers, and Indiana still lost by 22. As long as the Buckeyes don't allow Coleman to bust any big runs, this game shouldn't be close at all.
For as bad as the Indiana offense is, their defense is even worse. J.T. Barrett is getting better each week, and this game should allow for him to pad his stats as he makes an argument for being included in those that will be invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Last week the Buckeyes made the score look a lot closer than it really was with a number of bad turnovers. With Ohio State knocking on the doorstep of the College Football Playoff, the team will want a convincing win so the committee doesn't have a reason to drop them in the rankings. This could end up looking a lot like the Illinois game, with the second-string get plenty of play in this one, but even the backups can probably find the end zone a number of times against Indiana. Ohio State heads into "The Game" on a high note as they secure a spot in Indianapolis in early December.
Ohio State 55 Indiana 13
Rutgers v. #11 Michigan State (-22.5) - 12:00 PM - Big Ten Network
After three straight losses, Rutgers finally earned their sixth win of the season to become bowl eligible! Everything after this should be icing on the cake for the Scarlet Knights, who weren't expected to do a whole lot this year in their first year in the Big Ten. Michigan State was able to put the loss to Ohio State behind them last week with a 37-15 win over Maryland. Jeremy Langford has rushed for over 100 yards in seven straight games, and that number should reach eight against a Rutgers defense that is allowing 200 yards per game on the ground. This is a big number for the Spartans to cover, but they should on senior day against a team that has struggled on the road in the Big Ten. Michigan State is still in play for a major bowl, and a big performance on Saturday could add to their argument.
Michigan State 48 Rutgers 23
#25 Minnesota v. #23 Nebraska (-10) - 12:00 PM - ESPN
Congrats Nebraska! After getting run over repeatedly by Melvin Gordon last week, this week you get to try and slow down David Cobb. The Minnesota running back has run for 1,350 yards so far this season, and is just 115 yards shy of breaking Laurence Maroney's school season record. The good news for the Cornhuskers is they can counter with Ameer Abdullah, who has to be itching for a big day after only rushing for 69 yards last week. Neither team offers too much in the passing game, but Nebraska does at least have the threat of Kenny Bell. Minnesota controls their own destiny in the Big Ten West, as they finish up the regular season with Wisconsin. Last year saw the Golden Gophers snap a 16-game losing streak to Nebraska, and while they won't make it two in a row, they'll at least keep it tight.
Nebraska 28 Minnesota 24
Penn State (-6.5) v. Illinois - 12:00 PM - ESPN2
If you watch this game from start to finish you really do deserve a gold star...or a case of beer. Penn State earned bowl eligibility last week with a win over Temple, while Illinois needs wins in their last two games to become bowl eligible (not going to happen). Both have had little success running the football this year, but Penn State should be able to find some success against a Illinois defense that is giving up 266.9 yards per game on the ground. Penn State's defense only gives up 265.6 yards per game of TOTAL DEFENSE. Wes Lunt returned last week for Illinois but he was pretty bad against Iowa, only passing for 102 yards. The Nittany Lions could be playing a little looser with bowl eligibility secured, and I think they win by at least a touchdown.
Penn State 24 Illinois 14
Northwestern v. Purdue (-1) - 12:00 PM - ESPNU
Ahhh yes, another edition of Big Ten Crapsterpiece Theater. Northwestern was able to beat Notre Dame last week because Brian Kelly thought bath salts would be fun. Meanwhile Purdue had a bye week after losing four straight games. The good news for the Boilermakers is they weren't complete rollovers in those losses, going 3-1 against the point spread. Purdue hasn't won at home since 2012, which was before Darrell Hazell took the reigns in West Lafayette. An even weirder stat is dating back to 1947 Purdue hasn't lost in their last nine games on November 22nd. Could the Wildcats be in for a letdown after their win against Notre Dame last week? I'll take a shot with Purdue being the spoiler of Northwestern's bowl dreams.
Purdue 27 Northwestern 21
Maryland v. Michigan (-5) - 3:30 PM - Big Ten Network
With the game against Ohio State next week this is really Michigan's last shot at becoming bowl eligible this year. Can they win one for the Hoker? The Wolverines have won three of their last four games and with a bye week last week have had some time to prep for Maryland. Both teams don't offer up much on offense, and Maryland will again be without Stefon Diggs. I do like Will Likely and the Maryland secondary to be able to force Devin Gardner into some turnovers. I see this being a field goal game with the Wolverines somehow getting a sixth win for their seniors.
Michigan 20 Maryland 17
#16 Wisconsin (-10) v. Iowa - 3:30 PM - ABC/ESPN2
The game hasn't started yet but I'm sure somehow Melvin Gordon has already ran up 200 yards in this contest. While Gordon gets all the headlines, the Badger defense has been dominant this year, leading the country in total defense. Iowa's offense leaves much to be desired, and it could make for a long day for Jake Rudock, Mark Weisman, and the rest of the Hawkeyes. This could be a game where Iowa hangs around, but I don't see it. Wisconsin is focused on getting to Indianapolis, and they should handle the up-and-down Hawkeyes. Of course with my track record of picking Iowa games this year, my prediction now means Iowa will find a way to win this one.
Wisconsin 34 Iowa 17