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Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson all hope to stay in the College Football Playoff mix

The holiday weekend provides some tasty matchups for teams near the top of the initial College Football Playoff rankings.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Boston College Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Last week ATS: 9-4 (5-2 National, 4-2 B1G)

Season ATS: 56-46-2 (39-34 National, 17-12-2 B1G)

After feasting on the national picks, you can find your dessert here with picks for the six Big Ten games on the schedule this weekend.

National games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):

No. 13 Iowa State v. No. 17 Texas (-1) - Friday 11/27 12:00 PM EST - ABC

Even though Texas is 5-2 and ranked 17th in the country, Tom Herman has to feel like his back against the wall. The former Iowa State and Ohio State assistant hasn’t been able to find traction in Austin despite talking a big game. There are rumors that even though Herman is 30-17 in four years with Texas, he might not be in the future plans of the Longhorns.

After a slow start to the season, Iowa State has found their groove of late, winning their last three games. Last week’s 45-0 win over Kansas State was the most impressive performance of the season to date for the Cyclones. Breece Hall is quietly having a great season, rushing for at least 100 yards in every game this year. Hall will have his work cut out for him if he wants to continue the streak though, as Texas is giving up less than 120 yards per game on the ground this year.

Texas has Sam Ehlinger, but Iowa State has a better all-around team. The Cyclones know that with a win they’ll clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game. Iowa State’s defense continues to play at a high level, while Hall and quarterback Brock Purdy will be too much for Texas to handle.

Iowa State 34, Texas 27

No. 2 Notre Dame (-6) v. No. 19 North Carolina - Friday 11/27 3:30 PM EST - ABC

We know that since the first College Football Playoff rankings have been released there is going to be plenty of shenanigans left in the regular season. A prime candidate for craziness will take place in Chapel Hill on Friday afternoon.

Notre Dame has passed every test put in front of them this year. The Fighting Irish not only defeated Clemson in a thriller earlier this month, Notre Dame was able to easily handle what could have been a letdown game against Boston College. Ian Book will try and add to his solid numbers this year against a North Carolina defense that won’t be confused with one of the best in the country.

What the Tar Heels lack on defense, they do all they can to make up for it on offense. Not only has quarterback Sam Howell tossed 23 touchdowns this year, running back Javonte Williams has added 15 scores on the ground. Even though Notre Dame’s defense is stout, they haven’t been as good of late, giving up 71 points in the last two games.

This has the feeling of a wild game that comes down to the wire. Even if North Carolina doesn’t pull the upset, I think they cover the six points. I do think they end up beating Notre Dame here to add some chaos into the College Football Playoff race, though.

North Carolina 38, Notre Dame 34

No. 15 Oregon (-13.5) v. Oregon State - Friday 11/27 7:30 PM EST - ESPN

Add the “Civil War” to the “Red River Shootout” and the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” as what you shouldn’t call certain rivalry games now. Sorry, but it’ll always be the “Civil War” to me.

As part of B-Leez’s early Black Friday sale, I got you a pick on the Oregon game that you can fade. So far I’ve been brutal at trying to predict how games for the Ducks would play out this year. Against Stanford, Cardinal quarterback Davis Mills was ruled out after I had made the pick. The next week Oregon scored a couple fourth quarter touchdowns to cover a game that Washington State was covering for most of the way. And then last week the Ducks weren’t able to run away from a UCLA team that was without quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Oregon State made some strides last year, staying within two touchdowns of the Ducks. The Beavers are just 1-2 this year, but they have been competitive in every game. The Oregon defense isn’t quite as stingy as it was last season, so I can see Oregon State putting some points on the board. The Ducks stay undefeated but Oregon State hangs around even to cover the spread.

Oregon 42, Oregon State 31

No. 20 Coastal Carolina (-17) v. Texas State - 3:00 PM EST - ESPN+

I figured we should add the Coastal Carolina game this week since they are still undefeated. The Chanticleers not only won last week against Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina found a way to cover with a late pick-six. Even though Grayson McCall didn’t have a great game last week for Coastal Carolina, he still has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country so far this year.

I’m a little worried that Coastal Carolina could have a bit of a letdown after such a big win last week, but it’s not enough to keep me from taking the Chanticleers. While Texas State may have been competitive in a few games this year against tougher competition, they are still just 2-9. Coastal Carolina should be able to run all over the Bobcats and open up the passing game for McCall. The Chanticleers put together a performance that forces the College Football Playoff rankings committee to recognize them.

Coastal Carolina 44, Texas State 17

No. 22 Auburn v. No. 1 Alabama (-24.5) - 3:30 PM EST - CBS

Alabama has been destroying the lower tier of the SEC lately. After beating Georgia last month, the Crimson Tide have won their last three games by a combined score of 152-20. Alabama has been thrown a curveball, though. Earlier this week Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19, and unlike prior to the Georgia game when it was determined Saban’s positive test result was a false positive, the head coach will miss Saturday’s game.

Which Auburn will we get? The Auburn team that destroyed LSU or the team that laid eggs against South Carolina and Georgia. As if taking on Alabama wasn’t tough enough, running back Tank Bigsby is questionable for the Iron Bowl are suffering an injury last week against Tennessee. If Bigsby can’t go, it will put even more pressure on quarterback Bo Nix, who has been inconsistent this year.

Even though they have given up just 20 points over the last three games, this Alabama team might not have the defense we have seen from the Crimson Tide in years past. The deficiencies might have just been hidden for a bit by playing Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Tennessee. Auburn is at least able to find enough points to keep this game inside the number.

Alabama 45, Auburn 28

Pittsburgh v. No. 3 Clemson (-24) - 3:30 PM EST - ESPN

Let’s not overthink this. Clemson hasn’t been on the field since losing to Notre Dame earlier this month. Trevor Lawrence has been out even longer after testing positive for COVID-19. Lawrence and the Tigers return to action on Saturday. Clemson and Dabo Swinney take out some of their frustrations on Pitt after last week’s game against Florida State was postponed. It might not be quite the beating that Clemson put on Georgia Tech earlier this year, but the Tigers definitely win handily on Saturday.

Clemson 51, Pitt 20

LSU v. No. 5 Texas A&M (-15) - 7:00 PM EST - ESPN

It feels like whenever you think you can trust Texas A&M, the Aggies pull the rug out from under you and make you regret your decision. Texas A&M was extremely impressive last time out, leaving no doubt in a 48-3 win over South Carolina. Kellen Mond has been the steadying force at quarterback for the Aggies, leading an offense that has scored 90 points in the last two games.

LSU is obviously nowhere close to what they were last year. TJ Finley has been forced into action at quarterback after Myles Brennan was injured earlier this year. Finley has been solid, tossing four touchdowns in three games. The problem for the Tigers has been a defense that has been atrocious all season.

Texas A&M might have to knock some rust off after not playing the last three weeks. LSU was in action last week, earning a close win over a game Arkansas squad. While the Aggies will try and control the clock, I think LSU is able to put some points on the board and keep Texas A&M from running away with the victory.

Texas A&M 38, LSU 28