Week 13 of the college football season is here, including the another week of fun matchups.
Our handicappers Brian Edwards, Tim Murray and Wes Reynolds are here to give you their best bets for eight games on the weekend's card.
Lines are consensus odds from VSiN's college football lines page, as of Thursday morning.
No. 20 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (-17, 58) at Texas State Bobcats
Reynolds: Coastal Carolina rallied late to defeat Appalachian State last weekend and put itself in the driver's seat to win the East Division and advance to the Sun Belt Championship Game. The Chanticleers not only knocked off Appalachian State, who had been the masters of ceremonies in the "Fun Belt" having won the previous two conference championship games, but also remained undefeated. Now Coastal Carolina (8-0 SU, 6-1-1 ATS) takes to the road to face a 2-9 Texas State team that is playing its final game of the season.
Texas State (2-9 SU, 7-4 ATS) is one of the few programs in all of FBS to not have a game cancelled nor postponed due to COVID-19. The Bobcats have had some tough luck on the field this season, but have continued to play hard and have covered four straight. At 2-9, Texas State knows it is not going to a bowl game so unbeaten Coastal Carolina essentially is its bowl game. The Bobcats also come in with a little momentum as they nearly pulled off an upset at Georgia Southern two weeks ago and upset Arkansas State 47-45 as 4.5-point home underdogs last week. Despite the poor record, Texas State did give both SMU and Boston College real scares before falling to close defeats.
In addition, Coastal Carolina has a date with fellow non-Power Five darling Liberty, who lost its first game of the season last weekend on a last-second field goal at NC State, next weekend. This is the proverbial sandwich spot for Coastal as they come off beating Appalachian State and now have a seemingly easier game, albeit on the road, in order to clinch the division.
The Bobcats decided to play this game on Saturday despite cancelling their practice on Wednesday. The program received the shocking news that sophomore cornerback Khambrail "Kham" Winters, who was out for the season with a torn ACL, was shot and killed Tuesday night. The team held its Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday night and decided to play the game as scheduled in its teammate's honor. Emotions will certainly be running high in light of the sad, recent events, but this is also the last home game for 14 seniors to conclude a tough season on a positive note with a big performance against an unbeaten team.
Pick: Texas State + 17
No. 11 Northwestern Wildcats (-13.5, 41) at Michigan State Spartans
Reynolds: The Wildcats took control of the Big Ten West with a 17-7 victory over Wisconsin as 7.5-point home underdogs. It was not aesthetically pleasing on offense for the Wildcats, especially on the ground (24 yards on 23 carries), but once again the Northwestern defense carried the day. The Wildcats defense (fourth nationally in scoring defense at 12.6 ppg). was on the field for over 37 minutes but the defense was its best offense as the Wildcats forced five Wisconsin turnovers and held yet another opponent scoreless in the second half (fourth time in five games this season).
Northwestern is No. 8 in the College Football Playoff ranking and now travels to Michigan State to face a rebuilding Spartans program that had its game cancelled at Maryland last weekend. Michigan State has only scored seven points in its last two games including being shut out at home by Indiana and now faces one of the nation’s best defenses. The Spartans will also need to clean up their act in terms of turnovers. Michigan State ranks 125th out of 127 teams playing FBS football in turnover margin averaging minus -2.25 turnovers per game. This is a dangerous proposition considering Northwestern already has 11 takeaways through its first five games.
Nevertheless, Northwestern goes through a huge role reversal here after being over a touchdown underdog at home to nearly laying two touchdowns on the road. The Wildcats are also a near shoo-in now to win the Big Ten West with not only a win over Wisconsin, but the Badgers ineligible to play in the Big Ten Championship Game with their matchup vs. Minnesota being cancelled this weekend. The Wildcats will be sizable favorites in all three of their remaining games (at Michigan State, at Minnesota, vs. Illinois).
Pat Fitzgerald is the master of playing the disrespected underdog card as displayed last week when he trolled ESPN's Joey Galloway for comments he made dismissing Northwestern's chances of running the table. Now, Northwestern has to deal with expectations and pressure. They are not under the radar anymore and this is a lot of points to lay for a team that has only eclipsed 300 yards of total offense once in its last four games.
Pick: Michigan State + 13.5
No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-5, 67) at No. 25 UNC Tar Heels
Murray: After a day full of turkey, Notre Dame and North Carolina is in the perfect spot on Friday afternoon for us to sit back and enjoy a tremendous college football game. The Tar Heels entered the season as a dark-horse candidate to win the ACC but after a couple of unexpected losses to Florida State and Virginia, UNC has a new role to play: spoiler.
UNC QB Sam Howell had an impressive freshman campaign and has improved in his sophomore season. Howell is averaging 328.9 passing yards per game with 23 touchdowns and just six interceptions. The Tar Heels’ offense is 10th in the country (43.1 point per game), and Howell has connected on 12 passing plays of 40 yards or more this season. UNC isn’t just an aerial attack, though, as running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams have combined to rush for 1,675 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. Notre Dame is first in the ACC and fifth nationally allowing just 85.1 rushing yards per game.
If Notre Dame can make UNC one-dimensional on Friday, that would be a victory. But can the Irish slow down Sam Howell? Filling in for Trevor Lawrence, Clemson freshman QB D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 439 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame. With great weapons out wide, Howell should be able to have a big day through the air.
On the other side of the ball, the Tar Heels defense is bad (allowing 30.8 ppg). Notre Dame will look to run the ball early and often and keep the Tar Heels offense off the field. UNC has allowed opponents to rush for 151.9 ypg this season and has surrendered 16 rushing touchdowns. Led by RB Kyren Williams (777 rushing yards, 10 TD), the Irish are averaging 233.5 ypg on the ground. Notre Dame should still be able to run the ball effectively, but the Irish will be without starting C Jarrett Patterson and RG Tommy Kraemer.
UNC is expected to get a pair of veteran cornerbacks back (Storm Duck & Kyler McMichael), which should help Jay Bateman’s defense significantly because Notre Dame QB Ian Book has played great in his last two games. UNC has allowed 261.8 passing yards per game (97th in the nation).
Notre Dame lost the turnover battle two weeks ago against Boston College, 3-1, but talent prevailed for the Irish in a 45-31 win. Notre Dame will be superior in the trenches, but at the skill positions UNC has a slight edge. If the Tar Heels can play a clean game and force a couple turnovers, UNC will have a good shot at an outright win.
Pick: North Carolina + 5
Reynolds: It is a rare sight to see a Notre Dame football game with a total this high. Knute Rockne and Ara Parseghian would be rolling over in their graves, but this is college football in the 21st century. This is actually the second highest total in a game involving Notre Dame in its long history (Oct. 1, 2016 at Syracuse had a total of 74; Notre Dame won 50-33). Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have scored over 40 points in back-to-back games for the first time since 1996 and have averaged 42 ppg over their last four games.
Meanwhile, UNC is averaging 48 ppg and 607 ypg over its last six games. This will be the best defense the Tar Heels have faced this season, considering that Notre Dame is only allowing 17 ppg and 302 ypg. UNC is fairly leaky on defense allowing 414 ypg and 31 ppg.
Both teams come in with a week off and the offenses should be firing on all cylinders.
Picks: Notre Dame -5, Over 67
Nebraska Cornhuskers at Iowa Hawkeyes (-13.5, 53)
Reynolds: The Cornhuskers thought they had turned the corner two weeks ago, getting their first win of the season against Penn State. Those positive thoughts quickly went away as Nebraska lost outright at home, 41-23 to Illinois as a 16-point favorite. The Illini never trailed in the game and outgained Nebraska 490-392. The Cornhuskers were wearing their “Blackshirts”, but their defensive unit resembled anything but the old “Blackshirt” defenses from the glory days as they were gashed on the ground for 285 yards. However, the offense was even worse, as quarterback Luke McCaffrey committed four (three interceptions, fumble) of the team’s five turnovers.
On the other hand, Iowa is on a three-game winning streak and ended its six-game series skid at Penn State with a 41-21 victory. As usual, it was not pretty for the Hawkeyes, but it was effective. Iowa forced four turnovers ( 3 margin) and shut down Penn State’s running game (62 yards on 35 carries). Iowa is currently 12 in turnover margin on the season.
The Hawkeyes will be trying to protect their own five-game series streak against Nebraska this week and keep the Heroes Trophy in Iowa City. The last two meetings have each been decided by three points with Iowa kicking the winning field goal in each of the last two years. Iowa has never been this large of a favorite against Nebraska. In 2018, the Hawkeyes laid -6.5 in a 31-28 victory.
Iowa is only 3-10 ATS in its last 13 games as double-digit chalk in Big Ten home games. This is a buy-low spot on a desperate Nebraska team that is getting Iowa at its highest point in the market.
Pick: Nebraska + 13.5
Edwards: Since losing its first two games by five combined points, Iowa (3-2 straight up, 3-1-1 against the spread) has ripped off three consecutive wins, including a 49-7 home victory over Michigan State, a 35-7 triumph at Minnesota and a 41-21 win at Penn State. The Hawkeyes, who are 10-5-1 ATS in their last 16 games as home favorites, have beaten the closing line by an eye-popping 80.5 combined points during their current three-game surge.
Kirk Ferentz’s club is ranked ninth nationally in scoring defense, giving up only 16.0 ppg. Iowa’s defense will be facing a Nebraska passing game that has produced an abysmal 2-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
The Cornhuskers are ranked No. 115 nationally in run defense, which is bad news going against Iowa. The Hawkeyes have a pair of running backs in Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent that have combined for 762 rushing yards and 12 TDs.
Nebraska (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS) has failed to cover the spread in three straight games as a road underdog, and are coming off that big loss to Illinois. Iowa has won five games in a row in this rivalry, and the Hawkeyes will make it six in a row over Nebraska by winning by at least 17 points early Friday afternoon.
Pick: Iowa -13.5
Florida Gators (-23, 61) vs. Kentucky Wildcats
Edwards: The Over is 5-2 overall for Florida and 2-1 in its home games, while the Gators are ninth in the country in total offense and eighth in scoring (44.7 ppg). Their combined scores are averaging 72.8 PPG.
Florida’s Kyle Trask is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy thanks to an incredible 31-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’ll get back one of his favorite weapons on Saturday when junior tight end Kyle Pitts returns. Pitts sustained a concussion in a 44-28 win over Georgia and has missed the last two games.
In Florida’s first five games, Pitts had 24 receptions for 415 yards and eight TDs. Pitts’ presence will only open things up more for senior wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes. Toney has 42 catches for 503 yards and seven TDs, while Grimes has caught 22 balls for 347 yards and six TDs.
Kentucky mounted three sustained drives for 137 yards in the first half of last week’s loss at Alabama. However, all three ended in field-goal attempts and the Wildcats only made one of those. Nevertheless, I think we can count on 21 points from Kentucky in Gainesville, and it’s a given that we’ll get 40-plus from the Gators.
Pick: Over 61
Auburn Tigers at Alabama Crimson Tide (-24.5, 62.5)
Edwards: The Over is 5-2 overall for Alabama, and 3-1 in its home games. The Crimson Tide rank third in the nation in scoring (49.4 ppg), and Mac Jones has an 18-to-3 TD-INT ratio, while Najee Harris has 16 rushing TDs and a 5.8 ypc average.
After watching Tennessee running back Eric Gray gash Auburn’s defense for 173 yards on merely 22 attempts last week, I think Harris could be in store for a career day.
Alabama is ranked just 68th nationally in pass defense. Yes, Bo Nix is notorious for struggling on the road, but he has three elite wideouts in Eli Stove, Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz. In other words, I’m not counting on Alabama to produce all of the points in this year’s Iron Bowl.
The last two games in this rivalry have resulted in high-scoring games, including Auburn’s 45-42 home win for 93 combined points last year. In 2018, we saw 73 combined points in the Tide’s 52-21 victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Pick: Over 62.5