Best Week 14 CFB bets: Plays on six games

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Week 14 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. 5 Texas A&M Aggies (-7, 48.5) at Auburn Tigers

Murray: A year after beating Alabama in the Iron Bowl, the Crimson Tide crushed Auburn last weekend, 42-13. While that result was not ideal for the Tigers, Alabama has been doing that to plenty of opponents this season, including Texas A&M. The current fifth-ranked team in the country lost 52-28 at Alabama back on Oct. 3.

After having back-to-back games postponed due to COVID-19, Texas A&M returned to the field last weekend and beat LSU, 20-7. The Aggies defense forced three turnovers and held LSU to just 267 total yards, but Texas A&M was far from crisp offensively as QB Kellen Mond was just 11-of-34 through the air for 105 yards. While he has thrown just two interceptions this season, Mond is only completing 59.3% of his passes. RB Isaiah Spiller was a bright spot for the offense, rushing for 141 yards and a touchdown. 

It has been an up-and-down sophomore season for Auburn QB Bo Nix. On the road, Nix and the Tigers are just 1-3 while Nix has thrown two touchdowns and six interceptions. However, at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Nix is a different player: Auburn is 4-0 (3-1 ATS) at home this year and Nix has thrown eight touchdowns to just one interception. Nix is 10-1 as the starting quarterback at home. 

Coming off an ugly loss to Alabama, the public will likely happily lay the touchdown with Texas A&M, but I look at this as a buy-low spot on the home team.

The pick: Auburn + 7

Reynolds: No. 5 Texas A&M continues to be the team just on the outside looking in of the top four in the College Football Playoff. As Tim noted, the Aggies were not overly impressive last Saturday in a 20-7 victory over LSU (second-worst pass defense in the SEC). The Aggies defense held LSU to just 36 yards on the ground, and Texas A&M currently sits as the top defense in the SEC allowing 328 ypg.

Meanwhile, last weekend Auburn did what everyone else does this season: lose to No. 1 Alabama. While the Tigers failed to be competitive and could not cover in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, they were only outgained by 98 yards. Auburn is dealing with some injury issues in the backfield -- Tank Bigsby (hip) and D.J. Williams both listed as questionable -- and on the offensive line, with tackle Alec Williams out due to hand surgery. The running game is expected the be relatively limited anyway, considering the Aggies are second-best in the SEC (87.1 ypg) against the ground game.

Auburn has won three straight in this series and Gus Malzahn seems to always be able to pull one upset every season. Over the last five seasons, the Tigers are 6-1 ATS and 5-2 SU as home underdogs. The usual message board chatter about Auburn needing to move on from Malzahn is happening after a loss in the Iron Bowl, but this looks like the spot that Malzahn usually silences some of the critics.

Pick: Auburn + 7

Edwards: Auburn is undefeated in four home games with a 3-1 ATS record this season, winning those games by 13 points or more. As Wes said, Nix is a completely different player at Jordan-Hare Stadium, where he has an 8-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio this year.

Auburn has won three consecutive games in a row over the Aggies, who looked awful in a 20-7 home win over LSU last week. Jimbo Fisher’s team generated only 267 yards of total offense, and Mond, who has enjoyed an outstanding season, struggled mightily against a suspect LSU defense that gave up 48 points to Auburn.

In 10 games as a home underdog during Malzahn’s tenure, Auburn has compiled a 7-3 ATS record. The underdog has won outright in four of the last six games in this rivalry.

Pick: Auburn + 7 (and a much smaller taste of Auburn + 220 on the money line)

 

No. 23 Oregon Ducks (-10, 59) at Cal Golden Bears

Reynolds: Oregon looked to be the Pac-12’s glimmer of hope to reach the College Football Playoff before losing 41-38 in the final seconds last Friday night at Oregon State. The Ducks not only allowed 41 points, but also gave up 532 yards and turned the ball over three times (-3 turnover margin).

Cal had its own late heartbreak against a rival last Friday. The Bears looked like they were going to tie Stanford in “The Big Game” before having the potential game-tying PAT blocked in the final minute to lose 24-23.

It has been a disappointing season from the get-go for Cal, which was hit hard with COVID-19 early on. The Bears had their first two games cancelled and then had to add a late matchup at UCLA with a limited roster. Cal is 0-3 but has only lost its last two games by a combined five points. The Bears have actually outgained both of their last opponents (plus-79 yards at Oregon State and plus-92 yards vs. Stanford).

At 0-3 this would look like a phone-it-in type of spot for Cal, but they should be up for Oregon. During Justin Wilcox’s tenure in Berkeley, the Bears are 18-8 ATS with 11 outright wins as an underdog and 7-3 ATS when priced as double-digit ‘dogs or higher.

Pick: California + 10

No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers at No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers (-14.5, 45)

Murray: Indiana took a massive hit in last weekend’s 27-11 win over Maryland, losing QB Michael Penix Jr. for the season with a torn ACL. Utah transfer Jack Tuttle will take over for Penix Jr. While it is a drop off at quarterback, the former four-star recruit is a solid replacement. 

The Hoosiers defense has been quite impressive this season, leading the Big Ten with 16 interceptions. The Hoosiers picked off Ohio State QB Justin Fields three times two weeks ago; Fields entering that game with three interceptions in his career. Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz excelled in the Badgers’ season opener against Illinois but hasn’t been as crisp since. Mertz went 20-of-21 with five touchdowns against the Illini, but he’s just 35-63 (55.5%) through the air the past two games. Additionally, he threw three interceptions in Wisconsin’s 17-7 loss to Northwestern. The Hoosiers will also get after Mertz, as Indiana leads the Big Ten with 20 sacks this season.

Wisconsin’s defense has been stout in its three games this season, holding its opponents to a Big Ten-best 233.3 yards per game. The Badgers will certainly be a handful for Tuttle in his first career start, but I expect Indiana head coach Tom Allen will have his team ready to play. Indiana is 6-0 ATS this season and if Ohio State has another regular-season game canceled, the Hoosiers would have a chance to slide into the Big Ten Championship Game. 

The pick: Indiana + 14.5

Missouri Tigers (-3, 51.5) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks

Edwards: Missouri is 3-1 straight up and 4-0 ATS at home, with its lone outright defeat at Faurot Field coming against unbeaten and top-ranked Alabama. Redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak hasn’t been intercepted at home all season, and senior running back Larry Rountree has rushed for 119, 126 and 160 yards in the Tigers’ last three home contests.

Missouri has won four games in a row over Arkansas, which saw senior RB Rakeem Boyd, a third-team All-SEC selection in 2019, opt out of the rest of the season earlier this week. The Razorbacks had to postpone last week’s game due to a COVID outbreak, so it remains uncertain if they could be missing some players on Saturday.

Whatever the case, we like Missouri laying the small number at home.

Pick: Missouri -3

Texas Longhorns (-7, 51)  at Kansas State Wildcats

Edwards: Kansas State is 5-0 ATS as a home underdog on Chris Klieman’s watch and going back further, the Wildcats are 17-4 ATS in their last 21 spots as home underdogs. On the flip side, Texas is 2-6 ATS in its last eight contests as a road favorite.

Tom Herman is on a boiling hot seat in Austin and conversation around his job security has dominated the local news cycle all week long. Adding to the team’s distractions, its best offensive lineman, left tackle Samuel Cosmi, opted out of the rest of the season earlier this week. Likewise, junior safety Caden Sterns, who is second on the team in tackles with 52, opted out as well.

After leading for nearly the entire game at home last week vs. Iowa State, the Cyclones rallied late to clip the Longhorns, 23-20. The loss ended Texas’ hopes of getting to the Big 12 Championship Game, leaving it with nothing to play for but pride.

Manhattan has been a House of Horrors for the Longhorns for nearly two decades, as they’ve won at Kansas State only once since 2002.

Pick: Kansas State + 7

No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (-29.5, 67.5) at LSU Tigers

Edwards: Alabama’s defense has turned up its play in the last three games, limiting Mississippi State, Kentucky and Auburn to 16 combined points. The Under has cashed at a 3-1 clip for the Crimson Tide in its past four outings, and this is the second-highest total it has seen all season.

The Under is on a 3-0 run for the Tigers, who saw their best offensive weapon by far, junior WR Terrace Marshall, opt out of the rest of the year on Sunday. Marshall had 23 TD catches, including 10 this year, since the start of the 2019 campaign. Even with Marshall in the lineup at Texas A&M last week, LSU didn’t score until there was less than a minute remaining on a Marshall TD reception.

Even if Alabama scores 50 (and it might), I can’t fathom LSU producing more than 14 points without Marshall and with a true freshman QB (Max Johnson or TJ Finley) going against Alabama’s defense.

Pick: Under 67.5

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