Week 15 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.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (-13.5, 51.5) at Troy Trojans
Reynolds: Coastal Carolina earned the biggest win in program history last weekend, knocking off fellow non-Power Five unbeaten BYU 22-17, as 10-point home underdogs. The Chanticleers had a majority of the college football universe watching, as ESPN's College Gameday was in Conway to see them stop BYU at the 1-yard line on the game's final play in a showdown that was billed as "Mormons vs. Mullets.”
Coastal Carolina moved up to No. 13 in the College Football Playoff rankings and may still have an outside shot at a New Year's Six bowl bid. The Chanticleers are already slated for the Sun Belt Championship Game next weekend vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, but they must travel first to face Troy in order to make up a game postponed last month due to COVID-19.
Head coach Jamey Chadwell approached the subject of fairness in his postgame press conference (since his club must play a game while Louisiana-Lafayette has the week off), saying, "How's that fair? Have y'all thought about that?"
Meanwhile, Troy currently sits at 5-5 and must win its last two games -- vs. Coastal Carolina this weekend and at winless Louisiana-Monroe -- in order to guarantee itself a bowl appearance. The Sun Belt Conference agreed to determine its bowl bids by conference records and Troy would lose out on tiebreakers due to losses earlier this season vs. Georgia Southern and Georgia State. The Trojans are off arguably their best performance of the season with a 29-0 shutout last weekend at South Alabama. Troy missed out on a bowl game last season by losing its finale 36-35 on the road at … Coastal Carolina.
Troy has been favored each of the last three seasons vs. Coastal Carolina (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS) and now is getting almost two touchdowns. It has been a magical season for the Chanticleers, but this is not an easy sandwich spot for them against a team that will not only be motivated to return to a bowl game, but may treat having the undefeated No. 13 team in the nation come to town as its bowl game. There are a couple 14's to be found so shop around, but most of the market is at 13.5.
Pick: Troy + 13.5
LSU Tigers at Florida Gators (-23.5, 67.5)
Reynolds: The Gators and the Alabama Crimson Tide, their opponent in the SEC Championship Game next weekend, have the clearest paths into the College Football Playoff of any team: Win and they’re in. Both clubs have what will essentially serve as tune-up games this weekend before the title game in Atlanta. Alabama will be at Arkansas and Florida will host LSU, who self-imposed a bowl ban for this season in conjunction with an NCAA investigation. The Tigers are 3-5 and not likely to appear in a bowl game this year anyway so it's fortunate timing for LSU to comply with the rules to say the least.
Florida is now at the point where "style points" do not necessarily matter as much. They can get through this game and then if they beat No. 1 Alabama next week, they will be in the top four. The Gators have failed to cover their last three games (at Vanderbilt, vs. Kentucky and at Tennessee) as sizable favorites. The "style points" factor is already priced into the market, as is the fact that quarterback Kyle Trask is one of the likely two winners of the Heisman Trophy (Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is the other). Next week's game will likely decide who win that particular award.
This is the largest favorite role for Florida in this series since 1994. LSU is now officially not going to a bowl game, so it may treat this one as its bowl game. The Tigers, despite the 55-17 loss to Alabama last week, have shown some improvements from where they were earlier this season. The number is inflated and there is also the possibility that the Gators could potentially pull starters to keep all hands on deck for next week's showdown.
Pick: LSU + 23.5
Auburn Tigers (-6.5, 49) at Mississippi State Bulldogs
Reynolds: This is an obvious drop in class for Auburn from having to play No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Texas A&M in consecutive weeks. Meanwhile, Mississippi State has continued to compete hard despite the rebuild and change in culture and offensive and defensive systems under first-year head coach Mike Leach.
The Bulldogs have played two of their better games in the last two weeks. They covered at Georgia (31-24 L; + 26.5) and at Ole Miss (31-24 L; + 9.5). They also come off a bye week with two opportunities to close out the season with a win (vs. Missouri next week) and have some momentum going into 2021.
How much does Auburn have left in the tank? The Tigers know that they will likely be in a bowl game somewhere but the disappointing losses of the last two weeks may be too much. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix is just 4-6 on the road for his career with an 11-12 TD-INT ratio. There are a couple 7s in the market if you want to pay the vig, but even at 6.5, this is a tough spot for Auburn.
Pick: Mississippi State + 6.5
Edwards: Mississippi State QB Will Rogers played like a true freshman in October. In the last three games, however, Rogers has rounded into form with 1,002 passing yards and five touchdowns without an interception.
Mike Leach’s team has seen each of its last two games end with 55 combined points.
Auburn has been a steady Under team this season but if Auburn’s totals were this low, the Over would be on a 6-1 run its last seven games. In fact, the Tigers have had at least 51 combined points scored in six of their last seven contests, with the lone outlier being 47 combined points in a 30-17 home win over Tennessee.
Pick: Over 49
No. 17 North Carolina Tar Heels at No. 10 Miami Hurricanes (-3, 67.5)
Murray: While next weekend we will get to enjoy Florida QB Kyle Trask vs. Alabama QB Mac Jones in the SEC Championship, this Saturday will be a nice appetizer. Miami QB D’Eriq King has been tremendous this year, throwing for 2,334 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for 467 yards as well. North Carolina QB Sam Howell has 3,129 yards through the air and 26 touchdowns. On a warm afternoon in south Florida, this game has the ingredients for a shootout but I think Manny Diaz’s defense will be able to slow down this Tar Heels offense enough on Saturday to prevail. Notre Dame held UNC to a season-low 298 yards and less than 100 yards after halftime. While I don’t expect Miami to completely neutralize the Tar Heels, if the Hurricanes can get a handful of stops, King will provide enough offensive firepower for Miami against a mediocre Tar Heels defense.
If you’re wondering about motivation, the winner of this game will likely head to the Orange Bowl to play Florida (assuming the Gators lose to Alabama next weekend).
Pick: Miami -3
Navy Midshipmen at Army Black Knights (-7, 38)
Murray: For the first time since World War II, the greatest rivalry in sports will be on the campus of either service academy. On Saturday afternoon, Michie Stadium in West Point, NY will host the Army-Navy game. After losing QB Malcolm Perry to the NFL, Navy’s offense has struggled for most of the 2020 season. The Midshipmen opened the year with an embarrassing 55-3 loss to BYU and have combined to score just 13 points over the past two games against Memphis and Tulsa. Navy will likely start freshman Xavier Arline at quarterback. Arline rushed for 60 yards on 27 carries last week against Tulsa.
Army has had far more success on the ground this season than Navy: The Black Knights are third in the country averaging 296.7 rushing yards per game while the Midshipmen are 46th. Navy was held to just 90 yards on the ground in a 40-7 loss to Air Force back on October 3. Army does not play Air Force until next week.
Lastly, Army has not played since Nov. 21, giving the Black Knights three weeks to prepare for their archrival, while Navy played Memphis last weekend.
While all signs point to Army cruising against Navy on Saturday, I have a hard time laying a touchdown with the Black Knights. Army’s level of competition this year is inferior to Navy’s schedule. Additionally, this rivalry is usually a chess match. The under has hit in 14 straight times and Army has not defeated Navy by more than a touchdown since 2001.
Pick: Navy + 7
Georgia Bulldogs (-13, 53.5) at Missouri Tigers
Edwards: The Over is on a 5-1 run for Georgia, and since USC transfer JT Daniels took over as the starting QB in Georgia’s last two games, he has thrown six touchdown passes and only one interception.
Many were hailing Kirby Smart’s defense as one of the nation’s best back in October. However, due to injuries to key players like Richard LeCounte, Jordan Davis and Julian Rochester, this unit hasn’t been nearly as stout in the Bulldogs’ past three games, allowing an average of 28.0 points per game.
Missouri QB Connor Bazelak has not thrown an interception in five home games this year. Senior RB Larry Rountree has produced 119, 126, 160 and 185 rushing yards in the Tigers’ last four home contests. He was the catalyst with three rushing touchdowns in last week’s 50-48 win over Arkansas.
Missouri’s offense has scored 41 points or more in three of its last four home games. I like the Over here.
The Play: Over 53.5
UAB Blazers (-7.5, 44) at Rice Owls
Edwards: Even without starting QB Mike Collins and its best wide receiver Austin Trammell, Rice went into Huntington, West Virginia this past Saturday and blanked previously unbeaten Marshall 20-0 as a 24.5-point road underdog. The Owls hooked up money-line supporters with a payout north of 12-1.
Collins, who was listed as ‘questionable’ as of Wednesday night, has a 10/1 touchdown-to-interception in only three games. Trammell has 16 receptions for 335 yards and six TDs, and the Owls are hopeful that he and Collins can return vs. UAB.
Dating back to the last three games of 2019, Mike Bloomgren’s team is 5-2 both straight up and ATS in its past seven outings. One of the defeats came in Rice’s double-overtime loss vs. Middle Tennessee in its opener, in which the Owls’ potential game-winning field goal instead became a quadruple doink.
If not for those bad bounces, Rice would be 6-1 in its last seven games. What makes that so impressive is that the Owls had lost 30 of their previous 31 games against FBS opponents. Bloomgren has clearly turned things around.
UAB has had four games in a row cancelled due a COVID-19 outbreak within its program. According to AL.com, the Blazers’ number of available scholarship players for this week is down, potentially in the low 40s -- and star WR Austin Watkins opted out this week. Watkins, a first-team All-C-USA selection in 2019 when he had 57 receptions for 1,092 yards and six TDs, had 34 catches for 468 yards and three TDs in seven games.
Pick: Rice + 7.5
Boise State Broncos (-11.5, 47.5) at Wyoming Cowboys
Edwards: This is the lowest total of the season for both teams. Over is 5-0 for Boise State with its combined scores producing 72, 73, 68, 79 and 55 points. The Broncos are ranked 14th nationally in scoring with their 40.0 ppg average, and their combined scores are averaging 69.4 ppg.
Wyoming has a strong ground attack, ranking ninth in the country in rushing yards, while Boise State struggles mightily defending the run, ranking 103rd nationally.
There are weather conditions in the forecast, but I feel like that has been factored into this total too much. There’s a 40 percent chance of snow and temperatures might dip into the single digits in the second half, but we’re confident that the combined score will get into the 50s.
Pick: Over 47.5