Week 16 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.
SEC Championship Game: Alabama Crimson Tide (-17, 74) vs. Florida Gators
Edwards: If the total stands at 74 points, it will be the highest total in SEC Championship Game history by a full 12 points. It’s also the highest total Florida has seen this season and matches the highest total Alabama has seen in 2020.
Those would normally be red flags for anyone mulling an Over play, but the Crimson Tide have just been different this season.
When Alabama won 63-48 at Ole Miss with a 74-point total, the 111 combined points soared Over. When Florida won 51-35 in Oxford, the combined score was 86 points. The Gators also had a combined score of 98 points in a 63-35 win vs. Arkansas and 79 in a 41-38 loss at Texas A&M.
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask has a 40-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio, while Alabama QB Mac Jones has a 27-3 TD-INT ratio. Both have weapons galore at their disposal.
Florida has eight wins by 12 points or more, so it has spent many games milking the clock in the fourth quarter. The Gators’ offensive unit has also seen its possessions and snaps limited in most games because UF’s defense has given up a plethora of time-consuming possessions.
Nevertheless, Florida still averages 41.2 ppg and leads the nation in passing yards. Alabama scores at a 49.5 ppg clip, and it scores fast so we don’t anticipate the Gators offense spending long stretches on the sidelines.
Alabama has only played one game in which it didn’t take a two-possession lead until there was 3:16 remaining.
Truth be told (and without any hyperbole whatsoever), if Alabama didn’t pull starters early and go into clock-killing mode by early fourth quarter (and often earlier) on a weekly basis, this offensive juggernaut could’ve averaged at least 60 ppg.
Alabama’s defense has dominated in its last five games, but that was against two true freshman QBs (Mississippi State’s Will Rogers and LSU’s TJ Finley), an injured Feleipe Franks, Bo Nix in a road game and Terry Wilson. The Tide’s stop unit has only faced two offenses that are anywhere close to being on Florida’s level.
One would be Ole Miss, which scored 48 points, and the other is Texas A&M. Jimbo Fisher’s team punted only twice in Tuscaloosa and dominated time of possession (37:42 to 22:18). The Aggies had 25 first downs and 450 yards of total offense, but they committed two turnovers, missed a short field goal and were stopped twice on fourth down in ‘Bama territory.
The Pick: Over 74
MAC title game: Buffalo Bulls (-13.5, 67) vs. Ball State Cardinals
Edwards: Buffalo is 5-0 straight up and 4-1 against the spread, with its lone non-cover coming when it was favored by 31.5 points. The Bulls have won their five games by margins of 19, 25, 32, 29 and 49.
Buffalo RB Jaret Patterson paces the nation’s No. 1 ground attack, rushing for 1,025 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 8.3 yards per carry. His backup Kevin Marks has 510 rushing yards, five TDs and a 7.5 YPC average.
Good luck to Ball State if it wants to pack the box to stuff the run. Buffalo QB Kyle Vantrease has a 6-1 TD-INT ratio. The Bulls cover the big number here.
Pick: Buffalo -13.5
Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma Sooners (-5.5, 58) vs. Iowa State Cyclones
Oklahoma has the revenge angle after losing 37-30 in Ames during the regular season. Nevertheless, I think this game is a toss-up in terms of which team wins outright.
Iowa State has been an underdog during Matt Campbell’s tenure 31 times, producing a 20-10-1 ATS record. QB Brock Purdy has seven TD passes without an interception in his club’s last three games.
The Cyclones have won five consecutive games while compiling a 4-1 ATS record, and they have a workhorse running back in Breese Hall (1,357 rushing yards, 17 TDs, 6.1 YPC).
I trust Purdy to take better care of the football than Oklahoma’s talented redshirt freshman QB Spencer Rattler. I think this game comes down to the wire and one team beats the other with a late field goal.
Pick: Iowa State + 5.5
Texas A&M Aggies (-14, 51.5) at Tennessee Volunteers
Edwards: Texas A&M is 3-0 ATS in three games as a road favorite this season, and 5-0 ATS in that spot during Fisher’s three-year tenure.
Tennessee ended its six-game losing streak -- with each defeat coming by a double-digit margin -- by winning last week at Vanderbilt, which was playing without its head coach and missing more than 20 players due to opt-outs, injuries and COVID-19.
The Volunteers were on a 0-5 ATS skid until they scored two late TDs, including one with 27 seconds left on a fourth-and-10 play, to post a backdoor cover in a 31-19 loss vs. Florida two weeks ago.
The fifth-ranked Aggies are looking for style points to impress the College Football Playoff committee. I don’t think this one is close.
Pick: Texas A&M -14
Reynolds: While Alabama and Florida will be battling for the SEC Championship in Atlanta, No. 5 Texas A&M continues to be lurking on the precipice of the College Football Playoff. However, the Aggies will not only need to keep winning but will likely need at least one domino to fall to rise into the playoff field. Should Clemson or Ohio State be upset in their respective title games or Notre Dame get blown out in the rematch against Clemson, then Texas A&M could be in position to come in through the backdoor.
Unlike the other CFP contenders, the Aggies do not put up video-game style numbers, but they do play solid fundamental football and that is why they even have a shot to make the CFP after the early-season blowout loss at Alabama.
Meanwhile, Tennessee is looking to conclude a disappointing 3-6 season on a positive note. Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt is rumored to be on the hot seat and the collar seemed to get a bit tighter as Auburn let go of Gus Malzahn and paid him a $21 million buyout. Tennessee’s offense has improved over its last two games since Pruitt has split the reps at quarterback between freshman Harrison Bailey and sophomore J.T. Shrout. The Volunteers finally broke a six-game losing streak with a 42-17 victory at winless Vanderbilt last week, so the offensive improvement does have to be taken with at least some grain of salt, but Tennessee has continued to compete and the offense looks better with Bailey and Shrout taking better care of the football than Jarrett Guarantano had done.
In this week’s present CFP landscape, “style points” are not likely the help Texas A&M. If all of this week’s college championship game chalk (Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State) can hold serve, then the Aggies are likely to settle for a New Year’s Six bid.
Pick: Tennessee + 14
AAC Championship: Tulsa at Cincinnati (-14.5, 45)
Reynolds: These two teams were supposed to meet last weekend in Tulsa, but the game was cancelled due to COVID-19 issues at Cincinnati. The Bearcats haven’t played since Nov. 21 in a 36-33 victory at UCF. Tulsa played two weeks ago winning 19-6 at Navy.
Due to not being able to get on the field, Cincinnati has slipped to No. 9 in the College Football Playoff Rankings and is no longer live to make the CFP like they potentially were several weeks ago. However, the Bearcats can lock in a spot in the New Year's Six with a victory here as both of its nearest pursuers (Coastal Carolina and Louisiana-Lafayette) likely would not be able to jump over them. Perhaps Cincinnati has lost a bit of its edge after ripping off eight in a row. The Bearcats defense has been outright nasty this season, ranking fifth in points allowed (15 ppg) and 11th in total defense.
Meanwhile, Tulsa had been snake-bitten over the last couple of seasons and seemingly found itself on the wrong side of every close game. The Golden Hurricane were very competitive in a 16-7 opening loss at Oklahoma State and have gone on a 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS ever since. Tulsa did cover as 15.5-point underdogs here at Nippert Stadium last year in a 24-13 defeat.
The total has taken a dip from the opener of 47 to 45 and oftentimes a move to the under is going to provide more value on the underdog. This is a lot of points to lay against a team that has been pesky all season.
Pick: Tulsa + 14.5
Air Force Falcons (-2.5, 37) at Army Black Knights
Murray: This game is the prime example of how bizarre the 2020 college football season is. Army has another regular season game after playing Navy. The Black Knights shutout the Midshipmen last Saturday, 15-0, and now they have to turn around and play Air Force. Winner takes home the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
While Army and Navy were battling in the fog last week, Air Force was off. The Falcons will be the fresher team entering Saturday afternoon’s game. Defensively, Army was dominant against Navy holding the Midshipmen to just 108 rushing yards for the game. If you remove Navy QB Xavier Arline’s 52-yard run early in the third quarter, the Midshipmen rushed for just 56 yards on 34 attempts. However, the Army offense was held to just 2.5 yards per carry against Navy. The Black Knights’ lone touchdown drive came courtesy of a short field (5 play, 13 yards) following a Navy fumble.
Air Force opened its season against Navy on Oct. 3 and destroyed the Midshipmen, 40-7. The Falcons held Navy to just 90 rushing yards on 36 attempts. Air Force averaged seven yards per carry against the Midshipmen en route to 369 yards on the ground. The Falcons are currently the second-best rushing team in the country averaging 336 yards per game.
The Falcons are looking to claim the Commander in Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 2016 on Saturday. Additionally, Air Force has covered 9 of the last 10 games against Army in West Point. With an extra week to prepare while Army won an emotional game against Navy last week, this seems like a good spot to back Air Force under a field goal.
My Play: Air Force -2.5