It is Week 12 and our guys are on a hot streak, posting a 25-10-1 record over the last three weeks. We've got another round of games on the docket and another set of picks for your consideration.
Our handicappers Adam Burke, Tim Murray, Scott Seidenberg and Wes Reynolds are here to give you their best bets for the weekend's card.
Overall record: 59-50-4 ATS
Lines are consensus odds from VSiN's college football lines page, as of Wednesday night.
Saturday, Nov. 20
Iowa State Cyclones at No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners (-4, 59.5)
Seidenberg: If Oklahoma loses this game, I don’t want to hear from Lincoln Riley until next season. Last week’s debacle at Baylor was just that, a debacle. Now, how do you pick yourself up and stay the course?
Oklahoma’s season is not over. Despite people writing them off for the CFB playoff, that’s actually not the case. Oklahoma will have a decent shot to get in if they win the next 3 games, finish as 12-1 Big 12 champs and watch a team like Oregon lose to Utah either this week or in the Pac 12 title game. That has to be the message from Riley to his team. Let everyone count them out, let everyone forget about them, and go out and win the Big 12 in convincing fashion and give the committee something to think about.
Iowa State comes into this game off a gut-wrenching loss to Texas Tech last week. This team has not had the season that was expected. Matt Campbell took a lot of heat after a press conference this week when he said his goal was not winning the Big 12. I'm sure that had to rub some of his players the wrong way. Plus, his name is being floated around a lot of coaching rumors. That distraction, plus a disheartened team, could be enough for the Cyclones to lay an egg here in Norman. I expect the Sooners to bounce back in a big way and roll, keeping their Big 12 title goals alive and well.
Pick: Oklahoma -4
Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Penn State Nittany Lions (-17.5, 47)
Burke: With last week’s blowout win over Indiana, the bowl dream is alive and well for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights need to win one of the next two games against either Penn State or Maryland to give themselves a chance at the program’s first bowl appearance since 2014.
Penn State already has six wins, but the season has been a disappointment. The win over Auburn feels like an eternity ago and the Nittany Lions squandered a 4-0 start with losses to Iowa, Illinois, Ohio State and now Michigan. One more crack at a win over a ranked team comes next week in East Lansing against Michigan State.
Sean Clifford is still not healthy and Penn State managed just 3.86 yards per play against Michigan last week. While Rutgers isn’t on the Wolverines’ level, the Nittany Lions entered this week 99th in the nation with just 5.23 yards per play. Covering a big spread with a low total requires a high level of efficiency and we have seen nothing of the sort from Penn State with just 4.65 yards per play against conference foes.
It looks like an ugly game in Happy Valley this week and one where Rutgers probably won’t need too many points to cover.
Pick: Rutgers + 17.5
Old Dominion Monarchs at Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (-4, 50.5)
3:30 p.m. ET
Burke: It would be mildly disingenuous to say that the wrong team is favored here, but you can really make a case for it at this point in time. Middle Tennessee is down to third-string quarterback Nick Vattiato, who was 20-of-24 for just 147 yards in the lopsided 50-10 win over FIU. The Panthers are 1-9 on the season, 0-6 in league play and Butch Davis just took shots at the athletic department for a lack of commitment to the program.
It was a nice bounceback win for MTSU after committing seven turnovers, including five Vattiato interceptions, against Western Kentucky in a 48-21 loss the week prior, but not exactly a performance that should be celebrated.
Meanwhile, Old Dominion has wins over Louisiana Tech, FIU and FAU over the last three weeks and only lost by one to Buffalo, seven to UTEP and seven to Marshall, as Ricky Rahne’s team has improved by leaps and bounds this season. The Monarchs didn’t play last season due to COVID-19, so Rahne had to wait a year to make his head coaching debut and his team has progressively got better as the season has gone along.
Freshman quarterback Harrison Wolff has made four starts and has thrown for at least 280 yards in three of the four. ODU’s primary running backs have each ripped off over five yards per carry. The improved Monarchs offense should get some chances here, as the Blue Raiders rank 127th in the nation in third-down conversion rate.
The Blue Raiders have put beatings on doormats like UConn, Southern Miss and FIU in the last three wins. Old Dominion is an improving team and a live dog here.
Pick: Old Dominion + 4
East Carolina Pirates (-4, 46.5) at Navy Midshipmen
3:30 pm ET
Murray: Last weekend, East Carolina, as 4-point underdogs, topped Memphis 30-29 in overtime to improve to 6-4 on the year. The Pirates have won three straight and are bowl-eligible for the first time since the 2014 season. Following the game, ECU head coach Mike Houston was emotional in his postgame interview saying “When I took the job, you know, that was our goal. Getting us back to going to bowl games.”
The victory over Memphis was still on Coach Houston’s mind when he met with the media earlier this week. “Obviously a huge weekend this past weekend for our program, the players and just a really special win at Memphis. Win number six on the season which was significant for the program. “ Additionally, East Carolina has an opportunity to shock the football world next week when the Pirates host No. 5 Cincinnati the Friday after Thanksgiving. But first, ECU must travel to the Naval Academy.
It has been a rough year for Navy as the Midshipmen enter Saturday’s game with a 2-7 record. The schedule has been daunting. As pointed out in Navy’s game notes, the nine opponents faced to date (excluding the games against Navy) are a combined 57-24 (.704), which is the toughest schedule in the country based on opponents’ winning percentage. Despite owning just two conference wins, Navy is 5-1 ATS in the AAC this season including a 3-0 ATS record at home. The Mids lost to Cincinnati, 27-20, at home as 28.5-point underdogs and fell to SMU, 31-24, in Annapolis as 13.5-point underdogs. Saturday will also be Senior Day at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. If you remove last year’s game played in front of no fans, the Midshipmen have won 17 straight games on Senior Day (2003-19).
Navy is only ranked 16th nationally in rushing yards per game, which is low for the Midshipmen, but East Carolina has struggled to slow down the run this season. The Pirates are 60th in the country in run defense and are allowing 4.37 yards per rush.
Injuries are a concern for Navy, who will be without senior captain and safety Kevin Brennan for the rest of the season. QB Tai Lavatai left the Notre Dame game on Oct. 30 with a neck injury and did not return. But, coming off a bye and playing on Senior Day against an East Carolina team due for an emotional letdown, I will roll with the Midshipmen to play one of its best games of the season.
Pick: Navy + 4
SMU Mustangs at No. 5 Cincinnati Bearcats (-11.5, 65)
3:30 p.m. ET
Seidenberg: Two games I’ve been waiting for to fade Cincy - the AAC title game vs. Houston and this game right here vs SMU. Cincinnati has been like a car running with low air pressure in the tires for weeks. They’ve been 20 point favorites in each of their last four games and have failed to cover all four. SMU, meanwhile, picked themselves up off the deck after dropping two straight to Houston and Memphis by beating up on UCF 55-28.
The Mustangs come into this game with the sixth-ranked offense in the country, averaging just about 500 yards per game while scoring over 41 points per game. This is the game they have had circled on their calendar all season. While it's still a long shot for SMU to get into the AAC title game, they aren’t technically eliminated. Still, if they aren’t playing for a title, this can be their title game. I think SMU scores too much for Cincy and those tires that have been leaking for weeks finally go flat.
Pick: SMU + 11.5
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns at Liberty Flames (-4.5, 53)
4 p.m. ET
Seidenberg: How is the total in this game ONLY 53? What am I missing? Liberty averages 35.1 points per game and Louisiana averages 31.2. Could it be that simple? There’s a lot of possible distractions on both sides, as both Billy Napier and Hugh Freeze are being talked about for coaching jobs elsewhere. But that shouldn’t mean both teams won’t be ready to play in this one.
The Cajuns have won nine straight games after dropping their season opener and are fully entrenched in the Sun Belt title game. Liberty, meanwhile, has had a week to rest and think about the loss at Ole Miss the last time out. With the season coming to a close, QB Malik Willis has two more games to showcase himself for NFL scouts. Both defenses allow less than 20 points per game, but I think we see both teams have success against the opposing defenses.
Pick: Over 53
No. 11 Baylor Bears at Kansas State Wildcats (PK, 50)
5:30 pm ET
Murray: There might not be a bigger letdown spot in college football this week than Baylor heading to Manhattan, Kansas. The Bears rose to the occasion as 3.5-point underdogs and beat No. 8 Oklahoma, 27-14. After the game, the Baylor students, unsurprisingly, rushed the field and rightfully so.
Checking in at No. 11 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, the Bears have a chance to play for the Big 12 Championship in two weeks. If Baylor wins its final two games and Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma next weekend in Stillwater, the Bears would be headed to AT&T Stadium on Dec. 4. There is one small issue, Kansas State is playing solid football right now. After starting 0-3 in the Big 12, the Wildcats have won four straight games. Last weekend, as 6-point favorites, Kansas State cruised past West Virginia, 34-17.
Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson is quietly having a great season. Thompson is completing 71.6% of his passes and is 11th in the FBS in passing efficiency. At running back, Deuce Vaughn is 10th in the country with 1,414 all purpose yards. Vaughn has rushed for eight touchdowns during the Wildcats’ four-game winning streak and has eclipsed 100 yards rushing in each of the last three games.
Baylor has a stud running back as well. Abram Smith is fifth in the nation with 1,203 rushing yards and is averaging 151.5 yards per game over the Bears last four games. Last week against Oklahoma, Smith rushed for 148 yards and QB Gerry Bohanon had 107 yards on the ground as well. The Wildcats run defense is 19th nationally, allowing just 113 yards per game. If Kansas State can slow down the Baylor rushing attack, Bohanon is just 36th in the country in passing efficiency this season.
Due to the fact that Kansas State opened up Big 12 play with losses to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Iowa St., the Wildcats have been out of sight, out of mind to the college football world. Chris Klieman will have his squad ready to go in an obvious letdown situation for No. 11 Baylor. With a night game atmosphere and a top-ranked foe on the road, I will ride with the home team on Saturday.
Pick: Kansas State PK
Auburn Tigers (-7.5, 44.5) at South Carolina Gamecocks
7 p.m. ET
Burke: The Auburn Tigers are in a really bad spot this week. Last week’s headline-grabbing collapse against Mississippi State was bad enough, but QB Bo Nix was also lost for the season with a broken ankle. The Tigers also lost one of college football’s more reliable kickers in Anders Carlson.
With the Iron Bowl looming, Auburn has to face a pesky and highly-motivated South Carolina team that needs one win for bowl eligibility. The Gamecocks have not played all that well on the road, getting blown out by Georgia, Tennessee and Texas A&M, plus last week’s loss to Missouri, but the team has played a lot better at Williams-Brice Stadium.
With a low-scoring expectation and a new QB for Auburn in TJ Finley, it’s fair to wonder if the Tigers will cash in their red zone chances enough to win this game by over a touchdown. South Carolina has all kinds of offensive concerns, but the defense has actually been pretty decent against most teams.
This line came down 2.5 points with the announcement that Nix would be out, but the drop-off seems to be a little larger than that to Finley, who has only thrown 33 passes in this new Bryan Harsin offense.
Pick: South Carolina + 7.5
North Texas Mean Green (-10, 57.5) at FIU Panthers
7 p.m. ET
Burke: The FIU program is roaring dumpster fire and Butch Davis has no problem with throwing gasoline on the flames. It has been rumored for a bit that Davis, whose team is 1-9 this season, wouldn’t be back for 2022, but that was confirmed by Davis himself on Monday.
The departing head coach said that the program was “sabotaging” itself, as players were using hand-me-down shoulder pads and old uniforms, along with an unwillingness to pay Davis’s assistants. With last week’s 50-10 loss to Middle Tennessee, a program using a third-string QB, the Panthers are now -170 in point differential on the season. They’ve allowed 272 points in six Conference USA games.
North Texas, meanwhile, needs wins here and against UTSA to get to a bowl. It probably won’t happen, but the Mean Green have won three in a row after a close loss to Liberty. It seemed like the season was going off the rails, but head coach Seth Littrell salvaged what he could and UNT has played well of late.
Stopping the run has a lot to do with personnel and scheme, but also effort. FIU has allowed over five yards per carry this season and over six yards per carry in the last two games. C-USA foes are rushing for 5.67 yards per carry against the Panthers. North Texas’s offense has progressively improved and the running game is the reason why.
This is an uncomfortable number to lay, but it’s this big for a reason. FIU has quit.
Pick: North Texas -10
South Alabama Jaguars at Tennessee Volunteers (-28, 62)
7:30 p.m ET
Reynolds: Tennessee took market support last week against No. 1 Georgia. The Vols hung in for a little less than a half before succumbing to the Bulldogs 41-17. Now Tennessee must attempt to recover from the physical pounding that teams take while playing a highly physical Georgia club.
The Volunteers are playing for bowl eligibility here at 5-5, as is South Alabama. Last week, the Jaguars were stopped on downs at the Appalachian St St 15-yard line, stopped on downs at the App St 32-yard line, stopped on downs at the App St 4-yard line, missed a 40-yard FG, and threw a 100-yard pick-six with under 3 minutes left when trailing 24-7 and inside the Appalachian State 10-yard line. It was surely a tough beat if you had South Alabama + 21.5.
Kane Wommack is in his first season as South Alabama head coach. Last year, he served as Indiana’s defensive coordinator and did wonders with the Hoosiers defense. He has brought that mojo to Mobile as the Jaguars rank 16th nationally in total defense. Nevertheless, Tennessee’s offense obviously represents a big step up in class.
However, how much energy does Tennessee have left to lay out a South Alabama bunch that should be excited for the challenge of playing on the road at Neyland Stadium?
Pick: South Alabama + 28
Wyoming Cowboys at Utah State Aggies (-6, 52.5)
8 p.m ET
Reynolds: Wyoming had been inside the number at Boise State last week until the Broncos kicked a field goal with 0:59 left to take a 23-7 lead. All of a sudden, our Wyoming + 14 bets looked bleak with less than a minute left and zero timeouts. Nevertheless, Cowboys quarterback Levi Williams hit receiver Isaiah Neyor on an out route. Neyor made a cut and raced for 74 yards and got into the end zone for the backdoor cover.
Now the Cowboys go back on the road to try and earn their sixth win and bowl eligibility. Meanwhile, Utah State currently leads the Mountain Division in the Mountain West and just have to beat Wyoming at home and win at lowly New Mexico in order to make the Mountain West Championship Game. The Aggies have won five in a row outright and have covered four in a row including a 35-point cover at San Jose State last week by winning 48-17 as 3.5-point underdogs.
So why is the market moving against Utah State here?
For one, Wyoming has the much better defense (24th in FBS - 330.8 ypg) as opposed to Utah State’s stop unit (84th - 397.8 ypg). The Aggies also have only defeated one team with a winning record this season - 49-45 win at Air Force on 9/18. The Cowboys rate 4th nationally in passing yards allowed.
Pick: Wyoming + 6
Colorado State Rams (-2, 54) at Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
11 p.m. ET
Burke: The late-night special out on the island will feature Colorado State and Hawaii in Honolulu as the last game on the board. Despite a four-game losing streak, Colorado State is laying a short number with the long trip to paradise. The Rams can no longer make a bowl game, so there is nothing left to play for except for pride and next season.
Hawaii needs to win the last two games to have a chance to go bowling, so there is some incentive for the Rainbow Warriors. Offensively, they have struggled a lot lately, scoring just 10 points on a windy night against San Diego State and just 13 points in the climate-controlled Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
The Warriors scored on the first play of the game, a 79-yard touchdown catch and run from Nick Mardner, but managed just 161 yards of offense after that. Chevan Cordeiro has been playing hurt and the Rainbow Warriors have tallied just 4.94 yards per play in Mountain West action, which is really bad given that this conference is not known for defense.
Colorado State’s offense is nothing special either, averaging 5.23 yards per play. The Rams do have a strong defense that entered this week ranked 26th in yards per play allowed. Hawaii’s defense has improved throughout the season and has only allowed 5.28 yards per play to FBS Group of Five teams.
Crazy things can happen on the rock, but the total of 54.5 looks to be a little bit too high here.
Pick: Under 54