The final week of the regular season has arrived. Week 13 is Rivalry Week and there are a ton of compelling games as a result. Not to mention, all of the other angles present at this time of the season. Our guys are on a 32-16-1 run over the last four weeks, so we hope to finish the regular season on a high note.
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: 66-55-4 ATS
Lines are consensus odds from VSiN's college football lines page, as of Wednesday night.
Friday Nov. 26
Iowa Hawkeyes at Nebraska Cornhuskers (-1, 41.5)
1:30 p.m. ET
Burke: Walking turnover Adrian Martinez won’t play in this one for Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers take a look at the future with freshman Logan Smothers at quarterback. Nebraska is the best 3-8 team that we’ve ever seen, as they are + 70 in point differential, but still have five more losses than wins. Nebraska is also 1-7 in Big Ten play, despite outscoring opponents by seven points.
Smothers had offers from Louisville and Ole Miss, among others, and opted to join Scott Frost in Lincoln. He hasn’t gotten many reps this season, due in large part to Frost’s loyalty to Martinez, but he can’t be much worse and this line violently swung to make Iowa the favorite. Betting action has since made Nebraska the short favorite.
Speaking of bad QB play, that’s all the Hawkeyes have gotten this season. Alex Padilla will be the starter here, bringing a completion rate of 47 percent on his 83 pass attempts. Drops hurt him last week, but Iowa’s offensive line is poor and this is a team that has absolutely lived on its defense and turnover margin.
Even with all of the issues stemming from Martinez and Frost, Nebraska is 19th in the nation in yards per play on offense. They’re also 43rd in YPP allowed on defense. Nebraska’s YPP differential is + 1.29. The schemes work. The decision making in the red zone and with the turnovers has been the problem.
Iowa, meanwhile, is + 0.03 YPP, while having the fifth-ranked defense in the nation. I’ll take my chances with Nebraska here and a QB that hopefully makes better decisions with the football.
Pick: Nebraska -1
UTEP Miners at UAB Blazers (-13.5, 50.5)
2 p.m. ET
Burke: How does UAB come back from what happened last week to focus on this game? Instead of trying to get one yard to seal the victory against UTSA, Bill Clark put the game on the shoulders of his defense. The UAB defense has been an exceptional unit since the program came back in 2017, but the Roadrunners went 77 yards in seven plays in just over a minute to win the game 34-31.
That was a huge game for UAB, not only to knock off an undefeated, ranked opponent, but to also have a chance at playing for the Conference USA title next week. Instead, UAB will wait to find out its bowl fate after this game against UTEP.
The Miners are 7-4 this season, a massive accomplishment for head coach Dana Dimel. UTEP is going for eight wins for the first time since 2005, so this is a team trying to rewrite the record books and erase a lot of bad recent play. UAB wants to play for conference championships. They can no longer do that.
We have a big spread with a low total here, so I automatically look towards the dog in that situation. UTEP’s defense ranks just barely outside the top 30 in yards per play allowed. UAB’s is 17th, but the two offenses are fairly similar as well. The gap between these two teams isn’t 13.5 points. The perception might be, but UAB probably won’t have much interest here.
Pick: UTEP + 13.5
No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats (-14, 58) at East Carolina Pirates
3:30 p.m. ET
Seidenberg: First off, I should acknowledge that last week was the most impressive game I have seen Cincinnati play all season. Now, they are well in control of their playoff berth. Win out, and they are in.
However, what could prevent them from winning out is a matchup with Houston in the AAC Championship Game. The Houston Cougars have won 10 straight games and will make it 11 with a win over UConn Saturday. They rank 12th in the country in scoring offense and fifth in the nation in total defense. They are the third-best third-down defense in the country and in the top 10 in sacks. Cincy has to be nervous about that game. But wait, they have to play East Carolina first!
Everyone, including myself, is looking ahead to the Cincy-Houston game, so it’s easy to see the players for the Bearcats overlook ECU as well. Thrilled over their playoff rankings and excited about the opportunity to play for a national title, Cincy better be careful with a Pirates team that’s playing great football right now. ECU averages over 30 points per game on offense and, over the last four weeks, has kicked that average up to 35 ppg. Defensively, they are better against the pass than the run, so if Cincy keeps it on the ground, the explosive, quick scores may not be there.
ECU has the firepower to score on this great Cincy defense and they would love nothing more than to rush the field with an upset win here, spoiling the playoff hopes for the Bearcats. I think Cincy pulls out a win, but I don’t see it being by two scores. I’m buying into this trap scenario as Cincy could be in for a let down, while overlooking this opponent in preparation for next week.
Pick: East Carolina + 14
TCU Horned Frogs at Iowa State Cyclones (-15, 59)
4:30 p.m. ET
Reynolds: It has been a disappointing season in Ames, as Iowa State opened the season No. 7 in the nation and looked to be Oklahoma’s eventual challenger atop the Big 12. Expectations were high for the Cyclones, as they came into this season off a win in the Fiesta Bowl over Oregon. Now Iowa State is 6-5 and looking to finish off the season on a positive note.
This year has not gone to plan for 23 seniors, including seven “super-seniors” that were part of Matt Campbell’s first recruiting class at Iowa State. However, this group has changed the perception of Iowa State Football.
Campbell, of course, had a lot to do with that perception and now that brings the annual question of whether the Cyclones head coach is going to hop aboard the coaching carousel.
Meanwhile, TCU is attempting to get bowl-eligible under interim coach Jerry Kill, who took over for Gary Patterson in mid-season. While the Horned Frogs do have something in which to play for, they also look spent. After the upset win over Baylor, TCU was blown out at Oklahoma State and barely got by Kansas last weekend.
This looks like a spot for the Cyclones to take out their frustrations of a disappointing season.
Pick: Iowa State -15
Saturday Nov. 27
Texas Tech Red Raiders at No. 8 Baylor Bears (-14.5, 52)
12 p.m. ET
Burke: Baylor needs a win and some help to get into the Big 12 Championship Game, but it has been a very successful season nonetheless. So successful, in fact, that head coach Dave Aranda may be making a move to a bigger program after the season. That has to serve as a big distraction for the Baylor players with jobs like LSU, where Aranda previously coached, Florida and USC open.
QB Gerry Bohanon left last week’s game with a hamstring injury and his development has been another major contributing factor in the season that the Bears have had. He’ll be less than 100 percent if he goes here. For Baylor to cover more than two touchdowns with a total in the low 50s, they’ll likely need Bohanon to give it a go.
Texas Tech was shut out for the first time since 1997 last week. The Red Raiders had to be embarrassed with that performance and it had to be something that really irked interim head coach Sonny Cumbie, an offensive guy by trade. Cumbie may be retained in some fashion by new head coach Joey McGuire, who is one of the key factors in this handicap.
While McGuire has been more focused on recruiting and 2022, he’s sure to have a lot of input in this week’s game-plan. He was the associate head coach and outside linebackers coach at Baylor up until this month, when he interviewed for and received the Texas Tech job. He is widely-regarded as a top recruiter in the state of Texas and likely recruited a lot of these Baylor players to Waco.
McGuire knows this roster well. He knows the pressure points. He should be able to help Cumbie and the staff concoct a strong plan of attack and the team should come with a big effort after getting blanked.
Pick: Texas Tech + 14.5
No. 22 UTSA Roadrunners (-10.5, 60) at North Texas Mean Green
2 p.m. ET
Murray: One of the best stories of the college football season has been the rise of the UTSA Roadrunners. UTSA enters the final week of the regular season with an unblemished 11-0 record. Last weekend, the Roadrunners drove 77 yards in 1:03 with no timeouts to defeat UAB, 34-31, and earn a spot in the Conference USA Championship game for the first time in school history. QB Frank Harris threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Oscar Cardenas with just three seconds to play at the Alamodome to give UTSA the victory. The Roadrunners will host the winner of the Marshall vs. Western Kentucky game on Friday, Dec. 3 in the C-USA Championship game.
It was an incredible win to lock up the C-USA West Division last weekend in front of a season-high 35,147 fans at the Alamodome, along with the opportunity to host the C-USA Championship next Friday night. However, the regular season is not over yet. The Roadrunners have to travel to Denton, TX and play North Texas. The Mean Green’s season did not get off to a great start. North Texas started the season 1-6 and Seth Littrell, once a rising head coaching candidate, seemed to be on borrowed time on the Mean Green sidelines. North Texas responded with four consecutive wins (4-0 ATS) and now has an opportunity to reach bowl eligibility with a win on Saturday at home. “I know they have a lot to be playing for being undefeated and looking to go play in the conference championship,” Littrell told the media earlier this week. “We have a lot on the line too because one more win gets us bowl eligible and gives us an opportunity to win a bowl game. That’ll only make it more special.”
Through 11 games, UTSA is an impressive 8-3 ATS on the season. However, the Roadrunners have not covered their last two games. North Texas enters the game with the fourth-best rushing attack in the country averaging 236.6 yards per game. The Roadrunners run defense has been stout this season allowing just 101.7 yards per game, 10th-best in the country. Last Saturday, UAB rushed for 220 yards (5.6 yards per carry) in UTSA’s 34-31 win over the Blazers.
With the notoriety of its unblemished record and national ranking, the Roadrunners stock in the betting market has gotten a bit elevated. In a rivalry game at home, with an opportunity to reach bowl eligibility for Mean Green, I will take the points with the home team on Saturday.
Pick: North Texas + 10.5
Tulsa Golden Hurricane at SMU Mustangs (-6.5, 62)
4 p.m. ET
Burke: Tulsa needs to win this game to have a crack at bowl eligibility. It would be a major accomplishment for Philip Montgomery’s team after opening the season with a loss to UC Davis, followed by Oklahoma State and Ohio State. This is actually one of the better 5-6 teams in the country, as Tulsa ranks in the top 50 in offensive yards per play and just barely outside the top 60 in defensive yards per play allowed.
SMU’s season has really hit the skids. After starting 7-0, the Mustangs lost on a walk-off kick return touchdown against Houston and have now lost three of the last four games. Reports are that TCU is keyed in on SMU head coach Sonny Dykes to be the next sideline boss in Fort Worth. SMU and TCU is a big-time rivalry and the idea of Dykes going to the Horned Frogs can’t sit well with anybody involved.
The SMU offense has really bottomed out of late and has managed just 5.95 yards per play in conference action. The AAC is not exactly known for defense, but the Mustangs have not been firing on all cylinders for a while now.
Tulsa is a team on a mission. SMU is just waiting to find out which bowl game is in the future. The Golden Hurricane are getting a few too many points in this game. I think it should be closer to 3.5 or maybe even 3 with the way the teams are trending and what is at stake. Sprinkle the moneyline here, too. Tulsa could very well win outright.
Pick: Tulsa + 6.5; Tulsa ML sprinkle
UL Monroe Warhawks at Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (-21.5, 54.5)
4 p.m. ET
Burke: The Battle on the Bayou takes place on Saturday between Louisiana-Monroe and the team formerly known as Louisiana-Lafayette. Last year’s game ended 70-20 in favor of the Ragin’ Cajuns after the previous two games were nailbiters at 31-30 and 31-28, both in favor of the Cajuns.
Louisiana has the Sun Belt Championship Game on deck against Appalachian State. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 0-2 against the Mountaineers in SBC title games and were not able to play for the title last year because of COVID-19 cases with Coastal Carolina. This unlucky team has won the West Division all three years with a title game and has zero conference championships to show for it.
While this is a rivalry game, Louisiana is liable to be looking ahead to App State. Along with that distraction, head coach Billy Napier is being courted by Florida, among other programs, so he may be moving on at the end of the season.
The Warhawks have been extremely well-coached by Terry Bowden and are one of the most improved teams in the nation. Their results from this season include big upset wins over Troy (+ 23.5) and Liberty (+ 32.5) and they were very competitive last week against LSU.
Louisiana has the talent to win this game in a big way, but the Ragin’ Cajuns have not shown much of a killer instinct throughout the season. I think the Warhawks can hang around here and make this one interesting.
Pick: UL Monroe + 21.5
No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners at No. 7 Oklahoma State Cowboys (-4, 49.5)
7:30 p.m. ET
Seidenberg: We know that OSU is the better team this year. They have an elite defense and are ranked higher than the Sooners. But that doesn’t always bode well for the Pokes.
Oklahoma is 8-2 SU in Bedlam when Oklahoma State is the higher-ranked team, including last year’s 41-13 blowout. Traditionally, this matchup is owned by the Sooners. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, goes into this game knowing that they are already in next week's Big 12 title game. While it would be great to eliminate your rival, you don’t want to expend all your energy and showcase all you got against a team you could very well play again next week.
Oklahoma is in do or die mode. They will leave it all on the field. The Cowboys defense this year is no joke. Offensively though, they don’t do enough to pull away from the Sooners in this game. Oklahoma has been inconsistent, but this team still has the firepower to hang points on anyone. Being down by a score or two won’t necessarily mean they are out of this one. Defensively, they can make plays and cause turnovers.
The game in my opinion will fall on the shoulders of OSU QB Spencer Sanders. If he controls the game and doesn’t turn the ball over, the Cowboys win. If he tries to force the issue, or holds on to the ball too long, Oklahoma will cause havoc. I expect Mike Gundy to try and open up the playbook a bit, as last year he received criticism for being too cautious against OU. If this leads to turnovers, watch out.
This game will be tight, and it will come down to the final possession. While I could take the points with Oklahoma and simply root for a FG game, I think Oklahoma has what it takes to win this game and force a rematch next week in the Big 12 title game, where they will be the ones favored. I’ll chase the plus money with the Oklahoma moneyline.
Pick: Oklahoma ML + 160
No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-19.5, 52.5) at Stanford Cardinal
8 p.m. ET
Burke: The Notre Dame College Football Playoff hopes are still alive. Even though the Irish lost to Cincinnati, the only top-notch opponent that they’ve played this season, a path is still there to backdoor into the final four. Head coach Brian Kelly seemed to understand the need for style points in last week’s 55-0 blowout of Georgia Tech.
Speaking of blowouts, Stanford gave up 41 points and 636 yards in a 30-point loss to Cal last week. The Cardinal have now lost by 45, 21 and 30 over the last three games. This looks like a team that has quit on the season. They’ve lost six in a row and will miss a bowl game in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2007-08.
Cal’s 30-point win was not only the second for the Golden Bears in the last 12 years against Stanford, but the biggest margin of victory since 2004, when the boys from Berkeley were ranked No. 4 in the country. This was not that great of a Cal team and one coming off of a major COVID outbreak.
Stanford has allowed 6.42 yards per play, which ranks 113th in the nation. Notre Dame should be able to feast on offense and the Fighting Irish defense has allowed 3.71 YPP in three November games.
Pick: Notre Dame -19.5
California Golden Bears at UCLA Bruins (-7, 58)
10:30 p.m. ET
Reynolds: Both teams come off destroying their respective archrivals - Cal 41-11 at Stanford and UCLA 62-33 at USC. Cal actually has two games left due to its game on 11/13 vs. USC being postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the Golden Bears program. Cal lost the week prior at a then winless Arizona, due in large part to playing without over two dozen players and coaches. The Golden Bears were the only program in FBS this season to have a game postponed due to COVID issues within its own program, but now they are healthy and needing to sweep Los Angeles for bowl eligibility.
UCLA might be a little fat and happy off the romp over USC. This is actually the third straight game for the series in Pasadena. Last year, Cal had to go on the road to the Rose Bowl with only three days notice and lost 34-10.
The Bruins are 3-10 ATS in their last 13 as a home favorite while Cal has covered 13 of its last 14 as a road underdog.
Pick: California + 7