NCAA Football Predictions: Week 11 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 11/3/2014
I think you can go ahead and put No. 2 Florida State in the four-team College Football Playoff now. The 2014 Seminoles are vastly more flawed than last year's dominant champions, but FSU passed its final major test last Thursday night, rallying from a 21-0 deficit to win 42-31 at Louisville. The Noles were saved right before halftime when Nick O'Leary recovered teammate Karlos Williams' fumble in the end zone to make it 21-7 and give FSU some momentum heading into the second half. If Louisville recovers that ball, I believe the Cardinals win. The Seminoles recorded 374 yards after halftime, more than Louisville had allowed in a full game.
FSU didn't have a second-half deficit at all last regular season but has now had four in 2014. The Noles trailed for 37:18 total last year (not counting BCS title game) and 116:27 this. Jameis Winston battled through a sprained ankle in that game, but he should be good to go this week in a potential trap game at home vs. Virginia. The Noles have just one road game left and that's at Miami (Fla.) on Nov. 15. The Hurricanes are improving and have looked great at home, but they aren't ready to upset FSU. Don't see Boston College or Florida winning in Tallahassee, and no Coastal team will beat Florida State in the ACC title game. Florida State is +700 on Sportsbook.ag to win the national title and -300 to win the ACC.
Here are some Week 11 games and opening lines from BetOnline that caught my eye. It might be the best weekend of the regular season. All rankings are from College Football Playoff committee, so they will change Tuesday evening.
No. 16 Ohio State at No. 8 Michigan State (-3.5): This was circled as the clear game of the year in the Big Ten back in the spring and not a thing has changed it. Both clubs have an early nonconference loss, so the loser here can kiss the College Football Playoff goodbye. The winner will be heavily favored the rest of the way and in the Big Ten title game against the West Division leader. You know OSU is eager for payback after the Spartans ended the Buckeyes' 24-game winning streak in last year's Big Ten Championship Game. The pick: You can get this at 3 at some books, and at that number (it might drop to 2.5) I would lean Sparty. At 3.5, however, I'd go OSU.
No. 10 Notre Dame at No. 14 Arizona State (-2): The Irish avoided a trap game on Saturday at Navy, but they can't afford to slip up here against the Sun Devils or their College Football Playoff hopes are gone. Notre Dame will play the rest of the season without starting middle linebacker Joe Schmidt because of a fractured and dislocated left ankle. Schmidt leads Notre Dame in tackles (65) and has two interceptions, three quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. True freshman Nyles Morgan replaced Schmidt late Saturday and will start moving forward. ASU isn't out of the playoff conversation, either. The Sun Devils were somewhat fortunate to win at Utah in Week 10 and control their destiny to reach the Pac-12 title game. Obviously, this result wouldn't affect that. The pick: ASU.
No. 9 Kansas State at No. 7 TCU (-5): The Frogs should have a clear path to the playoff if they can win this huge Big 12 game because there are no ranked teams left on TCU's schedule after this. TCU won a 31-30 thriller at West Virginia on Saturday thanks to Jaden Oberkrom's 37-yard field goal as time expired. Amazingly, that was TCU's first game outside the state of Texas this year. The Mountaineers committed five turnovers, all in their own territory. K-State routed Oklahoma State, but I don't think the Wildcats get to the playoff even with a win here. They still have to visit West Virginia and Baylor. The pick: TCU.
No. 6 Alabama at No. 19 LSU (+6.5): This is always one of the games of the year, and there's plenty on the line Saturday night in Baton Rouge as Alabama looks for its fourth straight win against LSU. I'll be curious to see the total here with LSU No. 4 in scoring defense and Alabama No. 2. Both clubs enter off a bye week. LSU would need a miracle to win the SEC West with two losses. The Tide control their own destiny in that regard, and this is their final road game. I can't remember the last time LSU was getting nearly a touchdown at home. Neither can I the last time it was a dog twice at home in one season (Ole Miss game). The pick: Alabama (get before 7).
No. 5 Oregon at No. 17 Utah (+9.5): This could be a huge trap game for Oregon as the Ducks come off finally beating nemesis Stanford in Week 10, 45-16. Since the start of the 2012 season, Oregon is 31-0 when scoring at least 30 points and 0-4 when not. That victory likely sewed up the Heisman for Marcus Mariota unless he plays lousy here and the Ducks are upset. Oddsmakers were pretty impressed with the win over Stanford as Oregon is now the +450 national title favorite. Utah is four points from being unbeaten. The pick: I'm hoping this climbs to 10 or higher and think it will. There I like Utah to cover.
Washington State at Oregon State (-7.5): This line seems like great value for the Beavers because Wazzu lost quarterback Connor Halliday, the nation's passing yardage and TD leader, in Saturday's 44-17 loss to Southern Cal. Halliday broke his ankle when USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams, possibly the top pick in the 2015 draft, fell on his legs. Halliday finishes his career with 11,304 passing yards, most in Washington State history and fourth-best ever in the Pac-12. Freshman Luke Falk will start for him. He had thrown two career passes before putting it up 57 times in place of Halliday against the Trojans. The Beavers should roll now even though they have lost three straight and were upset at home by Cal on Saturday. The pick: OSU.
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