NCAA Football Predictions: Week 14 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 11/24/2014
Rocked on my Week 13 picks in this space , getting Maryland over Michigan, Boston College covering (and nearly upsetting) Florida State, Louisville going into fading Notre Dame and beating the Irish, and Iowa covering at home (and nearly winning) vs. Wisconsin. The only miss was Duke against North Carolina as the Blue Devils imploded and cost themselves a return trip to the ACC Championship Game. Georgia Tech will now face FSU in Charlotte in two weeks. That's the only Power 5 title game matchup that we know for sure. Oregon's opponent in the Pac-12 title game will be decided this week. Ohio State will take on either Wisconsin or Minnesota in the Big Ten title game, both SEC divisions are still up for grabs and there's no Big 12 Championship Game -- which could turn out to cost Baylor and/or TCU a spot in the national semifinals.
No. 5 TCU at Texas (+6.5): The Longhorns can end the Baylor/TCU argument for the College Football Playoff with a win here, and I think that's very possible on Thanksgiving Night. It took a while, but it seems like Charlie Strong has this team on the right path. After not managing to win back-to-back games in the first eight, Texas enters this on a three-game winning streak, including impressive victories over West Virginia and last time out at Oklahoma State (although the Pokes have fallen apart). Texas considers TCU a little brother and would love nothing more than to knock the Frogs out playoff contention. The pick: Texas, although I'm hoping this spread climbs to at least seven.
Arkansas at No. 20 Missouri (TBA): Wondering why no line for this Friday game? Razorbacks starting quarterback Brandon Allen left the Hogs' upset of Ole Miss on Saturday with a hip injury and is questionable for the Tigers. Arkansas is going to be good next season as Bret Bielema has this program on the rise. The Hogs should have beaten Texas A&M and Alabama earlier this season and come in off blowout shutouts of LSU and Mississippi to get bowl eligible. The back-to-back shutouts in conference play were the first for Arkansas since 1965 when the school was a member of the Southwest Conference. Missouri returns to the SEC Championship Game with a win. A loss and Georgia goes. The pick: If Allen plays, I think Hogs win outright. Missouri's not that good. Just ask Indiana.
Stanford at No. 9 UCLA (-4.5): If I'm Oregon, I am a huge Stanford fan this week because I don't want to play the Bruins in the conference championship game. UCLA really has it going right now and thumped a good Southern Cal team 38-20 last week. Brett Hundley is playing his best ball and had four touchdowns against the Trojans. UCLA will play at Levi's Stadium next week against Oregon with a win. If the Cardinal pull the upset, the winner of Friday's Arizona State at Arizona matchup claims the Pac-12 South. The pick: Bruins. I'm shocked UCLA isn't at least a touchdown favorite. This year's Stanford team isn't close to the past few versions.
Michigan at No. 6 Ohio State (-20): This line seems way too big. I realize how lousy the Wolverines are, but this is UM's bowl game. At 5-6, Michigan has to win to earn a postseason spot. Obviously it could also be the final game for Coach Brady Hoke, and I'm thinking his guys are going to play incredibly hard for him. I'm not saying UM will win as it hasn't in Columbus since 2000, but I think this is close. The pick: Michigan.
Florida at No. 3 Florida State (-7.5): Speaking of guys playing hard for their coach, expect that here from the Gators as they bid goodbye to Will Muschamp. I fully expect the Gators to throw everything they have at FSU, so look for plenty of trick plays and going for it on fourth down, etc. It should be noted that in Ron Zook's final game in 2004 his unranked Gators upset FSU 20-13 in Tallahassee. The pick: If this were 10 I'd go UF, but at this number still FSU.
No. 14 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama (-9.5): What more can you say about the Iron Bowl? Last year's game had a decent finish. Think Nick Saban might be showing his guys that tape occasionally this week? The Tide win the SEC West with a victory and will be solid favorites against Georgia or Missouri in the conference championship game. An Auburn upset opens the door for Mississippi State to win the West with a victory in the Egg Bowl against fading Ole Miss. Should MSU lose, Alabama wins the division no matter what happens vs. Auburn. The pick: Take the points.
No. 7 Baylor vs. Texas Tech (+24.5): I'm eager to see the total on this game, which will be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Baylor is No. 1 nationally in scoring and needs to do everything it can to impress the playoff committee. So that could mean we see 80 here against Texas Tech, which is absolutely atrocious on defense, allowing 40.6 points per game. TCU put up 82 on the Red Raiders on Oct. 25. The pick: TTU. Yes, I like the points here. Something like 60-40. Baylor might get caught looking ahead a bit to next week's big game with Kansas State for the Big 12 title. This is Texas Tech's season finale, so it will pull out all the stops.
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