In some ways, this week's games are more important, if that's the word I'm looking for, than those conference championship games next weekend to close the regular season.
Why do I think that? One major reason is that two teams likely battling head-to-head for a College Football Playoff spot, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 6 Notre Dame, conclude their regular seasons. So they can't help themselves after Saturday. I find it ridiculous that OU might beat out Notre Dame for a playoff spot. The Irish's lone loss if they win at No. 9 Stanford on Saturday, which I'm doubting, would be at No. 1 Clemson in the final seconds. Oklahoma is scorching hot right now, but its lone loss was against unranked Texas, a team the Irish destroyed in Week 1. Do common opponents not matter to the CFP committee?
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Another reason: In the SEC, I believe No. 2 Alabama has more of a chance to lose this week at arch-rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl, even with the Tigers having a disappointing season, than the Tide do next week in the SEC title game against No. 12 Florida. The Big Ten East Division winner will be decided Saturday, and I say that champion, which should be No. 5 Michigan State, would handle No. 4 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game. Pac-12 North champion Stanford has a much tougher test Saturday vs. the Irish than it should in the Pac-12 title game vs. the UCLA-USC winner.
The futures of some coaches are also on the line this week. Indiana gets bowl eligible with a win at Purdue, and that might save Kevin Wilson's job. Illinois interim coach Bill Cubit will have his fate decided on Sunday, and if the Illini upset Northwestern at Soldier Field on Saturday they will be bowl eligible. That should be enough for Cubit. Fellow Big Ten teams Nebraska and Minnesota also need wins for bowl eligibility, but their coaches are safe. There are no Big 12 bubble teams after Texas lost to Texas Tech on Thursday. Charlie Strong's seat is now hotter.
In the ACC, Virginia Tech needs a win at Virginia to keep the nation's longest bowl streak active or it's retiring coach Frank Beamer's final game. I don't think a Wahoos upset saves Mike London's job. In the Pac-12, Washington needs to beat Washington State in the Apple Cup for a bowl spot, but UW coach Chris Petersen is signed through 2020 due to a new extension, and he's in no danger of losing his job (Huskies might be quite good next year). In the SEC, Kentucky and Missouri both need wins to reach a bowl game; the Mizzou job already will be open with Gary Pinkel retiring. While LSU is comfortably bowl eligible, we apparently will learn the fate of coach Les Miles following Saturday's game vs. Texas A&M.
Here are some news, notes and any line moves for some of Saturday's games around the country, in no particular order.
No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 11 Oklahoma State (+7): I touched on this Monday i n my Opening Line Report so won't go deep into detail, but the spread was just 4 then. But now it's clear that OU's Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, Baker Mayfield, will be fine to play. That wasn't 100 percent on Monday. I'm also curious to see if the current total of 68 drops -- it has a point already. That's because it could be a very wintry night in Stillwater. The forecast for kickoff is a mixture of rain and freezing rain, with temperatures around 30 degrees.
Kansas State at Kansas (+20): Why on earth am I looking at this meaningless game? The fate of KSU coach Bill Snyder could be determined here even though Kansas State (4-6, 1-6) finishes next weekend against West Virginia. Nothing concrete has come out yet on whether the 76-year-old will return for 2016, although reportedly he wants to. Might be time for KSU to move on with the Cats ahead of only Kansas in the Big 12. And it really might be time to force Snyder out if KSU loses this game and for sure fails to qualify for a bowl. The Jayhawks' biggest fans on Saturday outside of their own are likely in Orlando. That's because Central Florida lost to South Florida on Thursday to finish 0-12, only the 17th FBS team this century to go winless and first since 2013. Kansas (0-11) is the only team in 2015 that could join the Knights. The last Power 5 school to go winless was Washington in 2008. Instead of this game being called a "Sunflower Showdown," it's being referred to locally as the "Sunflower Letdown." The rivalry probably hasn't been at this low of a point since the late 1980s. The Jayhawks are in danger of going winless for the first time since 1954, and the Wildcats might miss a bowl for the first time since 2009. KSU has won six straight in the series.
No. 18 Ole Miss at No. 21 Mississippi State (+1): This Egg Bowl matchup was a pick'em for a while. It still has potentially big ramifications for the Rebels as they would win the SEC West with a victory and an Alabama upset loss at Auburn. It's the final home game for probably the greatest player in Mississippi State history in senior quarterback Dak Prescott, who isn't considered much of an NFL prospect at that position. Prescott is the reigning SEC Player of the Week as he had 554 total yards of offense and seven touchdowns (five passing, two rushing) in last week's shootout win over Arkansas. He was the FBS player since 2013 to tally 550 yards of total offense and seven scores in a single game and joined 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel as the only other SEC players ever with 550 yards of total offense in a game. Prescott is the fourth player in FBS history and the second in the SEC (2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow) to throw for 60 touchdowns and rush for 40 touchdowns in a career. He ranks fourth in SEC history with 107 touchdowns responsible for and is fifth all-time with 11,153 yards of total offense. Prescott was 22-for-37 for 282 yards and a TD while rushing for 48 yards and a score in last year's 31-17 Egg Bowl win at Ole Miss.
No. 13 Florida State at No. 12 Florida (+2.5): Easily the biggest line move on the board as the Gators opened as 3-point favorites. There are no big-time injures that would shift the line so much, and while FSU is taking a majority lean it's not crazy high. Well, UF is a bit banged up on the defensive line as Jon Bullard, Alex McCalister and Tavern Bryan are all doubtful. Bullard's 13.5 tackles for loss are tops on the team and fourth in the SEC. McCalister leads the Gators in sacks with 6.5, one more than Bullard's 5.5. I simply think people have watched Florida play the past couple of games when the Gators probably should have lost to Vanderbilt, weren't impressive in beating a bad South Carolina team, and then could have lost last week at home against Florida Atlantic, winning in overtime. Perhaps it was just a three-week hangover after beating Georgia, or maybe that UF offense isn't very good. Florida's defense contributed 22.5 points to its net scoring margin against FAU, while its offense cost it more than 15 points. Over its past four games, Florida's defense is contributing about 25 more points per game to its scoring margin than its offense. The SEC's worst nightmare is for UF to lose this game and then upset Alabama in the SEC title game. If that happens, the conference is out of the playoff. FSU has no playoff chances but an outside shot at a New Year's Six bowl game if it wins impressively in Gainesville. There have been no upsets in this rivalry over the past 10 seasons, as the higher-ranked team has won each of those games. I say that ends.
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