NCAA Football Predictions: Week 11 Opening Line Report and Picks
I know some handicappers who think letdown games are overrated. I respectfully disagree and believe that the Big Ten is going to miss the College Football Playoff for the first time because of such a game (sorry, I'm not buying hugely overrated Wisconsin in the West Division).
You almost had to expect Ohio State and Penn State to come out flat this past Saturday after they played an emotionally and physically draining epic in Week 9. The Buckeyes won that game and were ranked No. 6 in the first College Football Playoff Top 25 with the Nittany Lions one spot behind. It was thought that if both won out, both had a great shot at making the national semifinals.
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Now neither likely will.
I'm not shocked that Ohio State lost at Iowa, but a score of 55-24 was a stunner - I recommend a Google search on "Cedar Rapids newspaper Ohio State headline." It was classic. Iowa went up 7-0 on the game's first play thanks to pick-six of J.T. Barrett and never looked back. "I didn't see any signs. Usually I see signs and if I do I address them," OSU coach Urban Meyer said when asked if his team suffered a letdown. It was the most points ever allowed by the Nuts under Meyer and Barrett saw his Heisman hopes vanish with a career-high four picks.
At least OSU still controls its destiny to win the Big Ten East Division. Penn State has almost not shot of that following a 27-24 defeat at Michigan State on a field goal as time expired. That was a weird game with a weather delay of more than three hours. Heisman favorite Saquon Barkley had as many yards rushing in the first half as I did (zero) and finished with only 63. His streak of 15 straight games with a touchdown was snapped.
Surprising Sparty also controls its destiny to win the East. However, it is an opening 15-point underdog at Ohio State this Saturday. Here are a few opening Week 11 lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted. Rankings from the most recent College Football Playoff Top 25, so some will change on Tuesday.
Toledo at Ohio (+5.5): Wednesday MACtion! I was right picking Toledo -9.5 last Thursday in a crucial Mid-American Conference West Division game against Northern Illinois as the Rockets won 27-17 to take sole possession of first place in the division. Senior QB Logan Woodside threw for 361 yards and moved past Bruce Gradkowski for the most career passing yardage at the school. Senior running back Terry Swanson carried the ball a career-best 29 times for 116 yards and three touchdowns, also a career high. He became the seventh Rocket to reach the 3,000-yard career milestone. Now the Rockets face MAC East co-leader Ohio in a potential conference title game. The Bobcats routed Miami of Ohio 45-28 last Tuesday. Sophomore QB Nathan Rourke had six touchdowns, three rushing and three passing, the second-most at Ohio in a single game. His 29 TDs responsible is second on the Ohio single-season chart.The Bobcats have now scored at least 40 points in six games this year, tying a school record. Akron is tied atop the East with Ohio and those two play next week, so theoretically the Bobcats could lose here and still make the MAC Championship Game if they win vs. the Zips. Toledo would have to lose twice to cough up the MAC West and that's not happening; the Rockets' only loss on the season was at Miami - Florida, not Ohio. Last year, Ohio won at Toledo 31-26, the Bobcats' first win there since 1967. The Pick: Toledo.
No. 12 Washington at No. 21 Stanford (+7): While the Thursday NCAA slate stinks yet again, we get a big game in the Pac-12 North on Friday night (Fox Sports 1).The Huskies are the only team in the North with one conference loss; Stanford and Washington State each have two. The Cardinal lost at the Cougars 24-21 on Saturday. Heisman contender Bryce Love returned after missing a game due to an ankle injury but didn't look right, rushing for a season-low 69 yards (52 on one play). Stanford was outgained 430-198. The Huskies avoided a potential trap game vs. Oregon with a 38-3 blowout. Dante Pettis became the NCAA's career leader in punt return touchdowns and had a 47-yard TD reception. Should UW lose this game, the Pac-12 is going to be shut out of the playoff. It might anyways. Washington blasted then-No. 7 Stanford 44-6 last season, the Cardinal's worst loss since 2007. Jake Browning threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns, and Myles Gaskin added 100 yards rushing and two scores in UW's most lopsided win against a Top-10 team since 1990. The Pick: Washington.
No. 1 Georgia at No. 14 Auburn (+2.5): This could be a preview of the SEC title game, but only if Auburn wins here and then beats Alabama. The Tigers are off an impressive 42-27 win at Texas A&M. Jarrett Stidham threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns, and Kerryon Johnson had 145 yards rushing and a score. Georgia remained one of five unbeatens nationally with a 24-10 home win over South Carolina to clinch the lousy SEC East Division. The Bulldogs will be making their first appearance in the SEC Championship Game since 2012. UGA has won its first nine games for the first time since 1982. Last season, Georgia was unranked when it upset No. 9 Auburn 13-7. The Tigers were held to 32 yards with no first downs in the second half, and 164 yards overall. UGA's only touchdown was on defense.The Pick: Auburn.
No. 8 TCU at No. 5 Oklahoma (-7): This could well be a preview of the Big 12 title game as the two schools are tied for first at 5-1 in the conference. Sooners QB Baker Mayfield is likely your Heisman favorite now in the wake of throwing for a school-record 598 yards and five scores in a 62-52 win over Oklahoma State - the basketball meetings between the rivals might not even be that high-scoring. Mayfield also ran for a score. Oklahoma gained 785 total yards, tied for the fourth-most in school history and the Sooners' second-best outing since 1988. TCU beat Texas 24-7. That Frogs defense held UT to 9 yards rushing. The Sooners beat the Frogs in a 52-46 shootout in 2016. Mayfield threw for two scores and ran for two. OU, which outscored TCU 42-3 over the second and third quarters, rushed for 260 yards and five scores. Kenny Hill threw for 449 yards and five TDs for TCU, but it rushed for only 65 yards on 29 carries. The Pick: Oklahoma.
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