NCAA Football Predictions: Week 12 Opening Line Report and Picks
As good of a Saturday as he had in college football in Week 11 … well, this coming one rather blows. That's because it's Cupcake Saturday for a handful of teams before they play a season-ending rivalry game in Week 13.
I completely blame the SEC for this, and there's just no reason why schools from that conference should be playing such weaklings this time of year. For example, Alabama is hosting Mercer. I mean, come on! If you can tell me five things about the school Mercer, not even the athletic program, you win a prize (OK, just my respect). I know that it's in Macon, Ga., and that Nancy Grace went there. The Bears, a middling Southern League team, played at Auburn early in the season and actually acquitted themselves well in 24-10 loss. It was Mercer's first game against a nationally-ranked FBS or an SEC team since returning to football in 2013.
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Auburn should be ashamed, too, because it hosts Louisiana Monroe, although at least the Warhawks are in a conference you have heard of: the Sun Belt. The Tide and Tigers annually use this week as a glorified scrimmage to stay healthy for the Iron Bowl. I'd take the points in both games as Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn will want to play their starters as little as possible and likely rest anyone with even a minor injury.
Other cupcake games: Oklahoma at Kansas (oops, sorry KU), Delaware State at Florida State (Noles preparing for Florida next week), The Citadel at Clemson (Tigers have South Carolina in Week 13; the Gamecocks host Wofford on Saturday) and UAB at Florida (Gators focused on FSU and finding their next coach).
Here are a few opening Week 12 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.
Utah at No. 9 Washington (-17.5): The Pac-12 is out of the College Football Playoff following Washington's 30-22 loss at Stanford this past Friday - the Huskies dropped to 16 th in the new AP poll. That conference is the first to be guaranteed to have at least a two-loss champion. As things stand now, Washington State will play USC in the Pac-12 title game should the Cougars win the Apple Cup vs. UW next week; Wazzu is on a bye. Stanford wins the division with a win against Cal and a WSU loss, while Washington needs to beat WSU and have Stanford fall to Cal. At 5-5, Utah must win this game or next week vs. Colorado to get bowl eligible. Washington visited Salt Lake City last year and escaped with a 31-24 victory. Dante Pettis returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown with 3:25 left for the winning score - he has since broken the NCAA record with nine career punt return TDs. It was the first punt return allowed by Utah, always one of the nation's best on special teams, since 2009. The Pick: Utah.
Michigan at No. 8 Wisconsin (-8.5): This is the Badgers' last chance to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee before the Big Ten title game because UW won't be getting any style points when it closes the regular season at Minnesota. Wisconsin comes off a 38-14 win over Iowa to clinch the sorry Big Ten West Division. The Badgers held the Hawkeyes to just 66 total yards, the fewest ever allowed by Wisconsin in a Big Ten game. Michigan won at Maryland 35-10 on Saturday. This figures to look a lot like last year's game in Ann Arbor, a 14-7 Wolverines victory. The Badgers had just 159 yards and eight first downs while turning it over three times. At the time, it was Michigan's first win over a Top-10 team since 2008. The Pick: Michigan.
SMU at No. 22 Memphis (-11): This game should be one of the most entertaining of the weekend because it's two brilliant young offensive head coaches in SMU's Chad Morris and Memphis' Mike Norvell. Neither might be in their current job next year. You hear talk of Morris to Texas A&M and Norvell to Florida or Tennessee. The Mustangs, who average 39.4 points per game (but allow 32.2), lost 43-40 at Navy on Saturday. They did rally from a 34-11 deficit to tie late in the fourth quarter. Moral victory I suppose. The Tigers, who average 39.6 points per game (allow 31.2), lead the AAC West Division and are off a 41-14 blowout win at Tulsa. Memphis won at SMU 51-7 last year, but these Mustangs are better. Riley Ferguson threw for four scores for the Tigers, all before halftime when it was 38-7. The Pick: Memphis.
Navy at No. 3 Notre Dame (-18.5): The Irish not playing in a conference and thus lacking a conference title game to point toward could bite them here. Notre Dame's playoff hopes vanished in a 41-8 loss at Miami. Irish running back Josh Adams might have blown his shot at a trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony as he was held to 40 yards on 16 carries. QB Brandon Wimbush looked overwhelmed at times and was pulled for a while. Notre Dame turned it over four times, which led to 24 Miami points. Navy snapped a three-game losing streak with a 43-40 home win over SMU. Starting QB Zach Abey sat out with a shoulder injury (although he was active so it might have been a coaching decision) and replacement Malcolm Perry ran for 282 yards and four scores. He had been playing running back. The Middies beat the Irish 28-27 last year in Jacksonville. It was only Navy's fourth victory in the series since 1963 and ended Notre Dame's five-game winning streak in it. Next year, these two go neutral site again, heading to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. The Pick: Navy.
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