NCAA Football Predictions: Week 13 Opening Line Report and Picks
It hasn't happened as of this writing, but I presume that either BetOnline , Bovada or BookMaker (maybe more than one) will post a prop on whom the next UCLA coach will be in the wake of the school firing Jim Mora Jr. on Sunday after losing Saturday to USC. I assure you that Athletic Director Dan Guerrero got "permission" to do so from some of the school's biggest boosters because UCLA has to pay Mora around $12 million to go away.
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The 28-23 loss to the Trojans dropped UCLA to 5-6, meaning it must beat visiting Cal - Bruins are -6 - on Friday to get bowl eligible. It's not even clear if UCLA would accept a bowl berth without a head coach. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season, but he's not likely to be getting the full-time job. Mora had a 46-30 record with the Bruins, but after going 29-11 in his first three seasons UCLA is just 17-19.
The betting favorite for the opening is going to be former Oregon coach Chip Kelly, and he would seem a logical fit considering his Pac-12 background. UCLA might have to outbid Tennessee and/or Florida to land Kelly, though. Kelly has met with Florida officials and is expected to Monday with UCLA. Two guys who will be involved in the search, other than Guerrero obviously, are Bruin alumnus and mega-booster Casey Wasserman (who probably is chipping in a large chunk of that buyout money) and former UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman. If for some reason it's not Kelly, some names being bandied about are Lane Kiffin (that would be fun!), Syracuse's Dino Babers, Boise State's Bryan Harsin and Kevin Sumlin, presuming Texas A&M either fires him or simply lets him walk.
It feels like just yesterday that Stanford opened the 2017 college football season with a 62-7 blowout of Rice in Sydney, Australia, yet here we are in the final week of the regular season. It will be my penultimate Opening Line Report story as we will preview conference championship weekend (there are a few other games as well) in Week 14. A ton of big games this weekend with a heavy slate of Black Friday action, so I will save the marquee Saturday ones for my Friday update story.
Here are a few opening Week 13 lines that caught my eye. Rankings from the most recent College Football Playoff Top 25, so some will change on Tuesday.
Ole Miss at No. 16 Mississippi State (-15): The Egg Bowl is the only NCAA game on Thanksgiving, with a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff on ESPN. Frankly, it might be more interesting than the Turkey Day NFL nightcap featuring the Giants and Redskins. I'd be willing to bet this is the final Egg Bowl for both head coaches. I am 99.5 percent sure it will be for Ole Miss' Matt Luke, who was thrust into an interim role in the wake of the Hugh Freeze scandal. Luke has done a good job, but he's not ready to lead a program in the SEC full-time. Perhaps a Group of 5 school will hire him for its top job. This is the final game of the year for Ole Miss no matter what as it self-imposed postseason ban. Meanwhile, it's hard to see MSU's Dan Mullen returning to Starkville. He has done an amazing job there but probably has hit his ceiling. He is rumored as a top candidate for both the Florida and Tennessee jobs. I still think he goes to UF, although MSU could be really good next year with 18 projected starters back, led by QB Nick Fitzgerald. The Bulldogs trashed the Rebels 55-20 in Oxford last year. Fitzgerald ran for a school-record 258 yards and two touchdowns and threw for three scores. MSU is 5-3 in this series under Mullen. The Pick: MSU (I'd perhaps wait to see if it gets down to 13.5 or buy it down to that).
No. 3 Miami at Pittsburgh (+14): Noon kickoff Friday on ABC. OK, this should terrify Hurricanes fans. For one, the UM players could be partially excused for looking ahead to the program's first-ever trip next week to the ACC title game (they might have been doing that Saturday in a sloppy come-from-behind victory over Virginia). A win there, and Miami's in the College Football Playoff. Second, this is UM's first road game since Oct. 28 and it played terribly in that one, a close call at a bad North Carolina team. Third, it won't be very warm in Pittsburgh on Friday (although not as cold as I'm sure the Panthers would prefer) and the vast majority of Miami players are from Florida. And fourth, Pitt isn't going to a bowl game, so the Panthers can throw the entire playbook at the Hurricanes. Expect plenty of gadget plays. Last year, Pitt lost 51-28 at Miami but both starting QBs from that one, Nathan Peterman and Brad Kaaya, are now in the NFL. The Pick: Pittsburgh (wait or buy that number up to 14.5).
South Florida at No. 15 Central Florida (-11): Friday 3:30 p.m. ET game on ABC. The American Athletic Conference East Division title is on the line as well as perhaps the Group of 5's spot in a New Year's Six bowl - although Memphis will be a very tough opponent in the AAC title game. This is easily the biggest game in the "War on I-4" rivalry as these campuses are separated by about 60 miles on that highway. UCF is one of four remaining unbeaten FBS teams (Alabama, Miami, Wisconsin). There was a report over the weekend that Knights coach Scott Frost was close to agreeing on a seven-year, $35 million deal to become the head coach at Nebraska, his alma mater. Frost called the rumors "totally false." It would be a huge upset if Frost isn't at Nebraska, Florida or Tennessee in 2018, however. Last year, USF beat UCF 48-31. The Bulls trailed 7-0 early but then scored 24 in a row and didn't look back.The Pick: USF.
Iowa at Nebraska (+3): Friday 4 p.m. ET kickoff on Fox Sports 1. I'm guessing this will be it for Mike Riley as Nebraska's coach. The Huskers (4-7) are not going to a bowl game - they have missed a bowl game just twice since 1961 -- and will look to avoid a fourth straight home loss for the first time since 1968 and '69. The school has a new athletic director, Bill Moos formerly of Washington State. He was recently asked about Riley's future and only said Riley was safe for the rest of the season. One amazing streak could end here because Nebraska fans are so angry with the state of the program: NU has sold out Memorial Stadium for an NCAA-record 360 consecutive games. It wouldn't shock me if there are many empty seats for this one, although I suppose technically it could be called a sellout if all the tickets were sold. Nebraska lost at Iowa 40-10 last year. The Pick: Nebraska.
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