NCAA Football Predictions: Week 14 Opening Line Report and Picks
Going to change up in this week's Opening Line Report and preview some of Friday's top games because it's always one of my favorite college football days of the year. Most everyone is off from work (except us sportswriters), there are plenty of leftovers from Thanksgiving and the women in our lives won't bother us at all as they go stand in line at 4 a.m. for some 50 percent off crockpot at Target on Black Friday.
First off, there's Toledo at Central Michigan with a noon ET start Friday. No opening line here because Toledo's top two quarterbacks are both in question. The Chippewas haven't played in the MAC Championship Game since 2009 but would win the West Division with a victory here and a Western Michigan loss at Northern Illinois on Tuesday, which is very possible. The Broncos have lost five straight and eight of their past nine at NIU but are seven-point favorites . If they win, they claim the MAC West thanks to a head-to-head victory over rival Central. Thus, I wouldn't bet on this game until you see what WMU does. CMU is already bowl-eligible, so it might not care much if it can't play in the conference title game. But if Western loses, I'd go big on the Chips.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech visits Virginia also at noon ET with the Hokies at -2. Virginia was the media's preseason pick to win the ACC Coastal Division and reaches the conference title game for the first time with a victory here. Virginia Tech would also punch a ticket to Charlotte to face Clemson with a victory. The Hokies haven't been in the conference title game since 2016. Tech in on fire right now, winning its past three conference games by an average score of 36-6 and hasn't lost in this series since 2003. I do like Tech here.
Last but not least Friday, No. 19 Cincinnati is at No. 18 Memphis at 3:30 p.m. ET with the Tigers as 11-point favorites. Not sure how you can fix this schedule-wise, but these schools will turn around and play again next week in the AAC title game if the Tigers win Friday. (Actually, I do know how to fix it: Make sure the regular-season finale is an in-division matchup.) Cincinnati is in regardless for the first time in school history, so how much effort will the Bearcats really put into this? Don't be surprised if UC's Luke Fickell and Memphis' Mike Norvell are both head coaches at Power 5 schools next year. Norvell has been linked with both Florida State (good move) and Arkansas (not good). I'm leaning Memphis here.
Here are a few other Week 14 opening lines among Saturday's games that caught my eye with rankings from the most recent CFP Top 25 and some certainly to change on Tuesday. Picks are ATS.
No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 21 Oklahoma State (+12): Might this be the last regular-season game at Oklahoma, which is in the Big 12 title game regardless (vs. Baylor), for Coach Lincoln Riley? Half the NFL general managers are lusting after that guy, and I'd say it's about a 65 percent chance he's the coach of the Dallas Cowboys next season - unless Dallas somehow reaches the Super Bowl and then Jerry Jones keeps Jason Garrett (not happening). How much would Oklahoma State love to pull the upset of its bitter rival to end Oklahoma's chances of reaching the College Football Playoff? The Pokes have won just four of the past 20 in the series and not since 2014 in Norman. They probably should have won last year but fell 48-47 in thriller. The Pokes have lost both starting QB Spencer Sanders and superstar receiver Tylan Wallace for the season or this line wouldn't be as big. Pick: OSU.
No. 3 Clemson at South Carolina (+25): Here's another in-state rivalry where the "little brother" can end big brother's shot at the College Football Playoff ahead of it playing in a conference title game. I give the Gamecocks about zero chance of that, though. Clemson looks completely focused again and enters having scored at least 50 points in four straight blowouts. It's the first time in school history the Tigers have scored at least 50 in four in a row and their six straight games scoring at least 45 is tied for the longest in ACC history. Oh, and Clemson comes off a bye. So does USC, but the Cocks aren't very good at 4-7. Maybe if they had to win this to keep embattled coach Will Muschamp there might be a small chance, but school officials have said he's safe (not sure why). Clemson has won the past five in the series. Pick: USC.
No. 2 Ohio State at No. 13 Michigan (+9): It has been well-established that Jim Harbaugh has yet to beat Ohio State. His best shot looked like last year when the Wolverines were very rare favorites in Columbus but were housed 62-39. That was OSU's seventh straight win in the series, with the last loss in 2011 in Ann Arbor. The Buckeyes are in the Big Ten title game but obviously can't afford to trip up in terms of the College Football Playoff. Michigan is just playing for pride and perhaps a New Year's Six bowl, which is a lock if the Wolverines pull the upset. Would Harbaugh be more likely to leave for an NFL job if he finally beats the Buckeyes? Pick: Michigan.
No. 12 Wisconsin at No. 10 Minnesota (+2.5): Biggest home game at Minnesota in my lifetime as the winner faces Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Gophers have never come close to playing in that, while the Badgers have five times, more than any school. Not sure anyone wants to see a Wisconsin-Ohio State rematch in that game after the Buckeyes routed the Badgers 38-7 in Columbus on Oct. 26. Minnesota didn't play OSU. We somewhat saw the rise of the Gophers coming in the regular-season finale last year when they went to Madison and pulled the 37-15 upset to snap a 14-game losing streak in the series and recapture Paul Bunyan's Axe. Pick: Minnesota.
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