NCAA Football Predictions: Week 10 Opening Line Report and Picks
The first Saturday of November is annually one of the best of the year in college football because you can always count on one huge matchup: Alabama-LSU. This year, it's as big as ever with the Tide ranked No. 1 and the Tigers No. 4. Alabama is -14.5 - it's the largest number against LSU in Baton Rouge since 1997. If Bama wins, it takes the SEC West.
Long story short: The SEC should be rooting for LSU if it wants two teams in the College Football Playoff again - speaking of which, the first CFP Top 25 will be revealed Tuesday night (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). We'll address that on Friday. The last one of the year, on college football's Selection Sunday, is Dec. 2. There are six new selection committee members this year, with the most recognizable name being former USC All-American and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott.
Again, conference commissioners would never say publicly they are rooting for one school - unless of course a conference school is playing for a National Championship or something against another conference. But, it just makes sense for Greg Sankey to be pulling for an LSU last-second victory on Saturday.
While a two-loss team is going to make the playoff eventually, it hasn't happened yet. And it won't be LSU if it loses Sunday because the Tigers already lost 27-19 at Florida on Oct. 6. Shoot, I'm not sure LSU even wins its regular-season finale at Texas A&M, but let's put that aside. Should the Tigers pull the upset here and win out, including over a highly-ranked Georgia in the SEC title game, obviously LSU is in. Pretty much any SEC champion will get in, even one with two losses.
I see no way the Tide are left out even with a loss here considering how bad they have crushed everyone else - and they will win out after Saturday. Bama hosts Mississippi State, The Citadel (come on!) and Auburn (mediocre at best). It should be noted, though, that Alabama's schedule was vastly overrated. How great would it be for the committee to emerge on Dec. 2 and say Alabama's strength of schedule kept it out? I'd kill to be in the room when Nick Saban heard that. Stop scheduling three cupcakes a year, Nick!
Since winning a total snore-fest 9-6 in overtime in Tuscaloosa in 2011, the Tigers have lost the past seven in the series (including one BCS title game). The past three have been by double digits but those scores are somewhat misleading as LSU was in all of them. Last year, it was 24-10, but the Tigers outgained the Tide 306-299. LSU also has perhaps its best quarterback since the last win in Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow. He's not that great overall, but can run and won't lose games for you.
LSU will be without superstar linebacker Devin White for the first half because of a targeting call in the Tigers' last game, a 19-3 win over Mississippi State. That's a big loss as White will likely be a Top 10 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Here are a few other Week 10 opening lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted. Picks are ATS.
Temple at No. 9 Central Florida (-10), Thursday: The most intriguing part of Tuesday's CFP Top 25 to me is where Central Florida is located. If the Knights run the table in the regular season again, I don't see how they can be left out of the playoff when they are unbeaten over two years - even though what teams did in the past isn't supposed to matter. OK, if there were four unbeaten Power 5 champions/Notre Dame then I could understand. But that's not happening this year. Obviously, UCF is hurt by strength of schedule. It doesn't help much that Temple is also tied atop the AAC East at 4-0 because the Owls have terrible home losses to Villanova and Buffalo (which actually is pretty good but still a MAC team). Temple did upset No. 20 Cincinnati on Oct. 20, 24-17 in overtime. Owls QB Anthony Russo completed less than 50 percent of his passes and was picked three times but made up for it with the tying 20-yard TD pass with 49 seconds left and then the winner in OT. UCF won its national-best 20th straight on Oct. 20, 37-10 at East Carolina. In a complete surprise, Knights star QB McKenzie Milton sat out despite being in full uniform. Coach Josh Heupel said it was for "overall health" reasons. Barring being arrested, deported, maimed or killed by Thursday morning, I assure you Milton will play here. The pick: UCF wins by at least two TDs assuming Milton does go.
Pittsburgh at No. 23 Virginia (-7.5), Friday: Feels weird putting a number before Virginia. The Wahoos were among a record seven teams to move into the AP Top 25 this week after a whopping 11 ranked clubs lost last week. Seven teams going from unranked to ranked is the most since the AP poll expanded to 25 in 1989. It's the first time UVa is ranked since 2011. Coach Bronco Mendenhall has done a terrific job there - no reason why Virginia can't be an annual power as it's a terrific school in fertile recruiting territory. The men's basketball team is usually excellent (but then flops in the NCAA Tournament). Mendenhall's club is atop the ACC Atlantic at 4-1 with perhaps that division coming down to Virginia's trip to Virginia Tech to close the regular season. Pittsburgh is right there are 3-1 so it controls its own destiny and hosts Virginia Tech next Saturday. Pitt beat visiting Virginia 31-14 last year. The Wahoos went for it four times on fourth down and were stopped all four times. The pick: Virginia.
No. 6 Georgia at No. 11 Kentucky (+10): Quite a Saturday in Lexington with the biggest football game at UK in decades and also the Breeders' Cup being held at Churchill Downs. The winner here claims a spot in the SEC title game (which UK has never played in). We expected Georgia to beat Florida in a Top-10 matchup on Saturday and the Dawgs did, 36-17. Jake Fromm, who was so shaky in the previous game, a loss to LSU, probably saved his job by throwing three touchdown passes. There had been talk that Kirby Smart was pondering replacing Fromm with freshman and mega-recruit Justin Fields if Fromm struggled early against the Gators. Georgia finished with 189 yards rushing, marking the 13 th straight year the team with more rushing yards won the Georgia-Florida game. The Wildcats were nearly caught in a trap game Saturday, escaping 15-14 at Missouri. Fabulous ending as Kentucky was stopped on what would have been the final play, but the Tigers were called for pass interference. On an untimed down, Terry Wilson found C.J. Conrad on a 2-yard TD pass for the win. Kentucky is a terrible offensive team but leads the country in allowing just 13.0 points. Georgia is 12th at 16.4. Be very interesting to see where this total is. The Dawgs have won eight straight in the series. They'll make it nine, but those are too many points. The pick: Kentucky.
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