NCAA Football Predictions: Week 12 Opening Line Report and Picks
This writer is originally from the Midwest, but pretty much every area of the country (other than SEC country) despises the SEC when it comes to football. Some of it is jealousy, sure, because the best athletes generally want to play at those football-mad schools, but it's also because SEC schools act so high-and-mighty, like their you know what don't stink. Obviously, it all starts with the arrogance of Nick Saban, but Steve Spurrier was this way, etc.
There's another reason why the SEC is despised: Weeks like this.
Top programs like Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, Clemson, Washington, USC, etc. are playing conference games (easy ones in most cases, but they didn't make the schedules). Here's a look at the SEC schedule for Week 12.
Arkansas at Mississippi State
Idaho at Florida
Middle Tennessee at Kentucky
The Citadel at Alabama
Missouri at Tennessee
Liberty at Auburn
UMass at Georgia
UAB at Texas A&M
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
Chattanooga at South Carolina
Rice at LSU
Idaho? Middle Tennessee? (actually not bad), The Citadel?!, Liberty!?!?!?, UAB? (also pretty good but just got the program back), Chattanooga? Rice!??!? I'm sorry, is this the first round of the NCAA Tournament? How bad is one-win Rice? Two Saturdays ago, it lost at home to UTEP, which brought in a 20-game losing streak. UTEP hadn't beaten the Owls in Rice Stadium in 13 years.
Yep, it's Cupcake Saturday in the SEC. Of course, SEC teams only play eight conference games, and it has become tradition for those schools to schedule essentially a home scrimmage in the penultimate week of the regular season. Just play the starters a half at most, get some backups time, stay healthy and game plan for the following week. Look, I get playing a low-level FBS school or FCS school once a season, and those schools are thrilled to do it because they cash a big check.
That said, most of these schools already have played one such opponent: Alabama (Arkansas State), Auburn (Alabama State), Florida (Charleston Southern), Georgia (Austin Peay), South Carolina (Coastal Carolina), Texas A&M (Northwestern State) and LSU (Southeastern Louisiana).
Unfortunately, the SEC schools are going to continue this scheduling format until one of them is left out of the College Football Playoff because of strength of schedule. That's just not likely to happen because of the SEC's reputation, whether it's wholly deserved or not. Still, I'll be taking most of these smaller schools at huge numbers Saturday because this is their bowl game, while the SEC schools don't care a lick and will be looking ahead to Week 13 and rivalry games. There may not be lines on most of these games until late in the week.
Here are a few Week 12 opening lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted. Picks are ATS. Rankings from last CFP Top 25 and may change Tuesday.
Buffalo at Ohio (+1.5), Wednesday: The University of Buffalo has played in one MAC Championship Game in school history. In 2008, the Bulls upset No. 12 Ball State 42-24. Buffalo will earn a return trip to Detroit with a win here. It is 9-1 overall (lone loss to a good Army team) and 6-0 in the conference, two games ahead of Ohio and Miami of Ohio in the MAC East. The Bulls already own the tiebreaker with Miami. The only chance Ohio has is to win this game and next week vs. Akron and have Buffalo lose next week at Bowling Green, which is highly unlikely. The home team has won each of the last eight in the series. Since joining the MAC in 1999, the Bulls are 1-9 in games played at Peden Stadium. Buffalo's only win at Ohio was in 2008. These are two of the top offensive teams in the MAC, with Ohio first in yards, rushing and scoring (39.3 ppg) and Buffalo third in scoring (36.2 ppg). The pick: Ohio.
Arizona at No. 8 Washington State (-10): This could be a preview of the Pac-12 title game. Washington State is alone atop the North Division at 6-1, a game ahead of Washington. The Apple Cup is next week in Pullman. Arizona is tied for second with Arizona State in the South at 4-3, a half-game behind Utah. The Wildcats, who could also miss out on a bowl entirely at 5-5, lose a tiebreaker vs. the Utes (who close conference play this week at Colorado) and host ASU next week. Cats QB Khalil Tate is starting to look like the Heisman contender he was projected to be at the start of the season. In Arizona's last game, a 42-34 win over the Buffs on Nov. 2, Tate threw for a career-high 350 yards and five touchdowns. He's still nowhere near the same runner he was in 2017, though. The best transfer of the year? That has to be Washington State QB Gardner Minshew. In Saturday's 31-7 win at Colorado, he threw for 335 yards and two scores. The former East Carolina Pirate leads the country with 3,852 passing yards and is sixth with 29 TD passes. The pick: WSU (get it at -9.5).
No. 9 West Virginia at Oklahoma State (+5): Not that he'll say so publicly, but Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will certainly be pulling for the Mountaineers here to set up an epic showdown with Oklahoma next week - and then have those two potentially turn around and play again in the conference title game. WVU won its third in a row Saturday, 47-10 over TCU. Will Grier, perhaps the first QB chosen in the 2019 NFL Draft, threw for 343 yards and three scores. He's ninth in the nation in passing yards (2,961) and fifth in TD passes (31). At 5-5, OSU could miss out on a bowl if it loses here because it would likely be an underdog at TCU to close the regular season. You have to love Pokes coach Mike Gundy going for 2 and the win Saturday against arch-rival Oklahoma. Alas, it wasn't converted and the Sooners escaped 48-47. Taylor Cornelius threw for a career-high 501 yards along with three scores. He leads the Big 12 and is fifth nationally with 3,133 passing yards. Okie State has won the past three in this series. It was 50-39 last year and surely will have a monster total when that's released Monday night. The pick: WVU.
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