NCAA Football Predictions: Week 13 Opening Line Report and Picks
It's a spectacular weekend of college football in Week 13, including a ton of great games on Black Friday to keep you occupied while your significant other is out shopping on Black Friday. Do people actually still go to malls and such?
Anyways, with the season ending for some schools this week, it's time to look at the head coaching carousel in the Power 5. Unless I'm forgetting someone, as of now there are three openings: Louisville, Maryland and Colorado. Kansas was open but to no surprise the Jayhawks hired Les Miles over the weekend. Maryland could opt to take the interim tag off Matt Canada.
We talked about Bobby Petrino and Louisville last Friday, with Purdue's Jeff Brohm likely to get that job; obviously that would open up Purdue. It could be a rather quiet offseason because so many coaches have been given such monster buyouts. There was an interesting story recently in USA Today that said, among other things: "athletics directors are finally admitting the industry has been fiscally irresponsible in giving coaches guaranteed buyouts that reach into the tens of millions."
While there hasn't been a marquee job open yet, one could be coming at incredibly disappointing Southern Cal - and that's a Top 5 job nationally. There's a ton of money behind that program, plus obviously an incredibly rich area of talent to recruit simply in the Trojans' backyard.
For some reason, USC gave Clay Helton an extension this past February through 2023. Helton took over midway through 2015 for Steve Sarkisian. He was 5-4 that year and 10-3 the next, culminating in a thrilling Rose Bowl win over Penn State. Last year, despite having a mega-talented roster led by Sam Darnold, USC finished 11-3 and was dominated in a Cotton Bowl loss to Ohio State. That record was somewhat misleading as USC could have easily lost to Texas, Utah, UCLA and Stanford in the Pac-12 title game.
Things have only gotten worse this year with Darnold gone. USC (5-6) was shocked by rival UCLA on Saturday and now needs a win this Saturday just to get an invite to some minor bowl game. What's doubly concerning is that USC's 2019 recruiting class is ranked about 29th by the scouting services. There's no reason the Trojans shouldn't be Top 10 every year.
So will Helton be fired? He reportedly has a buyout of around $15 million. Fine, you give that big number to someone like Chip Kelly (who is now recruiting against USC for UCLA), but to Clay Helton!?! I actually think Helton's fate will come down to Saturday's game against Notre Dame. If the Trojans upset the No. 3 Irish to knock them out of the College Football Playoff, Helton likely earns another year. Should Notre Dame destroy USC, he's probably gone. I expect a prop on this at one of the Doc's-affiliated books this week.
Early candidates for the USC job? John Harbaugh, presuming he's not back with the Ravens, Washington's Chris Petersen, former USC linebacker and NFL head coach Jack Del Rio, ex-USC coach and current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll (with Paul Allen dying the Seahawks likely will be up for sale and Carroll might be ready to leave) and Syracuse's Dino Babers.
Southern Cal is an opening 10-point underdog against the Irish (I'd probably take 10.5 points). Here are a few other Week 13 opening lines that caught my eye. Games all Friday. We will look at some of Saturday's top games on Friday. Picks are ATS. Rankings from last CFP Top 25 and may change Tuesday.
No. 11 UCF at South Florida (+14.5): The War on I-4 with these schools in Orlando and Tampa located about 80 miles apart on that interstate. It's looking like the Knights, who have clinched the American Athletic Conference's East Division and will host the title game on Dec. 1 (opponent TBA), are going to be left out of the playoff again even if they do run the table for the second straight season. UCF is likely to move up to 10th in the new CFP Top 25 on Tuesday with No. 9 West Virginia losing. UCF trounced a pretty good Cincinnati team on Saturday, 38-13. McKenzie Milton threw for 268 yards and three scores and rushed for another TD. That's 23 straight wins. When South Florida was 7-0, there was talk that Charlie Strong might get a Power 5 coaching offer this offseason, but that's likely not happening now with the Bulls having dropped four straight - all by double digits. It was 27-17 at Temple on Saturday, blowing a 17-0 halftime lead. USF turned it over five times in the second half. USF leads this series 6-3 but lost a very entertaining 49-42 shootout last year. The pick: USF (just to cover not win).
No. 6 Oklahoma at No. 9 West Virginia (pick'em): Already has moved from an opening of Sooners -2.5. This could have been a preview of next week's conference title game, but that's very unlikely now. The winner is in that game at Jerry World in Dallas. The loser won't get in unless Kansas upsets visiting Texas, which isn't happening. I'm sure conference officials would be thrilled to see an OU-Texas rematch. If the Sooners do lose here, the Big 12 is missing the playoff regardless. The Sooners are an amazing offensive team behind QB and likely Heisman runner-up Kyler Murray, but they are just lousy on defense. Firing coordinator Mike Stoops after the loss to Texas on Oct. 6 hasn't really changed much. Kansas put up 40 on OU on Saturday, but Murray & Co scored 55. He threw for two scores and rushed for three. It's shame he won't be playing college football next year but toiling in the minors for the A's. WVU might have been caught looking ahead to this one as it lost 45-41 at Oklahoma State on Saturday, blowing a 31-14 halftime lead. Will Grier threw for 364 yards and two scores, while Kennedy McKoy rushed for 148 and two scores. WVU lost in Norman to close the 2017 regular season, 59-31. Oklahoma gained 646 yards and scored its most-ever points against West Virginia. Grier was out injured. The pick: West Virginia (and over what will be a monstrous total).
No. 18 Washington at No. 8 Washington State (-3.5): One of the biggest Apple Cups in years has the winner taking the Pac-12 North title and a spot opposite Utah in the conference title game. It's just the third winner-take-all Apple Cup for a conference/division title, joining 2016 and 1981. WSU is looking for its first conference title in 16 years. It slaughtered Arizona on Saturday, 69-28. Gardner Minshew threw for a school-record seven touchdowns along with 473 yards. With their 10th win of the season, the Cougars tied a school record last accomplished in 2003. They also won their 13th straight home game and set a season high for points. Washington closed its home schedule with a 42-23 win over Oregon State. Senior Jake Browning threw for three scores in his home finale. Washington has won the past five Apple Cups. It was 41-14 in Seattle a year ago. Myles Gaskin rushed for 192 yards and four scores. Wazzu didn't score until it was down 34 points in the fourth. The pick: Washington State.
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