NCAA Football Predictions: Week 7 Opening Line Report and Picks
I don't think it will happen in my lifetime, but all of the Power 5 conferences should go to 10 conference games and just two nonconference games. I say it won't happen because these schools make a ton of money in those nonconference games, often paying some Little Sister of the Poor north of $1 million to show up and take a beating. Hey, as long as the stadium is sold out and the fans are happy and buying concessions, the host school makes out like a bandit.
Currently, the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 play nine conference games. The Big 12 really does it right because everyone in the conference plays each other once - that's only doable there because the Big 12 of course is just 10 teams. The Pac-12 has 12 and the Big Ten 14 (can you imagine trying to explain this numerology to an alien?). So, teams just can't play every other conference foe.
It's even worse in the ACC and SEC, which each play eight conference games. Both have 14 schools, meaning teams in opposite division may not see each other for several years. In the SEC, for example, each school has an annual crossover opponent. And sometimes, that's just not fair. West Division Alabama, for example, gets to beat up on the East's Tennessee every year (OK, the Vols were once good). Florida is stuck facing LSU, which is always good, and Georgia draws Auburn. Lately, all those mean likely losses for the East Division teams. If any East Division school other than Tennessee, Florida or Georgia ever got good, it would have a built-in scheduling advantage.
The reason I bring this up is because there's a good SEC matchup this week with the No. 2 Dawgs traveling to Baton Rouge to face No. 13 LSU. I see this as a College Football Playoff elimination game in a way. Why? I'm just presuming both schools will lose at least one more game: to Alabama. LSU hosts the Tide on Nov. 3, and the Tigers lost any wiggle room for a playoff spot with Saturday's 27-19 loss at Florida. I'm also just presuming Georgia will win the SEC East - although the Gators might have a say in that - and then face Bama in the SEC title game. This should be Georgia's first close game of the year as it has beaten every opponent by at least 14 points. It starts a stretch of four straight for UGA vs. teams currently ranked. The Dawgs are -7 and I like LSU at that number but would buy it up a half-point.
Here are a few other Week 7 opening lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted. Picks are ATS.
Michigan State at No. 8 Penn State (-13.5): This game lost a bit of luster on Saturday when the Spartans lost 29-19 at home to Northwestern, so MSU can't afford another loss and hope for a spot in the Big Ten title game. Not often you lose when holding an opposing team to just eight yards rushing (on 20 carries) as Michigan State did, but Wildcats QB Clayton Thorson threw for 373 yards and three scores. Top running back LJ Scott and receiver Cody White both were out vs. Northwestern due to injury, and too early to know if they will play here. Scott is the real difference-maker on that offense. The Nittany Lions have been off since blowing their game vs. Ohio State on Sept. 29, losing 27-26. Some really questionable play-calling by Coach James Franklin in that one, which seems to be a recurring issue. Penn State has won 24 of its past 28 games, and those four losses have been by a combined eight points -- and it seems to always be Franklin's fault. The Spartans have won four of the past five in this series. The pick: MSU.
No. 19 Colorado at USC (-7): Big one in the Pac-12 South Division, with the Buffs the only team in the division without a conference loss. They are off a 28-21 home win over Arizona State. Receiver Laviska Shenault had a monster game with 13 catches for 127 yards and all four touchdowns - two receiving and two rushing. He has had at least 10 catches in every game and is third nationally with 51 grabs and third in yards (708). Southern Cal has been off since a 24-20 loss at Arizona on Sept. 29. The Trojans were lucky to win that considering they had a whopping 18 penalties for 169 yards as well as three turnovers. Southern Cal has never lost to Colorado in 12 tries. Last year, it was 38-24 in Boulder behind two TD passes and a rushing score from Sam Darnold. USC also blocked two field goals. The pick: USC.
Missouri at No. 1 Alabama (-28.5): Tigers quarterback Drew Lock can potentially make himself a lot of money in this one if he plays really well against an Alabama defense loaded with future NFL guys. A huge night could be enough to put Lock in the discussion for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, depending on who is picking there. The senior could use a boost as in back-to-back losses to Georgia and South Carolina, he hasn't thrown a TD pass and been picked off three times. In the first three games, he totaled 11 TD passes and just one pick. I don't even know what else to say about the Tide as it's just not fair how good they are. Bama hung 65 on Arkansas in Fayetteville on Saturday. Tua Tagovailoa passed for 334 yards and four touchdowns - he's pretty clearly going to win the Heisman and could be a No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Guy still hasn't thrown a fourth-quarter pass because his team has been so far ahead. Alabama has reached 45 points in six straight games for the first time in program history. The pick: Missouri.
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