My picks going into this week are 73-55 on the season.
Ohio vs Western Michigan, 7:00 PM ET, ESPNU
This is a big game, but on a much smaller scale with it being in the MAC. Ohio is being tasked with trying to keep pace with Buffalo in the MAC East and Western Michigan is coming off of being destroyed at home by Toledo last week, losing 51-24. Western Michigan has been able to put up some points this year, with the exception of their trip to Michigan, as has Ohio. Ohio’s lowest scoring output of the season was 21 and that was on the road against Northern Illinois, who has the best defense in the conference, and they nearly won that game. I think Ohio will get a big road conference win in this game, and keep pace with Buffalo, who has already beat Miami (Ohio) this week.
Temple vs (12) UCF, 7:30 PM ET, ESPN
Temple has certainly been playing better football as of late and they are one of the teams in the American that actually has the players to be able to compete with UCF and give them some problems. It hurts the Owls a lot that this game is in Orlando and it really hurts that the Knights are coming off of a bye. If the circumstances around the game were better for Temple they would have a much better chance of competing in this game, but with it being road game and UCF coming off of a bye it’s just too much. I also think the Knights will feel disrespected after coming in at 12th in the first CFP rankings and come out with some extra fire.
(20) Texas A&M vs Auburn, Noon ET, ESPN
Auburn has been struggling on offense for most of the season and now they have one of the better defenses in the conference coming into their home stadium, but Texas A&M is coming off of a bad offensive performance in a road loss last week at Mississippi State. I’m expecting this game to be pretty low-scoring and to come down to just a few plays here and there and I trust the Texas A&M offense a little bit more than I trust the Auburn offense so I think the Aggies will be able to come in and win a tight, low-scoring game.
Pick: Texas A&M
Michigan State vs Maryland, Noon ET, ESPN2
D.J. Durkin was back at Maryland and that caused a lot of turmoil and drama, which lead to him being fired just one day later, and I think that 100% will carry onto the field and hurt the performance of a team that’s actually been pretty surprising this season. Michigan State was dominated by their rival Michigan two weeks ago but bounced back last week, beating a Purdue team that was playing really good football going in and was coming off of a huge win at home against Ohio State. I already think that Michigan State is the better team, but this being a road game should be tough but I also think the D.J. Durkin drama will have an impact on the Terrapins and their preparation for this game.
Pick: Michigan State
(6) Georgia vs (9) Kentucky, 3:30 PM ET, CBS
The winner of this game is likely going to go on and represent the SEC East in the conference title game. Both of these teams have very good defenses and I think that will lead to it being a fairly low-scoring game, which is exactly what Kentucky will need if they are going to find a way to win this game because their offense doesn’t have the explosiveness that Georgia has. I really like this Kentucky team, but I don’t think they’re balanced enough on the offensive side of things to be able to score enough points to win this game and I think the Georgia offense is balanced enough to go on the road to what should be a great environment and move the ball. To me, this game has a close game where Georgia pull away late written all over it.
(16) Iowa vs Purdue, 3:30 PM ET, ESPN2
Iowa and Purdue are both coming off of tough road losses. Purdue at the hands of Michigan State and Iowa at the hands of Penn State. Purdue has been playing much better football after their 0-3 start and that was headlined a couple of weeks ago when they smashed Ohio State at home, and I think Iowa is better this season because I believe they have a better offense than they have had in past years and the main reason for that is Nathan Stanley. Both of these offenses are pretty good so this game could end up being higher scoring than you might think a matchup between these two programs would be. I’m going to go with Purdue because they’re at home and I think Rondale Moore and some of the other players on offense can make some big things happen.
(13) West Virginia vs (17) Texas, 3:30 PM ET, FOX
This is the biggest test that West Virginia has faced this season and they have a lot working against them with Texas coming off of a loss and wanting to bounce back and for the Mountaineers to have to go to Austin for this game. I haven’t been as impressed with West Virginia so far this season as I thought I would be and I think this is just a tough one for them and that the Texas defense will be able to get after Will Grier and make life tough on him, much like Iowa State was a few weeks ago in Ames.
(14) Penn State vs (5) Michigan, 3:45 PM ET, ESPN
This is one of the last big hurdles left for Michigan in trying to win the Big Ten East for the first time under Jim Harbaugh, and luckily for them this game is at home. I believe that Michigan has a better roster by a good margin, but the one equalizer for the Nittany Lions is that Trace McSorley is one of the more dynamic players in the country and if he goes off he could lead his team to a huge win on the road. Ultimately, I’m not too high on the Penn State defense and I love the Michigan defense and I think that will be the difference in the game as Michigan finds a way to keep winning.
(4) Notre Dame vs Northwestern, 7:15 PM ET, ESPN
The ball is in Notre Dame’s court when it comes to going undefeated and going to the College Football Playoff, but this is a game that has tough test written all over it. Northwestern has been playing better football as of late and the main reason for that is Clayton Thorson. The running game for the Wildcats hasn’t been what I expected it to be this season, but Thorson has stepped up and helped carry the offense. Thorson will need to be huge in this one if Northwestern is to pull off the upset though because the Notre Dame offense has been taken to the next level since Ian Book was put in the starting lineup. This is a tricky game for Notre Dame.
Pick: Notre Dame
(1) Alabama vs (3) LSU, 8:00 PM ET, CBS
This is the matchup that everyone is pointing to this week. Alabama has seemed unbeatable this year and if there is a team that might be able to drag them into a tough game in the fourth quarter and beat them during the regular season, you think it would be LSU, and the main reason for that is LSU has one of the better defenses in college football. A really painful blow for LSU is that star linebacker Devin White will have to sit out the first half of the game after being ejected for targeting in the second half of the teams’ win over Mississippi State two weeks ago. If LSU is going to pull of this win they’ll need all hands on deck and not having one of their best defensive players against this Alabama offense will make it really tough. My prediction for this game is that the Alabama offense will struggle through the first quarter and a half or so because they haven’t seen a defense like this at all this season, but once they get settled in against this defense and with the environment in Baton Rouge, they’ll get rolling and the LSU offense won’t be able to keep up. Alabama by at least three touchdowns.
Stanford vs Washington, 9:00 PM ET, Pac-12 Network
Both of these teams have seen their seasons sputter over the past couple of weeks and will be looking to get back on track. Washington is the only of these two teams that probably still has a chance at winning the Pac-12 North, just because they still have their shot at Washington State and Stanford already lost to them, but this Washington offense has been terrible as of late, including last week where they lost to Cal and their defense didn’t even allow a touchdown. The only touchdown the Huskies surrendered to Cal was a pick-six. This hasn’t been a normal season for Stanford in the fact that they’ve struggled a lot more than usual to get things going on the ground, and that’s with Bryce Love. K.J. Costello and the passing game haven’t been too bad this season, but if they’re going to go to Seattle and win this game they’ll need some balance on offense because I’m having a hard time seeing the Huskies not scoring at least in the 20s in this game, regardless of the status of Myles Gaskin.
Cal vs (8) Washington State, 10:45 PM ET, ESPN
Washington State is set up to finally win the Pac-12 North, but they can’t afford a loss to a team like Cal. The only reason I’m talking about this game is because I think that Cal has a pretty good defense and can go into Pullman and maybe hold down the Washington State offense enough to make it interesting. The other reason I think that could happen besides just Cal having a good defense is that Washington State is coming off of two emotional games, beating Oregon at home and then having to follow that up by going on the road and beating Stanford in a game that required them to come back in the second half. While I think Cal can make this interesting, they won’t have enough offense to keep up with Gardner Minshew (who deserves to be in the Heisman talk) and the rest of that Washington State offense.
Pick: Washington State