Oh how the mighty fall hard. Among others, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Oregon all picked up losses last weekend. Houston, Michigan, and Alabama/Arkansas look to be the biggest winners, with each knowing a win this weekend virtually assures them of a BCS bowl bid, in some form or another. This weekend marks the last weekend with all of the BCS conferences playing; PAC-12 and Big Ten wrap up this weekend with their conference title games occurring on December 3rd.
As typical with the Watch, we’ll review the picks from last week, noting the bad picks, and point out a few games to give the underdog some credit in, even if it is only in Vegas. We’ll also look at a sure-fire favorite and attempt to preview the Michigan game.
@ Rutgers (8-3) +3.0 Cincinnati (7-3). Result: Rutgers 20 Cincinnati 3.
@ Michigan (9-2) -3.0 Nebraska (8-3). Result: Michigan 45 Nebraska 17.
Florida International (7-4) +1.5 @ UL Monroe (3-8). Result: Florida International 28 UL Monroe 17.
@ Washington State (4-7) +3.5 Utah (7-4). Result: Utah 30 Washington State 27 OT.
@ East Carolina (5-6) +7.0 Central Florida (4-7). Result: East Carolina 38 Central Florida 31.
Kansas State (9-2) +9.5 @ Texas (6-4). Result: Kansas State 17 Texas 13.
Navy (4-7) -4.5 @ San Jose State (4-7). Result: San Jose State 27 Navy 24.
It’s Rivalry Week. Miami (OH) opens Week 13 with a visit to Peden Stadium to take on the Bobcats of Ohio University (7:00 PM EST/ESPN2/ESPN3). For the first time in a few weeks, there are no games on Wednesday night, so you’ll have to wait till Thursday for the second rivalry game of the week, the Lone Star Showdown, with (#25) Texas visiting Texas A&M; the Texas teams will duke it out for the biggest disappointment in the state of Texas. You’d think Friday was the new Saturday, with 14 games being played, starting at with Eastern Michigan visiting DeKalb to take on Northern Illinois (11:00 AM EST/ESPNU); Toledo fans, EMU is your friend. Louisville controls their own destiny in the Big East, paying a visit to Tampa, to take on South Florida (11:00 AM EST/ESPN2/ESPN3). The headliner game of the day, without a doubt, with national title implications, is (#3) Arkansas visiting Death Valley for The Battle for the Golden Boot, to take on (#1) LSU (2:30 PM EST/CBS). Friday wraps up with Arizona State playing host to California (10:15 PM EST/ESPN/ESPN3); Arizona State’s home loss to Arizona sealed their fate, allowing UCLA to appear in the inaugural PAC-12 Title representing the South Division.
Five games match top 25 opponents on Saturday. Saturday kicks off with (#13) Georgia and (#23) Georgia Tech, Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate (12:00 PM EST/ESPN/ESPN3); Georgia Coach Mark Richt is 9-1 against his rival. A pair of matchups occur in the middle of the day, with (#2) Alabama visiting (#24) Auburn (3:30 PM EST/CBS), the Iron Bowl; and (#19) Penn State meeting (#16) Wisconsin for the Big Ten Leaders’s Division crown, in Madison (3:30 PM EST/ESPN/ESPN3). At night, (#17) Clemson and (#12) South Carolina meet in the longest uninterrupted series in the South, The Battle of the Palmetto State (7:45 PM EST/ESPN/ESPN3). The Legends Trophy is up for grabs when (#22) Notre Dame visits (#6) Stanford (8:00 PM EST/ABC).
@ Wake Forest (6-5) +1.0 Vanderbilt (5-6). The Demon Deacons are 72nd in total offense (99th rushing, 33rd passing); Vanderbilt is 102nd (63rd rushing, 100th passing). Wake Forest is 70th in total defense (59th rushing, 79th passing); the Commodores are 20th (22nd rushing, 38th passing). Since 2000, Wake Forest is 3-2 SU against Vanderbilt (4-1 ATS); Wake Forest has won three straight against the ‘Dores. Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin is 5-6 (8-3 ATS, 4-0 ATS as a favorite); Wake Forest Coach Jim Grobe is 68-65 (63-62-4 ATS, 39-26-1 ATS as an underdog). Vanderbilt is 3-4 in road non-conference games since 2006 (1-2 since 2009); Wake Forest is 8-5 in home non-conference games since 2006 (4-3 since 2009). Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers (1359 passing yards, 51.9% completion, 8 passing TDs, but 9 INTs) is 2-5 as a starter, losing close ones at home to Georgia and Arkansas; road games to Florida and Tennessee. This should be close, as Vanderbilt has a good defense, but Wake Forest should get the win. Take Wake Forest with the points, and to win.
Nevada (6-4) +1.5 @ Utah State (5-5). The Wolfpack are 5th in total offense (9th rushing, 36th passing); Utah State is 24th (6th rushing, 93rd passing). Nevada is 55th in total defense (52nd rushing, 72nd passing); the Aggies are 36th (21st rushing, 65th passing). Since 1997, Nevada is 7-2 SU against Utah State (only 2-7 ATS); Nevada has not been an underdog in this matchup since 1997. Utah State has more to play for, as the Aggies are not yet bowl eligible (remaining game is at New Mexico State, after this week). Nevada, however, can still win the WAC, with a win and a Louisiana Tech loss. Utah State is a much-improved team, only losing one game by double digits to date (31-21 at Fresno State) led by RB Robert Turbin (1257 rushing yards, 6.8/carry, and 19 rushing TDs). Nevada has one of the top offenses in the country; the pistol offense tends to give teams fits. Utah State Coach Gary Anderson is 13-21 (18-15 ATS, 12-20 ATS as a favorite); Nevada Coach Chris Ault is 62-38 since 2004 (56-47 ATS, 14-19 ATS as an underdog). Coach Ault is 9-0 against Utah State (coached Nevada from 1976-1992, 1994-1995, and 2004-current). Take Nevada with the points, and to win.
UCLA (6-5) +14.5 @ USC (9-2). The Bruins are 56th in total offense (28th rushing, 90th passing); USC is 30th (53rd rushing, 23rd passing). UCLA is 74th in total defense (82nd rushing, 53rd passing); the Trojans are 53rd (16th rushing, 100th passing). UCLA is 3-11 SU against USC since 1997 (including 1-11 since 1999, the lone win in 2006) (5-9 ATS, 4-3 since 2004). USC Coach Lane Kiffin is 24-13 (19-18 ATS, 12-14 ATS as a favorite); UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel is 36-37 since 2001 (33-39 ATS, 21-26 ATS as an underdog). UCLA’s pass offense leaves a lot to be desired, but has two quality running backs, Johnathan Franklin (857 rushing yards, 6.1/carry, and 5 rushing TDs) and Derrick Coleman (639 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 11 rushing TDs). This is Coach Neuheisel’s fourth year in Los Angeles, scoring a total of 28 points in three meetings (outscored 84-28). USC is coming off a big win at Oregon, and is due for a letdown game. Take UCLA with the points.
@ Auburn (7-4) +21.0 Alabama (10-1). The Tigers are 93rd in total offense (36th rushing, 106th passing); Alabama is 32nd (16th rushing, 73rd passing). Auburn is 81st in total defense (98th rushing, 48th passing); the Crimson Tide are 1st (1st rushing, 1st passing). Alabama Coach Nick Saban is 93-24 since 2001 (65-46-2 ATS, 48-36 ATS as a favorite); Auburn Coach Gene Chizik is 34-28 (31-29 ATS, 17-14 ATS as an underdog). Since 1997, Auburn is 9-5 SU against Alabama (7-7 ATS, but 5-1 since 2005). Alabama has averaged 32.7 points/game in the SEC this year (15 points/game in the last two); Auburn has averaged 20.8 points/game in the SEC this year (won 16-13 over South Carolina (5), lost 45-10 to LSU (2), and lost 45-7 to Georgia (4) – results against the top three defenses faced in the SEC – averaged 11 points/game against the three). Alabama has been led on the ground by RBs Trent Richardson (1380 rushing yards, 5.8/carry, and 20 rushing TDs) and Eddie Lacy (625 rushing yards, 7.8/carry, and 7 rushing TDs); Auburn’s ground game is paced by RBs Michael Dyer (1194 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 10 rushing TDs) and Onterio McCalebb (526 rushing yards, 5.4/carry, and 4 rushing TDs). Alabama should get the win, as they are playing for a potential BCS National Championship berth and a berth in the SEC Championship game. Auburn has a history of keeping this game close; and the Iron Bowl is at Jordan-Hare Stadium, this year. Of the five losses for Auburn, two have been by more than three touchdowns (12 of the 14 meetings have been decided by 14 points or less). Take Auburn with the points.
@ Northwestern (6-5) +7.0 Michigan State (9-2). The Wildcats are 31st in total offense (37th rushing, 37th passing); Michigan State is 68th (80th rushing, 43rd passing). Northwestern is 84th in total defense (94th rushing, 57th passing); the Spartans are 3rd (10th rushing, 4th passing). Since 1997, Northwestern is 4-8 SU against Michigan State (1-4 since 2006) (7-5 ATS, 5-2 ATS since 2002). Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio is 61-38 (47-44-5 ATS, 26-22-1 ATS as a favorite); Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald is 40-34 (31-39 ATS, 20-17 ATS as an underdog). Of the 12 meetings since 1997, 7 have been decided by more than 7 (Northwestern won 2 of those meetings). Michigan State has locked up the Legends Division and has zero chance at making the BCS National Championship; given that the Big Ten Championship is on December 3rd, Coach Dantonio may be tempted to play cautiously, and not give away his playbook. If QB Kirk Cousins (2521 passing yards, 64% completion, 19 passing TDs, but 5 INTs) makes mistakes, Northwestern has a good shot at winning; Cousins is 7-0 when not throwing an interception, he is 2-2 when throwing at least one interception. Take Northwestern with the points.
Florida State (7-4) -2.0 @ Florida (6-5). The Seminoles are 51st in total offense (86th rushing, 25th passing); Florida is 91st (65th rushing, 87th passing). Florida State is 7th in total defense (3rd rushing, 30th passing); the Gators are 17th (51st rushing, 11th passing). Florida State is 6-8 SU against Florida (7-7 ATS). Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher is 17-8 (13-12 ATS, 11-8 ATS as a favorite); Florida Coach Will Muschamp is 6-5 (4-7 ATS, 0-4 ATS as an underdog). Florida State is 2-5 in their last seven trips to Gainesville, losing by an average of 29 points/game in their last three trips there. Florida’s offense is bad, as they are transitioning to a pro style offense and only have spread quarterbacks. Florida State QB EJ Manuel (2352 passing yards, 66.3% completion, 20 total TDs, but 8 INTs) leads the Seminoles. Turnovers will be the key in the game, as Manuel is 7-1 when throwing one or no interceptions (0-2 when throwing two or more). Manuel hasn’t had an interception in three games (47-for-70, 576 passing yards, and 3 passing TDs in last three games). Florida has struggled against good defenses, going 1-4 against top 20 defenses, but 5-1 against defenses outside the top 20. Despite their troubles in Gainesville, take Florida State to cover.
Luke Fickell is 6-5 straight up at Ohio. Coach Fickell is 1-3 on the road, 3-4 in conference play, and 2-2 against teams in the top 25, at the time of the game. Coach Fickell is 5-6 ATS and 3-1 as an underdog ATS (2-1 underdog ATS on the road).
Brady Hoke is 56-52 straight up (13-12 at San Diego State, 34-38 at Ball State). Coach Hoke is 61-42-3 ATS and 33-17-2 against the spread as a favorite.
Ohio’s defense is ranked 16th (16th passing [187.91 yards/game], 41st rushing [130.18 yards/game]). Michigan’s offense is ranked 34th (83rd passing [198.40 yards/game], 12th rushing [236.10 yards/game]).
Ohio’s offense is ranked 108th (118th passing [114.00 yards/game], 27th rushing [201.00 yards/game]). Michigan’s defense is ranked 14th (14th passing [184.40 yards/game], 43rd rushing [131.60 yards/game]).
Since 1997, Michigan is 0-1 straight up against Nebraska (0-1 ATS), with the lone meeting being in the 2005 Alamo Bowl. Michigan had averaged 400 offensive yards with 270 of those being passing and 130 rushing.
Nebraska is second in the Big Ten in average points per game, with 32.9 (Wisconsin leads with 46.5); Michigan averages 32.5, good for third. Against teams in the top half of the Big Ten in average points per game, Michigan is 1-2 (3-0 against the bottom half); Nebraska is 1-2 against the top half (3-0 against the bottom half).
Ohio is 14th in the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of 19.00 points per game, good enough for 5th in the Big Ten; Michigan is 8th in the country, allowing an average of 16.20 points per game, good enough for 4th in the Big Ten. Ohio’s defense has forced 16 turnovers to date (12 interceptions and 4 fumbles); Michigan’s defense has forced 23 turnovers to date (6 interceptions and 17 fumbles). The 17 fumble recoveries by Michigan is tied for 2nd in the nation.
QB Braxton Miller (762 passing yards, 595 rushing yards, 48.6% completion, and 15 total TDs), in a lot of ways, is similar to Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez. Both have very low completion rates, are erratic passers, and rely on their legs to carry their teams. Unlike Martinez, Miller takes care of the ball through the air, only having three interceptions to date. Miller has had two 100-yard rushing games in his last three games (99 rushing yards against Wisconsin and 105 against both Indiana and Penn State). Completing passes has been a struggle for Miller. When Miller completes 50.1% or more of his passes, the Buckeyes are 2-1; when he completes 50% or less Ohio is 3-4, but 0-2 in the last two games. Since returning from suspension, RB Dan Herron (553 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 2 rushing TDs) has averaged roughly 21 carries a game. After having three 100 yard or more games on the ground, Purdue and Penn State held him to a combined 138 yards, 62 and 76, respectively.
If Michigan wants to end the Buckeyes’ streak in the series, they will need to (1) force Miller to make hurried throws, (2) limit Herron’s damage on the ground, and (3) avoid interceptions. Michigan is 5-0 when the opposing quarterback(s) completes 50% or less of their passes, and 3-2 when the opposing quarterback(s) completes 50.1% or more of their passes (Western Michigan game not counted).
@ Michigan -7.5 Ohio.
Michigan 27 Ohio 13.
Who ya got?