Oregon State vs. Washington, more picks vs. spread
Slowly, college football made strides.
In the 1990s, the national championship was shared three times in an eight-year span, while another two seasons featured multiple teams receiving first-place votes. So, the BCS was born in 1998. The College Football Playoff arrived for the 2014 season.
This season marks the first time in the 26 years since the BCS was introduced that five power-conference teams are undefeated through 10 games. For the past five weeks, they have been the top five teams in the rankings.
But one is unlike the others.
Despite owning one of the two best wins in the country — one of three wins against ranked teams — No. 5 Washington (10-0) holds the seventh-best title odds, behind a pair of one-loss teams, including Oregon, which the Huskies beat last month.
Michigan has the nation’s top-ranked defense. Ohio State is fourth. Georgia is eighth. Florida State is 29th. When you scroll past the likes of Sam Houston State and Louisiana Tech you find Washington at No. 92. The Huskies’ defense has allowed 103 points in the past three games. They have been on the verge of defeat in each of their past four games.
They can avoid it no longer. Not against No. 11 Oregon State. Not against an offense that puts up 36 points per game. Not in Corvallis, where OREGON STATE (-2.5) has won nine consecutive games and knocked off three straight ranked visitors.
Washington opened as a 1-point favorite. Then, the line leaped. It is clear that one is not like the others.
PENN STATE (-20.5) over Rutgers
Next year, the Nittany Lions will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of an expanded playoff field. Until then, Penn State will have to get its kicks by punching down. In the past two meetings with Rutgers, the Nittany Lions won by a combined score of 87-10.
MIAMI (-1) over Louisville
There is a reason — well, actually several reasons — that Louisville is the longest of playoff long shots. The four-loss Hurricanes will be considered underdogs by anyone who doesn’t peruse sportsbooks, but the Cardinals are a different team away from home, scoring 15.3 fewer points, while allowing more than 11.5 points per game.
Michigan (-19.5) over MARYLAND
Jim Harbaugh wasn’t needed at Penn State. He can certainly skip the trip to College Park. There are few stronger bets on the board than a juggernaut against Taulia Tagovailoa’s Terps. The Maryland quarterback is 0-10 against ranked teams in the Big Ten — losing by an average of 27 points per game — with 17 interceptions. The Wolverines also lead the nation with the largest average margin of victory (31.5).
BYU (+24.5) over Oklahoma
Uncertainty over the status of Cougars quarterback Kedon Slovis makes this a pass for now, but the Sooners’ road struggles inspire little confidence. Oklahoma has lost its past two road games and the 10 a.m. local kickoff time doesn’t help.
ARIZONA (-1) over Utah
This line would have been absurd one month ago, but the 17th-ranked Wildcats have made one of the best turnarounds in the nation — matching their longest conference winning streak in a quarter-century with four straight wins — to ensure a winning record for the first time in six years. The Utes have lost three of their past four games against ranked teams, with the lone win coming on an improbable last-second victory at USC.
TENNESSEE (+10.5) over Georgia
Not in a box. Not with a fox. Not in a house. Not with a mouse. I would not pick them here or there. I would not pick them anywhere. Even after last week’s blowout win, Georgia has still covered just three of 10 games this season, with a near-upset at Auburn and an uninspired effort at Vanderbilt in its only two road games. Playing in front of 100,000-plus at Neyland Stadium won’t be any easier.
Wake Forest (+24.5) over NOTRE DAME
Wake’s offense is in shambles without Sam Hartman. Notre Dame’s offense is a mess because of him. Hartman has thrown seven interceptions in the past four games — and no touchdowns in the past two games — and his former coaching staff should know the best ways to attack the Irish quarterback.
North Carolina (+7) over CLEMSON
Death Valley, Dabo Swinney and a top-10 defense is no longer enough to warrant laying a touchdown against the nation’s third-ranked offense. Especially one that is led by potential No. 1 overall pick Drake Maye, who threw for 342 yards with three total touchdowns in last week’s win against Duke.
USC (-6.5) over UCLA
Caleb Williams, who threw for 470 yards with three total touchdowns in last year’s win over the Bruins, will put on one more show in his final game at the Coliseum. It could be Chip Kelly’s swan song, too. If UCLA wanted to play harder for him, they had six seasons to do it.
Minnesota (+27.5) over OHIO STATE
The Buckeyes’ 38-3 win over Michigan State creates the impression that another low-key game will be the same. It isn’t that simple, especially with a trip to Ann Arbor only one week away.
Oregon (-23.5) over ARIZONA STATE
The four-team playoff began with controversy. It will end with it, too. There will not be enough spots to fit every worthy team. There will be several factors weighed before a decision is made that has no right choice. The Ducks — who are 5-0 against the spread when favored by at least 20 points — can strengthen their case with style points.
KANSAS (+8.5) over Kansas State
The Wildcats have won 14 straight games in the rivalry. The past four have been decided by 20 points or more. The Jayhawks are due — and capable. They are only three weeks removed from an outright upset at home against Oklahoma.
Betting on College Football?
MISSOURI (-11.5) over Florida
Billy Napier looks like a lock for his second losing season in as many years with the Gators. Florida has been even worse against the spread, covering just three of its past 11 games.
Texas (-7.5) over IOWA STATE
There is potential for an outright upset, but the Longhorns are too talented and too close to the finish line to sleepwalk through another second half. The Cyclones’ 85th-ranked offense won’t be able to keep up with Quinn Ewers in his second game back from injury.
Best bets: Miami, Michigan, North Carolina
This season: 81-80-4 (15-17-1)
2014-22 record: 1,150-1,082-25