Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 | 2 a.m.
One of five major conference championship matchups is set, and two others are all but sure to lock into place. Las Vegas sports books have lines available on all three scheduled to take place in two weeks after the conclusion of the regular season.
The SEC Championship Game, slated for Dec. 2 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, is posted everywhere with SEC East winner Georgia a 3.5- to 4-point favorite depending on the book over SEC West winner Alabama.
That’s the only fully certain pairing but it’s highly likely that the final Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 1 at Allegiant Stadium will feature Oregon vs. Washington and the ACC Championship on Dec. 2 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte will pit Florida State and Louisville.
At Boyd Sports, Oregon is currently a 6.5-point favorite over Washington in the hypothetical Pac-12 Championship Game market while Florida State is laying 9.5 points to Louisville.
Oregon and Georgia have both drawn early money, seeing their spreads boosted a half-point from open. There are still more possibilities alive for the Big Ten and Big 12 games scheduled for Dec. 2 but the winner of next week’s Ohio State at Michigan game and Texas will almost certainly be the point-spread favorites, respectively.
The College Football Playoff race remains a quagmire after last week failed to provide any of the disruption I forecasted in this column. There are currently eight teams with strong cases for the four spots.
In past years, these tight races have largely solved themselves on the field without the playoff committee having to intervene and being forced to make controversial choices. It may not have that luxury this year.
There’s still time for some of the titans like Georgia, Florida State and Oregon to fall but not much of it. The schedule for the contenders this week sets up a lot easier than last week’s relative gauntlet, but perhaps lightning can strike when everyone is least expecting it.
Read below for picks on every Week 12 game. Find picks on every Week 12 game below. Picks are labeled in three separate confidence categories — plays, leans and guesses. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side at publication time. The record picking every game this season stands at 290-296-11 (71-78-1 on plays, 100-98-3 on leans and 119-120-7 on guesses).
Oregon -22 at Arizona State, over/under: 54. This spread would have been closer to -28 a week ago, meaning Arizona State is getting too much credit for taking advantage of a broken UCLA offense to spring a 17-7 upset as 14-point underdogs. Oregon’s offense will be a much bigger challenge, as no one has stopped the Ducks all year and the young Sun Devils’ defense doesn’t look like a strong candidate. Lean: Oregon -22.
Utah pick’em at Arizona, over/under: 44.5. This is an extremely tough spot for the Utes, which must play back-to-back road games coming off a 35-28 loss at Washington that ended all hope of a Pac-12 three-peat. Their production typically falls off on the road anyway, and their metrics are worse than Arizona’s in general before taking into account the location of the game. Lean: Arizona pick’em.
Michigan -19 at Maryland, over/under: 51. The line opened as high as -21, and got as high as -22, before coming back down in the Terrapins’ direction. Michigan has now shown it can do it all — proving its run game is as strong as its No. 3 rated passing attack by EPA per play with 241 yards on a tough Penn State defense in last week’s 24-15 win — and shouldn’t have spreads against inferior teams moving against it. Lean: Michigan -19.
Georgia -10 at Tennessee, over/under: 59. Georgia’s defense was one of the only units to shut down Tennessee’s offense last year, and the latter is significantly worse this year with erratic quarterback Joe Milton and less mystery about its scheme. The Bulldogs’ offense meanwhile was boosted by last week’s early injury return of Brock Bowers, and the star tight end only figures to be healthier now. Guess: Georgia -10.
Minnesota +27.5 at Ohio State, over/under: 48.5. The Buckeyes put together their cleanest performance last week, finally burying an overmatched opponent early and cruising to 38-3 victory over Michigan State as 32-point favorites. The number looks right this week, but who’s to say Ohio State isn’t hitting its peak and able to repeat the sort of performance that worked last week? Guess: Ohio State -27.5.
Kansas State -8.5 at Kansas, over/under: 56.5. Kansas has been eyeing this game all year while Kansas State had larger aspirations but the Jayhawks’ chances looked diminished when they dropped to third-string quarterback Carter Stanley in last week’s 16-13 loss to Texas Tech as 4-point favorites. But coach Lance Leipold has described himself as “very optimistic” that Jason Bean will return this week, which would put everything in place for the Jayhawks’ first win in the in-state rivalry in 15 years. Lean: Kansas +8.5.
Washington +2.5 at Oregon State, over/under: 64.5. Going strictly based off statistical metrics, this number makes sense with the Beavers’ production not all that much worse than what the Huskies have posted. But Washington is getting dragged down by the numbers because of an injury-plagued stretch in the middle of the season — which included limiting Heisman hopeful quarterback Michael Penix Jr. — that it now seems to be exiting. Lean: Washington +2.5.
Texas -7.5 at Iowa State, over/under: 47. Texas hasn’t encountered any problems building any big leads; it’s just mismanaged maintaining the margins and bungled some end-game situations. Typically, getting out to big starts is more predictive. The Longhorns are still capable of drowning opponents with their talent, even after losing big-play running back Jonathan Brooks for the year, and the Cyclones don’t have the talent to ensure they won’t be swallowed up. Play: Texas -7.5.
Boston College +3 at Pittsburgh, over/under: 47. One thing even the best measures or numbers can’t capture this time of year is a team quitting on the season. The Panthers might be at real risk of giving up, having long been eliminated from bowl contention while the players and coach Pat Narduzzi publicly call each other out. There’s at least enough dissension that they shouldn’t be laying three points against a comparable opponent. Play: Boston College +3.
Oklahoma -24 at BYU, over/under: 57. To have any chance of emerging as anything more than an afterthought at the power-five conference level, BYU is going to have to develop more depth. The Cougars’ shaky ability beyond its starters has perennially hurt them late in the year and it’s been all the more pronounced this year in the Big 12 after quarterback Kedon Slovis went down. They’re competitive with Slovis but helpless without him and early indications are he’ll miss another game here. Play: Oklahoma -24.
Duke -4 at Virginia, over/under: 47.5. The most influential bettors in the world steamed Duke down from +14.5 to +10 last week, and the Blue Devils acquitted themselves well in covering all numbers in a 47-45 double overtime loss to North Carolina. Why then are they right back to not getting any respect against a lesser Cavaliers’ side that shouldn’t be able to match them up front? Play: Duke -4.
Baylor +12.5 at TCU, over/under: 59. Here’s part two of the handicapping series betting against teams that may have given up or at least find themselves in untenable situations. Coach Dave Aranda is all but done at Baylor, which has slid backwards all season while TCU has played better despite three straight losses with back-to-back covers. Play: TCU -12.5.
Illinois +4 at Iowa, over/under: 30.5. Illinois may have finally solved its long-struggling offense by stumbling upon backup/former Ball State quarterback John Paddock, who lit up Indiana for 507 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-45 win as 4-point favorites last week. Iowa isn’t anywhere close to doing the same as the unit has been severely limited even by its low standards ever since losing starter Cade McNamara early in the season. Play: Illinois +4.
Florida International +31 at Arkansas, over/under: 51. Sound the alarms for the final and perhaps best installment of identifying teams that might have quit on the season. Unfortunately, it might also be the ugliest as FIU is the one of the worst teams in the nation but it’s at least well-coached under Mike MacIntyre and will play hard, more than can be said for Arkansas in the likely final days of coach Sam Pittman’s tenure. Play: Florida International +31.
Play: Georgia Southern -6.5 vs. Old Dominion
Play: Central Michigan +10.5 at Ohio
Play: Texas State -3.5 at Arkansas State
Lean: Purdue pick’em at Northwestern
Lean: Temple +8 at UAB
Lean: West Virginia -6.5 vs. Cincinnati
Lean: Wake Forest +25 at Notre Dame
Lean: Hawaii +14 at Wyoming
Lean: Louisville pick’em vs. Miami
Lean: Appalachian State +11 at James Madison
Lean: New Mexico State +23.5 at Auburn
Lean: California -6.5 at Stanford
Lean: Boise State -3 at Utah State
Lean: NC State +3 at Virginia Tech
Lean: Florida +11.5 at Missouri
Lean: Michigan State +4.5 at Indiana
Lean: Miami (Ohio) -8.5 vs. Buffalo
Lean: Marshall +11 at South Alabama
Lean: Colorado +4.5 at Washington State
Lean: Penn State -20.5 vs. Rutgers
Lean: North Carolina +7 at Clemson
Lean: Tulsa +2.5 vs. North Texas
Lean: Ball State -12.5 vs. Kent State
Lean: Air Force -3 vs. UNLV
Lean: Syracuse +6 at Georgia Tech
Lean: LSU -31 vs. Georgia State
Lean: UCLA +6.5 at USC
Lean: Army +4.5 vs. Coastal Carolina
Guess: Florida Atlantic +9.5 vs. Tulane
Guess: Kentucky -1.5 at South Carolina
Guess: Oklahoma State -7 at Houston
Guess: UCF +3 at Texas Tech
Guess: Middle Tennessee -7.5 vs. UTEP
Guess: Navy -2.5 vs. East Carolina
Guess: UL Monroe +38 at Ole Miss
Guess: Southern Miss +14 at Mississippi State
Guess: Massachusetts +28 at Liberty
Guess: Fresno State -22 vs. New Mexico
Guess: Nebraska +6 at Wisconsin
Guess: Jacksonville State -8 vs. Louisiana Tech
Guess: San Diego State +15 at San Jose State
Guess: UNR +12 at Colorado State
Guess: Charlotte +3 vs. Rice
Guess: Memphis +8 vs. SMU
Guess: Troy -16 vs. Louisiana
Guess: UTSA -16 vs. South Florida
Guess: Western Kentucky -12.5 vs. Sam Houston