College Football Week 11 Predictions: Picking Top 25 Games Against the Spread
They don’t get much better than this.
We circled Week 11 of the college football season months ago, targeting it—ugh, maybe that’s not the best word—as the one to look out for if the itinerary played out as expected. Thus far it has, and the result is three enormous matchups—two of which are crammed in a loaded Thursday night—and a handful of other fantastic games featuring Top 25 teams.
As has become the theme, however, the weekend’s three biggest matchups come equipped with double-digit point spreads. It doesn’t mean these games won’t provide riveting entertainment, but the gap between the nation’s finest and everyone else is on display yet again.
How will is all play out? Let’s assess each Top 25 matchup and (hopefully) pick some winners.
Record Against the Spread Entering Week 11: 95-81-2 (.533)
Spreads courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
No. 25 Texas Tech (-2.5) vs. Kansas State
My, how perspective does change in only a few weeks.
Although Kliff Kingsbury’s first season as head coach should still be viewed as an overwhelming success, the ceiling has been hit. The Red Raiders have lost their last two games, and they were nowhere close to covering the short spread against Oklahoma State last week, a spread that moved plenty in the last few days.
(Someone knew somethin’, and someone was right.)
Kansas State, meanwhile, has recovered nicely since losing three straight. This is evident in the team’s 5-3 mark against the spread and the competitive nature of most of its games.
Although Texas Tech has covered six times in the last eight meetings against K-State, the timing is right for that trend to change. The Wildcats are improving, and they get the Red Raiders at the right time.
The Pick: Kansas State (+2.5)
No. 24 Wisconsin (-7.5) vs. BYU
These two have combined to go 12-3-1 against the spread in 2013, and those three losses come courtesy of BYU. Wisconsin has yet to lose with the spread in play, and Bucky comes home after back-to-back impressive road wins.
BYU is a tough team to figure. For one, how on Earth did this team lose to Virginia in the opener? It has no meaning on this particular game—as the uptempo offense has found its rhythm—although that doesn’t make the box score any less weird.
Home field in this game is enormous. The Cougars have the difficult task of traveling to Camp Randall, a place where Wisconsin has played extraordinarily well in recent memory.
This is one of the toughest games of the weekend to handicap. That’s a big hook to be laying—especially with two coaches that know each other well—but I will reluctantly lay it.
The Pick: Wisconsin (-7.5)
No. 23 Notre Dame (-5) at Pittsburgh
Now this is an interesting spread. Perhaps it’s where it needs to be, although it feels a little light, especially given Pittsburgh’s recent struggles.
The Panthers did cover the 11.5-point spread against Georgia Tech last week, although just barely. And they didn’t look good doing so.
Notre Dame also had its hands full in Week 10. Navy had success on the ground as a 16.5-point underdog, easily covering the spread but barely missing out on the upset. Offensively, the Irish have looked pretty solid. Defensively, not so much.
Last year, of course, Pitt nearly upset Notre Dame as a 16.5-point underdog, but then #collegekickers happened. This year the number is much smaller, and I feel like it’s small for a reason.
Expect a tight game despite a mismatch on paper.
The Pick: Pittsburgh (+5)
No. 22 Arizona State (-7) at Utah
Does this scenario seem familiar? It should.
Utah welcomes yet another quality team to its home stadium, and thus far it has been more than up to the challenge. The Utes nearly upset UCLA despite throwing six interceptions, and they followed up that performance with a home upset over Stanford as more than a touchdown underdog.
Arizona State will attempt to buck this trend, and it will do so at a time when the offense is rolling. The Sun Devils have eclipsed the 50-point mark the last three times out, and they won (and covered) in all three.
The teams seem to be trending in opposite directions, although the point spread says otherwise. Utah’s home field looms large here, and I see this one being close until the very end, as the number would indicate.
The Pick: Utah (+7)
No. 21 Central Florida (-10.5) vs. Houston
Hello, Super Bowl of Vegas Champions.
Central Florida and Houston have combined to go 13-2 against the spread in 2013, each dropping just one game thus far.
Houston’s first loss against the spread actually came in Week 10. The Cougars were not sharp against South Florida as a 19.5-point favorite, although they still came away victorious.
Central Florida is coming off a bye, and the Knights will play just their fourth home game of the year. Their lone loss of the season came against South Carolina, and they held the lead against the Gamecocks going into half.
Although 10.5 seems like a lot of points against a Houston team that has looked great against almost everyone it’s played, UCF presents a different kind of challenge. I think we learn just how good this team is with a convincing, double-digit win.
And by double digit, I mean 11 or more. Hopefully.
The Pick: UCF (-10.5)
No. 20 Louisville (-28) at Connecticut
This week’s Friday night showcase is a reminder that going out for dinner every now and then isn't a bad idea. Connecticut will get the spotlight treatment, and this is bad news for everyone (including Connecticut).
The Huskies almost have the opposite of a perfect-perfect record. They are 0-7 on the season and 1-6 against the spread. Last time out they were a 24-point underdog against Central Florida, and they were blasted 62-17.
Louisville—like UConn—enjoyed the bye last week, and this marks the fifth time this season that the Cardinals have been at least a four-touchdown favorite. In those previous matchups, Charlie Strong’s group is 2-2 against the spread.
Offensively, however, the Cardinals haven’t been blazing of late. They should win this game with ease, but four scores at home—even for a team this bad—is hard to pass up.
UConn has to cover again, right?
Well, no. But let's try anyway. Enjoy dinner.
The Pick: Connecticut (+28)
No. 19 UCLA (-1.5) at Arizona
The oddsmakers seem to have lost all faith in UCLA, or perhaps they’re just buying what RichRod is selling. Or, maybe it’s a bit of both.
The No. 19 team in the country is nearly a pick ‘em against an unranked opponent, although perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Since the Bruins’ enormous comeback against Nebraska, the team has not been all that impressive.
UCLA started off the season winning its first five games against the spread. It has since lost the last three, losing two of those games outright to Stanford and Oregon.
Arizona has quietly put together a solid season, and it has done so with only three home games in the first 10 weeks. The Wildcats have yet to lose against the spread playing at home, although this will be the stiffest competition yet.
How many times has UCLA covered at Arizona in the past five outings? Zero. I believe it stays that way.
The Pick: Arizona (+1.5)
No. 16 Fresno State (-10) at Wyoming
As Fresno State continues on the path to BCS bustin’, one thing has remained constant beyond the whole winning-every-game thing: This team has not been kind to gamblers.
The Bulldogs enter Week 11 with just one win against the spread, and they did not come close to covering the robust 23.5-point number against Nevada last weekend. In fact, a loss didn’t seem out of the question for much of the game.
Wyoming has the chance to bust the hopeful BCS busters, and it will attempt to do so as a double-digit dog. The Cowboys have cooled since a hot start, one that began with a near upset of Nebraska as a 31-point underdog.
Still, this team is more than capable at home, and it catches Fresno at a time when all is not well. Not only can Wyoming cover this spread, it should be considered a live underdog to win.
The Pick: Wyoming (+10)
No. 15 Texas A&M (-19) vs. Mississippi State
The schedule makers crafted an evil blueprint for Mississippi State, and a stop in Aggie Land is next up on the evil docket.
For the fourth time this season, the Bulldogs are at least a touchdown underdog. Thus far, they are 0-3 against the spread in those games. On the road, Mississippi State has only covered once in the past six outings.
Texas A&M enters with a 5-4 mark against the spread, and the Aggies have covered the past two. Offensively, this group should find plenty success against a defense that has not played well in recent weeks, but can the defense get enough stops to cover the inflated spread?
We shall see, but if you're going to go down swinging, it's best to do so with Johnny Manziel.
The Pick: Texas A&M (-19)
No. 14 Oklahoma State (-31) vs. Kansas
In his last 20 games against FBS teams, Charlie Weis is 1-19.
That staggering statistic has zero to do with this game—let’s just move that to 1-20 right now—but it does show just how overmatched the Jayhawks have been against quality opponents.
Kansas has lost its last five games, failing to score 20 points each time out. In fact, KU has failed to reach this three-touchdown threshold in all but one game this season. Against a team like Oklahoma State that might be hitting stride, that’s important.
The Pokes have found their offense in the past two weeks, scoring 120 points in the last 120 minutes. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that this production has come on the road.
Kansas has only covered the spread against Oklahoma State twice in the past 10 years, although this game was much closer than many expected a season ago.
Don’t expect the same result this time around.
The Pick: Oklahoma State (-31)
No. 11 Miami (-6.5) vs. Virginia Tech
With the undefeated season officially derailed, Miami will head home to take on a team that just lost back-to-back games against Duke and Boston College. Before you go sprinting to the window, however, let’s first assess what we know about these two (not much).
After covering in four straight, the Hurricanes have lost the last three against the spread. They will also be without running back Duke Johnson the rest of the way, which is a massive blow to what this offense wants to do.
Virginia Tech looked like it had turned a corner—winning six straight—and then the month of November came. Bad Logan Thomas replaced Good Logan Thomas, and turnovers have just killed the Hokies.
But where is Miami emotionally following last weekend’s loss? Better yet, where are they as a team after struggling the past month? Although Va. Tech has had its struggles, it has covered nine out of 12 times against ‘The U.’
Give me points, and goodness let's hope these two QBs don't bring their bad versions. Otherwise, this game could be tough to watch.
The Pick: Virginia Tech (+6.5)
No. 9 Auburn (-7.5) at Tennessee
Is this the week where Vegas finally figures out Auburn? Thus far, it has not given the Tigers much respect—even through the rapid improvement—and the team’s 7-2 record against the spread tells a story.
Auburn has now covered in the past six games, yet it has been handed another intriguing point spread that doesn't feel like nearly enough. It looks too easy.
After upsetting South Carolina, Tennessee was outscored 76-13 by Alabama and Missouri. It’s worth noting, however, that these two losses came on the road.
The contrarian in me—the same one that has seen the Vols look much better in their own building—wants to take the points here because of the strange line.
But I’m not going to do it. Until Vegas figures out Auburn, I’m not getting off the money train.
The Pick: Auburn (-7.5)
No. 8 Missouri (-14.5) at Kentucky
Speaking of strange point spreads, this just feels too easy, no?
Missouri could have starting quarterback James Franklin back, and the Tigers are a much better team in so many places. After losing outright and against the spread for the first time all season against South Carolina—in heartbreaking fashion I might add—Mizzou responded with an impressive win (and cover) against Tennessee.
Despite its 2-6 record, Kentucky is 4-4 against the spread and covered the last two games. The Wildcats just scored a season-high 48 points, although that effort came against the mighty Alabama State Hornets.
Whether Franklin plays or not, this is not a game I can bet against Mizzou. Should the spread be a little higher? Maybe, but I don't care. Let's all be suckers and see what happens.
The Pick: Missouri (-14.5)
No. 6 Baylor (-14) vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
This is Vegas intrigue galore, which is why this one runs a little long.
Back in the summer—and of course you can bet on these games in the summer—Oklahoma was a six-point favorite in this game. Since then, the spread has swung a massive 20 points.
What makes the swing even more amazing is that Baylor has beaten Oklahoma once in the past 17 meetings. And over the past decade, the Sooners have been a 21-point favorite on average over the Bears.
This year, however, Baylor has covered all but once against the spread despite being handed just one number under 28.5 points. Even more staggering, Baylor has covered 16 times in the team’s last 18 home games. Wowza.
The Sooners enter with a 4-4 record against the spread; 1-2 on the road. Despite their dominance in the series, they have only covered three out of the past 10 games against Baylor.
Both teams are poised to see a significant upgrade in competition, although this spread is telling. 15 points is a lot, but for teams like Baylor and Oregon, these deficits can be erased in just a few plays.
The tarps are gone, and Waco will be madness. If Oklahoma falls behind early, can Blake Bell catch them back up?
The Pick: Baylor (-14)
No. 3 Oregon (-10.5) at No. 5 Stanford
This is the smallest point spread Oregon will see before its bowl game, although this spread says a lot about the oddsmakers’ confidence in the Ducks.
Heading into Week 11, Oregon has averaged out to a 33-point favorite this year. Despite these enormous lines, Mark Helfrich’s team has only lost against the spread once.
Stanford enters at 4-4 against the spread, and the defense held the potent UCLA and Oregon State offenses to a combined 22 points over the past two weeks. It has been superb, although it will be tested.
And as good as Stanford is defensively, Oregon isn’t far behind. The Ducks are again one of the best in the country at forcing turnovers, and they’re also top 10 in points against nationally.
Even with home field, Stanford’s offensive struggles worry me a bit. I don’t feel good laying double digits against a quality team, but I feel better knowing I’m doing so with the covering machine that is Oregon.
The Pick: Oregon (-10.5)
No. 2 Florida State (-35) at Wake Forest
Las Vegas has a Florida State problem on its hands. It can file it away near the Baylor and Oregon problems.
The Seminoles are 6-2 against the spread, and they will head to Florida State after covering the 21-point number against Miami in Week 10. The line is enormous, although it should be enormous.
Wake Forest has played much better than many anticipated, although it will be without star wide receiver Michael Campanaro. His loss cannot be overstated, and his 67 catches will be missed. These catches will especially be missed when you consider Wake Forest’s next leading wideout has caught 15 balls.
Factor in that Florida State has entered the “style points matter” part of the season, and it’s easy to see why it’s a five-touchdown favorite on the road.
It's a lot of points to lay after a win against a Top 10 team, but the situation calls for it.
The Pick: Florida State (-35)
No. 1 Alabama (-12) vs. LSU
That’s how many consecutive weeks Alabama has been favored in a football game. The Tide is poised to pass USC’s all-time record, a record someone needs to ask Nick Saban about only so we can bottle his reaction and sell it.
This line has gradually been bet up throughout the week, and it might soar a little higher before falling down before kickoff. Assuming it doesn’t move far, this will be the largest point spread between these two teams since 1999.
Alabama has covered its last three games against the spread, and the defense has given up just two touchdowns in the past six weeks. It will get a bigger test here, however, considering LSU’s talented wideouts and Zach Mettenberger’s ability to push the ball downfield.
Strangely enough, Alabama has only covered once in the past eight years when playing LSU at home. The Tigers, of course, have pushed the Tide to the brink during the regular season over the past few years. Will 2013 be a similar story, and will this point spread prove to be a bit too much?
Maybe. But Alabama is playing as well as it has in quite some time, and I’m not ready to bet against the nation’s best team, even with such a large spread attached.
The Pick: Alabama (-12)