College Football Week 14 Predictions: Picking Top 25 Games Against the Spread
Rivalry week also marks the end of the regular college football season, a harsh reality drowned in Thanksgiving leftovers. It's not over for everyone, but it it will be for most. And if it’s going to end—and unfortunately it has to—at least it will end in style.
The Week 14 catalog of games is deep. There are rivalry games, of course, but there are also meaningful matchups with significant BCS and national title implications.
In the land of the Top 25, some of these rivalry games come equipped with a small point spread, a sign that a good game could follow. For others—take Florida State-Florida, for example—the point spread signifies surprise seasons on both ends of the spectrum.
With turkey on the brain, it’s time to push aside all food thoughts for a moment.
Let’s pick some winners.
Picks Against the Spread Entering Week 14: 126-106-2
Spreads courtesy of VegasInsider.com
No. 24 Duke (+5.5) at North Carolina
For Duke, the magic number is nine. Nine wins—which we all saw coming, of course—and nine victories against the spread. The Blue Devils have not lost a game against the number since late September, and yet they enter this game as an underdog.
Is Las Vegas flexing its muscle, or is North Carolina playing better than you realize?
Yes and yes.
UNC has quietly put it together. The Tar Heels have won the last five and covered the last six after a slow start. Last week they dropped 80 points on Old Dominion and covered the 17-point spread. Well, yeah.
As superb as Duke has been, this spread speaks volumes here. UNC is 5-1 against the spread at home and the offense is cooking.
Lay the points with the unranked team and don’t look back.
The Pick: UNC (-5.5)
No. 22 UCLA (+3.5) at No. 23 USC
Eight weeks ago, you could have made UCLA a double-digit favorite in this game. You could’ve then placed your piggybank on the Bruins and doubled your ham fortune in a few hours.
Thanks to Ed Orgeron, however, the situation has drastically changed. USC has won six of seven games since the change was made at head coach, and the interim tag is suddenly in jeopardy. Although the Trojans didn’t cover the 20.5-point spread against Colorado last weekend, they cruised to an easy win.
The Bruins fought back valiantly against Arizona State, but they came up short. Still, Jim Mora’s group is a solid 7-4 against the spread in 2013.
The problem? UCLA is 1-7 against the spread when playing at USC over the past eight years, and the Trojans are rolling.
Good luck with this decision, Pat Haden.
The Pick: USC (-3.5)
No. 19 Central Florida (-27) vs. South Florida
South Florida has scored 10 points or less in three of the past four games, and that’s not the best news with a road trip to UCF on deck. Strangely enough, however, USF has covered each road game it has played this year.
Central Florida is coming off an impressive win (and cover) against Rutgers as a 20-point favorite. The Knights have been a solid Vegas play all year covering eight of 11 games overall.
This is a rather significant mismatch on paper, although the South Florida defense has played well despite the team’s struggles. 27 points—despite the canyon’s difference in talent—feels a bit too much here.
USF will lose again, but it will remain undefeated on the road with the oddsmakers.
Weird, I know.
The Pick: USF (+27)
No. 17 LSU (-25) vs. Arkansas
Bret Bielema’s first season as Arkansas head coach can be accurately summarized with this point spread. While it is enormous, it’s also difficult to argue against given his team’s performance against the number.
The Razorbacks have only covered three times in 11 games, and this will be the second biggest spread they go up against all year. As a 30-point underdog against Alabama, Arkansas lost 52-0.
Don’t look now, but the Hogs have now lost eight in a row. Actually, go ahead and look. You should take note of these things.
LSU made it look easy against Texas A&M at home in Week 13, easily covering the small spread. This, however, was the first time they covered a spread since October 12.
As bad as Arkansas has played, is this too may point? Uh, no. No it is not.
The Pick: LSU (-25)
No.16 Fresno State (-8) at San Jose State
This game opened with a nine-point spread—a reasonable number considering the sudden roll Fresno State is on—and it has since been bet down.
Is this cause for concern for the Bulldogs? It’s certainly worth noting.
For the first time all season, however, Fresno State covered in back-to-back games. Last weekend’s video game-esque showcase for quarterback Derek Carr was monstrous en route to an easy cover as a 34-point favorite.
San Jose State mounted a late comeback in regulation against Navy, although the Spartans fell in overtime as a one-point underdog. They’ve covered just once in the past five games.
And yet, despite the glaring recent trends, this small spread and early action in favor of San Jose State is hard to ignore. This will be a closer game than many realize, and for that reason I shall take the points.
The Pick: San Jose State (+8)
No. 15 Wisconsin (-24) vs. Penn State
For the first time in 2013, the Badgers failed to cover the spread. Hopefully you made enough money along the way.
Playing in frigid Minneapolis in Week 13, the Gophers kept it within 16.5 points. Still, Wisconsin won the game and is inching closer to a BCS at-large bid. The style can be difficult for some teams to handle, which is why we're seeing more spreads like this.
Penn State hung with Nebraska in Week 13, although it was the Cornhuskers prevailing in a pick ‘em game. The Nittany Lions are now just 4-7 against the spread on the year, although they will get more than three touchdowns in the season finale.
Wisconsin has been dealt four spreads of 23 points or more this year and it covered each time. Expect a healthy dose of running and an ugly game.
The Pick: Wisconsin (-24)
No. 14 Northern Illinois (-36) vs. Western Michigan
I just have a feeling that Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch will run for 321 yards in this game but the Huskies will still not cover.
Okay, fine. This game happened before the picks were released. Lynch was indeed a monster and Northern Illinois didn’t cover against Western Michigan.
The Pick: Let’s make good use of this space. I pick stuffing over any other Thanksgiving Day accessory.
No. 13 Oregon (-22.5) vs. Oregon State
It was not a fun weekend for Oregon teams. The Ducks and Beavers lost by the combined score of 111-43 in Week 13, and there’s really not much else to add.
It was a disaster for both in every sense, but The Civil War must go on.
The Ducks lost against the spread just once in their first eight games. They have since dropped three consecutive matchups against the number. The health of quarterback Marcus Mariota has become a concern, although he has been cleared to play.
Oregon State has now lost its last four—covering just once in this time—and the team is limping into this one following a 69-27 loss to Washington… at home. Yikes.
Which troubled horse should we back here? The less troubled one.
Oregon State has covered just once against Oregon in the past five. Let’s reluctantly side there.
The Pick: Oregon (-22.5)
No. 12 Arizona State (-12) vs. Arizona
One of the weekend’s most underrated games—unless you live in the state—comes equipped with plenty of emotion to handicap beyond the game itself. Each team will have to respond following success, which is not as easy as it sounds.
Arizona State locked up a trip to the Pac-12 Championship with a win (and cover) over UCLA. Arizona, meanwhile, blew out Oregon as a 20-point underdog.
The Wildcats will head back on the road for the first time since early November. And while running back Ka'Deem Carey can press a good defense, Arizona State has been a tough out at home, particularly against the run. Todd Graham also hasn’t lost since early October.
As big as last weekend was for Rich Rod, the Sun Devils are rolling and stay rolling here.
The Pick: Arizona State (-12)
No. 11 Michigan State (-14.5) vs. Minnesota
Don’t look now, but Michigan State is on a bit of a Vegas roll.
Sparty has lost against the spread only once in the past nine games, and offensively this team seems to have found some rhythm. Admit it, you forgot this team had just one loss.
Minnesota, however, has had a tremendous 2013. The Gophers hung with Wisconsin for a while, covering the more than two-score spread, although they couldn’t muster up enough points to win.
Michigan State isn’t the only team covering spreads; Minnesota has covered in the last five games. In this particular matchup, something’s got to give.
As good as the Spartans have been, they’ve only covered once against the Gophers in the past six outings. It won’t be the prettiest of games with two good defenses going toe-to-toe, which means points will be at a premium.
The Pick: Minnesota (+14.5)
No. 9 Baylor (-13) at TCU
Now this is a peculiar point spread, one that feels about a touchdown or so light. Or at least it would have if Baylor-Oklahoma State didn’t happen.
It’s clear that the oddsmakers believe Baylor will let down following the team’s first loss, although even a lackluster performance should be good enough to handle a disappointing TCU team, no?
Baylor is beat up both physically and emotionally, and it will have to take their talents on the road again, a place that has not been kind. The Bears’ two losses against the spread have come away from Waco.
TCU has covered the spread just once in the last six games, although the Horned Frogs are 5-1 against the spread versus Baylor in the last six.
The point spread is just strange, and the game should be as well. Baylor wins but it will be surprisingly close…enough.
The Pick: TCU (+13)
No. 8 Stanford (-14) vs. No. 25 Notre Dame
The Irish have quietly entered the Top 25 once again, although this isn’t exactly the warmest welcoming present back into the scene.
Outside of its loss to USC, Stanford has played tremendous of late. The Cardinal covered the spread in four of the past five games and last week made quick work of Cal as more than a 30-point favorite.
Notre Dame hasn’t always made it look easy—as seen by the lackluster performance against the spread—but Brian Kelly’s team is by no means a pushover. Last week ND secured a nice win (and cover) at home against BYU.
In this particular rivalry, playing in Palo Alto, the Irish have covered the spread six out of the past eight games. Stanford is certainly the more talented team, although Notre Dame is more than capable of hanging around for a while.
The Pick: Notre Dame (+14)
No. 6 Clemson (+4.5) at No. 10 South Carolina
The teams don’t like each other, the coaches constantly spar through microphones and this rivalry has become… pretty one-sided in recent years.
Steve Spurrier’s team has prevailed in this matchup the past four years and the Gamecocks have covered the spread six of the past seven games. Tajh Boyd would love to change this narrative—as would Sammy Watkins—although the road trip won’t make that easy.
South Carolina has covered four of its past five games and won eight out of the last nine overall. Clemson’s lone blemish came against Florida State, of course, and the Tigers are a respectable 6-5 against the spread this season.
This is without question Clemson’s most difficult road test of the season, with the previous trips coming against the likes of NC State, Syracuse, Maryland and Virginia. This dramatic step-up in road class—along with recent dominance of the series—makes South Carolina difficult to go against.
The Pick: South Carolina (-4.5)
No. 5 Missouri (-4.5) vs. Texas A&M
This line should be bigger.
I say this with the utmost respect for Johnny Manziel and Kevin Sumlin, but I thought Missouri would open up closer to a touchdown favorite after last weekend. With that being said, this number is telling. The oddsmakers believe Manziel and A&M will bounce back.
As a three-and-a-half point underdog, the Aggies were handled last weekend. The loss dropped A&M to 5-6 against the spread on the year with one final regular season matchup to even it up.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Missouri did what it has done all year: covered.
The Tigers won convincingly as a short favorite last weekend, taking out Ole Miss on the road by two touchdowns. The Tigers have now won every game by at least 14 points. The lone exception, of course, was the team's lone loss against South Carolina. They have also lost just one game against the spread.
As beastly as Missouri has been—and it has been a magnificent year—this line tells me to go elsewhere.
Is Vegas misfiring here? I don’t feel great about it, but I believe A&M keeps this close.
The Pick: Texas A&M (+4.5)
No. 3 Ohio State (-14.5) at Michigan
It looks too easy. Take Ohio State, lay the two touchdowns and bend down to pick up the money.
Although the spread is robust—especially given the rivalry—it won’t come close to the 20.5-point margin it reached in 2008. The Buckeyes were the favorite, and they backed it up with a 42-7 win.
Ohio State has now lost back-to-back games against the spread this season, although Indiana needed a backdoor touchdown to cover the 33-point number. On the season, the Buckeyes are 6-4-1 against the number.
The Wolverines aren’t far behind, at least from a Vegas standpoint, entering this game 6-5 against the spread. They’ve done this despite various offensive woes and the inability to protect the passer and run the football.
It’s simple, really. Ohio State is 8-1 in the last nine against Michigan and has covered the last six times and eight of none against its rival. Don’t overthink this one.
The Pick: Ohio State (-14.5)
No. 2 Florida State (-27) at Florida
Think about this: In the summer, when initial point spreads were released, Florida was a two-point favorite in this game. Nearly six months later, and the spread has swung 29 points.
This spread is enormous for a few reasons. First, Florida State is an exceptional football team and a covering machine. The Seminoles have covered in nine of 11 games this year despite being handed eight spreads of 21 points or more.
On the other side, Florida is not an exceptional football team. The Gators have lost six straight and just fell to Georgia Southern as a 28.5-point favorite. That’s still hard to process and type.
The spread is silly, but it is also warranted. Florida has covered just once at home in the past 10 games, and I have absolutely no idea how you justify picking the Gators.
I certainly cannot.
The Pick: Florida State (-27)
No. 1 Alabama (-11) at No. 4 Auburn
The Iron Bowl is glorious. It requires no betting action, just a television and a fridge not far out of sight. With that being said, there is a spread to tend to.
Alabama has put together yet another solid season against the spread, entering the regular season finale with a 7-4 mark. Nick Saban has lost just once against the number since early October.
From a Vegas standpoint at least, however, Auburn has the advantage. The Tigers have covered their last eight games and enter this one with a 9-2 record against the spread. Despite being underappreciated by the oddsmakers, Auburn has responded week after week. That brings up to this game.
As good as Auburn has been—and this season has and should be celebrated—it’s difficult to go against Alabama, even with the 11 points. The Tide will provide a physicality that will likely prove to be the difference, and 11 simply isn’t enough.
The Pick: Alabama (-11)