College Football Picks: Week 14 Predictions for Every Game
Week 14 offers one final chance for the five programs with realistic College Football Playoff dreams to impress the selection committee.
Alabama, Clemson and Georgia have a clear outlook on Saturday: Win and you're in.
The same cannot be said for Ohio State and Oklahoma. However, a victory in their respective conference championship games would ensure a prominent place in the committee's deliberations.
UCF has an ever-so-slight opportunity to join the CFP discussion, but we're not looking to provide false hope. A second straight New Year's Six bowl berth is most likely at stake for the Knights.
Saturday also includes six makeup games that have no championship impact. We've offered a prediction for all 16 contests that involve a Football Bowl Subdivision team.
Saturday's Non-Championship Games
Drake (7-3) at No. 23 Iowa State (7-4), Noon ET
Expect a pass-focused offense from Drake since it averaged fewer than 100 rushing yards this season while Iowa State ceded only 3.4 yards per carry. However, the Cyclones have allowed a completion clip of 69 percent with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions over the last three games. ISU's talent edge should eventually win out, but a hot start from Drake's aerial attack could make it interesting.
Prediction: Iowa State 34, Drake 20
East Carolina (3-8) at North Carolina State (8-3), Noon ET
Heading into the regular-season finale, only Colorado State and Oregon State have a lower touchdown-to-interception ratio than East Carolina's pass defense. NC State QB Ryan Finley ranks 21st nationally at 8.3 yards per attempt and has 21 touchdowns to eight picks. His home finale will be a productive one.
Prediction: NC State 41, East Carolina 14
Akron (4-7) at South Carolina (6-5), Noon ET
South Carolina's defense has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, surrendering 500-plus yards in three straight games against FBS competition. Fortunately for the Gamecocks, Akron hasn't cleared 400 yards since the season opener against Morgan State.
Prediction: South Carolina 45, Akron 21
Marshall (8-3) at Virginia Tech (5-6), Noon ET
This is 2018 in a nutshell for the Hokies: Are you confident they're going to beat Marshall? Virginia Tech tentatively scheduled this makeup game for bowl-eligibility purposes. And opposite the nation's No. 10 defense, the Hokies will fall short unless the running game duplicates the performance from Week 13's win over Virginia.
Prediction: Marshall 27, Virginia Tech 24
Norfolk State (4-6) vs. Liberty (5-6), 2 p.m. ET
Liberty's defense is typically a mess, so Norfolk State certainly has a chance to snatch an FBS win. However, the visitors have only topped 300 offensive yards once on the road this year. Liberty should be able to outlast NSU even if the defense struggles, as usual.
Prediction: Liberty 38, Norfolk State 28
Stanford (7-4) at Cal (7-4), 3 p.m. ET
K.J. Costello has quietly posted four straight 300-yard passing games. Since the Cardinal will likely be searching for holes against Cal's terrific run defense all night, Stanford needs that streak to continue. It should be tight, but the Cardinal can sneak out a rivalry win to close the regular season on Costello's arm.
Prediction: Stanford 27, Cal 24
Group of 5 Championship Games
Northern Illinois (7-5) vs. Buffalo (10-2), Friday, 7 p.m. ET
Only Clemson has showcased a better run defense than NIU, which has allowed 2.6 yards per attempt in 2018. Buffalo must throw the ball effectively to navigate the Huskies, and junior QB Tyree Jackson has cooled off immensely since a torrid start. It's a concerning trend. But we can't trust Northern Illinois—one of nine FBS offenses to average fewer than 20 points—to score enough anyway in the MAC title game.
Prediction: Buffalo 24, Northern Illinois 20
Louisiana (7-5) at Appalachian State (9-2), Saturday, Noon ET
Louisiana ranks 101st nationally in points allowed per game on the road, and Appalachian State owns the nation's second-best mark at home. App State QB Zac Thomas should provide a larger impact than his 106-yard day in the regular-season meeting since Louisiana's pass defense has struggled all year. That balance will propel the Mountaineers to the Sun Belt title.
Prediction: Appalachian State 41, Louisiana 28
UAB (9-3) at Middle Tennessee (8-4), Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET
Will UAB's offensive line be short-handed again? Middle Tennessee took full advantage in a 27-3 victory last week and racked up a season-high 12 tackles for loss. Without a competent running game to compensate for any defensive issues against a steady MTSU offense, UAB will fold in the Conference USA title game in Murfreesboro.
Prediction: Middle Tennessee 24, UAB 17
Memphis (8-4) at No. 8 UCF (11-0), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Since the CFP committee senselessly dinged UCF's defense, it has ceded only 4.8 yards per snap. Now that a leg injury has sidelined QB McKenzie Milton, the Knights desperately need the unit to limit a powerful Memphis offense. UCF will lean heavily on its running game to support Darriel Mack Jr., so a lower-scoring AAC Championship Game is likely. As long as the defense continues to play well, UCF can steal a tight one.
Prediction: UCF 28, Memphis 25
No. 25 Fresno State (10-2) at No. 22 Boise State (10-2), Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET
In series history, Fresno State is 1-10 when on the road at Boise State. The only victory happened in 1984. All streaks, however, must end. Fresno State had an uncharacteristic collapse in the second half of the regular-season meeting, and it won't happen again if the Bulldogs are more efficient on third down in the Mountain West title game. They were 2-of-10 compared to 10-of-16 for the Broncos during the Nov. 9 clash.
Prediction: Fresno State 27, Boise State 23
Power 5 Championship Games
No. 17 Utah (9-3) vs. No. 11 Washington (9-3), Friday, 8 p.m. ET
Excellent defense carried both Pac-12 programs for much of 2018, but Utah is dealing with a couple of major season-ending injuries. The Utes are without quarterback Tyler Huntley and star runner Zack Moss. Although Utah should again frustrate a run-focused attack, the Utes won't be able to overcome UW's defense without a takeaway in prime scoring territory.
Prediction: Washington 24, Utah 14
No. 14 Texas (9-3) vs. No. 5 Oklahoma (11-1), Saturday, Noon ET
Texas turned three Oklahoma turnovers into 10 points and a game-sealing play in the regular-season matchup. Texas Tech's two interceptions led to a 14-0 edge before the Sooners recovered to win 51-46. OU struggled to pull away from Kansas because of two giveaways. The blueprint to beating Oklahoma is winning the turnover battle. But we expect Kyler Murray and the Sooners to protect the ball and win a race to 50 in the Big 12 title game.
Prediction: Oklahoma 52, Texas 45
No. 4 Georgia (11-1) vs. No. 1 Alabama (12-0), Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
Can the Dawgs slow a rushing attack that averages 5.3 yards per carry? And if that happens, will they also contain Tua Tagovailoa, who's averaging 11.9 yards per attempt and has only two interceptions all season? Georgia has a chance if the SEC Championship Game is a low-scoring affair, but matching Tagovailoa's typical pace is unlikely.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Georgia 21
No. 2 Clemson (12-0) vs. Pitt (7-5), Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Absolutely nothing on paper suggests Pitt will compete with Clemson in the ACC title game. The only reason to give the Panthers the benefit of the doubt is their historical penchant for sticking with top competition. But Pitt is heavily reliant on its running game for success on offense, and Clemson leads the FBS with a mere 2.2 yards allowed per carry.
Prediction: Clemson 37, Pitt 17
No. 21 Northwestern (8-4) vs. No. 6 Ohio State (11-1), Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Northwestern has forced multiple turnovers in three of the last five games and boasts the nation's 10th-best red-zone defense. If there's an upset brewing in Indianapolis in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Wildcats need to steal two possessions and shut down Ohio State inside the 20-yard line. That's a tall order opposite a Buckeyes offense that has rediscovered its efficiency.
Prediction: Ohio State 34, Northwestern 21