College Football Picks: Week 15 Predictions for Every Game

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2020

College Football Picks: Week 15 Predictions for Every Game

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    Arguably the most intriguing game of the Week 15 college football slate was lost to cancellation Tuesday when Cincinnati at Tulsa was axed due to COVID-19 issues within the Bearcats program. The two teams will still face off for the AAC title, but now we will wait until Dec. 19 for that game.

    In the aftermath, there are just two matchups between ranked teams on the schedule this weekend.

    Iowa will play host to Wisconsin in a meeting of two-loss Big Ten teams, while the high-powered North Carolina offense is eyeing an upset at Miami.

    However, beyond those two contests—which will inevitably shake up the Associated Press Top 25—there are plenty of other opportunities for upsets as we move ever closer to championship week and the start of bowl season.

    Ahead are B/R's predictions for each Week 15 game with a closer look at each AP Top 25 contest and a handful of the best clashes between unranked teams followed by a quick rundown of the rest of the slate.

AP Nos. 25-21

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    Colorado running back Jarek Broussard
    Colorado running back Jarek BroussardDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    No. 25 Wisconsin (2-2) at No. 19 Iowa (5-2), 3:30 p.m. ET

    For prediction, see No. 19 Iowa

         

    No. 24 Buffalo (4-0) vs. Akron (1-4), 2:30 p.m. ET

    Running back Jaret Patterson has been a one-man wrecking crew for Buffalo, racking up 920 rushing yards in four games, including an absurd 409-yard, eight-touchdown performance against Kent State on Nov. 28.

    Meanwhile, Akron has one of the worst rushing defenses in the nation, surrendering 212.2 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry. This one isn't going to be close.

    Prediction: Buffalo 49, Akron 10

         

    No. 23 Texas (6-3) at Kansas (0-9), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Kansas has been outscored 414-142, and Texas scored a season-high 69 points last week at Kansas State.

    What more really needs to be said?

    Prediction: Texas 73, Kansas 13

         

    No. 22 Liberty (9-1), Idle

    Next Game: TBD

         

    No. 21 Colorado (4-0) vs. Utah (1-2), 9:30 p.m. ET Friday

    After three straight 5-7 seasons, Colorado has returned to relevance with a 4-0 start under new coach Karl Dorrell.

    The Buffaloes defense has allowed just 23 points over the last two weeks, and running back Jarek Broussard has been one of the breakout stars of 2020. He had 301 rushing yards on 25 carries last week against Arizona, and while the Utah defensive front is a lot more formidable, he should once again have a big day on the ground to help lead Colorado to victory.

    Prediction: Colorado 31, Utah 24

AP Nos. 20-16

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    USC quarterback Kedon Slovis
    USC quarterback Kedon SlovisAlex Gallardo/Associated Press

    No. 20 North Carolina (7-3) at No. 9 Miami (8-1), 3:30 p.m. ET

    For prediction, see No. 9 Miami

        

    No. 19 Iowa (5-2) vs. No. 25 Wisconsin (2-2), 3:30 p.m. ET

    The Hawkeyes put together a dominant second half against Illinois last week to pick up their fifth straight win, and first-year starter Spencer Petras had his best game of the season. The redshirt sophomore completed 18 of 28 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns, helping to take some pressure off the running game.

    Meanwhile, the Badgers have managed just 13 points in the last two weeks, with Indiana keeping them out of the end zone Saturday. The Wisconsin defense will keep things close, and this could devolve into a ground-and-pound Big Ten game. Advantage to homestanding Iowa.

    Prediction: Iowa 24, Wisconsin 21

       

    No. 18 Tulsa (6-1), Idle

    Next Game: American Athletic Conference Championship Game, vs. Cincinnati (8-0), 9 p.m. ET Dec. 19

        

    No. 17 Louisiana (9-1), Idle

    Next Game: Sun Belt Conference Championship Game, at Coastal Carolina (10-0), Noon ET Dec. 19

       

    No. 16 USC (4-0) at UCLA (3-2), 7:30 p.m. ET

    USC made a statement Sunday with 28 first-quarter points against Washington State, and sophomore quarterback Kedon Slovis finished with a career-high five touchdown passes in a 38-13 victory. The Trojans have emerged as the cream of the crop in the Pac-12, but UCLA always comes to play in this rivalry matchup.

    The Bruins nearly upended Oregon on Nov. 21, and they've won two in a row over Arizona and Arizona State. USC is the superior team on paper and should come out on top, but that hasn't meant much in the Pac-12 this year, so don't expect a blowout.

    Prediction: USC 31, UCLA 20

AP Nos. 15-11

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    Coastal Carolina running back CJ Marable
    Coastal Carolina running back CJ MarableAssociated Press

    No. 15 Northwestern (5-1) vs. Illinois (2-4), Noon ET

    A week after upsetting Wisconsin to climb all the way to No. 11 in the AP poll, Northwestern suffered a 29-20 loss at Michigan State, turning the ball over four times and rushing for just 63 yards on 37 carries.

    Last week's game against Minnesota was canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the Golden Gophers, which means the Wildcats had an additional week of practice to iron out the issues they had against the Spartans. Illinois has played well in its last three games but lacks the offensive firepower to move the ball consistently against the Northwestern defense.

    Prediction: Northwestern 31, Illinois 17

        

    No. 14 BYU (9-1) vs. San Diego State (4-3), 10 p.m. ET

    How will BYU respond to its first loss?

    Despite losing both games, San Diego State held good offensive teams in Nevada (26 points) and Colorado (20) in check, limiting Buffaloes star running back Jarek Broussard to 3.9 yards per carry in a high-volume game.

    The Cougars are the better team and will come out on top, but this is going to be closer than most expect.

    Prediction: BYU 27, San Diego State 14

       

    No. 13 Oklahoma (7-2) at West Virginia (5-4), Noon ET

    Iowa State dissected what had been a solid West Virginia defense in a 42-6 blowout last week. Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy completed 20 of 23 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns in one of the most efficient games of his career.

    That's music to the ears of Oklahoma signal-caller Spencer Rattler, who has four 300-yard games and 24 passing touchdowns with seven interceptions overall. The Mountaineers don't have the firepower to play from behind, so this one could get lopsided.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 35, West Virginia 20

        

    No. 12 Georgia (6-2) at Missouri (5-3), Noon ET

    Missouri is 5-1 in its last six games with its lone loss during that stretch coming at Florida. The Tigers pitched a shutout against Vanderbilt on Nov. 28 and then exploded for a season-high 50 points in a shootout with Arkansas last week.

    A few weeks ago, this would have been an appealing upset pick, but the Georgia offense has looked different with JT Daniels. With the quarterback position finally sorted out, and a stout run defense, the Bulldogs will come out on top in a tough test.

    Prediction: Georgia 30, Missouri 20

       

    No. 11 Coastal Carolina (10-0) at Troy (5-5), 3 p.m. ET

    Troy shut out South Alabama 29-0 last week but has struggled against high-level competition this season, suffering blowout losses against BYU (48-7) and Appalachian State (47-10).

    The Chanticleers are fresh off a huge win over BYU and looking to put the finishing touches on an undefeated regular season. Their well-balanced offense will simply be too much for the Trojans to slow down, let alone stop.

    Prediction: Coastal Carolina 31, Troy 17

AP Nos. 10-6

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    Florida quarterback Kyle Trask
    Florida quarterback Kyle TraskJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    No. 10 Iowa State (8-2), Idle

    Next Game: Big 12 Conference Championship Game, vs. Oklahoma (7-2), Noon ET Dec. 19

        

    No. 9 Miami (8-1) vs. No. 20 North Carolina (7-3), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Both of these offenses can pile up points, so it will come down to which defense shows up.

    The Hurricanes have been stout at times, including in a 48-0 shutout of Duke last week, but they also looked porous in shootout wins against Louisville (47-34) and NC State (44-41). If anything close to the Sam Howell who threw for 550 yards and six touchdowns against Wake Forest shows up, the Tar Heels will be more than capable of pulling off an upset in a high-scoring game.

    Prediction: North Carolina 38, Miami 31

       

    No. 8 Indiana (6-1) vs. Purdue (2-4), 3:30 p.m. ET

    In their first game without quarterback Michael Penix Jr., the Hoosiers proved they are the real deal with a grind-it-out 14-6 victory at Wisconsin. The defense forced a pair of turnovers, and the offense did just enough, though it was outgained 342-217.

    The Indiana defense should have no issue controlling a one-dimensional Purdue offense. The Boilermakers are averaging just 81.5 rushing yards per game, including minus-two rushing yards on 17 carries in a 37-27 loss to Nebraska last week.

    Prediction: Indiana 27, Purdue 14

       

    No. 7 Cincinnati (8-0), Idle

    Next Game: American Athletic Conference Championship Game, vs. Tulsa (6-1), 9 p.m. ET Dec. 19

           

    No. 6 Florida (8-1) vs. LSU (3-5), 7 p.m. ET

    Last week, I predicted a disappointing LSU team would come to play against Alabama. The Tigers fell behind 45-14 by halftime in a 55-17 blowout. I'm not going to make that mistake again.

    Florida is still trying to improve its case for a spot in the College Football Playoff, so expect Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts and the rest of the Gators offense to run it up in what will be a second straight blowout loss for LSU.

    Prediction: Florida 49, LSU 20

AP Nos. 5-1

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    Justin Fields
    Justin FieldsAl Goldis/Associated Press

    No. 5 Texas A&M (7-1), Idle

    Next Game: TBD

        

    No. 4 Clemson (9-1), Idle

    Next Game: Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game, vs. Notre Dame (10-0), 4 p.m. ET Dec. 19

       

    No. 3 Ohio State (5-0) vs. Michigan (2-4), Noon ET

    Would a blowout loss to Ohio State be the final straw for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan?

    The Wolverines were cleared to resume football activities after a COVID-19 outbreak canceled last week's game against Maryland and raised serious questions about whether this one would be played. Getting this one in would mean a lot to the Buckeyes, and while Michigan would love nothing more than to play spoiler, it's just not going to happen for a team that has struggled on both sides of the ball.

    Prediction: Ohio State 42, Michigan 14

        

    No. 2 Notre Dame (10-0), Idle

    Next Game: Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game, vs. Clemson (9-1), 4 p.m. ET Dec. 19

       

    No. 1 Alabama (9-0) at Arkansas (3-6), Noon ET

    Arkansas might be the best 3-6 team in the country. It's hung around with Auburn, Texas A&M, LSU and Missouri, the last of which kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired last week. But the Razorbacks just haven't been able to pull off a big upset.

    They're going to get steamrolled by Alabama, which is eyeing a national title, but it's been a fun season for Razorbacks fans—who now have plenty of reason for optimism about the direction of the program.

    Prediction: Alabama 52, Arkansas 17

Best Unranked Clashes

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Nevada (6-1) at San Jose State (5-0), 10 p.m. ET Friday

    San Jose State and Nevada are on the fringe of the Top 25, and the winner of this game, which was relocated to Las Vegas, could climb into the rankings.

    The Wolf Pack boasts one of the most potent passing offenses in the nation, averaging 334.4 yards per game to rank ninth in FBS. Quarterback Carson Strong has completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 2,327 yards and 21 touchdowns against four interceptions.

    The Spartans defense has looked solid during their 5-0 start, but it has not faced an elite unit.

    Prediction: Nevada 34, San Jose State 21

        

    Houston (3-3) at Memphis (6-3), Noon ET

    With both of these teams allowing at least 435 yards and 30 points per game, the scoreboard operator is going to be busy.

    The Memphis offense has sputtered in recent weeks, tallying just 31 points in the team's last two games, while Houston was firing on all cylinders in its last game, a 56-21 victory over South Florida on Nov. 14 in which it rushed for 319 yards on 37 carries.

    Dual-threat quarterback Clayton Tune accounted for five touchdowns in the win over USF, and he'll lead the Cougars to another victory Saturday.

    Prediction: Houston 49, Memphis 42

        

    Washington (3-1) at Oregon (3-2), 4 p.m. ET

    Both of these teams lost last week, and looking ahead to the Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 18, the North division spot remains up for grabs. Washington can clinch its spot with a win, while Oregon would need a victory and some help.

    The Ducks have turned the ball over 11 times in five games, while the Huskies have done a great job protecting the football with just three giveaways. That will be the difference in this one.

    Prediction: Washington 27, Oregon 20

The Rest of the Slate, Part I

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    Emilee Chinn/Associated Press

    Florida Atlantic (5-2) at Southern Mississippi (2-7), 6:30 p.m. ET Thursday
    Prediction: Florida Atlantic 31, Southern Mississippi 17

    Pittsburgh (5-5) at Georgia Tech (3-6), 7 p.m. ET Thursday
    Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Georgia Tech 14

    UTEP (3-4) at North Texas (3-5), 6 p.m. ET Friday
    Prediction: North Texas 34, UTEP 24

    Charlotte (2-4) at Marshall (7-1), 6:30 p.m. ET Friday
    Prediction: Marshall 42, Charlotte 10

    Arizona State (0-2) at Arizona (0-4), 7 p.m. ET Friday
    Prediction: Arizona State 24, Arizona 17

    Rutgers (2-5) at Maryland (2-2), Noon ET
    Prediction: Maryland 27, Rutgers 19

    Minnesota (2-3) at Nebraska (2-4), Noon ET
    Prediction: Nebraska 21, Minnesota 17

    Western Michigan (4-1) at Ball State (4-1), Noon ET
    Prediction: Ball State 37, Western Michigan 34

    Miami (Ohio) (2-1) at Bowling Green (0-5), Noon ET
    Prediction: Miami (Ohio) 35, Bowling Green 14

    Northern Illinois (0-5) at Eastern Michigan (1-4), Noon ET
    Prediction: Eastern Michigan 31, Northern Illinois 27

    Ohio (2-1) at Kent State (3-1), Noon ET
    Prediction: Kent State 42, Ohio 37

    Wake Forest (4-3) at Louisville (3-7), Noon ET
    Prediction: Louisville 37, Wake Forest 28

    UAB (4-3) at Rice (2-2), 1 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Rice 31, UAB 20

The Rest of the Slate, Part II

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    Marco Garcia/Associated Press

    Incarnate Word (0-0) at Arkansas State (4-7), 3 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Arkansas State 52, Incarnate Word 10

    Central Michigan (3-2) at Toledo (3-2), 3 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Toledo 35, Central Michigan 27

    Navy (3-6) at Army (7-2), 3 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Army 23, Navy 17

    Michigan State (2-4) at Penn State (2-5), 3:30 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Penn State 30, Michigan State 20

    Duke (2-8) at Florida State (2-6), 4 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Florida State 27, Duke 21

    Tennessee (2-6) at Vanderbilt (0-8), 4 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Tennessee 31, Vanderbilt 7

    Boise State (4-1) at Wyoming (2-3), 6 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Boise State 27, Wyoming 14

    Appalachian State (7-3) at Georgia Southern (7-4), 6 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Appalachian State 35, Georgia Southern 24

    Oklahoma State (6-3) at Baylor (2-6), 7 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Oklahoma State 28, Baylor 25

    Louisiana Tech (5-3) at TCU (5-4), 7 p.m. ET
    Prediction: TCU 37, Louisiana Tech 17

    Auburn (5-4) at Mississippi State (2-6), 7:30 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Auburn 27, Mississippi State 21

    Virginia (5-4) at Virginia Tech (4-6), 8 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Virginia 27

    Utah State (1-5) at Colorado State (1-3), 9:30 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Colorado State 30, Utah State 14

    Stanford (2-2) at Oregon State (2-3), 10:30 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Oregon State 31, Stanford 30

    California (1-3) at Washington State (1-2), 10:30 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Washington State 28, California 27

    Fresno State (3-2) at New Mexico (1-5), at Las Vegas, 10:30 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Fresno State 35, New Mexico 20

    UNLV (0-5) at Hawaii (3-4), 11 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Hawaii 38, UNLV 17

       

    All stats courtesy of Sports Reference.

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