Every Wednesday during the college football season, we will give “Stanford Steve” Coughlin of ESPN Radio and the “SVP & Russillo” show and Chris Fallica of ESPN Stats & Information and “College GameDay” their shot at picking the weekend’s top college football games.
Here are their against-the-spread picks (in bold) for Week 11, along with a confidence level of 1-10 (1 is lowest, 10 highest) for each:
Note: All odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
Oregon Ducks (-8.5) at Utah Utes
Fallica: This game will hinge so much on emotion. You would have to think the Ducks really wanted to put one on Stanford badly last week. And they did. Now, can they get back up in a hostile environment against a team that is great in the underdog role? After its last win over Stanford, Oregon lost its next game as a big favorite. In the end, I don’t think Utah can match the nation’s most efficient offense, but the Utes should throw a bit of a scare into the Ducks this week.
ATS pick: Oregon 31, Utah 27 (confidence: 2)
Coughlin: This might be the most telling game of the weekend, as Oregon is now ranked in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings — and this might be their toughest game left on their schedule. It’s hard not to see the difference in talent level between the two quarterbacks in this game, when you look at the Ducks’ Marcus Mariota and the Utes’ Travis Wilson. I look at how close USC was to winning in Salt Lake City, which makes me think the Ducks will not have a problem scoring. The Utah defense prides itself on getting penetration into the opponent’s backfield, but with the Ducks’ spread system, that tactic could backfire.
I did notice a difference in the Utes offense last week, as their passing game struggled in their first game without their top wide receiver, Dres Anderson. With the news of the Ducks seeing themselves as the fourth-best team in the playoff rankings, I expect a focused team to cover this number.
ATS pick: Oregon 31, Utah 21 (confidence: 3)
TCU Horned Frogs (-6) vs. Kansas State Wildcats
Fallica: Both of these teams have been money-making machines, if you’ve been on their side. TCU is 9-1 ATS in its past 10 games, while the “Bill Snyder Underdog Mutual Fund” is 16-2 ATS in the Wildcats’ past 18 regular-season games as an underdog (11 outright wins). I think TCU got its “bad game” out of its system last week in a hostile environment in Morgantown and still came away with a win. There is a lot on the line for both teams here, but I like the TCU defense (third in defensive efficiency) to give QB Jake Waters trouble, with Kevin White again getting the task of shutting down one of the best WRs in the nation in Tyler Lockett.
ATS pick: TCU 33, Kansas State 21 (confidence: 5)
Coughlin: This game is as hard to predict for me as any that I could think of recently. I haven’t been lucky going with TCU this year, as last week they were my only loss. And as Mr. Fallica points out above, Kansas State is 16-2 ATS (with 11 outright wins) as an underdog in its past 18. But there is something when I watch the Wildcats’ offense that bothers me: Waters just doesn’t look right to me, especially when he throws the ball, and I don’t feel confident in what Snyder’s offense can do — though when I think about it, I don’t ever feel good about what they can with the ball. TCU QB Trevone Boykin should be a lot better than he was last week in Morgantown, and I expect the Horned Frogs’ offense to be a lot more efficient, as they return home. I’ll take Gary Patterson’s guys in this one.
ATS pick: TCU 28, Kansas State 17 (confidence: 1)
Michigan State Spartans (-3.5) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
Over/under: 58.5 (via Pinnacle)
Fallica: Check the weather for this one. As of now, it’s expected to be a rainy, cold evening in East Lansing — and that should favor the defenses. In the past two games, Ohio State has allowed just two 60-yard drives and four TDs in 28 drives. Michigan State is eighth in the country in defensive efficiency. I think it adds up to a close, low-scoring game, and given Ohio State’s recent success as an underdog (covered past six, won four outright), I’ll give the Buckeyes a slight nod. But my play is on the under.
Pick: Under the total.
Coughlin: The biggest game of the Big Ten season is here, and I have no idea what to do. I mean, would you feel any different if Ohio State came into this game undefeated? What would the spread be then? A pick ’em? Then you add on top of that Urban Meyer is absurdly good as an underdog, covering his past six games when he is getting points. We did see what Ohio State looks like in a true road game, as the Buckeyes needed overtime at Penn State to win, but before the season, I didn’t think there was a better head coach/offensive coordinator combo to get J.T. Barrett ready for this season than Meyer and Tom Herman — and their work so far this season proves my point.
But there’s also Sparty coming off a bye, Sparty still feeling disrespected and Sparty flat out in a position to stake a claim and prove they are a team worthy of a top-four spot in the playoff. I just trust Michigan State a little more in this spot.
ATS pick: Michigan State 21, OSU 17 (confidence: 2)
Fallica: One thing people need to realize is that Notre Dame is equipped to win a shootout. The Irish have won games this year allowing 43 and 39 points. It could be a tough spot for them, going west to face a spread attack after a late game facing an option offense. ASU, however, is a fairly fortunate team. The Sun Devils are 24th in average in-game win probability and were very fortunate to beat USC and Utah. The last time ASU faced a decent offense in USC, the Sun Devils allowed 493 yards and 34 points. Prior to that, they allowed 580 yards and 62 points to UCLA. I expect a big day here for Everett Golson and the Irish offense.
ATS pick: Notre Dame 34, Arizona State 27 (confidence: 8)
Coughlin: With the new College Football Playoff rankings out, this game features No. 9 vs. No. 10. And I can’t help but think how different those rankings would be if it not for one play for either team, as ASU won on a Hail Mary at USC, and Notre Dame had a last-second TD taken off the board in Tallahassee. I’ve watched the Sun Devils every week since their commanding win over my alma mater (Stanford) a couple of weeks ago, and there just seems to be less firepower to the offense since Taylor Kelly returned to the offense as the signal-caller. Plus, I think Notre Dame is better at every position on the field except wide receiver, as I might take the Sun Devils’ Jaelen Strong over anyone in the country at that position. I also give a huge advantage to the Irish when you look at the head-coaching battle. Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly is one of the best in-game coaches and playcallers. And sorry ASU fans, I still can’t get that UCLA game out of my head. I’ll take the Irish here.
ATS pick: Notre Dame 31, ASU 21 (confidence: 4)
Fallica: A Wednesday night midweek special! This is not a Northern Illinois team similar to the past couple of seasons and the Huskies have been overvalued all year, dropping five straight against the number — all as at least a TD favorite. NIU is 18 spots worse in offensive efficiency than a year ago, and even more noticeable is the defensive drop-off — NIU is 92nd in defensive efficiency this year (41st last year). Ball State has been close a couple of times this year (lost at Iowa by four after leading for almost all of the second through fourth quarters). Jahwan Edwards leads the Cardinals to the small upset win here.
ATS pick: Ball State 30, Northern Illinois 24 (confidence: 6)
Syracuse Orange (+3) vs. Duke Blue Devils
Fallica: How many great escapes do the Blue Devils have in them? Duke is 7-2 since the start of last year in games decided by a TD or less and saw its win probability dip to 3 percent with under three minutes left last week at Pitt. Syracuse has been hit hard by injuries this year, but the Orange continue to play hard — especially on defense (33rd in defensive efficiency). The Orange are rewarded for their efforts with an upset win this week.
ATS pick: Syracuse 27, Duke 26 (confidence: 6)
Boston College Eagles (+3.5) vs. Louisville Cardinals
Fallica: After giving one away last week against Florida State, who knows where the Cardinals’ heads are. Regardless of their mental state, they better be ready for the BC running game. Louisville still leads the nation in defensive efficiency, but those numbers might be a little deceptive given the teams and opposing QB circumstances the Cardinals have faced (Brad Kaaya first start, Deshaun Watson injured). BC was able to run right through USC in Chestnut Hill and is ninth nationally in rushing. BC gets win No. 7 over a deflated Louisville squad.
ATS pick: Boston College 24, Louisville 21 (confidence: 5)
Auburn Tigers (-21.5) vs. Texas A&M Aggies
O/U: 66 (via Pinnacle)
Coughlin: This Texas A&M squad has fallen off the national radar just as much as the team it beat the opening night of the season, South Carolina. Once I saw the Aggies’ effort level against Ole Miss, I knew they would be in trouble for the rest of the season. While many people will choose this time to take shots at Kevin Sumlin’s team, I look at it as a time to beat them while you can, because Sumlin is playing a lot of guys who are in their first year on the College Station campus. You combine that youth, with what I think is the best in-game playcaller in college football, Gus Malzahn, and I see a scoreboard that better be fully charged at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday afternoon. Expect Auburn to put up 50-plus points. I’ll take the over.
Pick: Over the total.
Fallica: 29-18 ATS (61.7 percent)
Last week: 5-0
Coughlin: 34-15-1 (68 percent)
Last week: 4-1
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