Game of the Week: #25 Georgia (6-3) at #7 Auburn (9-1). Auburn is a 4-point home favorite in a big contest for both teams. Georgia is trying to avoid falling back out of the rankings, and will actually still have a mathematical chance in the SEC East with a win, although they will need a lot of help if they want the division title. Auburn can also win out for a division title in the SEC West. While that scenario would include an upset of Alabama, that game against the Tide won’t be for the division title if Auburn doesn’t win this one first. All-time, the series stands at 54-54-8, in what is known as the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.” Over those 116 meetings, Georgia has outscored Auburn by 114 points (less than 1 point per game). Georgia RB Todd Gurley will play, although he continues to battle nagging injuries, and I expect him to make an impact. Auburn QB Nick Marshall, who was dismissed from Georgia in 2012 due to discipline issues, has been waiting for this opportunity. I don’t expect him to disappoint. Auburn 35, Georgia 28.
Big Game Guarantee: #12 Oklahoma State (8-1) at #24 Texas (7-2). Oklahoma State travels to Austin, where they are a 3-point favorite in a game with major implications in the Big 12 title chase. The winner of this contest will have the best chance to upend undefeated Baylor to win the conference title, and the automatic BCS berth that goes with it, as both teams have games with Baylor in the coming weeks. Both teams come in playing very well, as Texas has won 6 straight, and Oklahoma State has won 5 straight. Oklahoma State can’t be caught looking ahead to next week’s Baylor game, but Mike Gundy knows that and his team will be ready. Oklahoma State 45, Texas 35.
Another Big Game Guarantee: #4 Stanford (8-1) at USC (7-3). USC is a 4-point underdog at home in this game against a highly ranked in-state rival. This is an appropriate spread, as each of the last 3 meetings have been won by 7 points or less, all by Stanford, including a 3OT game in the last meeting in Los Angeles. USC made a statement last week, defeating Cal, 62-28. Stanford, of course, made a pretty big one of their own, winning what may have been college football’s biggest game so far this year, against Oregon, by a 26-20 score. The only loss for the Cardinal came at Utah, and may inhibit their title chances. USC is 4-1 since the midseason firing of coach Lane Kiffin, with the lone loss coming by 4 points at Notre Dame. I wouldn’t be surprised to see USC make this game interesting, but in the end Stanford will be too much for the Trojans. Stanford 24, USC 20.
Upset of the Week: #23 Miami (7-2) at Duke (7-2). Duke is hosting their biggest home game in years, perhaps since Steve Spurrier was the Blue Devils head coach. Miami is reeling, coming off of back-to-back losses to Florida State and Virginia Tech. While the Florida State loss is certainly understandable, the Hurricanes played surprisingly poorly against the Hokies last week. RB Duke Johnson is out for the year with injury, which certainly impacts Miami’s offensive explosiveness. Duke has won 5 straight, including a win over that Virginia Tech team that beat Miami. Duke has never beaten Miami since the Hurricanes joined the ACC, losing all 8 meetings, so they should be due. These two teams are statistically very even, so this game may very well come down to the crowd and home-field advantage. Duke 31, Miami 27.
Another Upset of the Week: Michigan (6-3) at Northwestern (4-5). In a spread I don’t understand, Northwestern is a 3-point favorite at home. Michigan has had a good season, winning two-thirds of their games and staying in the Big Ten race until last week, while only losing terribly just once. Northwestern had a good start, winning their first 4 games, but have lost 5 straight games since. While 4 of those games have been close, they simply aren’t winning. Michigan won last year’s meeting, 38-31, in Ann Arbor; I expect them to also be able to win this year, in Evanston. Michigan 31, Northwestern 26.
Closer Than The Experts Think: Indiana (4-5) at #22 Wisconsin (7-2). Wisconsin is a 23-point home favorite against the Hoosiers. That is a spread that is understandable, considering Wisconsin has won 4 straight by double digits since their loss to Ohio State, and Indiana has lost 3 out of 4 since their win over Penn State. I do think this game will be closer than people expect, however, because of Indiana’s offense. The Hoosiers rank 10th in points per game, and have scored 28 or more in every game this season. The reason they are under .500 and struggling to even become bowl eligible, is their defense, which ranks 114th in points allowed (12th from the bottom), allowing 37.4 points per game. The key matchup will be between that offense of Indiana and Wisconsin’s defense, which is 6th in the nation with just 15.2 points allowed per game. I expect this to be a shootout, but I also expect Wisconsin, as the better team, to win the game. Wisconsin 45, Indiana 35.