Game of the Week: #4 Baylor (9-0) at #10 Oklahoma State (9-1). Baylor is favored on the road by 10 in the Big 12’s biggest game all year. Whoever wins between the Bears and Cowboys can win out to win the Big 12 and receive its automatic BCS berth. Baylor’s offense continues to lead the nation by a wide margin. Oklahoma State’s offense, however, ranks 14th nationally. While Baylor is undefeated, Oklahoma State’s only loss was back in September, to West Virginia. While both offenses rank well, both defenses are also in the top 15 in the nation. However, each defense will be facing its toughest test yet in this game, and I expect there to be a lot of scoring in this contest. Oklahoma State is a great team, and is capable of winning this game, but I think in the end, Baylor finds a way to win and stay undefeated. Baylor 48, Oklahoma State 45.
Big Game Guarantee: #12 Texas A&M (8-2) at #22 LSU (7-3). LSU is a 4-point favorite at home in a matchup of two of the SEC’s best offense. Texas A&M is led by QB Johnny Manziel, who won last year’s Heisman trophy, and may win it again this year (the only player to win it twice is Archie Griffin in 1974-75). The Aggies lead the SEC in points per game and yards per game, both by a wide margin. LSU’s offense is likely their best under coach Les Miles, led by QB Zach Mettenberger. For LSU to keep their streak of 10-win seasons alive (every year since 2009), they will have to beat Texas A&M and Arkansas and then win their bowl game. In the end, however, Manziel and the Aggies offense will be too much. LSU will keep the game close, but “Johnny Football” will lead his team to victory. Texas A&M 45, LSU 38.
Another Big Game Guarantee: #17 Arizona State (8-2) at #14 UCLA (8-2). UCLA is a 2-point favorite at home in Pasadena, although Arizona State comes in having won 5 straight, including wins against Washington, Utah, and Oregon State. The only losses for the Sun Devils came early in the season to Stanford and Notre Dame. UCLA’s two losses came to a pair of top 10 teams, Oregon and Stanford, although the Oregon game was tied at halftime, and Stanford led just 3-0 at the half. UCLA plays their home games at the Rose Bowl, which is ironic, as both teams need a win to keep alive their chances of playing there on January 1. If the Sun Devils win they will clinch the Pac-12 South, and if the Bruins win, they will stay alive and could clinch with a win next week against USC. Both teams’ offenses should perform well in this game. I believe, considering UCLA’s only losses are to top 10 teams Oregon and Stanford, that they are better than most of us are giving them credit for. UCLA 41, Arizona State 35.
Upset of the Week: #8 Missouri (9-1) at #24 Ole Miss (7-3). Missouri needs to win their last 2 games to win the SEC East, and they are favored by 3 on the road in Oxford. South Carolina, who has finished their conference schedule, will be finished with their bout with Coastal Carolina in plenty of time to watch and cheer on the Rebels, as they clinch the East in the event of a Missouri loss. If the Tigers win, this scenario will repeat itself next week when Missouri plays Texas A&M (although South Carolina’s game will just 45 minutes earlier next week). As for the game itself, Ole Miss has outgained Missouri, but Missouri has outscored the Rebels this season. Missouri is 2-1 this year against ranked opponents, with the loss in double overtime against South Carolina. However, the other two ranked teams Missouri defeated, Georgia and Florida, were both depleted by injuries, and have since fallen out of the rankings (Florida has to beat #2 Florida State just to make a bowl game). Ole Miss is 1-2 against ranked opponents, but one of their losses was at #1 Alabama. The other loss was by just 3 points to Texas A&M, their only home loss this year. The win came against LSU, 27-24, on October 19, and the Rebels haven’t lost since. A question for Missouri is QB James Franklin, who returns after missing 4 games with a shoulder injury. Ole Miss is a program that is on the rise, a rise that I believe includes a win in a big game like this one. Ole Miss 31, Missouri 28.
Closer than the Experts Think: #19 Wisconsin (8-2) at #25 Minnesota (8-2). Wisconsin is favored by 16 points, on the road, against an 8-2 Minnesota team that has won 4 straight. This is a spread I don’t understand. I do understand why Wisconsin is a favorite, considering their record, with their only losses to Ohio State and Arizona State. They haven’t even been threatened by anyone else. Multiple analysts project they will be in a BCS bowl game, as an at-large bid, implying they would win out and reach the top 14 in the rankings. Minnesota struggled early in the season, losing to Iowa and Michigan. Coach Jerry Kill missed the Michigan game after suffering a seizure, and has taken a leave of absence since. Perhaps that is what has ignited this team, as they haven’t lost since, winning 4 consecutive Big Ten games for the first time since 1973. Both teams still have a shot at their respective division titles, although they would need help from the opponents of the teams they are chasing (Wisconsin is chasing Ohio State; Minnesota is chasing Michigan State). I believe these two teams are fairly even, although Wisconsin has just a little better rating in the “eyeball test”. Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 27.
Bonus NFL Pick: Manning vs. Brady XIV, Denver Broncos (9-1) at New England Patriots (7-3). The Broncos are favored by 2 in Foxborough. Both teams are coming off of big games last week, although with different results. The Broncos beat the Chiefs 27-17, handing them their first loss of the season. The Patriots lost to the Panthers, 24-20, on Monday Night Football, with a disputed no-call shrouding the game’s final play in controversy. The two greatest QBs of the current era, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, meet for the 14th time in this contest. Brady has won 9 of the previous 13, including 7 out of 9 in New England, and the Patriots won last year’s meeting, 31-21, which was also in New England. This year, however, the Broncos are considered by most to be the best team in the NFL, and Manning on pace to have a record-breaking season. In addition to the Manning-Brady storyline, there is also the storyline of Broncos WR Wes Welker’s return to New England, where he played from 2007-2012. While the Broncos likely have the better offense for now, the Patriots defense is also depleted by injuries. Expect the Broncos offense to jump on those defensive weaknesses. Broncos 38, Patriots 27.