Last Week: 9-3 Season Record: 69-27
I may end up sabotaging my own picks segment because I enter the week at exactly 69 wins. This is going to hurt to try and pick winners. Last week my misses were NC State against Boston College (so damn close to picking that upset), Auburn over Georgia, and Miami (FL) over Notre Dame. This is the second to last week of the college football regular season, but do not fret, I will keep doing this segment. I’m going to do an expansive picks blog for the Army-Navy game, every conference title game, and every bowl game. So with that, let’s get picking.
Rutgers vs Indiana (-11)
Indiana needs this win if they are going to have any chance of remaining bowl eligible, as they currently sit at 4-6. Rutgers has given the Hoosiers problems in the past, as they’re 2-1 against Indiana since joining the Big Ten, including a 55-52 victory in 2015 where the Hoosiers held a 20-point lead late in the game. The Scarlet Knights are definitely better than they were last season, which isn’t saying much because they were easily the worst team in the Big Ten in 2016. Hell, Indiana played their worst game of the season last year against Rutgers and still won 33-27. I have the Hoosiers again though it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Rutgers beat the spread.
Projected Score: Indiana 31 Rutgers 24
#24 Michigan vs #5 Wisconsin (-7.5)
This game is huge in terms of Big Ten postseason implications. Not only could Michigan set itself up for a shot at the Big Ten Championship game with a win, but a Wolverines win would likely eliminate Wisconsin from CFP contention given how weak their schedule is. These are two pretty evenly matched teams as they play the same style of classic Big Ten football, in which offense is predicated on the run game and the defense is stingy and physical. Michigan has looked like their old selves again since switching from John O’Korn to Brandon Peters and I think they give Wisconsin a run for their money, but I think the Badgers escape this one and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Projected Score: Wisconsin 24 Michigan 20
Texas vs West Virginia (-3)
Texas isn’t back yet, but they’ve shown some good things under Tom Herman, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, as they are probably the only Big 12 team that actually plays defense. Malik Jefferson has been as advertised and they will need to be at their best if they hope to top Will Grier’s West Virginia squad. The Mountaineers have been a tough offense to stop and that’s thanks in large part to Grier’s comfort in head coach Dana Holgorsen’s system. The Mountaineers are coming off two of their worst offensive performances of the season in their last two games, however both resulted in victories, showing that the defense can step up when needed. I’m taking West Virginia in this one.
Projected Score: West Virginia 30 Texas 21
Minnesota vs #23 Northwestern (-7)
The Minnesota Golden Gophers have struggled in Big Ten play this season, as they’re only 2-5 in conference play, their two wins being lowly Illinois and Nebraska. Defensively they’ve been decent, however, as aside from being unable to tackle Michigan runningbacks, they’ve held their own. It’s on the offensive side of the ball where they’ve struggled, though they are coming off a 54-21 drubbing of Nebraska last time out. Northwestern has had similar success on the defensive side of the ball but they’ve been a lot more consistent offensively and that is thanks in large part to the growth of quarterback Clayton Thorson and the continued dominance of runningback Justin Jackson. I do think Northwestern wins this game, they just have more weapons on offense than Minnesota does.
Projected Score: Northwestern 23 Minnesota 17
SMU vs #21 Memphis (-12.5)
A rare non-Power 5 game in my picks, but this game intrigues me mainly because this is probably the best matchup of wide receivers we’re going to get all season. SMU receiver Courtland Sutton is my top receiver in the upcoming draft and Memphis’ Anthony Miller is my number 5 pass catcher. SMU’s Trey Quinn has also been extremely impressive this season, as he is approaching 100 catches on the year and is already over 1000 yards. So this may not look like much on paper, but if you like wide receivers, turn this game on. I do see this game being high scoring but I’m going to give the edge to Memphis. Quarterback Riley Ferguson has outdueled the likes of Josh Rosen this season and I would certainly give him the edge over SMU’s Ben Hicks.
Projected Score: Memphis 45 SMU 41
Kentucky vs #7 Georgia (-21.5)
Tough loss for Georgia. They went into Jordan-Hare Stadium and got ROCKED by the Auburn Tigers last week, dropping in the rankings from #1 to #7. Their playoff hopes are definitely still alive and well, but they will have to win out in order to become one of the final four. Their first test will be the Kentucky Wildcats, who have quietly been pretty good this season. They’re 7-3 and have beaten the likes of Vanderbilt and Tennessee this season so this won’t be a cake walk for Georgia. However I think Kirby Smart will have his guys ready after the beatdown they suffered at the hands of Auburn and they will get themselves back on track this week.
Projected Score: Georgia 35 Kentucky 21
Kansas State vs #13 Oklahoma State (-20)
Oklahoma State is still alive to get a rematch with Oklahoma in the first ever Big 12 title game, but they will need to win out and they need TCU to lose one of their next two games (TCU faces Texas Tech and Baylor). The Cowboys offensively have been an absolute juggernaut with Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Justice Hill leading the way. Kansas State has had their share of struggles this year but they were competitive to the very end against Oklahoma and their defense held tough in their loss to TCU. I think Oklahoma State will win, but I don’t think it will be by nearly as much as the spread might indicate.
Projected Score: Oklahoma State 35 Kansas State 24
Navy vs #8 Notre Dame (-18)
Notre Dame is pretty much eliminated from playoff contention after getting shellacked by Miami (FL), handing them their second loss of the season. With no conference title game to play for, that pretty much spells the end for the playoff hopes of the Fighting Irish, barring complete insanity. They face an always scrappy Navy team that has given Notre Dame a lot of problems over the years and I actually think this game will come down to the wire. I do think the Irish will pull away and win this game, but the Midshipmen will give them quite the scare.
Projected Score: Notre Dame 27 Navy 24
#19 NC State vs Wake Forest (-1.5)
NC State narrowly escaped Boston College last week with a 17-14 victory despite the fact that the Eagles were without star edge rusher Harold Landry (whom I had hyped up for that matchup without knowing he was dealing with a bum ankle. Such is life.). Wake Forest is a scrappy team, as they have kept the game close in all of their losses this season, which includes Clemson and Notre Dame. I’m actually going to go on a limb and say Wake Forest takes this game. It’s a gut feeling for this one because they’ve come close to beating ranked teams on multiple occasions this season, I think this is the week they get it done.
Projected Score: Wake Forest 20 NC State 17
UCLA vs #11 USC (-16)
All the eyes of NFL scouts will be on this game. Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold could be the top 2 picks in the draft this season and they’ve both played some stellar quarterback. Both quarterbacks rank in the top 10 in the nation in passing yards and this is despite Rosen missing the Utah game due to injury. He is very healthy now, coming off a 381-yard showing against Arizona State last time out. Darnold has struggled with turnovers this season, he leads all of college football in that category, but that hasn’t kept him from being a top-tier quarterback this season. I really hope this game ends in a shootout and I think we’ll get it. These quarterbacks are too gifted for it not to end as such. I have USC winning because they have more weapons on defense to get a stop against Rosen.
Projected Score: USC 49 UCLA 42
California vs #22 Stanford (-15.5)
Another edition of the rivalry most famous for that time Stanford’s band was on the field during Cal’s game-winning run. Both squads have been pretty inconsistent this season, with Cal blowing out a top-10 Washington State team one week, then losing to Arizona the following week (though it has since been discovered that Arizona is actually pretty good). Bryce Love had a bounceback game in the win over Washington last week, rushing for 166 yards after being limited to just 69 (nice) the week prior against Washington State. I think Love carves up the Cal defense and Stanford wins handily.
Projected Score: Stanford 42 California 21
Utah vs #18 Washington (-18)
Utah has been ice cold since beginning Pac 12 play, as they’ve lost 5 of their last 6 and their one victory was over a UCLA team that was without superstar quarterback Josh Rosen. Washington is pretty healthy and I think Myles Gaskin will have a field day with this Utes defense. He is at 1038 yards on the season on just 166 carries (6.3 YPC) and Utah has just been okay against the run this season. Jake Browning hasn’t been the stud he was last season, but he won’t need to be in order for Washington to get the victory over Utah.
Projected Score: Washington 35 Utah 17
Those are my picks for this week in my second-to-last shot at a perfect week. Agree? Disagree? Are there other games you want my thoughts on? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.