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Week 13, College Football Picks 2017: Spread & Predictions


TAMPA, FL – JANUARY 09: Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers runs with the ball during the second half against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Before the crescendo of college football commences with Conference Championship contests, there is still the final week of the regular season to get through and digest before then. For fans and pundits alike, this final week has it all. Rivalry matchups, programs fighting for bowl eligibility and of course highly-touted programs fighting for a Playoff spot will be the thrilling makeup of this highly-anticipated holiday weekend. One way or another, several teams will win gloriously and garner themselves favorable postseason berths while an equal number of programs will be left devastated as they lose thrilling contests against their hated rivals. What will the College Football Playoff landscape look like after this week? Let’s see which programs have what it takes to seal the deal.

South Florida Bulls vs. Central Florida Knights (15)

Normally, the Bulls would be overjoyed to have one loss on their record going into the final weekend of the regular season. However, when you have to face an undefeated Knights program at the end of the season, the lone loss on your resume becomes something to protect rather than celebrate. While Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers is wildly inaccurate as a passer (53.5 CMP%), his off-charts athletic abilities allow him to extend plays while stealing massive chunks of yardage when there is a wide-open rushing lane. However, the Knights have prided themselves on being one of the best defenses in the country (20.5 PAPG) while quarterback McKenzie Milton is both accurate (69.6 CMP%) and mobile in the Knights highly efficient offense. Although the Bulls have the athletes to make this contest fairly interesting, the Knights have better playmakers and are much more fundamentally sound than their in-state rivals.

Final Score: Bulls 21 Knights 30 Spread: UCF -10.0

Virginia Tech Hokies (25) vs. Virginia Cavaliers

Although the Hokies have suffered their fair share of tough losses, its been Virginia Tech’s tough-minded defense that has kept them in every game this season (14.7 PAPG). While Freshman quarterback Josh Jackson has been fairly inconsistent this season as a passer (59.9 CMP%), he has flashed moments of being a fearless rusher, something that will serve him well as he continues to develop. Despite their 6-5 record, the Cavaliers have been electric when quarterback Kurt Benkert is slinging the football efficiently and he was instrumental in keeping his team competitive against the opportunistic defense of the Miami Hurricanes. This will be an intense and close matchup throughout, but Virginia Tech’s stingy defense combined with the athleticism of Jackson gives the road warrior Hokies the slight edge in this contest.

Final Score: Hokies 26 Cavaliers 23 Spread: Virginia Tech -7.0

Duke Blue Devils vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

It’s been a turbulent season for the Blue Devils. After winning their first four contests of the season, Duke lost six games in a row (five of the six losses were by seven points or less). However, the resilient Blue Devils were relentless on both offense and defense in their recent win over the fast-paced triple-option attack of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. While the essential victory was impressive, the Blue Devils will need to alter their game plan defensively to keep the Demon Deacons quarterback John Wolford (23 touchdowns, four interceptions) and Wake Forest’s potent run-pass option attack in check. Offensively, the Blue Devils will need to replicate their performance against Georgia Tech as the Demon Deacons are susceptible to giving up big plays to speedy running backs on the edges. Blue Devils quarterback Daniel Jones will also need to be at his best as Wake Forest has a ferocious defensive line but are decidedly weaker when it comes to their secondary, particularly at the cornerback position. It won’t be easy, but the Blue Devils will be fighting for bowl eligibility and have the versatile offense to keep the Demon Deacons defense off-balance.

Final Score: Blue Devils 30 Demon Deacons 27 Spread: Wake Forest -12.0

Louisville Cardinals vs. Kentucky Wildcats

Assuming Lamar Jackson declares for the NFL Draft this year, the Cardinals will most likely be irrelevant next year without their big-play quarterback. Until then, Louisville will have its dynamic playmaker for at least a couple of more games and will need every bit of Jackson’s unrivaled athleticism to take out the well-rounded Wildcats (Jackson has rushed for 17 touchdowns this season). Although the Wildcats may not possess a versatile playmaker like Jackson on their roster, they do have an underrated running back in Benny Snell Jr., who has effectively used his immense strength to get into the end zone time after time (16 rushing touchdowns). At quarterback, the Wildcats have a disciplined albeit fairly average quarterback in Stephen Johnson (62.1 CMP%) who is fairly athletic in his own right but pales in comparison to what Jackson can do on a regular basis. While the Cardinals have a below average defense and will most likely give up a plethora of touchdowns, Jackson will do what he has done all season and carry his team to an impressive victory on the road.

Final Score: Cardinals 41 Wildcats 37 Spread: Louisville -10.0

Ohio State Buckeyes (9) vs. Michigan Wolverines

The moment quarterback Brandon Peters was knocked out in the Wolverines eventual loss to Wisconsin last week, it became apparent that as great as their defense is, this program cannot win meaningful games without continuity at the quarterback position. While the Buckeyes have had glaring issues with their passer J.T. Barret, his experience, and big-play ability have allowed him to be successful more often than not. On top of that, the Buckeyes have one of best rushing games in the country led by J.K. Dobbins (7.3 yards per rush attempt) and Mike Weber (6.8 rushing yards per attempt). While the Wolverines running back Karan Higdon has performed well in his own right (6.4 yards per rush attempt, 10 rushing touchdowns), the fact that Michigan lacks depth at the running back position coupled with the notion that there is a massive question mark at the quarterback position will ultimately do them in against a much more talented Buckeyes program.

Final Score: Buckeyes 29 Wolverines 17 Spread: Ohio State -12.0

Alabama Crimson Tide (1) vs. Auburn Tigers (6)

Easily the best matchup of the weekend if not the best of the year has the elite Crimson Tide facing a resurgent Tigers program that has recently found its footing offensively. While the combination of Crimson Tide running backs Damien Harris (8.2 yards per rushing attempt) and Bo Scarbrough (4.9 yards per rushing attempt) has been deadly, the overall athletic ability of quarterback Jalen Hurts (5.8 yards per rushing attempt) has forced opposing defenses to sell out on stopping the run, allowing Hurts to sling the ball downfield to wide receiver Calvin Ridley (16.5 yards per receptions). However, the Tigers are armed with a physical and dynamic back in Kerryon Johnson (18 total touchdowns) while quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been locked in as of late (has not completed less than 67% of his passes in his last four games). While the defenses of both the Crimson Tide (10.2 PAPG) and the Tigers (16.6 PAPG) will keep both prolific offenses in check, I see the red-hot Stidham making just enough plays with his arm to pull off a thrilling victory at home.

Final Score: Crimson Tide 27 Tigers 29 Spread: Alabama -4.5

Boise State Broncos (23) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs

A Mountain West contest that will largely go unnoticed due to the intense matchups between Power 5 Conference opponents, the efficient offense of the Broncos (34.8 PPG) will go to battle against the equally potent defense of the Bulldogs (17.3 PAPG). Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien has been a confident pocket passer throughout the season (63.9 CMP%) while running back Alexander Mattison (5.3 yards per rushing attempt, 13 total touchdowns) has done more than his fair share of work as both a rusher and receiver. Similarly, Bulldogs quarterback Marcus McMaryion has also been well-disciplined as a passer(12 touchdowns, three interceptions), but has the mobility to extend plays, which is essential considering Fresno State lacks a strong rushing game. Although the Bulldogs have the defense and passing game to be consistently competitive, the Broncos simply have more firepower on the offensive end, which will persevere down the stretch in what should be a very close contest.

Spread: Broncos 28 Bulldogs 24 Spread: Boise State -7.0

Clemson Tigers (3) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (24)

Although it has been a bit of shaky road for the Tigers in their victories since they lost to Syracuse, Clemson’s defensive front in conjunction with the vigilance and rushing capabilities of quarterback Kelly Bryant (10 rushing touchdowns) has allowed this program to win nevertheless. However, the now ranked Gamecocks will be insanely motivated to spoil Clemson’s Playoff aspirations as their suffocating defense (19.6 PAPG) has been incredible throughout the season even in losses. While quarterback Jake Bentley does not have much to offer in terms of scoring (15 touchdowns, nine interceptions) he at least has a reliable wideout in in Bryan Edwards (12 yards per reception) who can bail him out of some sticky situations. In the end, Clemson is clearly more talented and has an elite defense that should not have any trouble in rattling Bentley and this inconsistent Gamecocks offense.

Final Score: Tigers 33 Gamecocks 20 Spread: Clemson -14.0

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8) vs. Stanford Cardinal (21)

While it would be far-fetched to say that since losing to Miami Notre Dame’s offense is completely ineffective, it would be negligent to not acknowledge their lack of potency in recent weeks. Against one of the worst defenses in college football, Notre Dame was only able to score 24 points and rushed for just one touchdown in a nail-biter. What’s worse for the Fighting Irish is the fact that they now have to compete against Stanford’s resilient defense (20.7 PAPG) while having to shut down one of the most proficient rushers in the country in Bryce Love (8.8 yards per rushing attempt, 16 rushing touchdowns). With that being said, Notre Dame also has a formidable defensive line (20.4 PAPG), which will provide the stopping power to at least slow Love down. While neither team is great at passing the football, the Cardinal’s defense is slightly better and their running game has been much more effective against strong defenses recently.

Final Score: Fighting Irish 24 Cardinal 30 Spread: Notre Dame -2.5

Washington State Cougars (13) vs. Washington Huskies (17)

As fantastic as the Iron Bowl could potentially be this year, the Apple Cup rivalry match between the Cougars and the Huskies will not be far behind in terms of intrigue. With a relentless passing attack led by Luke Falk (66.8 CMP%), the Cougars are not particularly deceptive offensively but have the personnel and experience to execute their game plan effectively with impressive results. Conversely, the Huskies are reliant on a combination of quarterback Jake Browning (69.1 CMP%) and running back Myles Gaskin (six yards per rushing attempt, 18 total touchdowns) to score consistently. Ultimately, the difference in this contest will be which team can hold off the offense of the other, as the Cougars (22.9 PAPG) and Huskies (14.5 PAPG) are both sound defensive programs. Given the versatility of the Huskies offense combined with their superior defense, they should be able to overcome the high-flying yet predictable passing game of the energetic Cougars.

Final Score: Cougars 31 Huskies 34 Spread: Washington -10.0

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