We are into the double digits as it comes to the college football season and the games are picking up across the country.
We have four matchups that feature teams ranked inside the AP Poll Top 25 as well as a handful of other high-leverage games that feature a ranked team on the road against teams that are playing like ranked ball clubs like Oklahoma traveling to Oklahoma State in the final Big 12 edition of Bedlam as well as UCLA heading to Tuscon to face Arizona.
Keep reading below for our picks against the spread for all of these games as well as a handful of breakdowns on the biggest games of the slate.
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Record Year to Date: 73-78-4
No. 14 Missouri vs. No. 1 Georgia Prediction and Pick
PICK: Missouri +15.5
This will be the toughest offense that Georgia has seen this season. While the Bulldogs' defense is still among the best in the country, and the offense is firing on all cylinders even without Brock Bowers, the defense has some warts.
The Bulldogs are bottom half of the country in terms of tackles for loss and turnovers gained this season and now will face a Missouri team that is in the top 10 in EPA/Play. If the Tigers can stretch the field vertically and Georgia isn't able to commit more defenders at the line of scrimmage, there can be open holes all over the field for Mizzou.
Keep an eye on Georgia's red zone defense, which is allowing a touchdown on 76% of opponents' trips inside the Bulldogs 20. Missouri's offense can go toe-to-toe with Georgia's and hang within two scores.
Purdue vs. No. 2 Michigan Prediction and Pick
PICK: Michigan -32
No. 3 Ohio State vs. Rutgers Prediction and Pick
PICK: Rutgers +18.5
No. 4 Florida State vs. Pittsburgh Prediction and Pick
PICK: Florida State -21.5
No. 5 Washington vs. No. 24 USC Prediction and Pick
PICK: USC +3.5
While USC's defense has looked worse for ware over the better part of a month now, have we seen Washington play lately? Currently the biggest fraud in the country, the Huskies were nearly defeated by two of the worst teams in the PAC-12 in Arizona State and Stanford.
The Huskies won the most impactful PAC-12 game to date by holding off Oregon at home, but since then have looked anything but a College Football Playoff contender. While I have my concerns about trusting USC, I'll happily take the points in a game that is likely going to come down to who has the ball last with a total of 76.
USC's defense has been prone to allowing more explosive plays, 99th in EPA/Play on defense while Washington is around the national average at 63rd. However, USC has been slightly better on a down-to-down, posting the 76th-best success rate while Washington is 88th. If Caleb Williams plays to expectations, the Trojans are live in this one with minimal stops on either end.
California vs. No. 6 Oregon Prediction and Pick
PICK: Oregon -24
No. 25 Kansas State vs. No. 7 Texas Prediction and Pick
PICK: Kansas State +4.5
No. 13 LSU vs. No. 8 Alabama Prediction and Pick
PICK: Alabama -3
Milroe has been excellent in terms of finding the likes of Isaiah Bond and Jermaine Burton downfield. According to Pro Football Focus, Milroe has completed 60% of his passes that have traveled more than 20 yards per attempt with 17 big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays.
So, while LSU's offense is exciting and makes chunk plays, I'm incredibly concerned about the team's ability to limit chunk plays through the air. LSU is 119th in explosive pass defense and 98th in sacks.
Meanwhile, Alabama grades out as the best coverage unit in college football this season per PFF. While Alabama got beat deep against Texas, the team has shut down the likes of Ole Miss, who bolster a potent passing game as well.
Further, Alabama is far ahead of the Tigers in other key metrics including special teams grading and tackling. According to PFF, Alabama is fifth in special teams grading while LSU is 87th, a hidden edge that could determine the game with a spread this close.
As we continue to harp on the difference between the two defenses, LSU is 47th in tackling this season while Alabama is seventh. The Crimson Tide are still prone to giving up chunk plays, bottom half of the country in limiting explosive plays, but the team has been nails on a down-to-down basis, ranking top 10 in success rate and 13th in points per drive.
After being skeptical of the Alabama passing game early on, this unit has improved quite a bit against strong defenses like Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Tennessee, hitting timely deep shots at a high clip. Meanwhile, LSU's defense will be the worst on the field by a wide margin, I'm not understanding the bullishness on the defense whatsoever.
I make this game Alabama -5.5 and will lay the field goal with the better defense at home.
No. 9 Penn State vs. Maryland Prediction and Pick
PICK: Maryland +10
No. 10 Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State Prediction and Pick
PICK: Oklahoma State +6
Texas A&M vs. No. 11 Ole Miss Prediction and Pick
PICK: Ole Miss -3
No. 12 Notre Dame vs. Clemson Prediction and Pick
PICK: Clemson +3
Virginia Tech vs. No. 15 Louisville Prediction and Pick
PICK: Virginia Tech +9.5
Virginia Tech has turned into a different group since plugging in Baylor transfer Kyron Drones at quarterback for Grant Wells. The team has won three of four in ACC play and the offense has scored 30 or more in all three wins with the lone loss coming against Florida State.
With Drones playing more than half of the season, the Hokies offense now looks more pedestrian than it did early on, right around the national average in success rate. The team has been able to scheme up explosive plays, 30th in the nation, and lean on its defensive line to make havoc plays, top 10 in sacks this season.
That's the key in this one as Louisville quarterback Jack Plummer has struggled to handle pressure all season long. When he is pressured (31% of dropbacks), Plummer is completing only 39% of his passes with an average of less than six yards per pass.
Louisville's defense is fresh off a shutout against a banged-up Duke team that couldn't move the ball on offense with quarterback Riley Leonard's bulky ankle. I believe with Drones' ability to move in the pocket, he can create some chunk plays against this Louisville defense and hang within the number.
No. 16 Oregon State vs. Colorado Prediction and Pick
PICK: Colorado +13.5
Army vs. No. 17 Air Force Prediction and Pick
PICK: Army +18.5
Arizona State vs. No. 18 Utah Prediction and Pick
PICK: Arizona State +11
Connecticut vs No. 19 Tennessee Prediction and Pick
PICK: Tennessee -35.5
No. 20 UCLA vs. Arizona Prediction and Pick
PICK: Arizona +3
No. 21 Tulane vs. East Carolina Prediction and Pick
PICK: Tulane -16.5
No. 22 Kansas vs. Iowa State Prediction and Pick
PICK: Iowa State -2.5
Kansas deserves a ton of praise for how it scored a program-defining win at home against Oklahoma, but this is a quick turnaround for a program that is still trotting out its backup quarterback (even if the drop-off may not be all that severe).
The team heads to Ames to face an Iowa State team that has vastly improved as the season has carried on. The offense has scored at least 27 points in four of five games and has won three straight by double digits.
The defense continues to be rock solid under Matt Campbell's tutelage, 27th in EPA/Play, but it's the offense that continues to trend up with Cyclones' quarterback Rocco Becht becoming more comfortable under center after being thrust into duty for suspended quarterback Hunter Dekkers.
The Iowa State passing game is top 50 in EPA/Pass on the year and will face a Kansas defense that is 125th in EPA/Play.
Fresh off the massive win, I'll take the Cyclones at home to cover the short spread.
No. 23 James Madison vs. Georgia State Prediction and Pick
PICK: James Madison -5.5
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
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