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Line Study: Mack's Last Stand

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer

If Mack wants to return next season beating Oklahoma would be a good start
If Mack wants to return next season beating Oklahoma would be a good start. (USATSI)

Every Monday the Eye on College Football's Tom Fornelli takes an early look this week's most interesting point spreads in Line Study.

You know, I've written and said a lot of words here at Eye on College Football about point spreads and picking against them in college football, but through all of it I've never actually placed a bet on a single game. Do you know why that is?

It's not because I don't know what I'm talking about, because in all my time picking games here at CBSSports.com, I've picked far more games correctly than incorrectly. No, it's the end of the Ohio State-Northwestern game on Saturday night.

A meaningless fumble recovery in the end zone wasn't very meaningless to a lot of people.

And while I was on the right side of that fumble recovery -- I had Ohio State in Line Study, the Expert Picks and Man vs. Woman vs. Machine last week -- I couldn't help but sit and wonder what it would feel like had I actually bet money on Northwestern in that game.

And that's why I don't actually gamble on football.

But if you do, here's what you should know for the biggest games this week.

THE GAMES YOU'LL BE WATCHING

No. 12 Oklahoma (-14) vs. Texas (in Dallas)

We know that David Ash won't be playing for Texas in this game, but we also know that Oklahoma will be without one of its top defensive players as well in Corey Nelson. And, honestly, while it feels like taking Oklahoma would be the natural choice here, I'm really not all that sure. This Oklahoma team is somewhat inconsistent because one week it's going on the road to beat Notre Dame convincingly, but then the next week its offense is completely disappearing in the second half of a game against TCU. What makes the difference for me, though, is that the Texas run defense is still a problem, and Oklahoma is the second-best rushing offense in the Big 12 behind the offensive juggernaut that is Baylor. I can't help but feel that the Longhorns defense will see a healthy dose of Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Blake Bell on Saturday, and without David Ash, I can't see Texas keeping up for very long. Be wary, but at the moment Oklahoma -14 is the right pick here.

No. 2 Oregon (-14) at No. 16 Washington

Washington lost to Stanford on Saturday night but the simple truth is that the Huskies outplayed the Cardinal. If not for Ty Montgomery's 204 kick return yards -- Stanford only had 279 yards on offense -- Washington was likely leaving Palo Alto with a win. This week the Huskies return home and don't catch a break with the Ducks. However, while I think this Washington team is for real and will pose the toughest test the Ducks have faced this season, there's just one trend that I simply cannot ignore. Since the 2011 season Oregon has been a road favorite nine times, including twice this year. Oregon is 9-0 against the spread in those nine games. Because of that I'm leaning Oregon -14 here as well.

No. 17 Florida at No. 10 LSU (-7)

It would figure that in the season LSU finally figures it out on offense the Tigers would have struggles on defense. In the last two weeks the LSU defense has allowed 962 yards and 70 points. And while a lot of people point the finger at a young secondary, the fact is LSU has been quite mediocre against the run too. The LSU run defense is allowing 4.25 yards per carry, which ranks them at No. 76 in the country alongside schools like Northern Illinois and Tulsa, and behind Kansas. In other words, this matchup with a Florida team that relies on its run game and strong defense to win could be a bad one for the Tigers. I don't know that I can tell you Florida is going to go into Death Valley and win this game outright, but I can't help but think this is going to be a very close game. I'm leaning Florida and the points.

THE GAMES YOU SHOULD EXPLOIT

Baylor (-19) at Kansas State

I am of the opinion that sooner or later the Baylor offense is going to stumble and the Bears will lose a game. I do not think that will happen this week. Even if this game will mark the first time Baylor leaves Waco this season I don't expect this offense to have any trouble with a Kansas State defense that has had trouble stopping opponents this season. Though I think the biggest factor here is that Kansas State is turning the ball over at an alarming rate, as its turnover margin on the season is currently -9. Only three teams in the country have a worse margin than that, and giving this Baylor offense the ball will kill you.

Arizona at Southern California (-5.5)

The last time we saw the Trojans defense play it was being torn to shreds by Arizona State, but that's not the biggest reason I think that Arizona will be able to hand with the Trojans on the road this week. Nor is it just the fact that the Trojans have made a coaching change and I don't think one bye week is enough time for Ed Orgeron to fix all that is wrong with this team. No, what really grabs my attention here is that since the start of last season USC is 4-14 against the spread and 4-9 as a favorite. So when you combine those trends with all the changes that have been made recently, and I can't help but think Arizona +5.5 looks mighty enticing.

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