My sense of timing has been thrown entirely out of whack by this season. Did you know it's December now? It is. I've been having difficulty understanding this, because even though Thanksgiving was last week and I understand where it falls on the calendar, I base my understanding of time on the sports calendar more than holidays. And the college football calendar is off.
Yes, last week was Thanksgiving but it wasn't Thanksgiving. It wasn't Thanksgiving because it wasn't a weekend full of rivalry games that end the regular season. Sure, a couple of them were played, but not all. Plus, we don't have any conference championship games this weekend.
Conference championship games are how I know it's December! But they aren't for another couple of weeks because we still have regular-season games to play. So, I don't care what the calendar says; in my mind, we're still in mid-November.
So here are my picks for this coming weekend, which is definitely mid-November, not December. Got it?
Games of the Week
If you've been reading this column over the last few years or just following my picks on the "Cover 3 Podcast," you know how I feel about taking big favorites. I try to avoid it at all costs. Well, I'm not avoiding it here. I suppose, if I wanted to, I could go into an in-depth explanation for this pick, sharing a bunch of stats that 75% of you have never heard of nor care about to help convince you of the pick. But I don't think they're necessary. The only thing I need to say about this pick is that Alabama is the best team in the country, and LSU stinks.
We've seen an exodus in Baton Rouge over the last week as top players decided they've had enough of the 2020 season and prepare for their NFL futures. I do not blame them a bit. The Tigers have little left to play for in this game, and even if they did, I don't know where the points will come from. Alabama is back in Death Machine Mode, and it's going to destroy LSU on Saturday night. Alabama 49, LSU 17 | The Pick: Alabama -29.5
Poor Indiana. The Hoosiers are having the most remarkable football season they've had in a long time, and they were able to bounce back from a close loss to Ohio State with an impressive win over Maryland last week. The problem is they lost their starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to a torn ACL in that game. Now we'll find out how vital Penix was to the Hoosiers, and my instinct tells me that he's been pretty important. I'm not sure how much faith to put into the Indiana offense against a tough Wisconsin defense.
Of course, on the other side of that coin is a Wisconsin offense that has not looked nearly as potent in its most recent games. The Badgers looked like world-beaters in their season opener against Illinois, particularly QB Graham Mertz. But after completing 20-of-21 passes with five touchdowns against the Illini, Mertz's performance has dropped significantly. In Wisconsin's two games since, he's completed 35-of-63 passes with only three touchdowns and three interceptions. In this matchup, he'll be facing an Indiana defense that gave Justin Fields trouble. So, in my mind, the smartest bet to make in this matchup is on the under as this just strikes me as a low-scoring affair. Wisconsin 27, Indiana 13 | The Pick: Under 45
Lock of the Week
West Virginia at No. 9 Iowa State
Did you know that West Virginia is kind of good? Most people don't, so don't be ashamed. But the Mountaineers don't stink! This is thanks mainly to a defense that's ranked 11th nationally in SP+ and 8th in points allowed per drive. The Mountaineers are particularly effective in stopping the run, ranking 9th nationally in defensive success rate against it. Well, Iowa State is a bit one-dimensional on offense. Running back Breece Hall has been carrying the load as he's rushed for 1,260 yards and 16 touchdowns. Still, as a team, Iowa State's offense ranks 54th in rushing success rate. I think the WVU defense can limit Hall better than most Big 12 defenses and force Iowa State to beat it through the air. Now, the Cyclones can do that, but I just don't think they can do it effectively enough to cover the spread in the process. Iowa State 24, West Virginia 23 | The Pick: West Virginia +6.5
Double Dip of the Week
West Virginia at No. 9 Iowa State
I don't think I've ever done this in The Six Pack before, but I'm making two plays on the same game. A lot of the reasons I like the Mountaineers to cover the spread help explain why I like the under in this spot as well. We have two stout defenses in play as well as two stud running backs on which each offense likes to rely (WVU's Leddie Brown ranks second in the Big 12 in rushing, behind Iowa State's Hall). That and a current forecast calling for some heavy winds blowing through Ames make the under an enticing play. So I'm doubling up on this game. Iowa State 24, West Virginia 23 | The Pick: Under 49.5
Wunder of the Week
Speaking of the wind, it's looking to be a windy weekend in middle America, and that includes Manhattan, Kansas. As of publication, the forecast is calling for steady winds of 13 to 14 mph. Forecasts can change quickly, and while the wind is a bonus, it's far from the only reason I like the under in this game. Kansas State was already a run-heavy team before losing Skylar Thompson and having to turn to Will Howard. The Wildcats will be looking to control the ball in this spot to limit Texas' possessions and stay within range. While the Texas defense has been solid against the run (38th in defensive success rate), it's hasn't been good enough to lead me to believe KSU won't have some success doing it. I also know that Texas doesn't run the ball effectively outside of Sam Ehlinger in battering ram mode. So the Longhorns offense is one dimensional, and while they're not bad throwing the ball, they're not all that efficient doing it, either. So, I'm expecting a game that's a bit choppy and uneven, in which both teams will have trouble moving the ball down the field with ease. Texas 28, Kansas State 20 | The Pick: Under 51
New-Look Team of the Week
Do you know how teams didn't have offseasons this year because of the pandemic? Well, Georgia Tech kind of just had its offseason as the Yellow Jackets found themselves on the sidelines for nearly an entire month between games. When they beat Duke 56-33 last week, it was the first time they'd played since a 31-13 loss to Notre Dame on Halloween. While I don't want to read too much into the Jackets beating up Duke, they looked a lot better than when we last saw them! They looked like a team that took advantage of that time and improved. So when I see them going against an NC State team that I don't trust much, it's hard for me to pass up on them. Now as you can see in the score, I'm calling my shot with a Georgia Tech upset, but taking the seven points is the much smarter play. Georgia Tech 34, NC State 31 | The Pick: Georgia Tech +7
SportsLine Pick of the Week
No. 4 Ohio State at Michigan State
I have another pick I couldn't fit into The Six Pack this week, but thankfully there's no limit to how many picks I can submit over at SportsLine. So, if you'd like to see my thoughts on this Big Ten matchup, you can read them on my SportsLine page.
Games of the Week
Lock of the Week
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 14? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned over $3,500 in profit over the past four-plus seasons -- and find out.