It's very much in line with 2020 as a whole that this college football season feels like it's been going on forever. Yet, at the same time, I can't believe we've just about reached the end. This weekend marks the final regular-season weekend of the year, and next week will be a strange cocktail of conference championship games as well as other makeup games and impromptu contests thrown together by conferences in hopes of getting in more games. There's also a bowl game in the mix!
All of this, I'm sure, will be easy to handicap! Honestly, while I have a winning record on the season in this column, this has been the most challenging year I've experienced when trying to figure out what's going to happen. Like any other year, I've been lucky at times and unlucky at others, but at no point have I felt like I've had a firm grasp on what's going to happen.
That's probably not what you want to read just before we get to my picks for this weekend, but I'm not going to lie to you. The picks I have in the column this week -- and every week so far -- have been my most confident calls each week -- it's just that my confidence in 2020 has not come close to reaching the level it's been at in recent seasons. Hopefully things will have returned to normal (for the most part) by the time the 2021 season starts because I can't say I've enjoyed this feeling much.
Games of the Week
So what if the College Football Playoff Selection Committee only put Iowa State as high as it did to distract us from the fact that it just snuck Missouri in there at No. 25? Wouldn't that be wild? Anyway, yeah, I like Missouri. Eli Drinkwitz is doing a fantastic job in his first season, but I'm not sure what the Tigers have done to merit inclusion in the top 25 at this point. They come into this game having won three straight, but those wins have come against South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Arkansas. The first two were playing the week after firing their coach. Arkansas is the most impressive win of the bunch, and it needed a semi-miracle to happen.
In this matchup against Georgia, I can't say I'm all that confident in the Tigers' chances. While the Bulldogs were rightfully written off as playoff contenders following losses to Alabama and Florida, they're still securely in that second tier of teams just outside playoff contention. The Georgia defense still ranks second nationally in SP+, and its offense has taken a noticeable step forward since handing the keys to JT Daniels. Missouri is good enough to keep this one respectable, but the Dawgs cover more times than not. Georgia 31, Missouri 17 | The Pick: Georgia -13
No. 17 North Carolina at No. 10 Miami
Miami returned to action last week and pasted Duke 48-0 ... and nobody cared. Seriously, after the ACC essentially told the Canes to kick rocks, the rest of the country followed suit. I mean, think about it. If somebody had told you before the season that Miami would be 8-1 with its only loss coming to Clemson and ranked in the top 10, you'd assume it would be a big deal. Yet, here we are and nobody cares.
It's strange, yet it's also perfectly 2020. And I can't help but believe if Miami loses this weekend against North Carolina, that's when people will take the time to notice. Well, I'm sorry, Miami, but I think you're going to be noticed. When I look at this matchup, I see two very explosive offenses, but North Carolina has more balance. That should prove to be the difference in a game I expect to be close and high-scoring no matter the winner, but I'm going to take the points. North Carolina 38, Miami 35 | The Pick: North Carolina +3
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Lock of the Week
Wait a second. Did I say earlier that I lacked confidence this season? Well, believe me, while that might be true elsewhere, it's not a problem when it comes to Service Academy Unders. This is the part where I remind you that in games between service academies, the under has gone 36-9-1 since 2005. Now, maybe you think this total is too low and you're scared. I understand, but none of the last six meetings between these two have gone over 38 points. The last time it did was in 2013 when Navy won 34-7. These are low-scoring affairs because the clock never stops and possessions are limited. Plus, while Navy's defense was a tire fire earlier this season, it's improved drastically as of late. Army 21, Navy 14 | The Pick: Under 38
Underdog of the Week
What has the Northwestern offense showed you in the last couple of years that makes you want to trust it as more than a two-touchdown favorite? The Wildcats offense ranks 104th in SP+ and 89th in points per drive at 1.86. That number is slightly misleading, however, because the Wildcats averaged 3.91 points per drive in their opener against a bad Maryland defense. In five games since, the Wildcats offense is only at 1.54 points per drive, which would rank 113th. Where Northwestern excels is on defense as it likes to keep games lower-scoring. Considering the struggles of this Illinois team at times, the Wildcats are going to win this game far more often than not. But by more than two touchdowns? I'm skeptical. Northwestern 23, Illinois 16 | The Pick: Illinois +14.5
Under of the Week
These are two teams that want to run the ball. On the season, Virginia has run the ball on only 48.6% of its plays, but that's misleading. When the Cavaliers are tied or winning a game, they run the ball 56.2% of the time. Virginia Tech runs the ball 66.8% of the time when in the same position (only seven teams run it more often, and four of them are option teams). So, with that in mind, the total for this matchup seems a bit too high. Now, if I have a concern, it's that Virginia Tech's not exactly a stalwart rushing defense. It ranks 113th nationally in success rate against the run, but those concerns are balanced by Virginia ranking sixth. Also, while last year's game finished with 69 points scored, the average total in this series over the last decade has been 42.8 points. Virginia Tech 27, Virginia 26 | The Pick: Under 62
Fade of the Week
How can anybody in their right mind want to bet on Louisville as a favorite right now? Let's recap how the last few weeks have gone for the Cardinals. First of all, they're 3-7 on the season, and their wins have come against Western Kentucky, a Florida State team that's been dying to have the season end for months and a Syracuse team that's been decimated all year long. A couple of weeks ago, the team's star running back, Javian Hawkins, opted out for the rest of the season. This week, the team's leading receiver, Tutu Atwell, followed suit. All of this took place while Scott Satterfield was openly flirting with the South Carolina job. Even after staying at Louisville, he openly admitted that he'd listen if certain other schools called. Now, I'm not going to argue there's anything wrong with it; in fact, I admire Satterfield's honesty, but does Louisville strike you as a team that's in a good place right now? It doesn't to me, and frankly, I think Wake Forest is just a better team. So if you're going to give me points with them, sure. Give me the points. It is the holiday season, after all. Wake Forest 38, Louisville 30 | The Pick: Wake Forest +1.5
SportsLine Pick of the Week
Not only is this one of the greatest uniform matchups in college football, but it's also a game I have a strong play on. Unfortunately, I ran out of room in The Six Pack. Fortunately, there's always my SportsLine page!
Games of the Week
Lock of the Week
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 15? 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.